As the new Star Wars movie hits the big screens, Brighton-based artist Eelus returns to turn ‘Shat-At’ – an early print inspired by the sci-fi series – into his first sculptural work for artrepublic
Drawing inspiration from pop culture, film, graphic design and art history, Eelus has gained a reputation for creating striking images that often play on the macabre. Intertwining colourful backdrops with monochromatic figures, the street artist points to the necessary interplay between mood, emotions and light and dark. But how does these stylistic traits translate into a three-dimensional form? We catch up with the artist ahead of his new release to find out more…
Your latest sculpture is based on one of your earliest works what inspired the original print?
I’ve always been a big fan of Star Wars and I'd had this idea rattling around my noggin for years that was originally intended to be just a fun t-shirt design. Then I started stencilling back in 2001 and I made the image that you know now and started to paint it around East London where I lived and hung out. It was one of my first ever stencils and then went on to be my first ever screen print edition with Pictures On Walls (RIP).
Yes its sad that POW is no more, it launched the careers of many artists. Where do you think young artists can go now to get published or do you think things are more egalitarian so people no longer need someone like POW to launch their career?
I think now with the rise of free social media platforms like Instagram and easy do-it-yourself websites it’s so easy to get your work out there without going through a gallery or a publisher. It’ll probably take you a little longer to build a solid following, but you don’t need many people to get the ball rolling (‘1000 True Fans’ is an interesting article on this by Kevin Kelly). If you concentrate on the quality of the work above all else, everything else will follow in it’s own time.
What then lead you into turning SHAT-AT from a 2D print into a 3D sculpture?
I wanted to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the release with something special. It’s taken so long to get the sculptures finished and the whole project to a standard that I’m happy with, I’m a couple of years late, but there you go.
Did you have an AT-AT walker when you were a child, and did you use one in the creation of your sculpture?
I absolutely did, and still do, it's in my studio. I had a model-maker create one from scratch during the original sculpt but in the end I decided to have one 3D printed and we made a mould from that. The girl however was sculpted from scratch based on the original artwork.
They fall over very easily do you think it is a good design to use for a battle vehicle?
In terms of it’s use as tank, I think it’s pretty good. They’re intimidating for a start, seeing those plod over the horizon toward you you’d probably feel the same as a Roman solider seeing a Carthaginian war elephant for the first time. You’d be terrified.
Why do you think Star Wars has left such an impression on our popular culture and do you think it will survive the test of time?
The basic storyline that runs through the films is one that we’ve been telling for thousands of years, It’s the classic archetype of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ and is timeless. It’s an age-old narrative regurgitated as a science fiction spaghetti western set in another galaxy and it was released in a time when the idea of movie merchandising was about explode. So the characters and the story escaped the screen and entered our lives in ways we’d never seen before. The kids of the late 70’s, early 80’s went crazy for it, or at least an awful lot of us did, I did.
I think the original films, for me anyway, will stand the test of time. A lot of the new ones will fall by the wayside as far as I’m concerned, especially now there’s one coming out every year it seems. The excitement is being diluted, the whole thing is losing its magic. Or maybe I’m just getting old? I can’t wait to see what my daughter makes of it all when she’s old enough.
Who is you favourite Star Wars character from the original three films?
Unquestionably Yoda. You watch Empire and Jedi now and he looks a bit shit compared to what we’ve all become used to with the developments of CGI, but he’s still a rock solid character that you believe in 100%. CGI can be great but I wish there were more current films using in-camera puppets like they did in films like Star Wars, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal etc.
Would you like to have Yoda living in your house?
Yeah why not. Constant wisdom from my own little green guru.
All of your works have a sci-fi element to them, what’s your favourite work of science fiction?
I wouldn’t say all, but a lot do. My all time favourite would be H.G Well’s War Of The Worlds. I was introduced to it by my grandparents when I was very young and it has real sentimental value, to the point where I have a martian tripod and a line from the book tattooed on my arm. I also have a small collection of various editions of the book all with different cover designs. You may sound the nerd alarm now if you so wish.
Has the experience of producing work changed over the years as you moved into working as an artist full time?
Sure. When I started I was creating purely for myself with little thought to financial reward and so the creative process was a lot more relaxed and free as I had the safety net of a full time job to fall back on.
Then around 10 years ago I quit my job and made art full time, and with that comes the fear and anxieties that situation brings, when every day is a hustle of one kind or another just to make sure you’re making ends meet. That situation can often have an effect on the work you produce as you need to survive; and selling work, getting paid, these are boxes that need to be ticked each and every week in one way or another to allow me to live the life I like to live. I’ve been broke and in debt before and it’s not for me.
I consider myself lucky to be able to produce and sell work reasonably easy and bring money home to support my family, and to do that, sometimes a big ‘crowd pleaser’ of a print is produced. I then have a little space and time to relax and create more personal works. It’s the same as making movies, you make a big budget action or 2 and then go away to work on more niche indie films. But I definitely feel like I’m taking steps towards making all of my work more honest and personal. I think a lot of that is coming from caring less what people think of me and my work as I get older. There’s a calming reassurance in that.
Art is often a hobby and used to escape from work, what do you to escape form work and wind down?
I don’t think I ever truly escape as my mind is always mulling some kind of madness over, it’s inescapable. But generally I read a lot, watch movies, hang out with my girlfriend and our daughter, dance in the kitchen. A dense green forest is where I’m at my most calm.