Today we're sitting down with Chris Ellis, or as some of you know him; Daze. The Brooklyn-born artist began painting trains in the 1970s and has gradually made the transition to the gallery, bringing the same urban edge his artwork had on the street into the gallery environment.
Lazinc has been a fan of his artwork for a while so we thought it was about time he visited the gallery and told us a bit more about his artwork and the inspirations behind it…
So, why did you become an artist?
I've always been creative. Making a conscious decision to pursue art full time was not hard. The hard part is to actually figure out a way to make a living from it. I decided early on that it was something I had to do at any cost. Money's not a factor in that. It's like asking someone why they breathe? Why do they eat? It's because it's vital.
Wow, that's a pretty powerful answer! What did you do before you decided to do art full time?
Before I painted full time, I had very few jobs. I was a messenger, I worked in book stores, stuff like that. Those things still gave me enough time to paint.
For the readers that might be seeing your work for the first time, is there a way you'd describe your style of painting?
My "style", if I have one is elusive. I fuse together elements of urban realism, abstraction, even caricature in a way that is very gritty and physical. It tells a story in making an observation in paint.
I think the story-telling aspect is really prominent in your work, it is great to see. With such specific works, would you say you have a favourite place to exhibit them?
That's really hard. Even though I've exhibited all over the world I would have to say New York. I say that because New York is the toughest audience. Whether you're painting on the street or showing in a gallery or museum people will let you know right away if the work doesn't hold up. It's a tough crowd here.
Is there a way to ensure that you get through to those tougher crowds?
I've shown in some very big places such as The Museum of the City of New York, and The Brooklyn Museum, as well as small places in my career. In each of these I've always tried to present myself well. I've always gone all out. It's important to do good in your home town.
Good to hear! So, final question – if you could give one piece of advice to the world, what would it be?
To always be true to yourself and honest with yourself. Art is a selfish endeavour; it has to be.