Crossing borders 019: Emmalene Blake (ESTR)

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It is with a great sense of nostalgia that I announce this Crossing Borders column to be the last of the series. Why stop at such an odd number (19)? That’s not something I have the answer for. I can speculate however.

Back in 2009 when I was on my 19th year on this planet, things happened that were quite defining for me. Then fast track to the beginning of this column, I wanted to get into creative writing, was looking for an open door and someone to give me a chance. This was just a little over a year and a half ago. Fresh Paint Gallery seemed like the best platform to immerse myself in the street art/graffiti culture and reaching out to international artists and showcase their work through an Q&A interview was the way I chose to go. Then a year into the series, it was once again the start of something new. Moving to Ireland. Which I did all alone, with a backpack and my ipad. It just  feels like I need to start something new and showcasing a talented Dublin artist was the only way to end the series – after all, I AM IN DUBLIN.

I wish to thank all the amazing artists who took the time to chat with me, skype or meet; the experience has been truly insightful and sure, unforgettable. Without any further, I am pleased to introduce you Emmalene Blake, or ESTR, who was kind enough to take some of her time to chat with me about street art in Dublin, her personal work and upcoming projects!

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: I’ve only been in Ireland for the past six months, yet I’ve repeatedly been told how “Dublin is a small place, and you always end up running into someone you know”. I can only imagine how tight and supportive of its artists the street art community is. But you tell me! How are you getting on these days?

[ESTR]: Well firstly, I hope you’re enjoying your time here! Yeah, Dublin is definitely a small place and as you can imagine, this has made the art scene a tight-knit community, which I think can be great! Being surrounded by so much culture and creative minds is a breeding ground for more creativity and art. But yeah, I’m doing pretty great these days. I’ve been working on some cool projects and have more great stuff coming up; can’t complain! Back at the start of the year, I joined Minaw Collective, an all female Ireland-based street art collective, so getting to work on projects and at jams with those guys has been great too. Also, I recently moved into a new studio. I love it; it’s amazing.

[FP]: You have worked with companies like Penneys, RTE and The Maldron Hotels. How has been your experience of going from working as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer to getting involved in the street art scene?

[ESTR]: Well actually, street art has been a part of my life for a long time. Even while I was working as a freelancer, I still did street art. My first real street artwork was back in college in 2009, when I made stencils of Brian Cowen’s face on a mickey mouse figure -which may or may not have found its home on various walls around the city! So although recognition for my street art came later, I’ve been embracing the lifestyle for quite a while now. Regarding the shift, I don’t think I will ever move entirely from one thing to another. I am definitely the kind of person who likes to work on a lot of different things, so I can’t really say what I will or won’t be doing in a year or two!

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[FP]: In your personal experience, what do you feel are the main difficulties, but also the greatest parts of being an artist living and working in Ireland?
[ESTR]: I think this relates to what I said earlier; Ireland -and especially Dublin- is so full of culture and art. There are so many artists and creative minds that with that kind of buzz, it’s difficult not to be creative. I mean, it’s such a great platform to work from. That, I think really is great. You’re always going to be able to be inspired because I think creativity and art are really nurtured in our society. I do believe it’s a double-edged sword though, because with the amount of talent around, I think a lot of people get lost in the sea of it all. I think a lot of talented young artists never reach their potential because they feel they don’t measure up to it all. Or maybe they just give up because they don’t get a break. There are so many really great artists out there who end up working in jobs that have nothing to do with art. I think that’s hard, to work away at something when you feel you are not getting recognition and maybe aren’t getting the support you need from friends and family. I think although the mainstream community is very supportive of the arts, on a personal and individual scale, some people may not feel that support.

[FP]: I was reading about the Irish Rail’s stance on street art/graffiti/tagging and wasn’t all that surprised when I saw they had a zero tolerance policy on tagging and said they would press charges if they caught the responsible acts. On the other hand, some big mural projects get approval from City Councils. Now, the difference between these two examples is huge, but once again in your experience, where do feel Irish authorities draw the line between helping out and prosecuting? Have you ever ran into trouble for painting?

[ESTR]: I think that although I may not agree with Irish Rail’s stance, it’s the position of nearly every railway everywhere. Graffiti is not legal in most places and if caught, your fate is the same regardless of where you are. Charges will be pressed. I think it’s understandable to some extent; nobody wants to see “Denise loves Mick” or a massive cock on the side of a bus or train, but I think there is a huge difference in art and vandalizing. Ideally, I hope that we eventually move towards having bigger liberties for art. And I have to say that the big mural projects you’ve mentioned are definitely a step in that direction! Thankfully, I’ve never run into any serious trouble for painting, but that’s just because I’m a model citizen who DEFINITELY has never broken the law. 😉

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[FP:] What do you consider being three top three most important values in your life/career?

[ESTR]: Top three, it would have to be my family and friends, staying true to myself and self-confidence. That last one might sound a bit cheesy, but to be honest, being an artist is not an easy job. I think it’s important you always make sure you are in a good place, that you are taking care of yourself, reminding yourself that you are good enough and that you have something worthwhile to contribute. I think a lot of artists tend to be their own worst enemy at times. I am definitely guilty of this.

By staying true, I mean that at the end of the day, I want to be able stand proudly behind every piece of work I have made. I never want to do something just because it’s a commission. I want to be able to be passionate about my work. And I would never take a commission if it I didn’t agree with what or who it represented. I recently turned down a commission due to this.

Lastly, my friends and my family mean the world to me, I can’t praise them enough for everything they do for me. I am lucky to have the people I have surrounded myself with. My best friend Jess, although she lives in Eindhoven, is always there to give me a hand or her opinion whenever I get on to her. She’s a super talented artist, so I know I can trust her opinion on anything workwise!

[FP]: Do you see any sorts of a common thread in Irish street art? Themes, values, colors, political or social ideas?

[ESTR]: Of course, I mean art, in general, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is always influenced by the culture and people you are surrounded by. I think this is especially true when we talk about street art. A lot of street artists tend to want to make a comment on something, or get a reaction from a simple glance. Bring some humor to someone’s day, or get them question something. I think that with that being said, a lot of us here in Ireland care about similar issues, and we definitely have the same sense of humor. So yeah, I do think you get similar themes throughout art. I guess that’s also what makes it so interesting. Seeing each person’s response to the same experience.

[FP]: If you had the opportunity to append your art to any existing structure in the world, which would you choose and why?
[ESTR]: The Great Wall of China, ’cause sure wouldn’t it be great for my artwork to be seen from space!

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[FP]: In which projects are you getting involved in next?

[ESTR]: There’s going to be a video of a free art project I’m currently working on, encouraging the introduction of same-sex marriage to countries who have yet to legalize it. First up – closest to home, Northern Ireland. I went up a couple of weeks ago to do it so that video will be going live soon. Then Waterford Walls is happening. That’s going to be huge. So many amazing artists are painting at it, so I’m looking forward to that.

© All photos courtesy of Emmalene Blake (ESTR).

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Emmalene Blake (ESTR) is an Irish artist with great ambition. Currently completing a MA in Professional Design Practice, she studied at the Dublin Institute of Technology where she graduated with an Honour’s BA in Fine Art in 2012. Introduced to many different mediums during her college years, it opened up for her a world of opportunity and experimentation. It wasn’t until she graduated that she found  herself immersed in the street art community. ESTR runs regular art workshops for youth groups, children’s groups and groups for young people with disabilities and though the majority of these are spray painting workshops, she  also runs other style of workshops.

Crossing borders 018: Ralph Ziman

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Do you believe in peace on earth?

Most of my entourage is a little bit older than I am and because of this, babies and marriage are subjects that are brought into a conversation way more often than they used to. Personally, I’m nowhere near ready to have a child… I’m not even sure I want one. For that child’s sake. In 1989, The Miracle was the 13th studio album released by British rock band, Queen. On its title track, Freddie Mercury would sing “the one thing we’re all waiting for, is peace on earth and an end to war/It’s a miracle we need/That time will come one day you’ll see when we can all be friends”…

But what do I know about war? I’m lucky enough to have never experienced it first hand, and even more fortunate to not have lost one of my brothers to the war in Irak and Afganistan. I’m aware of how favored my upbringing in the world was. Not everyone has had my luck. Almost three decades have gone by since Queen’s release of their fifth single off The Miracle. More than 70 years have passed since the end of WWII and still on the news, all I see is humans repeating the same mistakes and bad decisions of the past, humans killing each other over power, land, racism, name it. It sickens me.

Maybe that’s why I love art so much: it opens discussions, and even if the piece is charged with sadness or restlessness, an underlying beauty remains to ease the pain in some of us.

For this Crossing borders’ edition, I was fortunate enough to speak with well-known and recognized South African director, writer and artist Ralph Ziman about his birth country, street art, film making and how he translates his life experiences, skills and learnings into a statement on culture and nowadays world issues into art.

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: You moved out of South Africa at the age of 19, to avoid conscription into the SADF. Were you already inclined to art at the time?
[Ralph Ziman]: I’ve always painted, I’ve always drawn. When I was 13 or 14, I was very much into photography, which fascinated me. I loved it, and I did that. Then, I suppose I started working. My first job out of school [at the age of] 18, was working as a cameraman, so I got into film that way. At every point in my life, I’ve been doing some form of visual art and, you know, from time to time it tends to shift and I do other things, different things.

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[F.P.G.]: Nowadays, you live in Los Angeles with your family. How close have you stayed with your roots?

[R.Z.]: I go back a lot. Some years, I’ll go back 3, 4 or 5 times, sometimes I’ll go back 2 or 3 times, and sometimes I’ll be there for a 6 or 9 months stretch. When I left South Africa, I thought I would never come back. I was eighteen; Apartheid was in full swing and the control it had over everything was absolute. Over the media, over radio, television, what could be shown, what magazines [could be read]… With a police state, in the early 80’s, we found ourselves embroiled in our war on the border. […] In South Africa, we were at the beginning of what was the civil war and they [authorities] were deploying the army into the townships which… none of it was anything I felt I could agree with. I couldn’t just do the military and tell my kids one day I fought on the side of Apartheid because I had to. So the options, they were very [limited]: it was leave and never go back, or stay and do the military. Or, perhaps a third option was to [be opposed to it] and spend maybe 6 to 8 years in a military prison, being abused and beaten. So, I boarded an airplane, and I left.

 

[F.P.G.]: Do you still have family there then?
[R.Z.]: I still have some family there; my parents are still there, I’ve got a brother there…. I still have some good friends from when I was a kid, and I’ve got a lot of friends I’ve made over the years, new friends. So you know, I connect with South Africa and people there. I love it; I love Johannesburg — the cultural aspects of it. I love that it has become this fascinating African city. There were places in Johannesburg when I was a kid -like Hillbrow- you’d go there, and it would be 95% white people… now you go there, and it’s 95% black people. A lot of places are still the same and familiar, but a lot of places have turned on their head. It is really interesting, and the other fascinating thing about Johannesburg now is, it’s not just South Africans; you meet Zimbabweans, Nigerians, Congolese… it’s become kind of this melting pot of Africa where you’ve got big numbers of people from every part of the continent. It is culturally just a fascinating place.

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[F.P.G.]: Being born in Johannesburg, but having spent most of your life living in the USA, where do you stand between what you know, have seen and lived, and the media’s representation of the African continent?
[R.Z.]: I think the way Africa tends to be represented is when there’s a war, a conflict or Boko Haram, and then it makes headlines. The rest of it tends to get very under-covered, and I think it’s a pity in a way because a lot is going on in Africa. I wish [the media didn’t] only show the wars and the most sensational aspects of it. It’s a huge place. News coverage… I mean, sometimes I do wish they would be harsher on governments that are in power about issues of corruption and not living up to the expectations of the people who elected them and put them there. In South Africa, I feel like the money that the country had should have been spent on education primarily, and then on housing for poor people who at the end of Apartheid had nothing, and then on hospitals and people’s health, on having a system to look after people. I think instead, what happened is that huge amounts of money are being served for corruption. Corruption done through massive arms deals, for example. […] It’s always been like that, unfortunately, so now a country like South Africa has one of the world’s biggest gaps between rich and poor.

 

[F.P.G.]: What perspective on art or life have you gained by moving out of South Africa when you did?
[R.Z.]: I mean, I couldn’t stay [in South Africa] because of Apartheid, but I do think there’s something interesting when you leave a country. When you’re away for long periods of time and you come back, you look at everything with a pair of fresh eyes. You look at things that people don’t think are interesting because they see them every day of their lives. As a photographer or as a tourist, a visitor, a guest, a traveler or whatever it is, you’ll go to places and be fascinated by something that people [see] every day. You’ll look at the electric fences of everybody’s homes in Johannesburg, and you’ll go “wow”, but other people have become so accustomed to it… I think in some ways, going back there with a fresh mind and a fresh eye, it has allowed me to see and be inspired by things that might just be mundane if I lived there.

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[F.P.G.]: At the time, your project “Ghosts” provoked heaps of discussion and media coverage. How satisfied are you with the impact it had? Do you still see that project having an impact today?
[R.Z.]: It’s something we want to keep going with. We did the first series in Johannesburg in 2013 […] and they’ve had a great impact, we’re still selling the prints – at least 3 or 4 a month. We managed to get a lot of attention from Huffington Post, BBC, The Guardian, CNN… A lot of people ran pieces on it. I do feel like people saw us and people took notice, and it’s something I want to carry on with, both in terms of raising awareness and donating money to charities that deal with gun violence and issues like that. It’s a project that has a life to it.

 

[F.P.G.]: Nonetheless, that project gave half a dozen Zimbabwean craftsmen 6 months of full-time work. What kind of response did you get from them? Is this something you try to do if possible? Implicate local artists in your projects?
[R.Z.]: It’s been great, because we have a really good relationship and I’ve continued to work with them through the years and I’m even working with them now on new projects. They’re just really great guys. It’s been nice hanging, talking, being with them, you know. The guys I work with, they’re five very different guys in terms of their personalities and their characters, but really, they’re all fascinating people. So yes, it’s an ongoing thing and we want to build it to the point where it’s giving them a full time job working on various projects, so that they can have a full time income and not be at the mercy of how many tourists come this year.

 

[F.P.G.]: With corruption and heavy police presence, to what extent is street art, graffiti or wheat pasting accepted? Was it hard for the Resistance project to see the day in terms of authorizations and such?
[R.Z.]: Well, It’s hard in Cape Town. We just put a new one up in Johannesburg last month, when I was over there. I collaborated with Jesse Hazelip, an artist I really admire. In Johannesburg, you can pretty much do anything you want. You could start putting a mural up in broad daylight and you would probably not get into any trouble for it. In Cape Town, in order to get anything done at all, you need the city to sign off. You need permission from the local municipality. […] It turned out okay and we had the city behind us and they were very in favor of what we are doing.

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[F.P.G.]: What’s the next step on that project?
[R.Z.]: We want to take it and put one in every city in the world. So far we’ve got one in Johannesburg, one in Cape Town, one in the townships around Cape Town, one in Venice, one in downtown L.A., one in South Central L.A. We just want to keep going and see if we can put these up all around the world.

 

[F.P.G.]: What’s your creative process like? Does your strong and successful background in film making has an effect on the way you create and present art?
[R.Z.]: I suppose the thing about film making is that it’s horrible in terms of how hard it is to make one: how much politics are involved, how much money you need to raise… how much of your life gets spent doing non-creative things. Trying to get a budget, figure out how to do it in the time that you have and the money that you have.

I suppose it’s probably subconscious things you learn, that you apply. Then, I think there’s probably a lot of new skills you have to learn, which I kind of love doing. I love not really being able to do what I think I should be able to do. Figuring it out as I go along. There’s something to be said about not being too comfortable in what you do or too sure of yourself. Street art is an amazing way of communicating; it’s not advertising, it’s not a billboard. But it gets people to react.

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[F.P.G.]: Is there a particular medium you prefer using and why? What kind of freedom does it provide you?
[R.Z.]: I just like when you can bring aspects of all of them together. When you can take what you know about photography or filming and use it to help you make a mural. I think nowadays there’s a lot of mediums being brought together by everybody, and I like that.

 

[F.P.G.]: Anything to be released in a nearby future?
[R.Z.]: Probably in about a year or so! It should be really fun!

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© All photos courtesy of Ralph Ziman.

Website | FB | IG

Ralph Ziman was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1963. He has directed over 400 videos for artists as diverse as Ozzy Osbourne, Toni Braxton, Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Shania Twain and Rick James, winning numerous MTV awards. His work in film includes over six features as a writer/director/producer including Hearts and Minds, the first independent South African feature film to be completed after apartheid. His vivid public art never ceases to raise awareness and open discussions. Heavy issues are put in the forefront: global arms trade, trophy hunting, resistance, a cycle of war, impoverishment and more, turning his art into a statement on culture. Currently based out in L.A. with his family, he focuses on his art practice, and flies back to his hometown a few times a year.

Crossing borders 017: Sabek

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It’s Sunday evening.

I’m browsing the Internet as I usually do (either looking for reference information for upcoming articles or searching for new art to discover) but today, I’m not looking for anything in particular. A gem comes up after a few minutes only, when I fall upon this short text claiming that “any sort of attraction towards any forbidden things do not bring any good result.” The author continues and writes: “Things that are forbidden are forbidden for logical and good reasons.”

Following this logic, we should just all stay in our lanes and conform to societal norms. The only problem is, the world we live in, the one we’ve built for future generations, well, it’s not going all that well. Wars are spreading all around the world, there’s abuse of power everywhere, we’re about to hit a point of no return in global warming… name a problem, the earth has got it.

Fair enough, that’s a pessimistic point of view on life as we know it. However, that’s not the point.

As human beings, we have this tendency to be attracted to things we can’t have, things that are dangerous or are said to be forbidden. This is as true for toddlers as it is for adults. Growing up, our mothers would teach us what we were allowed to do or not, and later in life, we have laws to guide our every move. And while some forbidden things are forbidden for a legitimate reason, I do not agree with the fact that any sort of attraction to these things can’t bring any good result.

Unfortunately, in many cities across the world, painting on the streets is still depicted as an act of vandalism and you get fined for it. But street art and graffiti is a way of expression, just like photography or any other type of art for that matter. Many adult artists started off their career by an urge to stray from the norm and defy the rules. Maybe transgressing norms to express and share a message or a statement to the world is exactly what we need in order to spark discussions amongst each other, open up our eyes and start changing the way we lead our lives…

Or at least, it’s one way to do it.

For Spanish artist Sabek, the attraction and urge to feel the adrenaline rush from doing something against the “law” is the start of what brought him to where he stands now in the street art world: strong, colorful and expressive.

 

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: You started painting at 16, putting up your name on the walls. What drew you to art to begin with?
[Sabek]: I had been attracted to the idea of painting in the streets from a very young age. At first, it was all about the adrenaline of doing something considered to be “forbidden”. I didn’t have a particular style, I was just looking for emotion. Then things slowly began to change…

 

[FPG]: How has your work evolved over the years?
[Sabek]: A lot. At first, I was only looking for a way of expression in the streets. I wasn’t so much interested in the message as the act. With time, I have become more interested in the content and shape of the message. What I have lived and my own experiences have enriched my work, and have made it evolve.

 

[FPG]: Do you see street art as a reactionary space to open social or political discussions or is it more a personal process?
[Sabek]: The simple act of painting in the streets is already opening up a debate. It enables you to own a space that is usually only accessible to big brands that pay for advertising. They bombard us with messages and information, and you make that space yours, democratizing the streets, conquering spaces for free expression and opening up new possibilities.

 

[FPG]: Could you elaborate on what kind of purpose street art has for you?
[Sabek]: Everything that I live is represented in my work. Sometimes it is more personal, other times it is related to what is happening around me.

 

[FPG]: How would you feel about someone claiming that there are connections between the personal, social and political spheres when it comes to art? What’s your opinion on the matter?
[Sabek]: In my opinion, street art has the power to democratize, to open up public spaces to free expression. It generates questioning and debate. It is important to distinguish it from neomuralism, they are very different things. Art represents our environment from a subjective point of view. So if I am asked whether the personal, the social and the political are related I would say of course, because all these aspects are related within us.

 

[FPG]: What would you consider being the biggest life changing experience throughout your street art career? Can you tell me about it?
[Sabek]: It was definitely in a festival in Kathmandu. I painted a large wall with practically no materials. The locals did not understand what I was doing, I was hanging from a rope, it was my first large wall. The place and context were very special for me and it was a very powerful experience.

 

[FPG]: In your opinion, what differenciates Madrid’s street art and graffiti from anywhere else in the world?
[Sabek]: Street art and graffiti in Madrid is crude, passionate, honest and simple. It is not so much directed to gaining fame or money, as it is to free expression.

 

[FPG]: What kind of relationship do Madrid street artists have with authorities?
[Sabek]: Apart from a few emerging projects, tolerance in Madrid has been zero for a long time. Fines can reach up to 3.000 € for a tag.

 

[FPG]: Pieces and murals tend to get buffed or painted over relatively fast in North America. Is the scene in Madrid very competitive and fast-paced? What’s the reality like?
[Sabek]: Painting is abundant and quick in Madrid. There is plenty of talent and very good weather, which enables public spaces to be constantly filled up with works from different people.

 

[FPG]: Alternative galleries can be a great way of promoting urban culture as a main goal and to present the best of emerging artists. How well would a project of this sort be welcomed in Madrid? Is there any existent street art dedicated galleries for a street artist to showcase his art?
[Sabek]: There are some galleries that work with urban artists, but they are not strictly dedicated to show urban art. Swinton and Grant is a good example of emerging galleries that try to promote urban artists.

 

[FPG]: What are some of your upcoming projects?
[Sabek]: Some traveling and a lot of painting!!!

© All pictures courtesy of Sabek.

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Sabek is a talented street artist based in Madrid who plays with elements and figures inspired by nature, representing an imaginary world through a personal, open and free approach.

Crossing borders 016: Anthony Lewellen

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I like to think of the act of writing as a constant flow of unexpected, unannounced and raw ideas. More even, ideas that always sound like they can provide you a breakthrough, or even just greater your audience. Realistically though, the gap between that idea and what is poured with ink on a sheet of paper is often so great that many get discouraged, put the pen down and drift away from what they thought would be easy.

When I first pitched the idea of Crossing borders to my editor and manager, there a hint of fear I couldn’t speak to international artists as easily as I intended to, but I was determined to make that soon-to-be-born column my stepping stone to a writing career -so to speak. It was never about making it perfect on my first attempt; style and themes change and grow. It was much rather about making sure I gave myself some time to progress. That, to me, was -and still is- all that matters. Little did I know, a year and a half flew by bringing me here, at Crossing borders’ 16th edition. I present you Anthony Lewellen, an innovator within the pantheon of Midwest graffiti culture, a man of wisdom whose message is all about self-enlightenment and moving towards life fulfillment.

 

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: You were born, raised and still live in Chicago, a city that has had a central role in America’s economic, social, cultural and political history. With a “sink or swim” point of view on life in the big city, what makes Chi-Town so unique and appealing to you in terms of inspiration?
[Anthony Lewellen]: Chicago is an interesting place for sure. It’s one of the biggest cities in the country, but feels like a small town in many ways. It has a very unique sensibility, making it much different than the east or west coast. There is something about the Midwest that is very grounded and practical. I imagine my perspective on it is somewhat unique in that I was born here, so it’s perhaps inevitable that I take a bit of it for granted.

Most of what inspires my work is just intuitive and comes out of absorption and observation. It is easy to derive metaphors from things we see happening around us. Those things happen without the intent to create or mirror other meanings, they just happen, but if you pay attention, you see meaning in these things. If you are born in a place and lived there all your life, it is inherently a part of you as much as you are a part of it. When I’m out, I just see things that I find compelling. I don’t think about it too much, I just know that it’s interesting to me. I take all that in and later it comes out in my work. I would not go so far as to say that I try to be a conduit, but in some ways, it’s true. If anything, it’s like being a conduit with a filter on each end; only letting certain things in, then processes and lets certain things out. In a lot of ways, I think just getting to work is the best thing. Often inspiration is the result of the commitment to work and not the other way around. That might be a Midwest thing, I’m not sure, but my studio practice has over the last few years very much become more focused on a disciplined approach to creating.

 

[F.P.G.]: In 1993, you were interviewed for the Chicago Slices Raw: CTA graffiti contest in which you claimed graffiti was the youngest and truest art form. Do you still feel the same way about graffiti? How so?
[A.L.]: To say that a lot has changed since 1993 would be a tremendous understatement. The world is a very different place now and within that massive context, the relatively tiny culture of graffiti has changed as well. Now it’s also almost necessary to also include the term street art in there as well. For better or worse, there is an overlap between the two and many don’t really understand the nuanced difference between them, but they exist in the same world now.

It’s hard to say for sure what I was trying to articulate with that statement I made over 20 years ago, but what I think I meant was that it was an art form that was still on the outskirts: it had not been monetized or commercially co-opted as cultural cache. There was a bit of that at the time, but for the most part, it was unsanctioned and unrecognized. If you were doing it [graffiti], then you were doing it because you loved to do it, not because you saw it as a springboard for something else.

For me as for a lot of kids growing up in the city in poor neighborhoods, it was something that you could define and create that resonated with the world in which you lived in. It made sense because it was a product of the environment. It made sense to me as a city kid with creative inclinations and there were so many things about it that clicked. It was an authentic culture -or subculture- and the connoisseurs were for the most part the ones who were also the creators. You were taking paint that was made to paint chairs and bikes or whatever and using it in a way it was never intended for. You had to hunt downs caps and steal paint because either you couldn’t afford it or were not old enough to buy it.

I was all very raw, but it’s not like that now. It’s different in almost every way. I can’t say if it is for better or worse. The same happens with so many things once there is a significant commercial interest. The motivation becomes mixed. That might just be my perspective on it, but when I see a $10 can of spray paint branded specifically for graffiti/street artists and graffiti based reality shows popping up, it’s pretty obvious that the culture has changed. You can tell when people do it because they care about what they do and when they just like the label or want to cash in. It can still be an authentic expression; it really depends on individual motives. The waters just got muddier.

[F.P.G.]: What would you describe as being the key defining moment in your art career?



[A.L.]: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I ever really thought of myself as actually having a career; that is probably more a reflection of my life growing up. Even though it is how I make a living and support my family, I just consider myself a working artist. I make work, look for opportunities to share that work and then I work some more. As cliché as it sounds, I consider my whole life as a journey and a big part of that is to always move forward. There are lots of defining moments along the way, but many of them are quite small and for me, mostly internal. If anything, a truly defining moment was when I decided how I was going to define success as an artist. At some point, I realized that if success was going to be defined by external validation as in opportunities, accolades, etc., then I would be subjected to the inevitable ups and downs that they would bring. So I made the conscious choice to anchor myself to something else. For me, that is to create work that I think is good, sharing it and being able to make a living doing that. If anything else comes as a result of that pursuit that’s great, but if it doesn’t, I am not defined by that.

 

[F.P.G.]: Have some of your philosophical, political beliefs or guiding principles changed over time? What impact did you see it have on your artwork?



[A.L]: I’m definitely more philosophical than political. Although to be fair, I’m sure it’s my personal philosophies that move me away from politics. To answer your question directly, I would have to say yes of course. I believe that if we are not constantly examining what we think and what we feel then it isn’t possible to move forward or grow as a human being.

 

[F.P.G.]: Could you elaborate some more on the connection between personal and social awareness when it comes to art?


[A.L]: For me, this is something that I’m always trying to understand better and in particular how it relates to my work. It’s rare for me to intentionally try to explore things in my work as what I create relates to my personal experiences or things going on in our society, but as a being that lives and feels, it is impossible that these things will not become part of who you are and what you do. Most of what I do is purely intuitive. I breathe in and I breathe out. What surprises me is how much of what I feel, sense and process comes out in my art.

 

[F.P.G.]: I fell upon one of Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis’ quotes: “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.” How would you describe your personal artistic outlook on life?



[A.L.]: I actually think you can change reality and a big part of that is how you see and understand the reality in which you exist. I’m not sure I have an outlook on life that could be easily defined. As an artist, I always try to understand what is going on around me. For me, a big part of creating is an attempt in some ways to do that— to understand more about myself and the world I live in. Once you create something, you can step back and ask questions. Human beings are highly complicated things; we process and understand so much unconsciously and those things become part of who we are and we hardly know how or why. One of the amazing things about being an artist is that you can put something out there that may tell you more about yourself than you knew. If you were not making art, how else would that happen?

 

[F.P.G.]: Your project “52 Weeks” came to an end last January. Street art and graffiti’s popularity has considerably risen among people around the world, partly thanks to social media. How did you find the experience of having this project grow through online presence rather than putting up a mural and creating an impromptu conversation with a passerby? What did you like the best and least about the process?



[A.L.]: Over the last few years, I have intentionally created yearlong projects that were documented daily on social media. 52 Weeks was one of those and prior to it was Drawing A Day. Initially, it was just to share my work and have some accountability in my creative process. It ended up becoming almost an extension of what I love so much about working in the public spectrum in the way it engaged people and created conversations. It became a great way to parallel what happens in the street in some respects. Technology has made some pretty interesting things possible and I’m looking forward to take advantage of the ability to live stream and building some projects around that. The best thing about it was allowing people into my process, so they see what goes into creating my work and being accountable of doing something consistently with an audience. If there was a thing I liked least, it was managing the pressure to perform- so to speak. From the beginning, I accepted I would have to learn to do that to contend with taking on a project of that nature, but it would have a way of getting into my thinking from time to time, when really, all I wanted was to focus on the work.

[F.P.G.]: Your first published book “Process” offered the reader an examination of your artwork practice. “A Slow Chipping Away”, is currently in the works. What is it about? When might it be released?

[A.L.]: “A Slow Chipping Away” might be my personal artistic outlook on life. As a book, it is something that is still being developed. It might actually end up being a short film. The overall idea behind it is diligence as it relates to the creative process, but also as a larger metaphor for how I have come to understand how life must be lived. It’s rooted in the principle that seemingly impossible things are really an ongoing series of very small possible things, that when taken on consistently over time, culminate in something greater than the sum of its parts. Originally, it was going to be centered on the daily drawing project and the work that came out of it, but I realized there was more to it than that. It might take a few more years for it to fully come together. It’s still unfolding.

 

[F.P.G.]: What are some of your other upcoming projects?



[A.L.]: Right now, I’m in the middle of working on a short film that centers around drawing, the impact that it had on my life and how it relates to what I do now. I’ve also just begun a new year-long project called 12 Months where I create one large scale piece a month using the same documentation process as the last few years’ projects. It’s a continuing escalation of time and scale. I’m in the planning stages of working with the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and students from the west side of the city sometime this summer. I’m also trying to put together a few mural projects in the Albany Park neighborhood where I live. There are a few group shows coming up that I’m in and some residencies on the horizon. Other than that, just studio work and keeping the lights on.


Website | FB | IG
Born and raised in Chicago, Anthony Lewellen is a multidisciplinary artist, recognizable by his simple, bold, often pensive and compelling characters. He is a figure within the city’s graffiti culture and keeps “building upon a highly personalized vocabulary”. Though Lewellen is now solely focused on a studio practice, he has worked commercially as an illustrator and art director for more than a decade.

Crossing borders 015: Dourone

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I don’t know if any of you have watched the television show Mr. Robot. In short, it’s about a young, anti-social computer programmer Elliot, who leads a double life as a cybersecurity engineer and vigilante hacker. Eliot’s psychotherapist has some idea about his anti-establishment hacker ethic, and questions him:

“What is it about society that disappoints you so much?”

Eliot’s response is telling:

“Oh I don’t know. Is it that we collectively thought Steve Jobs was a great man even when we knew he made billions off the backs of children? Or maybe it’s that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit; the world itself’s just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our burning commentary of bullshit masquerading as insight, our social media faking as intimacy. Or is it that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but with our things, our property, our money. I’m not saying anything new. We all know why we do this, not because Hunger Games books makes us happy but because we wanna be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards. Fuck Society.”

A pessimistic view of society to say the least. But some underlying truths hit hard. Our political systems are surreal enough to entertain cartoonish xenophobes while the incidence of bomb attacks provide the all-too-real-backdrop for political theatre. For what cause do both of these phenomena occur? It’s always “us” against “them”. History convulses in violence and irony whenever it repeats itself like this.

Personally, it’s all too depressing for me. This encompasses too much pain. I like street art and graffiti. It makes me smile and reflect on many subjects, especially when the murals are charged with politics and emotion, with a very immediate interventionism and social realism. Art is beautiful for these reasons, has a great reactionary power in these dialogues, brings people together by rendering stark truths. Like Elliot’s ‘Fuck Society’, street art is as nourishing as it is true.

Since 2012, street artist Dourone forms a team and travels with Elodieloll. Their project is to bring “Art For The People” in various countries. Sometimes, the work is black and white, sharply silhouetted and message-driven. Other times vibrantly-colored murals, geared toward respect, inclusivity and freedom.

 

[FP]: I’ve picked up from past interviews that your background is carpentry, painting, decorations, sets, digital and graffiti. You now have a very defined style. What got you in the visual arts industry to begin with?
[DOURONE]: I have been interested in drawing ever since my childhood, so I started at a very young age. I started graffiti later, at the age of 14. The carpentry part is because all his life, my father has been dedicated to making inventions, and I have learned watching and helping him. My first job was in that kind of environment and then I started to work on movie sets. Quickly after that, I started to look for jobs painting shops or decorating interiors for both companies and private customers. Ultimately, I was always doing manual and artistic stuff. I am not afraid to learn that’s why I have tried different things and am still learning a lot!

 

[FP]: What do you recall from your first experience going out to paint murals?
[DOURONE]: My first experience was actually going out to paint as part of a crew and not going out to paint murals on my own. My crew and I used to paint a mural once a month. At first I was with AK crew, then STA crew and my last crew was GNX, but I have had the same experience with all those crews: going out at night to paint on any day of the week, and then on weekends go to a quiet place and paint a mural together. The night painting experience was filled with adrenaline and the murals were more about enjoying myself with my friends.

 

[FP]: Nowadays, you are working as a team with Elodieloll. How exactly do you work things out as a duet? Generally speaking, who does what and how has your art perspective and vision changed from the time you would paint solo?
[DOURONE]: We both have our roles, but it’s a bit fuzzy because I’m the person who creates and draws. Still, Elodieloll’s opinion is very important. Then she takes care of the business and the communication, but my opinion is important too! So we have a balance between each other that I describe like this: 1+1=3. My vision has not changed since we started working as a team, but it has evolved. I have learned to work with a partner.

 

[FP]: You have had your work exhibited in many parts of the world. How do you choose your destinations? What attracts you to one country more than another?
[DOURONE]: I choose very few destinations, usually the destination chooses me! Each country gives me something special that other countries can’t give me and that’s why it is so rewarding to paint all over the world.

 

[FP]: What has been your favorite location to paint at and what would you consider being your most important accomplishment?
[DOURONE]: I don’t have a favorite location to paint at, but I have had some better experiences than others. It is not a matter of location, but a matter of what happens. There are several things I did that I am proud of, but one in particular -and it is still an honor- is a mural registered with the city of Los Angeles. They put a special coating on a mural we did downtown L.A in 2015 and now no one can touch it, neither change anything about it without my permission. That means this mural will be preserved forever!

 

[FP]: Has a country’s history, socio-political or socio-economical context ever influenced your art? For example, Spain is currently in a state of political uncertainty after a split result in the last elections. If you were in Madrid and out to paint, would you speak your mind through the reactionary space that street art creates? What kind of purpose does street art have for you?
[DOURONE]: Of course! What happens in the world influences my art because one of the things that inspires me is the conversations I have with people. At the same time, I never claim one thing in particular for a particular country. My claim is more universal; I try to show values that are important to me.

 

[FP]: What would you consider being the biggest challenge you have had to face throughout your arts career? How did you overcome it?
[DOURONE]: The challenges are all the goals that I impose myself, and that is part of my evolution. I do not call them challenges, but experiences.

 

[FP]: You describe your art as “Sentipensante”, and have expressed that this way of expressing yourself cleared things up in your mind as to how you see your art. What train of thought or event made you choose to depict strong values such as respect, diversity and freedom in your art?
[DOURONE]: It mainly comes from the education I was given, which taught me the basics. Then I think I have had a very happy childhood filled with enough of those three values. However, as I get older I realize that I have to represent those values for them not to be forgotten by all of us.

 

[FP]: In your opinion, what makes Madrid’s street art and graffiti scene unique?
[DOURONE]: I do not know if I should limit it to Madrid, but I can say that there is a fairly powerful and a worldwide recognizable level in Spain.

 

[FP]: What are some of your upcoming projects?
[DOURONE]: I currently have many mural projects, but this year I want to think more about creating artwork on collectible support.

 

© Photos courtesy of Dourone & Elisaloll.

Dourone | Website | FB | IG

Spanish street artist Dourone is a self-proclaimed Creative Nomad travelling and painting the world. Born and raised in Madrid, he started his career with graffiti in 1999, painting shop fronts and interiors. He describes his style as “sentipensante”: a contraction of the words “feeling” and “thinking”, a style created by Uruguayan journalist and writer Eduardo Galeano. Influenced by artists like M. C. Escher, Mohlitz Philippe, Jean Giraud “Moebius” and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, he combines graphic illustration and surrealism sometimes using black and white, other times colored lines and vectors in conceptual art.

Crossing borders 014: Adida Fallen Angel

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Home. Such an interesting concept.

In its most common sense the word is defined as “a place where one lives; a residence.” It can also mean “a dwelling place together with the family or social unit that occupies it,” “the place, such as a country or town, where one was born or has lived for a long period,” a headquarters, or even the landing page of a website. But what is home really, when you’re on the road and away from friends, family, security, that so-called physical structure?

“Be it ever so humble, it’s more than just a place. It’s also an idea — one where the heart is,” says Verlyn Klinkenborg, in the article “The Definition of Home” published in Smithsonian Magazine almost four years ago. For me, growing up was all about going to school and doing sports, only to then be at home. Until the age of ten, I was the kind of kid who moved too often to ever feel at home anywhere. Of course, as a child, you don’t understand this concept, you don’t see it as it is. You just sort of feel lonely and lost, without any sense of attachment to a city or friends. As Verlyn Klinkenborg, again, explains in the Smithsonian Magazine article, “our psychological habitat is shaped by what you might call the magnetic property of home, the way it aligns everything around us.” The article demonstrates that with the example of how you might come back from a trip, and upon seeing your house, experience the illusion that it’s just like every other house on a street that’s full of them. Once the illusion wears off, that house becomes your home again. For me, a house was never that. Sure I have great memories from the many different houses I’ve lived in, but I have never called them home per se. Which is why at 14 years old and coming back from a trip to Cuba, I felt distressed finding myself wanting to stay abroad. The story repeated itself on each and every adventure from then on. Except now at 25 years old, a month and a half into my Working Holiday Visa in Ireland, I realize that all these years, I’ve fooled myself into thinking I would feel home anywhere else than in Montreal. That I only had to travel and find the city that could bring peace to my troubled state of mind. Funny how really, all I needed was to feel home in my own body and mind. When it comes down to it, what else have you got but you and your thoughts after stripping yourself from the life you had? You, you, you, oh and you again. Technology has made it possible to stay in contact with family and friends —thank god!— but you can’t hangout, they’re there more in support, like beams to your true home.

For this edition of Crossing Borders, meet my good friend and talented artist Adida Fallen Angel: an open-hearted long-time traveller who has also redefined the word home throughout his journey, now finding peace wherever he may be or go.

 

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: About 17 years ago, you decided you were going to follow your dreams by travelling the world, painting and making music. I reckon that’s been quite the journey. Can you tell me about the context you grew up in? How was life growing up in Tel Aviv and why did you feel you had to get out?
[Adida Fallen Angel]: [A.F.A.]: Growing up in Tel Aviv has been always a wild ride for me. I have a love and hate relationship with that city: it fuels me with energy, it has a non-stop action vibe which can make you feel great and alive, but at the same time it drives me mad at times and you can get lost and lonely. The beach, the food, the different changing scenes and the nightlife are always in your system and the need to do something impressive and fresh is constant. It is a small and loud very busy town, yet has a feeling of a massive growing city. It is constantly expanding and buildings are reaching higher tops every year. At some point when I was younger, I felt I needed to see and feel more. I needed to expand my horizons, explore and be alone to see what the world had to show me so I could truly find myself. In Tel Aviv I am too busy to even focus on one clean clear thought, so the decision to get out saved my mind and shaped who I am today.

 

[F.P.]: Having travelled around the world —Brazil, New York City, San Diego, Rotterdam, Berlin, Paris, Montreal— how do you see your art come into play throughout your trips?
[A.F.A.]: As I moved around the world, my skills constantly matured, but going to most of those places wasn’t as much about painting as travelling is for me today. When I was in the USA, I didn’t even draw. I doodled here and there, but nothing serious. In Europe, I started to get into the arts more and it really kicked off in Rotterdam. Again, it was mainly digital art and explorations. Montreal more than any other city has pushed me into classic arts and installations and I owe Tel Aviv for being my street art and large scale murals’ birthplace. Now, whether it’s painting, street art or photography, they are all deep in my veins and I am looking forward to travelling more and improving my skills.

 

[F.P.]: What is the story behind your artist name?
[A.F.A.]: To be honest, I don’t even remember when or how it started, but I know I’ve always had a passion and curiosity for the concept of angels. I believe at some point on my spiritual path, I decided that I was a ‘fallen angel’ who got kicked out of heaven for doing something evil and now I have to earn my wings back by doing good. For some odd reason, that idea made sense to me and it made me very conscious about my thoughts, feelings and actions. It made me focus on the good and forced me —with love— to create a character that strives to serve the people good vibes and positive art. It also leaves my personal life intact; Adi Khavous is a just a regular guy and Adida Fallen Angel is an artist fighting the good fight.

 

[F.P.]: You’ve told me about the city’s activities and fast-paced life. Now, Tel Aviv’s nickname is “The City That Never Sleeps.” Do you feel like it is an accurate description?
[A.F.A.]: That is absolutely true! It is one of the many things I love about the city. At any time, day or night, you can go out, find life, great food, friends, skate spots, parties and so on. Tel Aviv is designed for hard-working people who also love to party and enjoy their hard-earned cash. It is not an easy city, but it’s definitely a bubble of madness and joy constantly reinventing itself, staying fresh and old both at once. I really recommend that people see it for themselves once in their lives.

 

[F.P.]: Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the street art and graffiti scene quite young in the city? Given the current political and socio-economic context, how welcomed and appreciated is street art?
[A.F.A.]: Street art is not new in Tel Aviv, but it has only been getting more hype, respect and heat for the past few years. In fact, for many years, graffiti and street art in the city was hidden, mostly lame and very political. There wasn’t any place to buy gear —i.e., spray paint, paint markers, etc.— so the styles were poor. Then, people slowly started to travel more and get connected [to the Internet]. Social media and street art both started to shape themselves, shops started to sell paint and gear and artists started to explore mediums outside their homes. Graffiti and street art is now very much alive in Tel Aviv, but it is still in its baby stages. The way I see it, new communities are forming, more people are slowly reached by pieces, you see them taking pictures and tagging the artists. There is also a better documentation and now there are even some businesses and street owners that open their hearts and walls for upcoming artists to paint on them. It is still in progress, and far from a European or American scale, but it is a beautiful day for street artists in Tel Aviv as they can finally earn a little living and get a name for themselves. We will see how this progresses in the upcoming year, but I am very happy with the growing opportunity I get here.

 

[F.P.]: A lot of Tel Aviv’s street art is very colourful and has to do with spreading hope messages or showing people the importance of the power of doing. Your work is also very tainted with emotion and messages to the world. Do you believe these themes and colour palettes could have something to do with the socio-political context in the Middle East? Why?
[A.F.A.]: In a way, yes, my art does have something to do with the so-called situation I don’t live there anymore though, so I think of myself as a global citizen whose art reflects the feeling I have about the world around me. I project my emotions and messages wherever I go. I feel the need for love and positive art is growing, within and around me, and so I try to project that vibe on the walls I paint, hoping it brings to the passerby a smile and a deep thought about life.

 

[F.P.]: You were in Montreal for a while until last summer/fall when you went back to Israel. How does it make you feel to be in your birth country? After 20 years of travelling, do you still feel like it is home?
[A.F.A.]: At times I do, at others I don’t. It does feel like some kind of home, but I have long forgotten that concept. I feel that home is wherever I sleep at night or wherever I feel whole and alive. Because I moved so many times, I have learned to appreciate that feeling and invoke it to feel less lonely— or lost. Of course, every time I land in Israel, I get a buzz, a feel for the place that was once the only one I knew … That buzz fades very quickly though and that’s fine because it lets me enjoy Israel as a tourist, with the plus of still calling it home when I need to.

 

[F.P.]: Your most recent project is called “The Love Concept” art installation and is an attempt at finding a deeper meaning to the word love. How did this project come along and what is your favorite thing about it?
[A.F.A.]: The Love Concept project started in Montreal at the Fresh Paint Gallery where I did an intensive installation using wheatpaste, typography and spray paint. Originally, I had no idea how far it would go, but it felt like the subject needed more exploration. When I arrived in Israel with my girlfriend —who is also my co-pilot on the matter— I found myself going back into that subject and before I knew it we were making large-scale murals using the same creative process. I slowly realized how big of an iceberg I had been sitting on for some time. It keeps growing every time we do a new piece, as I am still doing research on the subject. I am currently fascinated with the LOVE idea. What is it? Is it just a word? Is it so cheesy that people now hate it or is it a force of nature that can shape and move societies? Uplift the human kind? Who really knows? All I know is that I want to explore it more and see where it takes me.
Making my art pieces and seeing them come to life is definitely one of my favorite parts of the process, but what I truly like most is seeing how people react to them. When they take extra time to imbibe the art and see the depth of it, they are always stunned by it. Some people get it, some people pass by without even lifting their eyes, some people take pictures and some people come and ask questions and show interest and admiration. I love it all.

 

[F.P.]: If a genie could grant everyone a single wish, what would yours be?
[A.F.A.]: I would love to travel the world while painting large scale pieces of love and beauty and singing positive powerful songs. It’s as simple as that.

 

[F.P.]: In what part of the world can we expect to see new art from you next?
[A.F.A.]: I will be back in Montreal this summer and I hope I can drop some more large scale Love pieces, hopefully expanding to other cities in Canada and maybe going down to the States. We’ll see where Love takes us.

 

 

© Photos courtesy of Adida Fallen Angel, Ana V, Irit Sapojnik, Irit Bithan, Mati Ale & Sand Gold.

Adida Fallen Angel | Website | FB | IG

Born and raised in the grungy streets of Israel, Adida Fallen Angel is an all around the globe visual artist mastering the arts of visual media, filming, photography, V.Jing and curating art shows. He mixes anarchy with spirituality, leaving walls with crisp art and love messages. An important part of his formal art education consists in studying Multimedia Producing at the SAE College in The Netherlands and working with the MAMA Gallery. He has shown a soft spot for Montreal, Canada, is currently back in his birth country, Israel, where he is working on a project called “The Love Concept” art installation.

Crossing borders 013: Olivier Hölzl

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“Where do you see yourself 15 years from now?”

I imagine young Olivier applying for a higher education course. Much like every living soul on this planet, he must not have known what would, career wise, forever bring him happiness. He’s not to blame; there is so much to choose from nowadays and career changes aren’t unusual in any ways. Walt Disney was a newspaper editor before he got fired for supposedly “lacking imagination and good ideas”. Sting, before becoming The Police’s famous frontman, was Mr. Sumner, an English teacher and soccer coach. Comedian and TV host Ellen Degeneres, named Showtims’s Funniest Person in America in 1982, was originally a paralegal and “oyster shucker”. Stories like these, they pile up, but we tend to only hear about the big ones, the ones that get full online, tv and radio coverage.

In Vienna we find Olivier Hölzl, with almost a decade worth of background in marketing and sales, now putting up work amongst the cleanliness of the city and the most impressive architecture. Immersed in such a rich urban life, he finds himself inspired by his surroundings and the daily news, but also by the internet’s massive information. Vienna —”city of the Habsburgs and Freud”— is often recalled as an intellectual city, in which arts and culture come from a long tradition. Although now in 2016, opera and contemporary art aren’t the only most-talked-about forms of art. As a matter of fact, between the architectural heritage, the wide avenues and the sidewalk cafes, one can easily find a nice graffiti piece. But Austria’s graffiti and street art go beyond spray paint; artists will opt for stencils, posters, stickers, sculpture, video projections, installations and all kinds of innovative technique to better put out their political or social messages to a generally broader audience.

Many thanks to Olivier Hölzl who went out of his way to answer my questions about his art, the Austrian graffiti scene and so much more.

 

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: Can you introduce yourself? How long have you been part of the Austrian graffiti scene?
[Olivier Hölzl]: I’m half French, half Austrian. I live in Vienna, where I also have my studio… To be honest, I don’t know if I’m really part of the graffiti scene in Vienna, my story is a bit different. I know a lot of graffiti people like Fresh Max, Peter Phobia, Boicut or Busk, they are all very good artists and luckily also good friends of mine. When I was younger, I wasn’t actively involved in the graffiti scene. After high school, I majored in economics and worked in Marketing and Sales for 8 years. Over those sales years, I felt empty and decided to become an artist, which at that point I was thirty, and some of my friends were artists themselves. I was unemployed for a year’s length and drew every day from dawn to dusk. At the time, I wasn’t looking for any feedback and, in that way, I developed my self-esteem. I also started painting and studied at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (die Angewandte).

 

[F.P.]: If you don’t know whether you’re really part of Vienna’s graffiti scene, how would you best describe yourself as an artist?
[O.H.]: I developed the stencil technique seeing as painting got a little too one dimensional for me. I had a hard time expressing exactly what I wanted and in Salzburg, I met Dan Perjovschi. He was telling me that he, as a young Romanian artist, never got a chance to travel outside his country as nobody wanted to pay for the insurance or the transport of his artwork. So he found a way to travel and get his message out by putting up political drawings on the walls of exhibition spaces. Flexibility was key for him; he was able to express anything he wanted. Everywhere he goes, all he needs to make a full installation now is an ending-marker. We talked a lot about the flexibility of the stencil technique and I focused on it more and more. That’s what I took from the graffiti scene; the artists are amazingly flexible and the graffiti scene is well organized. You get to some place and you know where to stay, you know where to paint, you meet the local artists. The contemporary gallery scene is way more hierarchical. Young artists have a great waiting period, which is terrible for the creative process. I love to be in between those two scenes as a hybrid. We’re in 2016, people like Brad Downey, Marc Jenkins and the Wa are good examples of new ways of creating art. That doesn’t exclude the fact that I love to use spray can on the streets too, but I travel in countries like Armenia, Georgia, Serbia and Turkey. I like having the people living where I do my pieces involved in the process. I try to get a verbal permission for it to be half legal for me to paint, but there is always some kind of trouble along the way, which makes it exciting.

 

[F.P.]: One of your first exhibitions took place in 2010 and five years have now gone by. What have been your best memories and favorite exhibition?
[O.H.]: I loved every trip abroad. Recently, I was in Belgrade, which was a great time. I also took part in a project involving the workers at a great experimental Biennale in Turkey. I think the craziest exhibition I did was in Krems (Austria). First, I was just looking for an abandoned house for myself. It was the GPL Contemporary’s gallery owner who found the building I needed for my show. It had 4 floors and was over 2500 square meters. With my friend, Andreas Nader, we decided to invite more artists. Artists Gert Resigner and Anne Sophie Wass were also of great help.

 

[F.P.]: What are two or three songs that could perfectly depict the universe you find yourself in when creating?
[O.H.]: I love all of Serge Gainsbourg’s songs. It depends on my mood. I also make music myself.

 

[F.P.]: Today’s street art goes well beyond its traditional roots. Your exhibitions are very tonal, filled with uneven lines and are known to explore the concepts of family, business, religion, war and sexuality. It also seems like repetition is key to your art. What inspires you to create/what’s your vision?
[O.H.]: What inspires me the most is observing what is happening now. I read the news and I use social media. As a matter of fact, the internet itself is my biggest source of inspiration. You can work with a topic without ever having been there. When I was still in University they warned us that web information doesn’t have the same reliability what you find in books. And yes, of course it’s true, but the web is really mind-blowing. You can find thousands of opinions related to one topic. I like to read the comment sections as they show you how frustrated some people are. Then I also sometimes observe myself and how narrow minded my behavior on the net is.
We’re in a data madness era. Instagram is completely insane… within a second you decide if you like it or not on your little screen. And when somebody comes up with what you liked earlier, you only kind of remember it because you couldn’t really process it. People today could do anything but they don’t because they get lost in a wealth of information. So many topics emerge from that, it’s pure inspiration…

 

[F.P.]: What are the main challenges encountered for an artist working in a city filled with cultural and historical richness?
[O.H.]: It’s a good area to get inspired. Like you said it has so much history, from good to bad. And from good to bad I mean, for example, in 1913, Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in Vienna. Today, the main challenge is that all buildings are historical… but of course there are still many other areas that aren’t as sensitive. Vienna, for graffiti, actually has a good reputation in the sense of being very active. In general, you can say that Vienna is a “Disney World” of art; historical to contemporary.

 

[F.P.]: Can you tell me a bit about the galleries in Vienna? Are there spaces for alternative art to be easily showcased?
[O.H.]: Quite new here and located in the middle of the Museumsquarter is the Jan Arnold Gallery where conceptual art and street art are combined. Unfortunately, the Inoperable Gallery in Vienna announced that they are now shut down… That was definitely the most ambitious gallery in the city when it comes to street art. However, you definitely have lots of spaces; Rabbit Eye Movement, The SWDZ, The Moe, The Dessous, The Vesch, Das Weisse Haus

 

[F.P.]: Knowing there are several hundred meters of street art on the banks of the Danube, to what extent do authorities accept graffiti in Vienna? What kind of fines or charges can you get if a police officer arrests you?
[O.H.]: I think at this point, it’s important to differentiate. Many of the murals you see in the world today are part of art festivals, so you get permission to do that. The police, of course, don’t care about this, same with the canal. You can paint there since is permitted by the city of Vienna though tagging is illegal and the police will charge you for that when caught. But that’s what makes the whole excitement of it. I know that the police force also keeps a “vandalism” log. When they think it’s artistically the same guy, they will archive the information in the same folder. If and when the artist gets caught, he’s definitely facing lots of problems, especially financially as they will make him pay for the “cleaning”. The biggest case of this was a Swiss artist called Puber. What was special about Puber was that he literally sprayed the whole city. Before he was arrested, people talked about him. An while most of the time tagging doesn’t positively catch the eye of people who aren’t involved in graffiti, he was an exception. People realized he was all over the city and they were asking who that guy was. When he got arrested, everyone in the arts talked about him.

 

[F.P.]: How has the country’s war historical context influence the art scene in Vienna? What impact does it have on your personal work?
[O.H.]: The worst about both World Wars, especially WW2, is that the city’s intellect was thrown out or eliminated. At the beginning of the 20th century, Vienna was a hot spot for art. Today, some people have come back but we’re still far from that level… What I love about Vienna though is that I have artist friends from all over the world; they’ll be from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, France, USA, Russian, Italy, Germany, etc.

 

[F.P.]: What would be needed for the graffiti and street art scenes to exponentially grow? I feel like we hear about Berlin a whole lot, but less of Vienna despite the rich artistic culture.
[O.H.]: I think that both the graffiti and street art scenes are very self-organized with less hierarchy and institutions than the contemporary art scene. Street art and graffiti are no national phenomena. When you travel to different cities you will often find the same artists. Berlin is more into that seeing the structure of the city allows it; it grew out of two systems and became one. Also, there are definitely more abandoned areas than in Vienna. Many people in the United States don’t even know Austria exists.

 

[F.P.]: Do you have any current shows?
b[O.H.]: I had an opening on January 19 at Bildraum07 in Vienna. The exhibition is called “Forts, Facts and Fabrications”. It’s about castles and in the middle of it — the “castle of the castles”—, French Versailles. Briefly, it’s about melting facts and illusions around the myth of castles altogether. It also shows a castle that was originally built on Minecraft.

 

© All photos courtesy of Olivier Hölzl.

Olivier Hölzl | Website | FB | IG
Born in Innsbruck (Austria) on April 11 of the year 1979, Olivier Hölzl is a half French, half Austrian artist currently based out of Vienna. Acting upon an intricate desire to fill an inner void, he turns to art after 8 years of Marketing and Sales. Though he always goes by his full name, he created for himself the palindrome LIVIL. A combination of all the Roman numbers, “LIVI” comes from his first name with the ending “L” taking its origins from his family name Hölzl. The last “L” from LIVIL will be flipped for tags as the typo becomes a form. Greatly inspired by the internet in general, Olivier Hölzl tends to explore the concepts of family, business, religion, war and sexuality. Currently showcasing his newest work “Forts, Facts and Fabrications” at Bildraum07 in Vienna, the 36-year-old artist considers himself an artistic hybrid, floating between graffiti and conceptual art, exploiting themes through his own personalized stencil technique, bringing him great flexibility in his creative process.

Crossing borders 012: SUIKO

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Everyone remembers Hiroshima as being the first city in history to be targeted and destroyed by an atomic bomb dropped by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II. Never had humanity witnessed an event of such great violence. The explosion wiped 90 percent of the city while instantly killing 80 000 people. Tens thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. The collective subconsciousness has yet fully recovered and the tragic historical event still haunts most citizens.

Recovering from World War II, Hiroshima was almost completely rebuilt although one section was set aside as a painful reminder of the effects of the atomic bomb. Every year, on August 6, people gather at Peace Memorial Park to assist religious services commemorating the anniversary of the bombing. This year marked the 70th anniversary of the cruelest attack orchestrated by mankind.

SUIKO, one of the country’s leading graffiti writers, takes the time to answer some questions about his career and Japan’s appreciation for urban art and its culture.

N.B. Some of the sentences’ syntax were re-worked for the reader’s better understanding. All meaning remains intact.

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: Considering the city’s heavy historical background, how was it to grow up in Hiroshima?
[SUIKO]: The house I spent my childhood at is within one kilometer of the spot the atomic bomb was dropped. Because of this, I started early on thinking about “life and death”. I think it’s a significant thing I’m sharing with the world.

[FP]: This year marked the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb being dropped by a US aircraft. There was a ceremony for that matter this past August at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park. How has the tragedy affected or influenced the graffiti community over the years?
[SUIKO]: The atomic bomb having reduced Hiroshima to a ruin within a moment, I think people here tend to be afraid of any “underground image”. It is not easy for graffiti writers to utter a cry in this context. For my part, I express myself through the vivid and the positive, which may be in reaction of being raised in the town that has experienced the biggest violence in world history. I think some graffiti writers are influenced by it though of course they don’t express it all the same way.

[FP]: Which cultures have had the greatest influences on Hiroshima’s graffiti and street art scenes?
[SUIKO]: Street culture magazines relating of Hiroshima’s graffiti scene were rare, so we all self-taught. Some active graffiti writers in the city are enthusiastic animation maniacs so you can feel an influence from that.

[FP]: What has personally influenced your artistic career and vision?
[SUIKO]: My entrance in the world of expression was triggered by the fact my father was an illustration book author. Later, an encounter with a skateboarder had a big influence on my career. Skaters and graffiti writers live by their own original interpretation of the things they see while living with the people in the city. They often imagine visuals first, but I think the core of their resemblance is the “live free” lifestyle; no ties to rules. I started questioning myself as to who I am when I met that skateboarder.

[FP]: What place do the Japanese give to urban art in the country’s culture?
[SUIKO]: In present day Japan, there are severe rules for all things. There is also a general fear of sticking out. Therefore, it makes it difficult for the people who live by expressing themselves on the streets to fully enjoy their freedom of thought.

[FP]: What kind of politics do authorities have in place regarding graffiti and street art?
[SUIKO]: It’s thought that graffiti is the cause of all crimes in Japan. When you get arrested for graffiti, it is usual to be put in prison for a long time.

[FP]: Does your city organize any kind of festivals or events or do you have to find commissioned work and exposure on your own? Has it always been this way?
[SUIKO]: I don’t aggressively look for commissioned work. I express myself only if the desire to do so is there. Fortunately, I get to continue my work as I get help from understanding people who approve what I do and my kind of expression.

[FP]: What is it you enjoy most about traveling to paint and showcase your work?
[SUIKO]: I feel my work is complete when I collaborate with a city. I enjoy the chemistry that happens between feeling foreign and facing new walls. Above all, it’s also fun to learn about people’s activities, expression methods and ways of thinking.

[FP]: What can you say about your recent work at “O’BRA Festival”?
[SUIKO]: I was able to paint at “O’BRA Festival” thanks to my friend BINHO. I was confronted with my biggest mural yet. Me and some wonderful artists got to experience the process in which a big mural is made downtown and in a short period of time. Big murals can easily hand down a message to passers.

[FP]: You have once said in a past interview with Bombing Science that violence and desire were the real power behind graffiti. What did you mean by this?
[SUIKO]: This is NOT negative thinking. I think there is a thin line between breaking and creating and I also believe desire or will is necessary in order to accomplish big things. “Bombing” for me isn’t simply painting on the streets.”Bombing” for me, is an action that has the power to create a discernible change of opinion in a person’s way of thinking. Through my actions, I wish to break people’s common sense in a positive way. And well violence and desire are sometimes felt through graffiti’s expression. In that resides the power to change the world.

[FP]: What are some of your few upcoming projects?
[SUIKO]: I plan to participate in some live painting in Paris this year and I also have a mural project in India next January. I’m looking forward to the day I can also express myself in your town!

© All pictures courtesy of SUIKO.


IG | Website

SUIKO is a graffiti artist and designer from Hiroshima, Japan. SUIKO — the name takes its origins from some old Japanese saying — stands for “Don’t stick to common sense and live how you like.” His interest for graffiti started in high school and he started painting on walls after he graduated. His work is vibrant, bubbly and dynamic. In 2002-2003, he spent half a year in Germany. At the time, European graffiti writers were in the midst of a burst in creativity, looking for new types of expression. SUIKO’s originality has greatly taken influence from this trip. From then on, he worked on the large-scale graffiti exhibition “X-COLOR” and has since traveled all around the world to express his work. He enjoys the thought of “living on walls” all around the world. This isn’t always easy as Japan isn’t very receptive to graffiti, but in his own words: “It can also be said that I’m burning because there is adversity.”

Crossing borders 010: Jorit Agoch

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There is a interesting paradox to human beings. Everyone is the same, yet everyone is different. Skin color excluded, we are all born with two eyes, a nose, a mouth, two arms, legs and so on. Why do feel the need to categorize people and in order to distinguish one another?

Human variability can be defined as “the range of possible values for any measurable characteristic, physical or mental, of human beings”. These characteristics can be influenced or shaped by biological inheritance, mutations, natural selection, nutrition, quality of life, education, cultural environment, social environment… the list is almost infinite. While a study conducted by Professor Marcus Feldman and his team at Standford University in the early 2000’s arrived at the conclusion that all human DNA was 99,9% identical, people do distinguish themselves through their identity and how they are brought up. Each individual’s distinctive differences, whether they be positive or not, are an essential part of self-identity. And these unique characteristics, many people will tend to minimize or amplify them, in order to “fit in” a group –  after all, we do tend to stick around people who ressemble us.

If hanging out with people who have common interests isn’t uncommon in the mammal kingdom, imposing our mentalities and beliefs on others, on an other hand, is something quite specific to human beings. Controversies about personal beliefs happen daily around the world – take for example racial discussions or homosexuality – and although there really shouldn’t be a reason for it to happen, us humans, can’t seem to learn from history. Which is why still today, in 2015, we need movements such as “Black Lives Matter”, the LGBT organizations, queer regroupements, feminists groups… all to defend one group’s beliefs, as if we can’t stand that a peer doesn’t share our opinion on a certain matter. Maybe one day we will understand this and change our behavioral manners… I still have hope, especially when artists such as Jorit Agoch strive to make people realize we’re actually all equal and part of one same tribe: the human one.

Live and let live.

 

[Fresh Paint Gallery] : You started painting at the age of thirteen in Quarto, your native city. Where did the name Jorit Agoch come from and why did you feel the need to mark your city’s walls at such a young age?
[Jorit Agoch]: My story is very simple. Like many graffiti artists, I started painting because when I did so, it made me feel a little bit better about myself. It’s like, people know my name and know I exist because I put my name and my crew’s name on the streets… And you get that a lot in the Bronx; artists aspire to be somebody, strive for recognition. It’s only with time that you grow and get the bigger picture. You understand it’s not only about the tagging; you start thinking about the colors, the letters you use and about what graffiti and its culture really is. When I understood that, I started making more colorful and complicated pieces. Then, came along a point when I realized I preferred painting faces rather than anything else. I ended up experimenting with pop art — which depict faces but in a cartoonish way — but ultimately chose realistic portraits over Wharol’s style.

 

[FP]: How is the urban art scene in Naples? How has your local scene influenced your career?
[J.A.]: In Naples, there are good things about graffiti and there are many good graffiti artists. I grew up seeing those artists. You see socially engaged art as much as you see the original kind of graffiti. My art is a mix of these two things. When I make a face, it’s not only to make a good piece. I want people to understand something. The two red lines I put on the portraits I paint, they represent the fact that everybody is part of one big tribe, one big group of people that isn’t only American, European or Asian… It’s a social message I want people to understand when they see my paintings.

 

[FP]: Can you risk being arrested for painting in the streets?
[J.A.]: Of course because it isn’t legal, but police understands that it isn’t necessarily that much of a bad thing; they have bigger problems to deal with. Plus, there are many ugly walls in Naples, so many graffiti artists wish to make the city look beautiful through their art. We spend a lot of time on our pieces to make something that not only is beautiful to our personal perception, but also for everyone else’s eyes. In that sense, Naples is a good city for graffiti.

 

[FP]: Where do you personally draw the line between graffiti and vandalism?
[J.A.]: You know, in the past, no one thought a tag could end up being showcased in a gallery. This has changed; artists put their graffitis or tags on canvases and they sell it. Artistic things are better appreciated over time. Art is static, but the perception of it isn’t. If the mass of people thinks something is beautiful, then it becomes so. If they think otherwise and qualify it as ugly or as a vandalism act, then so it is. As graffiti artists, we are basically fighting an aesthetic war, in which the media plays a huge influential role on public perception of the art. Things have changed a great deal over the past ten years, and so I don’t really think there’s a distinct line to be made, somethings just evolve and somethings that could once be described as vandalism art can now simply be called art. It’s all about perception.

 

[FP]: Four years ago, you went on a trip to sub-Saharan Africa. The red marks you paint on your portraits are said to refer to ancient African rituals and to you mean we are all part of one same tribe. What is it that fascinates you about non-occidental cultures?
[J.A.]: I personally don’t think occidental culture is the greatest. Many things revolve around money and material possessions, which isn’t the case for poorer places where they don’t have access to these material things. Everything that “dies” finds a second life somehow. The way the occidental and non-occidental think is different. In my opinion, it’s only when you stop thinking about the material possessions and more about the relationships you have with people that you become a better person. Of course you need a house and some money to spend, but when you have everything in abundance except real good friendships, I wonder what’s it all worth. It certainly isn’t my definition of “living a good life”.

 

[FP]: Why do you prefer painting faces?
[J.A.]: I paint faces because to me they’re like totems. Everybody has a face and every face is different, but they’re also all composed of the same elements — two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and so on. Sometimes, people tend to forget this — which is when you get people who think they are better than others. We all just grow in different contexts, families. I don’t think we humans are all that different; we all have some good and some bad. Painting realistic faces to me, is a way to pass on my social message.

 

[FP]: How do you choose who will be featured in your portraits and what message do you intend to share with the world when painting a new portrait?
[J.A.]: It’s usually people around me, but I sometimes paint DJ’s and rappers portraits simply because I grew in hop hop culture and am surrounded by artists who also originate from that culture.

 

[FP]: You have had past commercial collaborations with Poltrona Frau and Converse. What do you make of these types of collaborations?
[J.A.]: It’s a good deal. They spend lots of money to finance graffiti, which is great, but still strange to me. I guess you can say it’s now a common thing, but in the past, it was really strange that someone in Naples would finance or even want a collaboration project with a graffiti artist.

 

[FP]: How hard is it for a graffiti artist to make a living out of his art?
[J.A.]: The beautiful thing about graffiti is that most artists aren’t usually commissioned to do pieces. Which means they do it almost anywhere they wish to. On the downside, that means it can get hard to make money. It’s always possible to sell your art on canvas, but truly, if you’re to go on the streets to paint, you must have a mindset of doing graffiti for free. You can’t only be making graffiti on canvas in order to sell it afterwards; that transforms the whole concept into some sort of painting and the contexts are then completely different.

 

[FP]: Any upcoming projects you will be participating in?
[J.A.]: Just some big graffiti projects in Naples, where I live!

 

 

 

© All photos courtesy Jorit Agoch.

Jorit Agoch | FB | Website

Born in Naples from an Italian father and a Dutch mother, Jorit Agoch started painting at a very young age. If the exercise was only for some fun with friends to begin with, it soon took a whole deeper meaning. Seeing marks and signs from other crews makes him realize that there is a whole culture behind what he didn’t put much thought in at first. Jorit Agoch has a diverse formal education; after scientific school, he chose to pursue his studies at the Art Academy of Naples, successfully finishing the course with a honour mention. Over the past 10 years, the meticulous artist has taken on influences from the African culture, which impressed him a lot while travelling to sub-Saharan Africa. He even studied and collaborated with the International School of Painting Tinga Tinga in Tanzania, where he refined his techniques. Having a strong sense of respect and brotherhood for all different cultures, Jorit now portrays the human face with two red marks in hopes of having people understand we’re all part of what he calls the “Human Tribe”.

Crossing borders 009: Angge Lorente

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“Arbitrary”, or as one would define, “based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system”. Summertime is well known to the season of festivals; whether it be music, street art, graffiti, dance, sports or food oriented. Festival and event organizers are presented with two mains options: invite only or open for a paid registration. When there’s a registration process, people who wish to participate pay a registration fee and hop le tour est joué. Perhaps less artists or athletes feel left out in that process. On the other hand, when the event or project is invite only and based on god knows what criteria, that’s when questions are raised and you get bummed out artists.

Art being subjective, two people can have completely opposing views regarding the same work. For instance, one could make an argument that Basquiat’s work is overrated, while another could argue the American has more than earned his name among the greats. Is there someone creating better art than Basquiat’s, regardless of their notoriety or rather lack of notoriety? Probably. In art, no one is scoring hoops or goals nor is anyone keeping score. In that sense, how to determine which artists is most deserving when deciding who’ll be featured in events or festivals? It’s nearly impossible, as each and every one of us sees art through different eyes. To be completely honest, I believe it would be much healthier for the arts community if lesser-known artists had an easier time gaining exposure rather than only seeing the same artists over and over. However, it’s a hard and competitive world, the arts world.

I wish all could have the same opportunities to participate in different projects, as utopian as it sounds.  However, then again, when you ask me how I choose the featured Crossing borders artists, I can only answer by “it’s usually completely arbitrary…” And so without further words of mine, I leave you to my interview with Angge Lorente, an incredible visual artist from the Philippines, who gladly took the time to answer my questions about her, her work and her take on the scene where she’s from.

 

[Fresh Paint]: Hi Angge! Could you start off by telling me a bit about your personal and educational background?

[Ange Lorente]: I am Angelica Lorente or Angge, as I call myself, although there is no special meaning (laughs). I studied art and my major was advertising. I am a product of the streets, of this beautiful hell called Manila. As an art student, I was already painting when the streets introduced themselves to me. That’s why I got into street art. I always paint with my partner Crist Espiritu (DOZE Collective) and we call ourselves GLITCH GLITCH.

 

[FP]: I understand the Filipino street art scene is quite young, though very vibrant and colourful. What potential (personal reasons, purely aesthetic, social and political critique, etc) did you see in street art for you to stick with this type of art?

[AL]: I have always loved the streets for some reason. It’s very raw and unpredictable and that’s what I love about it. It’s also challenging since many factors affect my art on the streets, (the texture of the wall I might be working on, how would people react to it, the kind of people I encounter when painting…). The element of surprise keeps it fun and exciting.

 

[FP]: As a woman artist in a fairly new scene, how receptive are male artists to women in street art? Are there many female artists in Manila?

[AL]: I think gender doesn’t count here when it comes to street art. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the quality of your work whether your fellow artists and the people like it or not. Yes, there are very few female artists here, I know some of them just by name, but I haven’t painted with them… How many? You can all count them on the fingers of one hand.

 

[FP]: Do you recall your first street painting experience?

[AL]: Yeah. My first street painting experience was in October 2012, it was a demolished place near my partner Crist’s house here in Parañaque city and it was a shit hole (laughs). It was very dirty; I mean that whole abandoned lot was basically a toilet for the homeless. People threw garbage there, and some of the meth heads would do their thing there. It was crazy and hell it was smelly too. Broken glasses and shit everywhere. We painted there, did a few pieces and managed to come out unharmed and in one piece (laughs)!

 

[FP]: What’s it like to basically ‘decorate’ your daily environment?

[AL]: Fun I would say. What I always liked about it is the act of giving life to the walls and everyday commuters. Traffic is very bad here and people riding jeepneys would just stare at your work. At least we give them something nice to look at. I mean normal people here can’t go to galleries to look at paintings. For me, the street is a public gallery where everyone can see and appreciate art.

 

[FP]: What process do you go through when picking a location for a new piece?

[AL]: It always depends. We like backgrounds, textures and locations that we find interesting. I mostly enjoy the mossy walls near dirty rivers or what we call here “estero”. We don’t care how small it is, how shitty it is or how bad the smell is.

 

[FP]: Your murals often depict characters, although these characters always differentiate themselves by the looks in their eyes. Why is it so important for you to put a focus on what your character’s eyes have to say?

[AL]: My partner and I like people watching. For me, these characters signify me in different personas as an observer that’s why I always tend to focus on the eyes. I observe the surroundings along the people with it. I love how eyes project the feelings of a person; they have a powerful impact.

 

[FP]: How would you personally differentiate and define graffiti and street art? Where do you draw a line with vandalism?

[AL]: Street art and Graffiti are different disciplines and have different rules. In my book, street art requires knowledge in composition, colours and other stuff that I also consider when I am painting on a canvas. Graffiti has become more of a sport nowadays… getting up and getting owned up. Art is made to communicate and to create beauty. Vandalism is done to destroy.

 

[FP]: Street art often plays on the public sphere definition and to whom the streets belong. What freedom do street artists have in Manila?

[AL]: I don’t know how I can compare it to other places but here in Manila it is harder to put up street pieces since you can get in trouble easily. It’s also easy to get out of it when you have money, but what if you don’t? The basic option that you have is legal walls in which you have to ask for permission from the owner and some of them are a bit sketchy with that.

 

[FP]: Are there any controversies with authorities or residents and property owners?

[AL]: Yeah, there always has to be one especially here in a place where street art is not yet totally accepted and appreciated by the majority. Sometimes when we are already there painting, some people would say something like “Hey, what you’re doing is vandalism right?” and we would go and make excuses like “Oh this is called street art, we are art students and this one’s for a project.” Then we’ll explain to them how it would look like when it’s finished and how it differs from vandalism. It also works with the some of the authorities here. You also have to know what kind of people you’re dealing with because some of them just want a little money from you. You have to be very street smart when it comes to those kinds of situations.

 

[FP]: Patterned after the West, how has street art impacted the urban space in Manila?

[AL]: It depends in which city you are. For example, when you are in the business district, they support street art and they hold events for that type of thing. Some buildings there would have big murals on them and it’s awesome! Totally diminishes the boring side and seriousness of the everyday life. Unlike Manila where we live, it has always been political. They have a policy here where they fine you 5000 PHP or around 100 USD if you are caught painting on the streets. Your street piece would last 2 months max. It would be repainted with the name of the mayor or some politician immediately.

 

[FP]: In 2013, a project named the Filipino Street Art Project was born. Its goal was to explore the scene in and around Manila, telling the stories of the local artists through various media (documentary, website, blog, etc). How receptive are you to those kinds of projects?

[AL]: In every project of the sort, there will always be people who are going to be left out.

 

[FP]: Are there any local festivals around for you to showcase some work? If so, to what extent is the city implicated in the process?

[AL]: I don’t know actually… When it comes to projects here, people with big names are the ones who get to show their work. It has always been kind of political in a way. You always have to stick with a group or something. I was never like that.

 

[FP]: What has been your favourite location to paint at? Why?

[AL]: The squatter’s area (the place full of illegal settlers). It’s always been weird how people there are much more appreciative of my work. There’s always this hype when you are doing a piece in that type of place. It’s something new to them but they accept it without questions. They even help you out with stuff like getting water for liquid paint and all. The experience there is always awesome. I also like demolished walls, you never know what you’re gonna get!

 

[FP]: What are some upcoming projects of yours?

[AL]: I have a project with Midnice Gallery in Thailand this coming December. I will be painting walls there to celebrate the gallery’s anniversary. I am also finishing a bunch of murals in SEA Training Facility, a privately owned skate park here in Manila. For now, I will continue to paint on canvas and walls, join exhibits, save some cash, travel and paint in different parts of the world. Montreal will be one of those places for sure.

 

© All pictures courtesy of Angge Lorente.

TUMBLR

Angge Lorente is a visual artist from the Philippines. Product of the streets, as she likes to say, she paints with her partner Crist Espiritu from DOZE Collective and call themselves GLITCH GLITCH. With a Fine Arts baccalaureate and a major in advertising, Angge extends her artistic process onto the street in order to reach a greater audience. Her paintings are always very detailed and realistic, making the final result nearly photo-realistic. She also does studio projects, keeping the same compelling, striking and intriguing touch to her art. Most of her art can be found on her Tumblr, another way to reach out to the world.