Wikinews interviews painter Pricasso on his art and freedom of expression

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Wikinews interviewed Australian painter Pricasso on his unique artwork created using his penis, and how his art relates to freedom of expression and issues of censorship. He is to be featured at the upcoming adult entertainment event Sexpo Australia in Melbourne this November 5 to November 8.

File photo of Pricasso, 2012.
Image: Eva Rinaldi.

Background

Pricasso painting a portrait in Australia at Sexpo (2012)
Image: Eva Rinaldi.

Pricasso is the stage name of Australian painter Tim Patch, in a nod to the artist Picasso while using the word prick. Pricasso has been painting portraits using his penis for more than ten years.

Based in Australia, Pricasso paints his artwork using his buttocks and scrotum in addition to his penis. According to 640 Toronto News, Pricasso markets himself as "The World's Greatest Penile Artist".

Cquote1.svg I consider my work as satire just like late night TV, something that gives light relief to a serious subject. Cquote2.svg

Pricasso

He is able to create 20 paintings in one day. Pricasso also practices other styles besides portraits, including landscape painting and nudes. Typically his portraits take him not more than 15 minutes to paint. He told Coconuts TV he chose to specialize in creating artwork in this manner because he felt it was a niche market.

His fanbase is international; Pricasso has journeyed to locations including the United States, Holland, Germany, Brazil, Mexico and China to paint portraits for people. Though he is willing to travel to display his talent, Pricasso told In Touch Weekly most of his income is Internet-based.

Wikinews interviewed Pricasso about his artwork and asked for his thoughts on topics of censorship and freedom of expression. We discussed what are considered appropriate forms of parody and satire of public figures — protected in the United States following the Supreme Court case Hustler Magazine v. Falwell.

The interview touched upon a 2013 conflict which arose on our sister site for images and media, Wikimedia Commons, when an image of a portrait of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales painted by Pricasso was uploaded to the site. Wales called it "harassment" and a succession of deletion discussions ensued. We asked Pricasso about this as well as the different reaction from former-Mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille, who called his painting of her part of a "free society" where artists "exercise their freedom in unusual ways."

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.png((WikinewsWikinews waves Right.png)) Pricasso, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with Wikinews.

Pricasso: Thanks for doing this, great questions.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) How long have you been painting in this particular fashion?

Pricasso: I first tried it over 10 years ago and realised it would be possible with practice to get as good with it but in a slightly more impressionistic style than I could with a brush, and I really liked the results, of course at first I had to work out the paint formula and what to paint on which was done by trial and error — and then finding somewhere to practice, which was a problem until I was invited to become a member of a Bondage club in Brisbane, my first patron. There I realised that there were so many people with totally different views on what is acceptable in society, and were always protesting over most censorship issues.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) How long can you paint with your penis at one time before it gets too tiring?

Pricasso: At most Sexpo's and Adult Expos I paint for 13 hours a day in half slots so I paint 20 plus paintings a day. When I am painting I have to concentrate hard and go into a meditative state; I don't notice much going on around me until I have finished.

Example of Pricasso applying paint before creating a piece of artwork.
Image: Pricasso.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Other than your penis, what other parts of your body do you use in the painting process?

Pricasso: I quickly worked out that I could speed it up by using my testicles and butt cheeks to cover large areas in no time at all, but only recently do I paint the edges using my butt-crack, I call it the credit card swipe!

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) How did you come up with the name Pricasso?

Pricasso: That was the heading they christened me with in the Picture Magazine interview in 2006. I realised it was Gold and took out the website and trademark.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) What's the most positive reaction you've had to one of your paintings?

Pricasso: It is always satisfying to get applause when a painting is finished; at most adult shows this happened all the time; but I do like painting disabled people. I have painted several people with severe cerebral palsy and they are over the moon with the result; this gives me the most pleasure, as I do realise that they are still sexually active people and everyone should realise this.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Have any of your paintings been featured in a gallery somewhere?

Pricasso: I have entered the Bald Archy Exhibition in Australia every year and sold a few. Also at an exhibition of politicians in Australia, and last November I went to Miami for the Art undressed exhibition and also painted 15 minute portraits there which was fun.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Do you consider it a form of freedom of expression to create your artwork in the way you do with your penis?

Pricasso: When I first thought of the idea I was really thinking I could get invited to a few parties as the entertainment which I do regularly, but now I am getting a good style about my work and want to take it to the next level and be accepted as an innovator.

Cquote1.svg A free society throws up these kinds of people, who exercise their freedom in unusual ways. Cquote2.svg

—Cape Town former-Mayor Helen Zille

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) In 2008, prior to a Sexpo event in South Africa, you uploaded a video to the Internet of yourself painting a portrait of then-Mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille. Why did you decide to do this?

Pricasso: No particular reason on my behalf, it was the organisers of the Sexpo who got me to paint it mainly for publicity. But also to have a portrait on my stand, who people in Cape Town would relate to as I now know she is very popular and has a great sense of humour.

Cape Town former-Mayor Helen Zille
Image: Helen Zille, Democratic Alliance, South Africa.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille commented of your portrait painting of her: "This is a free country. A free society throws up these kinds of people, who exercise their freedom in unusual ways. And if this is how he wants to do it, I must accept his constitutional right to do so." — what are your thoughts on her reaction?

Pricasso: Sounds a bit formal but that is how politicians usually talk, guarded and a totally correct response, the trouble is that if they spoke from the heart it might come back to bite them one day, but I did talk to one of her aides privately and she said they were all really impressed and loved the concept, I really should have offered to paint her too but I was probably flat out all day — I always am at the South African shows.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Mayor Zille further commented about the quality of your painting of her: "[Pricasso] has achieved a good likeness and I can't imagine how he painted it without brushes or conventional equipment." — what do you think of this assessment?

Pricasso: Most people are impressed when they see it done, skeptical at first but after the initial shock they all usually stop to watch until I finish that particular painting, usually they take about 15 minutes.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) If you could speak to Mayor Zille, what would you say to her about her reaction to your painting of her?

Pricasso: I would say I was impressed with her response, mostly girls are much more impressed than guys only a minority of guys I might add, lots of them love it and me too!! But in general she gave a responsible and educated reply and was not at all offended by the experience.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) In 2011, one member of the Gold Coast Sculptors' Society quit in protest due to your participation in the 'Exotic Erotic' show — how do you feel when people react to your artwork in this way?

Pricasso: I guess I could say; This is a free country. A free society throws up these kinds of people, who exercise their dissaproval in various ways. And if this is how she wants to protest, I must accept her constitutional right to do so. There was that politically correct enough? Or maybe the silly old B***ch — but her reaction did get heaps of publicity for the show and they had record numbers coming through the doors so there was a silver lining. But obviously it is a bit confronting and not everyone's cup of tea but if they could just see it before they get on their high horse they might have a different point of view.

The painting of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, the uploading of which Wales called "harassment". 2013.
Image: Pricasso.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) You painted a portrait of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales in 2013; a picture and a video file of the making of this painting were uploaded to Wikipedia's sister site for images and media, Wikimedia Commons. Shortly thereafter, the files were nominated for deletion and a deletion discussion ensued — what are your thoughts on this discussion?

Pricasso: I did not think Wikipedia censored anything as on Jimmy Wales' Twitter account his banner heading is: "Wikia guy. Free speech activist, entrepreneur." Either this is misleading in the very least or blatantly untrue.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) The deletion discussion at Wikimedia Commons resulted in keeping the photograph of your portrait of Jimmy Wales, but deleting the video of your making-of-the-portrait — do you consider a video of your portrait painting to be offensive?

Pricasso: Not in the least; it's pure performance art.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) During the deletion discussion, Jimmy Wales commented "I encourage people to go to commons and work to explain to the community there some of the concepts behind Hostile environment sexual harrassment. I encourage everyone to seriously consider whether it is appropriate behavior to upload a clearly non-notable film of someone using his penis to paint a picture of a Wikipedia volunteer. It is harassment, it is trolling, and I am deeply disappointed to have to point this out to some people." What do you think of his response to your artwork? Do you feel your paintings constitute harassment?

Pricasso: Harassment is when one continually annoys someone, over and over again; I only painted the one painting of him and it to my mind was not offensive, I consider my work as satire just like late night TV, something that gives light relief to a serious subject. There are many examples of political cartoon images on Wikipedia, so why are they still up there or is it just the things Jimmy Wales doesn't like get taken down? By the way anyone who has not seen the offending Video can view it on Vimeo under Pricasso: http://vimeo.com/user10315938/review/68837137/893b31ca54

I paint about 1000 portraits a year and get paid by the sitters or a close friend of them to do so. I had a request to paint a portrait, to do [this] portrait of Jimmy Wales with a video of me painting, by Russavia (who is an editor at Wikipedia), something I do all the time and I have great feedback as to how funny the videos are; I had no idea who Jimmy Wales was at the time of the request, but painted him only once so it can't be called Harassment. Is he just using his position of power to cut and censor ... It took me a lot of effort and time to put this together so I was pretty upset. And would really like it to be republished next to the portrait as originally it was before Mr Wales had it removed.

[Editor's note: Accusations of harassment focused on the uploader, rather than the artist; the successive heated discussions, over about six months, that ultimately led to the video's deletion from Commons may be read here. Jimmy Wales expressed his position elsewhere and did not directly participate in the discussions themselves.]

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) How do you compare the reactions by Mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille who said your portrait painting of her was a product of a "free society" and a reflection of how people "exercise their freedom" with the comment by Jimmy Wales calling the publication of your artwork "harassment" ? Which of these individuals do you feel is correct, Mayor Zille or Wales, and why?

Pricasso: I think Helen got it. They in South Africa are struggling with change from being suppressed to one of freedom as she said "a free society". Jimmy Wales on the other hand although promoting himself as The Free Speech Guy is censoring things he does not agree with and calling it Harassment, not a good look Jimmy!!

I did put the video of Helen Zille being painted on YouTube. It was there for a few months but they too delete my work quite regularly so it's probably long gone.

She is an experienced politician and would weigh up the fors and against before she acted, obviously the fors had it.

Mr. Wales on the other hand has probably not seen a lot of my work; if he had he would know I do it for fun and not really to be taken too seriously, it's a comedy performance, but he could not see the unique talent of someone who has cornered the world market of penis portraits painting with no imitators for the past 10 years, so before too many people could have a small chuckle at his expense he had it deleted, I'm sure there would be many others who would like to remove things on Wikipedia but don't have the muscle to do so.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Have you experienced censorship or attempts by others to limit your freedom of expression? How so, and what was your reaction?

Pricasso: As I said before YouTube is always deleting my videos when someone complains, sometimes even when there is no genitals visible. Once one was taken down because the guy I was painting had the word (fuck) on his tee shirt; I mean how many films have this word in the dialogue. Also in Macau at the adult show, the people who make the rules make me perform inside an enclosed area, and people are wary of coming in through the door so is a bit slow there; and the guys that run the show are so polite and passionate trying to change China slowly, making it more open, that I keep on returning year after year.

Signed painting of a French Bulldog, by Pricasso. 2013.
Image: Pricasso.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Do you consider some of your art pieces to be forms of parody or satire of famous people?

Pricasso: Oh yes I love creating something topical and painting a spoof on famous people, and painting with a penis really lends itself to this form of art, but I just painted a normal portrait of Jimmy Wales, as I said before I had no idea who he was before I googled him. And found this heading [on] his Twitter account (seems to me he has a few double standards) "Jimmy Wales
 Verified account
‪ @jimmy_wales You know, the ‪@Wikipedia and ‪@Wikia guy. Free speech activist, entrepreneur."

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Are you familiar with the U.S. Supreme Court case, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell ? How do you feel after reading about the unanimous decision protecting parody as a form of freedom of speech in that case?

Pricasso: Thanks for sharing that with me, I had no idea about this case and it's good to know that freedom of speech is alive and well in America. Actually I was a bit taken aback by the parody and slightly offended that I have been put in the same category, my painting is pure performance art and I don't go out of my way to offend. And I am totally against censorship. It's a shame the same is not true about Wikipedia and Mr. Wales.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) Pricasso, thanks again for doing this interview with Wikinews, is there anything else you'd like to add?

Pricasso: Not at the moment. I'm exhausted! Thanks.


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