Vermibus lives and works in Berlin where he regularly collects advertising posters from the streets, using them in his studio as the base material for his work.
Using a unique style of painting counteraction, Vermibus transforms the faces and flesh of models by removing layers of colour and gloss from photographic images with white spirits. Thus, flawless and sanitized icons are reformed into harrowing and contorted figures reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s seminal works. When reintroduced back into their original urban setting, these images then wield a presence and singularity that fully surpasses their advertising predecessors.
Görlitzer Bahnhof, Berlin 2012 - Photo: Laura Colomé
You were born in Majorca but are currently based in Berlin. Why did you choose to settle in Berlin?
I came to Berlin to discover the city on a three month vacation. Chance had me losing my job in Madrid during those three months, plus I discover my technique (with solvent) during that time. I thought it was my opportunity to stay and to experiment.
Although you display your work publicly, you define yourself as a contemporary artist and not as a street artist. Could you explain the difference between street art and art in the street?
I think the difference is not about what one is doing but about what one is feeling, about what you want to express with your art. When I was doing graffiti or street art, I wanted my name to be in as many places as possible; I wanted to repeat my name or my artwork again and again. Of course I was expressing a feeling at that time but now it’s different, now it’s more personal, it’s a purge and a self-discovery. My artwork may be in the street but its nature is different.
Bright Trade Show - Street Intervention, Berlin 2012 - Photo: Thomas Von Wittich
You follow in the « culture jamming » tradition of targeting adverts and brands with your interventions. What is your message?
I am not only attacking the brand. Of course I despise the lack of ethics of many of them but targeting brands is not my concept; I am challenging the imposed image. I work with solvent and with it I take off the mask of the model, the make-up, the retouch…and the brand. I take off the brand, as it is for me the ultimate mask. The brands goal is to remove the model identity. The model is not a person anymore but an image whose only value is for selling.
Do you think art has a duty to deliver messages to society or would you say that art exposes societal issues?
Every artists’ goal is different and personal to them; it changes vastly from one to another. Moreover the relation to art changes through time for an artist. Today for me, I think it is a mix between those two ideas; my artworks clearly show these two sides.
You work with solvent to erase the models faces. Could you tell us more about your technique?
In my last video « Vermibus Process » I tried to demonstrate my work process. There is no secret, it’s quite simple: brush with dissolvent onto paper, an advertising poster or a fashion magazine.
Which artists’ work do you draw inspiration from?
Established artists like Francis Bacon or Lucian Freud. They are my top two references, but I have a lot of favorite artists.
What do you think about street art’s place in the art market?
I think it’s natural that street art has its place in the art market. The artworks present in the streets are gifts for the passer-by; if one want those artworks at home then he has the opportunity to buy it instead of stealing it from the other by tearing it down from the street. I think the problem is when an artist starts selling and forgets to intervene in the streets.
How smooth was the transition from showing your work in the street to being an artist exhibited in galleries?
I look at my work with a more critical eye, I don’t accept anything; but I always respect my work and the people I work with. I could be invited to exhibit at the best gallery in the world but if I don’t have a good feeling with the person I’m working then I’m not interested. As for the transition from street to gallery, I don’t really see it as a transition as I didn’t exchange one for another: I have both and I am very happy with both.
For those who can’t make it to Berlin, you can access the new KATE MOSS by VERMIBUS series catalog online.
Selected works are available to purchase online as well: follow this link.
04. July - 08. July 2012
Stasi Headquarters Haus18
Frankfurter Allee direction Lichtenberg,
U5 Station Magdalenenstrasse
10 minutes from Alexanderplatz