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The man responsible for the most beautiful street art in the world and of course the glorious walls of Nagai in Ibiza, live and direct!

Finbarr welcome to LoveFoodIbiza. It’s funny how you lose touch with someone you have known for a long time. And then one morning as you are driving in the middle of the countryside on a tiny Mediterranean island you spot some stunning art on a building that you know immediately is the work of one of your old friends. So let’s kick off with Nagai – one of the finest restaurants on the island. How did your relationship with these lovely people begin and how did it evolve that you went onto create this spectacular façade?

It started 3 years ago when I was on the White Isle for an Urban In Ibiza event and searching for a public wall to paint. The fact that Nagai was in the middle of nowhere appealed a lot as I could just imagine someone driving by and getting the shock of seeing this art in the most unexpected place. I painted a portrait of a girl with a parrot on her shoulder on the front wall and, over the course of 2 days, got to know the guys behind Nagai very well. They were very warm, open people and generous to a fault. They asked me to add to the facade the following year but time constraints meant I couldn’t. I made a promise to return in 2014 and paint as much as I could. They were great clients… leaving me to my own devices and trusting in my vision 100%.


What is your favourite dish at Nagai?

The blackened cod without a doubt. I stayed with Elenora and Melchior for 5 weeks on and off while I completed the mural and Melchior ensured I ate something different each evening at the restaurant by making recommendations based on how he thought I was feeling on any particular day. I can honestly say that from top to bottom it’s one of the best menus I’ve tasted.

You hail from Cork, moved to London when you were two spending a lot of your childhood growing up on a notorious council estate before returning to Ireland where your cockney accent must have stood out like a sore thumb. What was the teachers attitude like towards you, was there any narrow mindedness and how did that change your outlook on life?

I was taught by priests and it was at a time when corporal punishment was still in effect. I was a target simply because Cork, at that time, had no diversity in terms of foreign nationals and, as u say, my accent alone singled me out. Their attitude towards me made me question a lot of things about religion and the things people will tell themselves it’s alright to do as long as they go to church every week and repent their sins. And ultimately the way I chose to live my life was to listen to my own right/wrong barometer.


A question I have always wanted to ask you, why didn’t you study art at school?

Ahh it was just circumstance and bad luck. My elder brother was good with math so he was recommended a tech secondary school. Being poor, it wasn’t an option for me to attend a different school, so I followed suit a couple of years later and did engineering and tech drawing instead. I drew in my own spare time but never attended art classes. I was still certain I wanted to be a graphic designer or similar and my reason for returning to London, when I finished secondary/high school, was to study at college. But fate conspired against me and it wasn’t possible. So I got a job as a mechanical engineer instead and started down a different path. Everything happens for a reason I guess but looking back I should have tried harder for sure.

Artists are renowned for ignoring their stomachs. What constitutes a normal breakfast, lunch and dinner when working?

I think I eat quite well actually… Not large amounts but the ingredients and nutritional value is probably better than most. From not eating breakfast for 20 years while doing office jobs, it’s now my most important meal. Granola, a selection of fresh organic fruits & berries, natural Greek yogurt and honey… Something that can keep me going for the whole day if I forget to eat later on. I graze a lot and make smoothies throughout the day also. The problem is that this only applies when I’m not travelling and that’s only about 40% of the year these days. The rest of the time it’s kind of pot luck.

It wasn’t until your late 30’s that things changed for you and art entered your life. What happened? 

I split from a very unhappy long term relationship and had issues seeing my children simply because of the type of woman my ex was and the fact that the British legal system is of no help in those situations. My life was pretty awful and I was a pale imitation of what I should have been. But it at least gave me the kick up the arse I needed to change my life. It was the most painful and stressful time of my life but I realise now that I had to go through that… Often the point at which u find yourself correlates directly to the point at which u have nothing left to lose.


Dead or alive, the 5 people from history you would invite to the perfect dinner party and why?

John Belushi, Hunter S Thompson, Neal Cassidy, Maquis De Sade and The 2nd Earl of Rochester…U surely don’t need an explanation as to why that would be an absolute riot? That mix of intelligence, hedonistic abandon and anti-authoritarianism would be amazing to witness.

How apt/important is Thomas Merton’s famous quote to you…‘Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time’…?

For me personally it is the best way to describe my journey. I lost myself in my art to get head space from the bullshit of my personal life and fears and it led me somewhere I would have dreamed for but never in a million years would have thought I could get to.


How did you set out to differentiate yourself from other artists when you began this wonderful journey – surely the ‘gang mentality’ of street artists was very off putting for you, it must have been about standing out from the rest?

As has always been the case in no matter what I’ve tried to do, I never really felt like I fitted in. In the past that had bothered me but, in my art life, I didn’t care. I didn’t want to fit in. My entrance into being an artist and the art world in general was not about that…It was about doing something for me for once. Keeping others happy while sacrificing my own thoughts and feelings had not served me well previously. But I had learned my lesson so on this occasion I stuck to my guns, did what felt intrinsically right and trusted my gut. It was difficult but it was the right thing to do.

Your favourite restaurants in Ibiza?

There are far too many now but Nagai is obviously top of the list these days and I guess an old favourite would be Sa Capella.

You say your work is a modern-day take on the 19th century art movement – can you explain that in more depth?

When I was searching for something to define my work I came across an article on the Aesthetics- a movement that included one of my favourite artists from my youth: Aubrey Beardsley. Their ethos was that art should only concern itself with beauty and not with social or political commentary. To me it highlighted perfectly why my work was different to other street artists of that time. I coined the term Urban Aesthetics to pay homage to them.


You travel the world with your work – what are some of your favourite restaurants from around the globe?

Oh man that’s an impossible question to answer. But just recently I got to experience Suviche in Wynwood, Miami, Kau Kee in Central Hong Kong and Sotto Mare in North Beach, San Francisco.

The women you paint are truly beautiful. The reason that they have painted masks over their eyes you have never revealed. Is that simply a case of an artist leaving options and possibilities to the viewer to decide on?

I think my art is very simple thematically. It’s not difficult to understand or interpret and is judged solely on an individuals ideas and opinions on beauty. The mask is the only mysterious element about my work so why spoil that by revealing it’s meaning or intent.


A dish that reminds you of your childhood?

Spaghetti Bolognese… Mainly because it was something I loved and used to help my mum prepare. It’s still one of my favourites to make today. On the flipside, Lemon Meringue springs to mind as well…I hated it and still do.

One of your greatest qualities as an artist is to be able to adapt to any requirements a client may have. What is the strangest request you have ever had?

Most of the really strange requests don’t get any further than that… I’m lucky to be able to pick and choose and so steer well clear of the enquiries that scream ‘nightmare’.


Please tell us about painting at the Royal Albert Hall and wandering the corridors of history in the middle of the night…

A completely unique opportunity for which I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Only 9 people in the world can say that they’ve painted the loading bay at one of Britain’s most illustrious venues. I’m not sure how many people have slept there over the years but I can assure you we weren’t the only ones wandering the halls late at night.. that place is beyond haunted.


Has a DJ ever surprised you by cooking a fabulous meal?

Well I was a DJ and I’ve surprised myself plenty of times with my culinary skills… Does that count?

Some people see playing the piano, taking a walk, going to the gym or reading a good book as therapeutic. You though count cutting stencils as such as an escape. Why…?

Because for me it’s like meditation…As is much of my art life. I’m able to lose myself for hours and days on end and think about nothing at all. Not many walks of life afford it’s travellers that.


The most unusual thing you have ever eaten?

Locust/grasshopper from a street vendor in Thailand (actually very nice) or duck tongue in Hong Kong (revolting).

What do you see as your strengths/attributes/skills as an artist?

I don’t. Determination and a positive approach, which, in my eyes, are really my only strengths, can be applied to any walk of life.


Your proudest piece of art?

For me the pride comes from simply being an artist. Being someone who struggled with self-confidence and introversion, it was a monumental leap to suddenly be able to ignore those fears and follow my instincts to become an artist.

If you could have a masterclass with any chef, who would it be with and why?

Jamie Oliver…Someone who gets to his level and can still have an altruistic attitude towards the health and welfare of others seems rare nowadays and could be seen as at-odds to everything those of his ilk represent.


Your art is full of wonderfully vibrant colours. True or false? Your favourite colour is grey?

Hah who told you that? It’s actually very true… In terms of personal clothing. I dress to match my hair and skin colour.

What can you tell us about the Nadeshiko Show and future work in 2015…

The Nadeshiko is my very first solo show and opens at Cave Gallery in Venice Beach, California on June 13th. I made the decision to have my first show as a retrospective simply because a lot of the images that I am known for have never been on display in a gallery… let alone a gallery in LA. As my street work has become more and more well known I’ve done less and less gallery work so this is a good opportunity to redress the balance.

And finally, when will we see you back on the white isle?

In August for Urban in Ibiza again