Interview SP38: “Berlin became kind of bourgeois. Yet, Berlin is a place that is still renewing.

SP38 whose artworks with slogan as “Vive la Bourgeoisie” or “Vive la Crise” can be seen all over Berlin walls is now ending his cycle “Escape” for a new secret-kept artwork. Open Walls has met up with the artist while he was pasting his last “Escape” posters on his favourite wall. Discover a bit more about SP38, his work and his opinion about Berlin and street art.

How are you selecting your walls in Berlin?
This wall is a wall I use all the time, it is very symbolic for me. Augustr. was the place where all the galleries started appearing after reunification. It’s kind of my wall, I want to protect it.

You are pasting the last « Escape » poster. This is the end of a cycle, what are you new creations?
I have a new poster with a new typography, a new drawing –it won’t be the rabbit anymore- and a new slogan. I want it to stay secret for now as I am going to paste it for the first time in Seoul while it will be discover at Stroke Urban Art Fair at the same time. All I can say is that the slogan is inspired by consumption.

Why did you choose to end the cycle « Escape »?
I had been working on it for two years, so yeah; things got to end at some point. Plus, I used this poster for a festival named « Escape » so I thought, when the festival will end, I will go for something else.

For how long have you been in Berlin? How do you think the city has evolved?
It’s been sixteen years that I am in Berlin; I came as I was bored in Paris. I wanted to know Berlin, to see the Tacheles. I’ve always really liked the Tacheles, it was inspiring, looking like liberty… But Berlin has changed a lot, I think, if I was to arrive now maybe I would not stay. Before there was this great alternative life, alternative places, now it had became kind of bourgeois. Yet, Berlin is a place that is still renewing.

You said you were bored in Paris; can you speak a little a bit more about Paris and Berlin? Give us your opinion…
Regarding street art, Paris is business place. Of course a lot of people are doing things, as there is this fad for street art. I think it is too commercial though –apart from Belleville. I’ve got this feeling that people are doing street art to be seen, to become riche and famous… In Berlin, it’s still more free, even if things have slow down, it’s still a production of freedom.

Do you live in a street art environment?
Yes and no, I love to work with other urban artists but my friends don’t really come from this background. It’s more in Paris that I am only with urban fellows.

How did you start street art?
Well, I wanted to paint; I did a training indeed. I started painting in the 80’s in some artist squats. I was quite different from what I’m doing now; paintings, big format. The poster came naturally, I wanted something different. 1991 to 1995 was a fun time, I was with this group named « Zen copyright » and we were pirating events; we all had our slogan or image and we were pasting it together.

Did you start working with galleries quickly?
In Paris yeah, in Berlin the galleries were not so developed when I arrived…

Your artworks are very committed? Have you ever been feeling like changing style?
Yes it is committed, I don’t like decoration, I am fed up with decoration. I think in the street you got to say something. Still my artworks are balancing between political and poetry; the typography is very important too.

What are your projects for the future?
I am going to Seoul for the time for an exhibition and a festival. It’s going to be really nice being there as I have a lot of opportunity; I am going to paint a whole ruff with a crew. This is going to be a lot of fun. The festival is a performance festival as I am also active in the performance field.

Why Seoul? What do you think of the city regarding street art ?
Seoul was by chance, I met some guys, we became friends, you know the story.
Regarding street art, it’s totally illegal over there, therefore there is not so much street art. Yet, there are some quite good things. I remember I saw a « fuck japs » which I liked a lot. It is a really good place in fact as if you do street art in Seoul it will be notice right ahead . And the audience is so huge… Plus there is a real curiosity toward street art even if it what you would call « hype » over there.


Interview YZ: Women from Another Century

Still following her path into portraying people and bringing them back to life into the street, YZ has turned toward the women from the 19th ; a way for her to express her poetry while pointing out an always-changing society.

We met up with this original artist to let her express a vision of her art through her own words. Enjoy the interview & discover the new artworks online!

Could you describe some of your early influences and what led you to become an artist? 

I grew up in a small village inhabited by potters and artists. My mother was a recognised ceramist and my father as well as pottery explored sculpture. Family and friends were into jewellery, music, painting, etc. They all lived for there passion. Everyone around me choose to express themselves through art, so did I.

You are an original figure on the street art scene, how did you start putting your work onto the street?

I arrived in Paris in 2000. I started painting in the street with a friend, using spray can and doing mostly portrait. Later, I wanted to add more to the painting. I wanted to tell a story and take it further. This is how the “Open your eyes” project started in 2003 as the idea was to paint through a geographical aspect.

Why did you choose to work on the theme “Women from another century”?

I have been working on many different projects, often related to human figure, dealing profoundly with identity. On “Women from another century” I wanted to tell a poetical story and bring femininity into the street. Also the attitude and style women from the 1900’s had really seduced me. But mostly, this cycle was an aesthetic research on volume. I started to crumple the paper where sheets were used to hide women’s bodies.

What is the message you want to transmit through this cycle?

During the last century, Women have won a lot of victories and gain more independence. This is a celebration. Also, this cycle shows how different were the beauty criteria. At that time they didn’t fake, they were proud of their body.

Can you describe your technique? What are the methods and materials that you used?

In the street I use brown paper and lately I have used silk paper, painted with black ink or black acrylic. As I did stencil a lot in my previous production, I kept the idea of layers. Usually I have 7 or 8 different levels of grey scale, as the ink wash painting, I add water to my ink, as I want my grey lighter. I do not work with carbon anymore but I use a foam roller. On canvases, I now use only silk paper, but I’m always exploring new techniques depending on the subject I work on. Lately for a new cycle, I used other materials in order to stick with the meaning of the cycle.

Who are the people featured in your artwork?

Women that are featured are actors, singers, or just unknown models. 

YZ’s artworks from the cycle “Women from another century” will be on display for Berlin Art Fair Week (Stroke Art Fair) 13-16 September.  Save the date!

Vermibus: Attack from within. Read the interview with Lamono Magazine online.

Urban Poetry: The Visual Verses of SP38

Originally from Normandy, France, SP38 has lived and worked as a ‘prisoner of Berlin’ for the past 17 years. His art is unmistakeable, working almost exclusively in four colours, he borrows from a very small collection of symbols; including a blue plane and gold rabbit, and writes with a unique alphabet created by SP38 himself.

SP38 - painting

Photo: www.thomasvonwittich.de


Occupy The Sky, Berlin 2012

How did you come up with the name SP38?
‘S.P’ are my initials. Initially, it was a word play on the ‘P38 Special’, which is a revolver, used a lot in the American police force. I painted really quickly and wanted a name that reflected that well and then it stayed with me. The ‘38’ doesn’t mean anything. It just sounds good.

How and why did you start working with posters?
I started painting directly in the street but it was a little tedious. The poster has an artistic aspect. It is a way to easily diffuse a lot of things but at the same time it remains a work of art because it’s unique. It’s the medium between mass production and something that is exclusively unique. Once it’s made, then it’s easy to go in the street with a roll of paper and a bit of paint. There’s an interesting link between the artist studio and the street.

How do you come up with words like ‘slave’ and ‘escape’? How do you come to use these words?
It’s a bit according to the mood of the moment. I find at this moment it’s ‘escape.’ I started ‘escape’ when I was working with a group of artists on a piece in a small village in South Korea, where 350 years ago a Dutch sailor was imprisoned and then managed to escape. After that I though the word ‘escape’ worked well. At that moment people kept saying that it meant something else, something more. It’s a word everyone understands, we always want to escape or go elsewhere. There are sort of words or slogans that correspond with the ideas of the moment, like ‘slave.’ Two or three years ago during the recession people were slaves to money. It always has to do with am ambiance of the moment.
I try and find things that are more and more short, just one word that manages to touch people quickly and make them react. For example the word ‘escape’ with the image of a gold bunny suggests flight. These are simple words but they are meaningful.

SP38 - Escape - Berlin biennale

Escape- SP38 - MontrealSP38, Montreal

SP38- Biennale Berlin

Escape, Berlin 2012

SP38- Montreal exhibition

Escape, Fresh Paint Gallery, Montreal

Your works are politically charged. Why do you think it’s important to incorporate politics in art?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily political. But I think it’s important to reflect and have something to say. We can’t just make pretty things in art. I think it’s a pretty direct way to say things, touch people and provoke reactions. Especially in regards to street art. I find there are many pieces that are just decoration. My work is a bit a reactions against that. I think the street is somewhere where we can express ourselves and say things.

SP38 - Vive la creiseSP38 - Vive La Crise - Paris 2012

What is you opinion of the legalization of graffiti and street art?
I think it’s pretty stupid to forbid graffiti; because graffiti and street art is such an important movement. It’s not criminal. What’s serious is that people think that all street art is considered a crime. I think there are much worse things that should be illegal. It’s part of the urban landscape of any city. I like seeing graffiti.
We don’t forbid advertisements; sometimes it’s like an attack. There are so many huge and ugly ads that attack people. Unfortunately we’ve educated people to accept these huge and aggressive advertisements while having them think graffiti is a crime.
It becomes a question of money, because advertisers pay for these spaces.
It’s always a question of money and business. What’s funny is that more and more companies are borrowing from street art. They make copies and that’s terrible. I think even if we forbid graffiti it will always exist, there will always be things in the street. It’s also a reaction against. There are a lot more serious things.

To finish, if you had to describe your work in your own words, what would they be?

In my own words… I don’t know… I really like ‘urban poetry.’

Interview by Caroline Cotter, Montreal.


Interview Alias

The Berlin-based artist got first introduced to street-art at the turn of the millennium while living in Hamburg. Since 2003 he’s been living in Berlin and has developed a unique street-art approach, becoming an important protagonist of this vivid urban art scene. Alias has constantly improved his stencil technique over the years and has now reached technical and aesthetic maturity thus always keeping a pinch of humor and grim realism in his works. Many of his posters and stickers produced with stencils and spray cans can be found in cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Rome, Milan, Bristol and also in Istanbul.
Alias has had 4 solo exhibitions so far in his hometown Hamburg, in Essen and in Berlin and his works were also featured in numerous group-exhibitions in Germany and Italy.
We had a chance to interview Alias and provide you with more background information.

Alias by Just

Alias, Photo by Just http://just.ekosystem.org

Hi Alias, tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?

I was born in a small town between Hamburg and Berlin in 1980.

Could you describe your background a bit?
I dropped out of school and for some years I organized parties with a couple of friends. Otherwise, I come from a street background: skateboarding and Graffiti.

What led you to become an artist and how did this develop into putting your work onto the streets?
I had my first contact with street art in Hamburg in 2001. The sticker scene was very active at that time and for me this was something completely new and exciting. But it’s only after moving to Berlin that I became active doing art myself, it’s hard to tell why though…

Is there someone or something that has influenced you in this choice?
Mainly all street artists I have met so far.

How would you briefly describe your work to someone who’s never seen it before?
I work with photos and collages from which I make stencils. With those I spray posters and stickers which I then put up in a public space.

Is there a specific objective or concept behind your work? Are you trying to elicit a particular response from the public?
My motives are often introverted and emotional but at the same time they have a direct and striking impact that brand themselves on the memory of people passing by and they are supposed to inspire people to interpret the motives on their own.

Where do you draw inspiration from?
From my life, from my childhood, relationships, future and past.

Do you consider your work to be socially engaged or political?
Not really, political is more the way how and where I put up my work or my attitude towards the public space. A certain degree of social criticism is definitely incorporated though.

How do you go about choosing your locations and installing your outdoor artworks?
I prefer old walls and dark backgrounds and try to install my posters matching the context with the urban situation.

What happens to your work after you’ve installed it?
Sometimes my works get cleaned up, sometimes a person takes them home and sometimes they stay at their place for many years.

Is there a particular intervention that stands out for you in terms of personal satisfaction with the final result or obstacles which needed to be overcome?
Sure, I want as many people as possible to see my work. But for me it is more important that the work fits in its surroundings and stays there as long as possible. But since many posters come off easily, I am planning to work directly on walls again. This limits my selection of spots though.

Have you already been arrested?
When I was younger I often had trouble with the police. This is also what led me to work with posters now and I only spray occasionally. I choose my walls so that a file of charge is unlikely…but honestly, I don’t care so much anymore.

When people ask what you do, do you just give them an evasive response and change the subject?
That depends very much on the person. I guess none really likes the „What are you doing for a living?“ question. But in the end, we all define ourselves over what we do. Then I always say: “I do something with media.“

What do you think about Berlin, do you like living here?
Definitely I like living here, it is a very creative and lively town. Unfortunately, it is changing its face faster than I thought it would.

Like many artists with a street background, you have a dual output, also displaying your art in gallery exhibitions. Do you prefer seeing your work in a gallery environment or in the streets?
That depends very much on the exhibition, but generally I would say that no exhibition is able to beat that feeling that a night in the streets with some colleagues can give you.

Has working with galleries also required you to make particular compromises?
Not until now, but I wouldn’t be willing to make any compromises anyway.

How do you think your art will be viewed in the future?
That is something I really don’t think about.

Selected artworks from Alias are available here