Crossing borders 017: Sabek


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.

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.