Serringe on Element Tree, Graffiti, Jersey City, Video Production & more

December 26, 2013

I came upon Serringe’s artwork on the streets of Jersey City earlier this year. I soon discovered that he was the force behind Element Tree and dozens of first-rate videos. I was delighted to finally have the opportunity to meet up with him at his store in Weehawken — just minutes away from Manhattan.

Christian Serringe

Tell us something about Element Tree. When did it launch?

Element Tree started as a blog in 2009.  I grew up in Jersey City around a bunch of talented people, and I needed a platform to post their work and share it with others in hopes of promoting them and myself.  Artists like Snow, T.Dee, 4sakn, Loser, Then One, Mr. Mustart and Distort —  to name a few.  There are others, but these are some of the original artists I felt people should definitely know about if they already didn’t.

When did Element Tree become a store?

I rented the space in Weehawken in February 2012. If I can’t do graff 24/7, I want to be around it. I also like the idea of nurturing the culture and keeping it healthy, and this store gives me the platform to do that.

Serringe

What inspired you to start your own business?

I have a strong entrepreneurial streak. I don’t want people telling me who the “real artists” are. I want to help the people – whose work I love — make money.

Besides the first-rate art that you show here, you also sell art supplies. What do you see as the future of this space?

I will continue to provide affordable art for folks who love graffiti and street art. Not everyone can afford to spend $1500 on a canvas. And I’m interested in providing opportunities for artists — such as commissioned murals, design work for album covers and general creative direction. I see Element Tree as a house of creative energy and incubator for ideas.

Serringe

What initially spurred your interest in graffiti?

I was always into graffiti from the time I was six years old. My older brother was a writer for a short period of time in the 90’s, and he sparked my brain, along with all the other local writers that were doing their thing when I was a kid. If they could do it, so could I. When I was a young teenager, my mom became ill and begged me not to write graffiti on the streets. She believed in my art, though… so until I was 19 years old, I detached myself from graffiti out of respect for her. She passed in 2004 — and aside from the occasional tag, I know she would be proud of me.

Did you develop any other passions while growing up?

I grew up in 80’s and 90’s: DJs, producers, skateboarders, punk rockers were everywhere. I became interested in all kinds of creative expression, and I began to create home videos with friends as a way to explore filmmaking.  Within the past three years, I created 140 videos.

Mr Mustart

And you also paint in public spaces these days.  Since you began doing so, have you had any particularly memorable experiences?

Art Basel 2012. It was the first time I traveled to paint on a wall that was sponsored at a major art event like Basel.  Art Primo powered us with the paint and Element Tree’s Mr. Mustart and Distort showcased their talents for all who passed by. It was great experience to paint among people we respected.

Have you exhibited your work?

I’ve been in a handful of shows, but Mustart, Then One and Distort stay doing their thing, showcasing and exhibiting through Element Tree-based projects and also on an independent level.  We are currently working on setting up the first Element Tree official group show… so if you’re a gallery owner, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Distort

Any thoughts about the graffiti and street art divide?

Eventually they will meet. Street art is still a baby in relation to graffiti. There are many street artists I respect. Banksy is a genius! Other favorites include: Blek le Rat, Invader and Shepherd Fairey. Oh, and if you don’t know… check out LNY. I see good things in him.

How would you explain the reluctance of the art establishment to embrace graffiti and street art?

Most people don’t understand it, and if you don’t understand something, you don’t know how to deal with it.

Then-art-Element-Tree

What do you see the future of graffiti?

It can’t be stopped. And eventually, it will gain acceptance as a legitimate art form.

No doubt!

Interview and photos by Lois Stavsky, photos 1,2 and 3 of Serrenge; photo 4, Mr. Mustart; photo 5, Distort and final image, Then One.


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