ANTON UNAI delivers an uninhibited glimpse at human emotions and echoes of his life with a collection of new works presented at OPEN WALLS Gallery on May 31st. A compilation of visual poetry from a self declared poet who willfully takes risks and carries through with beautiful prose into the urban language.

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SP38 takes over STATTBAD

SP38 is a French street artist, painter, and performer who has been based in Berlin for the past 15 years. He papers the walls of his city, and many others across the globe with what he calls “urban poetry”.

© Roland Verin (2013)

The artist paints very quickly, and repetitively, and refers to himself, regarding his art practice, as a “human copy machine”; a copy machine reproducing the same motifs, and texts on posters to paste them in various places, and countries, and as a human one because what he does is not entirely identical, and includes tiny imperfections that can be found in handmade works.

SP38 mixes silk-printing and painting techniques applied on posters. His words are juxtaposed with symbols such as golden rabbits or blue planes that multiply on his posters as patterns. They could be the wallpapers of children bedrooms. Coming from a tradition of the Lettrist movement or of the “Affichistes” artists such as Jacques Villéglé or Raymond Hains who created their own alphabets, SP38 created his own typography. Adding a limited range of four colours, and those simplified images, to his letters as a very graphic trademark, SP38 makes statements about rather serious matters very casually. “ESCAPE”, “OCCUPY”, “BOMB AMERICA”, “MADE IN DREAM”, “SLAVES”, “VIVE LA CRISE”, “VIVE LA BOURGEOISIE”, “NO PROPAGANDA”, “I DON’T WANT TO BE U’RE FRIEND ON FACE-BOOK”, amongst others, adorn the urban landscape. The freshly printed aspect of his posters echoes the subjects of his slogans that are right of-the-moment.

As many artists, like Jenny Holzer, whose main focus is to spread words or ideas in the public or urban space, SP38 thinks that, “ART MUST BE OUTSIDE”. His provocative and lighthearted slogans, his humour, fraught with irony, and sarcasm, enable him to provoke without being aggressive. He wants to trigger a reaction, a reflection, and potentially some involvement. He wriggles out of his provocation without annoying the viewer. Lightheartedness makes the catchy and lapidary slogans act as catalysts for a serene debate.

From Tuesday February 26th until Thursday February 28th SP38 will take over STATTBAD Berlin facade and create a 20 meter long mural.

Join us together with the artist in STATTBAR for a mini vernissage on February 28th from 19:00 onwards. The evening will be completed with music and drinks to make it a date!


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.