We recently caught up with one of our favorite artist, SP38, to discuss his past, present and future endeavors. SP38, an artist widely known for his in-your-face messages (“Fuck America”), and primitive imagery (gold rabbits), is still making art right here in Berlin, but is also generating a lot of buzz outside of Germany. First and foremost French, SP38 is now focusing on traveling, expanding his art as well as his fan base. In this interview, he discusses Berlin before street art and his current art-making process. He also gives us his opinion on politics, Banksy, and plenty more, as well as a sneak peak in to his art and travel plans for the near future.
So, rumor has it you’ve been creating new artworks with a rather controversial message… Can you tell us more about that?
I’ve done a tryptic which is a rant about something I found rather stupid, something regarding one of my works. I wrote “Fuck America”, “Bomb America” and “Suck America” on three posters that I pasted on a wall next to a place that should have been inaugurated by the American ambassador. But it’s meant to be more of a joke than anything serious.
In which way do your new works conform to what you have been doing so far?
Yes, I think they do conform to what I’ve been doing. Another of my new works is called “Tower Power”, which is related to the 9/11 anniversary. It represents the Berlin tower with a plane flying in its direction. As usual, this should not be taken literally.
Do you feel your work has become more political? Has it evolved in any particular direction?
I think it is pretty much as political as it ever has been. But I do think that I have been, subconsciously, following a certain path that I’m trying to stay on.
Do you brainstorm a lot before painting, or is it more of a spontaneous action?
It’s quite a spontaneous process but it does require some time. I usually think of something, then write it down, which usually happens in the morning while making breakfast or doing other random activities. In the end I usually only keep one of those ideas, one that I really like. It goes quite fast but then it takes time.
You use your own character font, have you been using it from the beginning? And how did you invent it?
The font has evolved quite a lot. I think that ever since I started using it, I kept the same base but I’ve been polishing it little by little. I think it became my signature font after I moved to Berlin.
Can you tell us more about your “Escape” posters?
This is the poster I’ve been pasting the most during the past year. I started pasting it in Korea in a small village during an artist residency. I was working together with other artists focusing on this village where, 350 years ago, a sailor from the Netherlands was held prisoner. I was focusing on the idea of escaping, because the sailor never managed to escape, and that is how I started writing “escape” on posters. After getting back to Berlin I kept using this word, and I still use it a lot because it is a word everyone can understand everywhere. I’ve also been pasting those posters next to where the Berlin wall used to stand, between Bernauerstrasse and Brunnenstrasse. I like the idea of escaping, I don’t know where from, but I think it sounds good.
One of your works features the phrase “Banksy is French”. What do you think of Bansky?
Well, first of all, who is he? I do like what he does, and I really like his humor, which is why I did this piece. I met one of his classmates in Bristol when I went there some years ago. That’s when I started pasting those “Banksy is French” posters. It was also meant as a joke, and then I kept using this phrase on posters with rabbits as background - he was drawing rats in the beginning, so my poster was meant as a throwback to his work.
Are there any other street artists whose works you like?
I like N°6 from Berlin. I also enjoy what Mimi The Clown, who’s from Lille in France, because I really like the clown character he’s using.
How do you select the spots where you paste your posters?
I spot most walls while I’m moving along in Berlin - mostly with my bike. I usually paste my posters around the same areas though because I do my own tour which, like my character font, evolves slowly. Now that I live in Wedding I also paste quite a lot of posters in this area, but I also do a lot of pasting in Mitte.
When I’m traveling, I usually just pick random places to paste my posters.
You travel quite a lot and you’ve been to Seoul recently. How do you pick the cities you visit?
I was invited to participate in a performance festival in Seoul, which is why I went there but I had been to Seoul a few times before. This time, I was allowed to make a big collage on a wall even though it isn’t very legal to do street art there. My collage was 5 x 3m big and I also pasted a lot of posters around the area, which was part of my performance.
I usually try and be invited to festivals in other cities so I can paste posters there. I try to get official authorizations so I can do bigger, legal artworks without having to worry about the police or anything.
You’ve been to Africa too…
Yes, I’ve been to Cameroon, I went there for a performance festival, and I did get official authorizations to paste my posters. It was funny because I was pasting posters with my rabbit pattern on them, and everyone thought I was about to sell rabbits on the street. People would also ask me if I got paid to do this, and if I had money. It was quite an adventure!
Which cities are you going to visit next?
I’m going to Montreal and then New York if I manage to get a visa. In november I’ll be going to the Philippines. There is a performance festival in Montreal, and I will be having an exhibition there. I really just want to visit New York, I’m not sure it will be possible for me to paste posters there, but I do have to do a performance there too.
Do you feel like you’re part of a Berlin street art scene? Or are you more of a free spirit?
Well I don’t know, I don’t really feel that way. I also moved to Berlin before there was any street art scene. I don’t know if my work really relates to street art. I’m not really sure. You should not be asking me!
Is there any city you’ve visited where you really enjoyed the local street art scene? Or do you think Berlin street art is more interesting?
Berlin is a very active city, street art-wise. The art in Seoul and Bristol was also interesting. In some cities, decorating the streets seems to be a very natural process. What I like about Berlin is that there is no value judgement about street art, which is not the case in cities like Paris for example. I don’t really like how judgmental things are there, whereas in Berlin street art is evolving along with the city and that’s something I really like.
Apart from your upcoming performances, what are your plans within the next months?
I’ll mostly be focusing on my performances. I also want to keep traveling, and I’d like to spend some time in my studio painting, because originally I’m a painter. I’ve recently been working on a series of paintings, and I really want to focus on this.
Thank you for your time, SP38!
Selected artworks from SP38 are available in our online shop.