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The Success of Faile

Words:

Edd Norval
May 1, 2021

One of the most innovative and groundbreaking forces in street art, Faile are a duo composed of Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, two artists who come together as Faile to create their composite images exploring the dualities and contradictions present in contemporary consumerist culture.

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Probably the most immediate thing you’d think of when seeing a Faile piece is the cut-up technique used. Evocative of old punk posters and Dadaist art, the ripped up mosaic posters feature ‘high’ and ‘low’ brow art references, like newspaper clippings of Mike Tyson or comic panels featuring iconic heroes and villains.


On the other hand there are political figures in pop-art style alongside mediterranean style tiles. Although their artwork isn’t consciously political, the two are fully aware of the critical powers of juxtaposing and clashing cultural icons. 


Oscillating between the street and the gallery, the duo can tailor their content for specific audiences. Outdoor pieces have less time to be reflected on, so they’ve got to be hard-hitting and instantly impactful. When they’re working on gallery-specific pieces, they are able to create pieces with more subtle references, something that people can take their time with when walking around the space.

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There aren’t always links, though. A large part of their modus operandi is to create work that looks good - pieces that highlight who they are and what they’re capable of. Born from an organic process that champions creativity and spontaneity, Faile have used everyday ‘found’ items in their works, as well as specific pieces. 


An amalgam of intention, Faile’s work is like a contemporary Rorschach test both for the artist and the audience. For them, the psychoanalytic value is clear. They’re creating something in a sort of ‘flow’ state that has, in their head at the time ‘reason and rhyme’. To look at the finished piece, the audience can understand the work in relation to their own thoughts on cultural touchstones. Some things will pop out whilst others will disappear.


Heavily indebted to the capitalist-critical graffiti scene, many of the images highlight contradictions within society, particularly geared towards the over-the-top-everything-is-a-product style of American advertising and consumer culture. With their earliest works seeing light as wheatpasted posters, there were strong tones of subvertising in what they made. 

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True to their roots in both punk and graffiti, the duo combine moments of thoughtful critique with other moments of bold experimentation favouring intuition over intention. The result is one of the most important voices in street art, particularly during the early 00s period where the form was making the crossover into mainstream galleries. There are several pioneers of the street art scene and Faile is undoubtedly one of them.

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