One of the limitations of the 5 Question interview format, is that it doesn't allow for a lot of give and take. You have to try to cover as much ground as you can in only five attempts. It's a challenge that I welcome, but it inevitably leaves me with regret. Sometimes the answers just end up raising more questions. Such was the case with the Ron English chat we had back in March. He mentioned working with Chris Brown on a toy project. The release of said toy has caused some controversy, and even led some of his artistic peers to cry "sell out" and "hypocrite".
Look...Ron English didn't have to talk about this with me, or anyone for that matter. But he has, and I can't help but respect him for it. Here's how it went:
1) Back in March, you mentioned collaborating with Chris Brown. Now, even Rihanna has recently worked with him, but somehow I'm more surprised that you did. Tara McPherson (who you gave a shout-out to in the same blog) has been frequently tweeting her disappointment. Frank Kozik has joined in as well. Did you have any reservations about working with someone who has come to exemplify domestic violence?
Ron: When I was young I might have stolen a car or something like that but I was allowed a second chance and I believe I took advantage of that and my life since then has been pretty positive.Had I continued that behavior I would not have expected continued forgiveness nor would I be so forgiving of anyone who continued such antisocial behavior. I do intend to start tweeting this week, as much as I loath the inconvenience. I can't let Frank have the last word. (my tag is ronenglishart)
2) Since we last talked, Thomas Kinkade and Leroy Neiman have passed away. Both of whom made vast sums of money by mass-marketing their "brand" of "art". Do you think it's possible for an artist to be hugely successful and still retain a modicum of integrity...or is success the art?
Ron: Thomas Kinkade painted what people wanted to see; I paint what I want people to see. Both approaches have their own integrity, or if you prefer, lack of integrity. I'm put off by people who judge art by its price tag and also by those who equate poverty with integrity.
3) You've been sued by Disney, King Features, and KISS. Yet you've NEVER lost a lawsuit?! Who is your lawyer?
Ron: I think I have a great lawyer, but he's doesn't have to be great because his client hasn't broken any copyright laws.
4) What was the last billboard you did? And are the billboard companies still unwilling to sell you space?
Ron: I did one in London over the weekend but they built the billboard for me at the London Pleasure Gardens and I painted it, no billboard company was involved. My obsession with billboards has dissipated to some extent.
5) Are you Banksy?
Ron: I thought you were Banksy!
Thanks Ron. I hope I didn't put you off with the questions . I'm pretty sure I'm destined to a life of poverty, but I know that doesn't mean I have integrity.
Ron: Having art sell for a lot of money or not at all does not affect the quality of the art whatsoever. That's all I was saying. I'd rather be poor with my own sense of integrity than a rich prostitute.