lunedì 30 giugno 2014

Deconstructions - Interview with Poesia - by Giada Pellicari

I had the pleasure to interview Poesia, California-based graffiti artist and editor of Graffuturism, on the occasion of Deconstructions, the exhibiton that will take place in Miami in July for which Street Art Attack is mediapartner with Graffuturism.
Deconstructions is a double personal show of the two world wide famous graffiti writers Raptuz and Poesia, which is born with the idea of making tangible the relationships that occur in the development of their indoor practices. Organized as a collaboration between Nina Torres Fine Art Gallery and Hausammann Gallery, the exhibition will be opened to the public on July 18th until the 31st, in Miami, at the location of Nina Torres Fine Art Gallery.
Our conversation was based on his history as graffiti artist, but also on some ideas and theories concerning the graffiti scene and its development along these years.
Along this interview you will also have the opportunity to see in preview some of the artworks for Deconstructions.

Giada: You have been doing graffiti since twenty-five years, firstly in California but then all round the world. Would you tell us who were your inspirations at first and what was the graffiti scene like in California when you started?

Poesia: At first it was real local through some older cousins I was introduced to tagging. From tagging I became addicted to writing and also drawing my name. It was 1989 so the scene was in between stages of New York graffiti and the scene that emerged in the early nineties. 

Poesia, 1990-94

My local scene in the Bay area was mostly tagging with a couple of mural spots that introduced me to most of my early influences as a writer. I adopted what some would call a west coast wildstyle early influenced by so many before me, TWS, TDK, WCF were the local crews at the time.

Poesia, 1995-99

 G: During these last years your style has been developed towards a synthesized form of the letter in some cases, but in others it’s more focused on the gesture of the movement, leading in both cases to some kind of forms that can be considered as purely abstract. What is interesting to me is that in some of your previous interviews you have defined graffiti as something which is “abstract in its concept”. Would you like to explain this connotation and how do you relate it to your artistic practice?

P: Its abstract in the way wildstyle cannot be read by most non-graffiti writers or those not familiar with the artform. Even a tag has intricate abstractions that are at times readable and others not so much. This abstract nature is due to the hidden nature of our culture, it was our stamp on an already established alphabet used for communication. 

Poesia, 2013

We coded the message and in doing so abstracted it to the outside world. This hasn't changed much and one of the major reasons I believe most graffiti artists who start to work in a gallery setting or canvas paint abstractly. It is a natural progression for some of us who don't choose to use representational images, and instead utilize the experiences and natural elements of what we had already were painting with graffiti.

Poesia, Paris

G: You told me that when you’re painting you usually work on the idea of the obstacle by constraining yourself in some kind of exercises, such as for example when you decided to do works with the use of just straight lines or in the contrary with curved ones. Is this a way to work mostly on a mental process in which the hand becomes something more automatic and assumes a rhythmic form? Do you think that the idea of making you force to do something becomes a way to lead yourself to do “conceptual” graffiti by, in a way, turning it into some kind of instruction piece?

P: I dont think it becomes more conceptual when I am working within boundaries or limits imposed by myself. My intention for certain series of work is in line with learning more about myself and searching for something new. 

Poesia, E letter study, 2014

The series I am working on for Deconstructions are linear Letter studies that are based on deconstructing my natural letters I have used for twenty years as a graffiti artist. It's similar to how a figurative artist might draw the figure with a line study, or a gestural drawing. 

Poesia, G Letter Study, 2014

My figure is the letter, and I have adopted these similar exercises in order to find new ways of tearing apart and rebuilding what I have learned for the past two decades. Trying to create the same flow with only lines is a problem that I wanted to work out in these paintings. Creating movement with linear compositions.

Poesia, J letter study, work in progress, 2014

G: The previous question lead us to the concept of rhythm, which is very important for you and for how you usually work on series rather than just on one piece. During these last years, actually, you gave shape to three kind of series: geometric letter studies, gestural letter studies and old master paintings that become all together a  whole body of work that mirror different kind of aspects that you’re interested in. Would you like to tell us more about each series and how is your process in developing them?

P: It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to paint on canvas or in the gallery versus my walls, the first series of work was the linear deconstructions or studies. I wanted to harden my natural flow in graffiti and this led me on painting for one year in this manner. I learned to use new tools that I would never use in order to paint, for different problems you always end up with new ideas, new tools and different paths when searching a solution. This new body of work is coming full circle for me reengaging the linear studies I had started five years ago. 

Poesia, work in progress, 2014

The gestural series of work was similar except I wanted to instead of deconstruct through lines, I wanted to deconstruct through gesture and my natural hand as an artist. By going the opposite direction of a line I wanted to see the other side of the coin so to say. 

Poesia, gestural letter study

The old master works are more conceptual and have a personal meaning to my overall personal narrative as an artist, they are painted in many styles and mediums. When I speak about rhythm its important for me to build a start a peak and an end to these exercises. I have found that it takes me time to build a rhythm with myself and this is part of the process of the work. You are able to see this natural flow and identify certain paintings coming from this certain peak rhythm when they were made. Its just the the way I work I guess.

Poesia, The raft of Medusa after Gericault

G: We can say that in your artistic practice there are three different kinds of way of giving shape to works, the first related to graffiti as it was born, the second that is more connected to indoor practices and the last one which is to say the public commissions and works thought in a site specific way. How do you connect all of them and what’s the difference in your approach amongst them?

P: Graffiti is the source and what makes me relevant as an artist. It will always be part of my personal narrative as an artist. The indoor work doesn’t differentiate much from what I try to paint on walls now when I get the chance. The problem for me is I have more space and time to paint indoors then I do on walls. I think embracing who you are and how you came to be a painter is key for me to continue to paint. Wether its a commission, insitu installation, or a canvas It's all the same at this point to me. Its just a different scale and medium, my intent is the same. 

Poesia, installation in situ

I am here to make my own person mark influenced by what I have learned and experienced as artist. Because most of my art career has been in graffiti thats my story at this moment. I am excited to tell this story for future generations that will look back and be able to see something of the era and from an artist who really lived that life. Unlike many new artists who come in the gallery and paint pictures of graffiti on walls, we are not copies of graffiti we are extensions of an era and a culture.

Poesia, M letter study in progress, 2014

G: You’re now working on a huge project called Deconstructions, which is a double personal exhibitions with the italian graffiti writer Raptuz and is presented by Hausammann Gallery and Nina Torres Fine Art. For this exhibition you’re working again on the idea of the geometric letter which is based on the concepts of deconstructions and re-constructions. What’s the difference between your previous body of work regarding the geometric studies? Can you unveil to us the steps in conceiving these new works and how the exhibition will take shape?

P: I am excited as this will be my first solo exhibition that I will focus the work entirely on the letterform. I decided to reengage the Linear Letter studies as I had done years before. It was a perfect time to come full circle and work on this series again. With more experience and other studies under my belt I felt I could really bring something different once again to this series. It took me awhile to get my rhythm but I have found it and am excited to share the series with the gallery and world. 

Poesia, studio

One major difference in this new series of work and past work was utilizes new tools in the studio and engaging mediums similar to what I would use in the street. Instead of working with Oil paint and Spray paint which I usually use, I painted mostly in Latex paint and Spray paint. 

Poesia, S Letter Study in progress, 2014

The addition of an airless sprayer added a whole other level as well to the new work. Each painting has been layered and reworked so many times its exhausting, haha. The Layering aspect of the pieces is one of my favorite although very time consuming. All in all Im am very happy with the new work, being able to work with letters, Color and a mix of medias has been an rewarding process.

Poesia in his studio, 2014

All pictures: courtesy by Poesia
Cover photo: Jerome Cotton

Interview by Giada Pellicari

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