Interview With Cam Scott/NOTNOT

With increasing notoriety, NOTNOTCAMSCOTT is integrating public and private spaces in a multifaceted approach to Sydney streets, galleries, digital media and materiality. Whilst his work as fine artist Cam Scott has a distinctively different tone to that of his street pseudonym NOTNOT, Cam’s skills as a printmaker and his awareness of tentative social anxieties is a telltale feature in all his art making practices. We caught up with Cam to find out what his been up to recently.

How did you start making art?
I guess, when I try to think back, I always enjoyed making things as a kid. I have this really distinct memory of making little styrofoam boats and pushing them out into the water and getting satisfaction seeing them bob along. Now I chase that same sense of satisfaction. I did my first couple of stencils when I was about 12 or 13, just going around my neighbourhood and erecting these terrible Marilyn Monroe stencils!

You spent some time in Venice, tell me about that?
I did an internship at Guggenheim in Venice, which pushed me into the art world in my year off. I saw art being incredibly valued and appreciated. Everyone in Venice was absolutely infatuated with art. The Italians really supported local artists in comparison to here.

Much of your art making takes place in public spaces - what is the connection you find between public spaces and your practice?
There's a strange mixture of satisfaction and sheer adrenaline when you're out there. However, for me it's mostly about making spaces more interesting. In any space I try and put my work up I think would my work make it better? If so, I can put something up. I consider myself a street artist. I don’t really do tags or pieces, whereas some of my friends who come from a graffiti background do. It just makes you think about the different motivations of why people go out into public spaces and put work up.

So you have an issue with graffiti?
Well, tagging is essentially just writing your name, which is generally just simplistic (although some can be pretty incredible). It's all about bravado and saying that's mine. There's one (graffiti artist), who is ruthless and will just go over other people’s street art, crossing out everything.

For me, a piece needs multiple layers; I'm very much for that. A piece needs to be something that is really complex and interesting to look at.

What do you get from public spaces that you don’t get in galleries?
Audience is a big one. There is a type of audience that goes to galleries whereas on the street there is everyone and anyone, so many different perspectives.

There seems to be messages behind a lot of your works. Can you tell us what some of them are?
I really enjoy thinking conceptually, and often the intention was to deliver a positive public message, but using brutal and confronting imagery.

[For example] I worked on one about our binge drinking culture, near my old place in Redfern and the excess of that culture (that I'm very much involved in!).

Another one was about car accidents. That work was part of a public awareness campaign. It was a giant paste up in the Kings Cross tunnel of a crashed car. That evolved into the series on the uncertainty on Sydney's road. You can be the safest driver on the roads and still get cleared up by a truck. So from there I started printing onto car windows and bonnets, smashing glass. Which is what brought me to the glasswork.

image: notnotcamscott.com.au

image: notnotcamscott.com.au

image: notnotcamscott.com.au

image: notnotcamscott.com.au

A lot of your works are images printed onto glass. What was the aesthetic appeal of using windows?
I was going through an industrial phase. I found I suited it well. I'd use really raw materials, but in a fine art silkscreen kind of way.

So what would be your favourite medium?
Silk screen for sure. That is my niche. The long build ups in stencil compared to the instant gratification of silkscreen. I discovered it at COFA, the detail you can get in something where you don't need to worry about islands and bridges (in the stencils). Silkscreen is applied to a medium and you can get whatever detail you like. I just thought why has no one taken the silk screen and put it on the wall? Ever since I've been the guy who walks around the street with a silk screen in hand. Whenever you walk round with a stencil and a spray can you automatically look sketchy, whereas with a silk screen no-one knows what the hell it is, which means I can pop on a high-vis(ibility) and look like a council worker!

What is your fascination with recycled material?
In the beginning I always found what was lying around. That became a bit of an addiction. Council clear out was my crack! Kind of reached an equilibrium, when no matter how hard you tried they would always be a bit shabby. Now I'm going for more industrial recycling. There's a guy that gives me cut off mirrors.

The other big passion, aside from recycled materials, is the ocean.

With regards to the social commentary apparent with so many of your works, can you tell me what inspired 'selfie portrait'?
Yeah, that's actually my Facebook profile! The levels of irony are mind-blowing. There was actually a selfies exhibition at the Kudos gallery, attached to COFA. I had just started printing my work up, so I turned up pretending I was part of the show. The idea of taking a self-portrait, which has such a longstanding history in art, and taking a step back and thinking of that act. My favourite is of the artist, Chuck Close, who did these incredibly detailed self-portraits.

'The Selfie Portrait' - image: notnotcamscott.com.au

'The Selfie Portrait' - image: notnotcamscott.com.au

So although the process is important to you, there's a definite conceptual commentary on this social media obsession?
Yes, I just became fascinated with all the personas people create for themselves. Studying media, it was interesting learning about the media landscape. It really merged into my art practice. The way people create these identities online is really fascinating. It was never supposed to be an entirely negative commentary. Similarly, the Digital Realities works commented that social media has a way of shaping us, not just us shaping it. We sort of curate ourselves online. It is a force that impinges on us. We check our phone every two seconds for likes, there is a moment of self-indulgence. It's great that Digital Realities sparked debate, and that definitely was part of it. It is part of the human condition to want to be embraced and adored for what you do.

Do you have any other strong influences on what you create?
I really enjoy the concept of 'Copia', which is an idea from Greek rhetoric where everything is essentially there; it's just how you arrange them. This can expand to the mentality that nothing's really original although the romantic period had the theory that everything's original, which gave rise to the concept that ‘copy’ inherently meant a negative thing. In reality, it's a bad way of thinking about it as all ideas are a result of our environment and if you copy something, you turn it into something, and that’s how things evolve. Copyright laws can restrict the way people use things in that way. In regards to artistic appropriation, the art world is the one place where copyright hasn’t really had that affect. Artists like Richard Price, who is really famous for pushing appropriation to its limits by taking screenshots of Instagrams he's commented on, and selling them for thousands of dollars!

Would you still say you concentrate strongly on the structural aspects of your works as well as conceptual?
Yeah well, with some works I can spend a day trying to get them perfect and claim originality. But it’s much easier and looks better to fiddle with something and then turn it into something new. That's why I've always loved appropriation. You can take from this giant history of something we all share. Drawing links between social media and Copia would be about out copy and paste culture. Thinking that it doesn't matter if someone's done it before

Any future plans?
This (gestures around the studio) is what I'm doing now. Starting a gallery here in North Bondi and starting my own silkscreen business.

You can see all of Cam Scott's works for sale here