WK Interact is a contemporary conjurer of dark arts. It’s not the kind that you’d see in a teenage wizard movie though, although his visceral images still manage to weave a spell on onlookers.
A portrayer of predominantly dramatic images, often with the subtle menace of violence - WK manages to create the ‘car crash effect’. It’s that feeling where something is so intensely primal that you are provoked to look at it. It’s that sense of having ‘just one more look’, in case you missed something the first time. Why are we drawn to these kinds of images? Mainly because they have a way of working into our subconscious - they remind us that we are human.
Press photography plays a large part in the process and repertoire of WK Interact. When it isn’t contorted singular figures, the work is a cacophony of monochromatic drama unleashed on walls in the form of long menacing and meandering murals. Talking to him, he doesn’t seem to be as affected by the cultural anxieties that he depicts. His role is that of an artist-onlooker that has been primed to the depths and heights of the human condition partly through a spell of self-imposed homelessness – that’s to say he knew he could go home, but that option was never more than a distant possibility – over 5,500km. New York was the place he needed to make his work and living on the street was his apprenticeship – a necessary ascetic experience to dedicate himself to the path of creation he saw before him.
It’s not just the blurred faces of their work that make them similar, but the way that they psychologically deconstruct and embody their subjects. Francis Bacon’s artwork is gruesome and aggressive – it’s in its lack of apparent humanity that it becomes so very human. WK Interact harnesses the life-power of his subjects in a similar way. The unreal movement of the work grabs the audience by the throat and whispers in our ear, “you’ve got it easy, but it hasn’t always been like this”.
New York is a large city - a tough city. It was certainly a lot more big and bad when he arrived there around 25 years ago. WK believes that artists are reflections of their environment, that we can understand their context through the style and colours of art they produce. What does that then say about New York? The manipulated images that employ a harshly contrasting black and white palette is hardly a complimentary meditation on the city – but it is a truthful one.
The images he uses are almost always doctored versions of old photographs, already dramatic, that he has picked up throughout his life. They’re not necessarily focussed on death - but the smell is always there. One of them, he explains to me, is a man describing a car-crash – possibly for educational purposes, a warning for those reckless enough to be a part of his target audience. Whilst his work might not have a distinct purpose, there are consistent messages that he wants to convey. Monkish in his musings, dressed entirely in anonymous black, WK is something like a memento mori.
It was said that rich kings or glorious gladiators would hire someone to walk behind them, reminding them that death is imminent, that our place isn’t guaranteed and our time only borrowed. WK is the invisible spectre that walks behind us all; his message is similar to memento mori. His figures tell us that we should be grateful for what we have.
A lot of his works are historic moments captured. He worked on a mural for the Mexican Revolution, 9/11 remembrance and D-Day commemoration – these are no light subjects. The scale of these events is reflected in the scale of the pieces – they’re huge. They’re pervasive, always in our faces not allowing us to forget what came before us. To get here, blood had to be shed - people had to endure unspeakable terror.
Motion is one of the most pervasive aspects of the pieces. There are several tiers to the use of movement in his work. First of, its about capturing the right moment. A parable he offered was the idea of two athletes, boxers specifically, standing in a ring toe-to-toe. These people are more than practitioners of a sport though - they are living manifestations of it. Watching them duel as a spectator is exciting, but never more so than when the fight is on the precipice of ending – when one man has been conquered. It’s this moment, not the fight, nor the actual tumbling of the boxer, but the breath-holding moment where adrenaline reaches fever-pitch that WK freezes in time for us - this is the secret that makes his images feel like a punch in the mouth.
Secondly, its about capturing the work in public, taking a photograph of people living around the piece - the hustle and bustle that surrounds the work as they are both in their natural habitat. There was a time when the Internet was becoming more extensive and people were taking pictures of his pieces. He was genuinely upset to see them cropped so neatly to only include the artwork – because that was only one aspect of the piece, like watching a cinema classic without the volume. Making movies always interested him, but he never had the money. This is his interpretation - shoestring cinema from the ground level.
WK Interact’s work is inextricably linked to his life – he is one of those artists that truly immerse themselves in what is being created. Every aspect of his work is thought-through. So does that mean that he lives day-to-day with the looming malevolent themes of his work inside of him? Yes, just like we all do. The thing is we usually try to keep them hidden - WK has found his way to channel them.
WK Interact's career has been full of high-points. Here are a collection of his other works that have been created throughout the years.
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