Based in London, Angel Ito is a visual artist, graphic designer, musician and editor of Cock No. 7. He unfolds his life experience and personal evolution in his art, leading to striking, mesmerizing images.
What ignited your passion for art? Was there ever a moment when you realised this was what you wanted to do with your life?
It’s hard to say what ignited my passion for art, as in many ways, I think it was hard-wired in me from birth. I’ve always had a quite compulsive, almost obsessive need to express myself and make something of the experiences that life threw at me. It started out with journals and evolved into books full of writing, illustrations, and collages. Throughout my life, from as far back as I can remember, I developed the habit of making something new every day.
I went on to enrol in university in New York to study medicine, but that lasted for about a minute. I diverted my studies to Anthropolgy and Dance. I would say that was when I began my ‘artistic career’ – first as a choreographer and dancer, then developing as photographer, graphic designer and painter. I think the thing that fanned my creative passions was being around some amazing and encouraging young artists, and upon leaving university, I was certain this would be how I would live my life.
“Escaping Yesterday” – Astral Projections series
You’re an artist of many talents, including photography and graphic design. What was the inspiration behind your self-portrait photography series ‘Astral Projections’ and ‘The Becoming’?
Hmm, to be honest, the real answer is probably longer than people care to know or read about. Suffice it to say, over time and with the help of some wise wonderful people, I got to a place where I developed my own ideas on spirituality and my place in the universe. In many ways, the ‘Astral Projection Series’ deals with my thoughts and conclusions on all the beautiful questions.
As for ‘The Becoming Series’ – well, I like to think that I have always produced images charting my personal progression through life. In many ways, although I have had a lifelong affair with art, it is only recently that, as I look back and see all the work I have created, I have the real confidence to call myself an artist. In my opinion, the title gets thrown around too lightly – but I think I am slowly becoming one.
As well as this, you’re also a singer-songwriter, fronting experimental bands The Thin Lines and Tigerlily Pistols. Both projects have a very entrancing sound, complemented by surreal music videos. What was the inspiration behind the video ‘When Are You Coming Back’ for Tigerlily Pistols?
I was fortunate enough to have a long lasting and highly creative period of collaboration with a couple of incredible friends, Ash Dutch (Attack of the Fits, Pilots of Dune) and Or Ganism (Tigerlily Pistols). We wrote and played experimental art-rock together in a Brixton squat, not really caring about the ol’ fame game. We just loved it – it kept us creative and gave us a chance to make videos, exercising our talents across multiple platforms. Eventually we started our own indie label (RawKiss Records) to get out music out. It was a lovely era of fearless friends bonding and making shit because we didn’t think anyone was listening. But like all things do, that period slowly came to an end, and I guess the song is a lamentation on the end of an era.
You’re also founder and editor-in-chief of Cock No. 7 – an art, life and culture magazine (which was included in the Tate Museum’s ‘Rude Britannia’ exhibition in 2010). What inspired you to create the magazine back in 2000?
Zine culture and self publishing has been big in America for a long time, but I only discovered it at university. I guess in many ways they were the precursors to today’s personal websites and blogs – but back in the day, circa ’94, when the internet started gaining pace, a rebellious faction of analogue artists refused to die. While at university, I met Pelin, a friend’s sister, who used to come up from the city and dart around university buildings stealing armfuls of photocopied pages for her kick ass, empowered, post-femisist zine called PUSSY Magazine. She was a fierce New York drummer, painter, and zinester who was a big inspiration. I loved Pussy Magazine. The whole spirit in which it was brought to life seemed so rebellious, confident, funny, and honest. Soon after I finished university I came to Europe and ended up settling in London. In early 2000, I was looking for a project to chart my experiences moving to a new country and city and thought the best and most accessible way was to start a zine. I decided to call mine Cock No. 7 – something of a little brother to PUSSY in New York. I felt empowered the more I learned about self publishing and the idea that anyone could have a publication if they chose to make one and fill it with all the crazy shit that turned them on – whether or not anyone liked it or even read it. In 2010 I relaunched Cock No. 7 with some artist friends and it became a platform for all of our art and helped us champion other up-and-coming artists.
You art seems to be telling many stories. What has been your favourite story to tell so far?
Looking back, one of the stories which sticks with me is still my final year dance show called, ‘A Relative Existence’ in university. I choreographed a ten-piece show chronicling one’s journey through life, from before conception to death, in which I merged my passions for photography, video, an original audio score, stage and costume design. I think in many ways ‘A Relative Existence’ set the blue-print for my path as an artist and story teller, and how I would examine and chart my own history and progress through life. I continue to be fascinated by the crazy “life show” that plays out before me.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to go down the same career path as you?
I’d say fuck it seeing it as a career path. I try to encourage everyone to make art. Everybody owes it to themselves to make a mark – to leave a fingerprint of their soul and existence on this big ol’ doomed rock. Make big art, make small art – art to share or that no one will ever see. Good and bad art. Get lost in creativity, however and whenever you can. The reality is that most artists can’t afford to live off their art, and most people have to suffer boring day jobs and balance their lives with something creative. In many ways, that may ultimately be more fulfilling than dealing with the pressures of the art world.
Life will always get in the way. You can’t avoid it, so make art out of it – not because you expect it to hang in galleries and make you rich, but just because you can, and because you have a voice. I guess if you do it long enough, it will eventually be something you can look back on and call a career, or at least one of them, even if others don’t.
Top tip: follow the do-ers!