Sam Macinnes Pet Shop Biyz

Sam Macinnes interview with Verity Babbs.

V.B Where has the title ‘Pet Shop Biys’ come from?

S.M The work itself speaks for a culture that is heavily revolved around the electronic music scene, particularly events such as after parties and illegal raves. The animal characters can often be found in these environments up to no good and causing mischief. When I have found myself in these situations, especially at an after party sat talking away to someone, I can always hear these kinds of songs playing in the background. So, I thought a play on words to a band in this sort of genre would seem fitting, even better when the name has an animal reference!

V.B Your Instagram bio says “You are now entering The Dude Zone…Life is cool x” Is this your life philosophy? What does it mean to be entering ‘The Dude Zone’?

S.M To be entering ‘The Dude Zone’ in my eyes is to step into a carefree world of escapism. To enter it could mean lots of things, like walking into the pub late and having to play catch up, walking round the park hungover or going for a kick about with a few cans of lager. Essentially it means to step into a ‘cool’ and relaxed way of living. So, to answer your question, yes, this relaxed and carefree way of living is very much a philosophy I tend to follow.

V.B Are these ‘bad boys’ disarmed by being made into animals?

S.M I would not say they are disarmed, the people they represent and know exactly who they are and what they were up to that night. By anthropomorphising them I was aiming to make them far accessible to a wider audience, allowing everyone to be able to situate themselves in that position. So, if they saw some animal dudes sat in the pub, they would almost automatically be drawn back to a situation or a person who they have found in the same circumstances.

V.B Are your characters always specifically male, specifically Scottish, specifically young?

S.M The characters are situational, so it really depends where I am and who I am with when I chose to capture the moment to create my works. My social circle largely consists of young Scottish dudes, dudes just like me who love to drink, party and get up to no good. This really is the reason why these characters are the way they are.

Female characters are sometimes portrayed, but most of the time this really reflects a single person in my life. Who knows though, maybe one day ill move away and find new friends, a dudette zone maybe!

V.B Are you reflected in these pieces? Are you always?

S.M Yes, I am often reflected but not always. When I am reflected it is often far more subtle than the way my friends are. I prefer to directly lift elements from the people who surround me as I can give a far more honest representation of them than myself. I feel when it comes to admitting certain elements of the party lifestyle that surround my own personality it would be a lot more diluted and not give the whole picture of the fun.

V.B Does the act of creating these pieces allow you to process anything emotionally?

S.M It allows me to process emotions that are attached to the events that the works are based around, when I’m making the drawings in particular and taking imagery directly from photographs it does tend to create a great level of nostalgia for the good times.

V.B  What were your key takeaways from university that influenced your practice or outlook?

S.M In all honesty it wasn’t the studies and the vast knowledge of the arts I developed that influenced my practice, but the constant merry go round of nights out in my earlier years that really helped the ‘Dude Zone’ come to life. It was the partying, the drinking, the music and the multitude of likewise characters I met along the way that gave me a basis to form the dudes. It may have been a nightmare for my tutors, but if I could go back in time and thank that daft young dude I would!

Sam Macinnes Solo show seated

V.B Which artists have been the biggest inspirations for you?

S.M Philip Guston’s paintings have been nothing short of an obsession for me ever since my early teenage years, the way Guston created his own instantly recognisable set of characters has always been something I aimed to emulate in the ‘Dude Zone’. I feel he was never scared to portray the bleaker elements of his lifestyle, and that really stood out to me. It gives his work a great degree of honesty that makes it so unique. This is an approach I took when forming the ‘Dude Zone’, to hide nothing, only then will I be able to get the best I can out of my characters.

Outside of the arts comic books have always inspired the Dudes. One comic was Matt Furie’s ‘Boy’s Club’. I was instantly drawn in by his animal characters, and the way they made such trivial day to day on-goings of university students in America feel so relatable to my own time at university, which ultimately led me to take a similar approach in my own work.

V.B  Is there something about The Rafiki Gallery, what it stands for, how it’s run, that made you a good fit?

S.M It was not the gallery itself that drew me in, but Leo as a person. His enthusiasm and belief in my work was something that deeply moved me. I feel if someone has that much belief in what I’m doing then I should definitely be working alongside them.

Interview by Verity Babbs

Verity Babbs is an Art Curator, Writer and Broadcaster 


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