MK: Matt Kennard
MK Where does your obsession with buildings come from? And particularly grey Soviet style….
EV It’s where we all live, so it’s the containers of our lives, if you will. I have a background, I started with all this, with graffiti, like other people as well, but this changed over the years, but still for me, this is like one of the biggest treasures, just to walk around to see what’s happening in the streets, on the buildings. Like from other people doing stuff at walls, as this is sort of a canvas situation for us. Or for myself, just looking for new spots, because like what I do, I don’t just need a wall to paint on, I’m always looking for some sort of certain situations where I can intertwine, and not just paint somewhere. For me, the spot is major important, in terms of adding something rather minor, and changing the whole thing with it.
MK There also seems to be an element of political undertones to this, they are very bleak pictures and lot of people live in these very bleak places. Is there an element of that that’s a comment on the society we live in?
EV Yes. As well, I quickly continue with the stuff I said before, because being this flaneur kind of guy, like enjoying having walks or something, and looking for spots, that’s how it started with these boxes. Once I noticed, geez, they’re all around, what to do with those boxes, they’re like a format, what to do with them. So this was one part of the point, like turning them into small buildings. The other, you’re right, this has been once a big utopia, an architectural and social utopia, creating cheap and affordable new flats for all the workers, like as a political thing. This has been a big utopia, due to, there was a lack of living space anyway, so it was a big governmental programme, just rising them up. In the end it was a utopia, but turned into a dystopia. You find this everywhere, in every city. It’s not only an East German thing, it’s around Paris, London, as well as New York or wherever. So somehow, people created ghettos, that they turned into ghettos, because for me, this is no surprise, that those buildings, they lack a certain personality, like people are stored there somehow, it’s just too many and it’s faceless and it’s not even individual enough.
People have to define themselves somehow, and this is too anonymous. Mostly those areas are pushed aside at the city borders. So for me, this is also quite a political thing. So both things came together, and I thought like, I would just place small reminders of these habits into the inner cities again.
MK And what kind of reactions have you been getting in the cities you do it, do you get city bankers that come down there?
EV Due to the size of it, like the scale, of course it’s quite harmless, because it’s mostly smaller than you, so you probably find it more cute or whatever, but, well, I don’t care on this. Yes, surprisingly, people like this, sometimes go, oh geez, I don’t want to live in this. The bigger it gets, the less they find it cute.
MK Just more generally, on the intersection of politics and art, because it’s a very, there’s a lot of discussion about how they interlock, and if they go together well, it becomes propaganda, if you go too obvious. Do you think that art can be an important function of social movements, and in what facility can it change opinions, does it influence in a more abstract way?
EV It certainly can. Like, it’s not that I would want this, like I’m not the guy screaming a loud message, I am a more subtle guy. Of course, I have messages, but I’d rather like the spectator to discover this on his own, that I would give him the sentence to think on. But of course, still there is an opportunity for this, like if you see people, I say like us, this is not true, but doing stuff outside. Due to internet or whatever, there is a huge connection throughout the world. People don’t meet, so this forms something like a society as well, and this transports thoughts as well. So I think there is something, I would not necessarily say that there is a real revolution behind this, I quite doubt it. But it changes something.
MK Have you seen any sort of change in your fellow street artist, you’re from Germany, right, and I mean, around Europe, you must have connections. Obviously Europe is a crisis right now, and in Greece particularly, and Spain, millions are losing their jobs and have no money. Do you think this is politicising the art world in a way that it hasn’t been before, is it having an effect?
EV Probably just naturally, for me, art is a reflection the circumstances I live in, and my surroundings, so whatever happens to me, I will try to transport into art, like I see an artist probably as, like you could say an artist is producing something no one actually really needs or something, while I think an artist is in fact someone being able to transform thoughts from one kind of people to another, being like a chain, like in-between. He is able to probably think the same thoughts than someone else does, but is able to do it in a way that the others gain something out of his own thought he didn’t have before. So for me, this is sort of a function, even though no one asked for it and it’s not really eatable like bread or something.
MK And just related to that, when you are making these, particularly these ones, who are you thinking, who are you aiming at, who do you want to see it, is the people who live in places like that, or is it rich people that should be reminded of it, or is it not that literal?
EV I don’t have this offensive message or something, so in fact, I use the space for everyone who is now living or passing by there, so this is somehow my audience, so I don’t want to just speak to certain people. In this case, I naturally speak to everyone passing by. Whatever people those are, they probably have different opinions on this, and I really can’t control this, but I’m happy if I see that some people react to it, and if they react different, then that’s like their nature. So no one asked me to do it, so I can’t ask for a reaction in a certain way.
MK And just in terms of the artwork, who are your main influences, what mainstream artist do you look at?
EV Influence would sound like, I saw or met someone, and since then, I change something and do it like this.
MK No no no, but in a more abstract way…
EV I wouldn’t refer what I would do to someone else, of course there is artists I like, and this is very widespread, this is going from classical, 200 year old painting, to sculpturing from the 70s, so this is not necessarily related to what I do. Of course, I am interested in this.
MK Part of that question then, which is probably easier for you to answer, is, how old are you?
EV I am 39.
MK And how is your development, how have you changed, how has your art changed over the years, how long have you been doing these specific building ones?
EV A couple of years.
MK But you’ve been doing art for your whole life basically?
EV No, no, well, for myself, yes, in my shed, not shed, like in my chamber, how did I change? Well, I started with drawing, like a black and white was my favourite thing, or a pencil or something, so it was always black and white, because probably I was too lazy to mix colours and clean brushes. Then, with the drawing, you are sort of fixed on a certain scale, and just by accident, I found out about spray cans, not through graffiti, but just somehow connected to it, and I found out more about the ability that a spray can gives me.
It’s colour, mixed colour, ready mixed colour, I don’t have to clean, to take away, and I just can place things, like I can almost paint everything with it. So this awakened, like this gave me the envy and the thought of just painting, wherever people have to see what I decided to be, and that’s how I came to graffiti, even though I never wrote styles or something, I was always more into characters. For me, doing something outside is like the offer for a silent communication, like I place an offer, and whatever happens to it, so… So it’s a way for me to get rid of, not get rid of my thoughts, but to place my thoughts publicly, as I am not a big talker, like I’m not a very social person, so this is like a medium for me to talk.
MK And what stage did you start doing that then, start putting it on the street, it’s interesting to me….
EV This was quite, pretty late, like, with 23 or something, then I spent quite a while, and I met of course, a lot of graffiti guys, and in fact, I learnt a different society with this, a huge connection between the people, where you can travel and like, meet people with the same interests, so there was always a binding thing already, even though people were very different. Anyway, then I studied product design in fact, and through these studies, I discovered, like screen printing or computers in general, so for me a lot of photography, in a wider sense.
So for me, this offered a lot more possibilities to sort of express this, not only with a spray can, this was sort of then the change, so for me, doing graffiti as before was quite boring, I didn’t do it for a couple of years then, and then for some reason, I came to this stencil process. It took me back to the spray can again, because I liked this result. You can do everything on your own, you don’t need to do, silk screening, your big machines to do them. So I could just take any piece of card and cut something out, and then this got more and more elaborative, and I really liked the result of, it looked like printed, very flat, if you give yourself a bit, if you put some effort in it, you can achieve a real professional result. So the technique of it is something that interests me as well, so for me, stencilling is a printing technique and I try to push this forward, in a way.
MK Do you think that most ‘street artists’, they start doing it, because I’m interested in what you’re saying about having a conversation with society in a way that you can’t in a gallery, right. If you put something out there, then people don’t have a choice whether to see it or not. Do you think that there’s, what do you think about the perception, from society, obviously graffiti is illegal, but the reaction you get from general society, are they happy that this stuff goes up, and do you ever get any feedback, or is this a totally one way conversation?
EV No, no, especially since the moment I am doing this outside, like in Smithfield Market….
MK Yes, that was great by the way, that was brilliant.
EV I spent a couple of hours there, and of course, there were a lot of workers around there. But surprisingly, the reception in general is very different, if people probably see something in it. Like if they would see you tagging or something, police as well, it’s aggressive first hand. While if they see you do something else, people are just more open to it, I don’t know. They don’t have an opinion right away. I don’t know, I can’t remember, a minute, someone can come buy and hate it or want to push it away or whatever. So mostly I get positive reactions. Even people like, oh, it’s really interesting having a talk about something, so…
MK Yes, well, your decorating society….
EV In fact, I don’t want to decorate it, so then I would stop it, like if I would have the feeling being a decorator….
MK What would you call it then? Illustrating?
EV I don’t know, I intertwine with existing things, I do a sculpture somehow, because I’m looking for objects, I’m looking for spaces to recreate with the addition of something small. What I do this very simple, like black, white, and in fact, like everything which makes it approachable or this realistic feeling comes from what’s already there, but no one really takes care of this. It’s something so banal or uninteresting, that people just don’t look at it. And I just add something and re-use what’s already there. So somehow it’s a sculpture then, after.
MK And what do you think of the media, the media often calls what you do, street art, what do you think of that name, do you think it’s accurate, do you think that there should be a distinction between normal art and street art, or it’s the same thing…?
EV Yes, in fact, I already dislike this expression, but it’s probably especially the media putting this term. Sometimes it seems that people need a name for something, if they don’t know how to name it, then they grasp for a name, and so this is starting to be unfair then, because everything is put in the same drawer. So everything is made flat and the drawer had to close, this is quite unfair, because there are so many different people and so many different approaches doing outdoor works, and it’s not happening since 20 years only. It’s happening since a hundred years or whatever. There are so many different approaches, and so many interesting people, also coming from graffiti, or from a totally different background, and putting them all into the same drawer with people who just repeat their own logo, putting outside in an advertisement sense, is just unfair, and just flattens down the people who actually play with the public space as it is.
Like the public space is growing smaller and smaller, like it doesn’t belong to the people who go there anymore, it’s rather belonging to companies putting their advertising there, as a place for meeting and greeting, not observing. Just a social place, is growing less and less.
MK I saw your book, you are a fan of Slavoj Zizek?
EV Actually, I don’t know him too well, but I heard a couple of speeches of him, also him talking, and I found, of course he’s very interesting. It’s very interesting, like I like people who are able to tell more complex thoughts in a sort of normal way. He has some good thoughts, but I wouldn’t say that I am a big fan of him, but I think he is very interesting.
MK And just going back to what you said about the public space getting shrunk by companies and other commercial forces, do you think there’s a danger in street art that it can be co-opted by commercial interests?
EV It does all the time.
MK In England, the famous one is Bansky, he’s obviously a very good artist but he has been totally accepted by the mainstream and his stuff has sold to Angelina Jolie….
EV Why, I don’t know.
MK How can it be avoided, because obviously if you’re worried about commercial interests squeezing the public space, you’re not going to want to be part of that?
EV Somehow, if I decide I get used, like this would be mean they would ask me to a job for them, so I can say no to those jobs, but probably what you mean is that something I do gets just so ripped off and used in their context.
EV Well, this is quite annoying when it happens, but I don’t know how to prevent this. I mean, you can just sort of talk against it or do against it. It’s obvious that if a circle of people knows that this is annoying, then sooner or later they find out, no, we are annoyed somehow.
MK No, anyway, the second part of that was going to be, what do you think the mainstream art world’s reaction to people like you has been, in Germany for example, do you get shows at the main galleries, or the traditional galleries?
EV In fact, I don’t see myself as a street artist, it just happens that I see myself as an artist to happens to like working in a public space, as well as he does like gallery works. In fact, I do live from selling art works, but then this is like, gallery pieces, and this is something different for me, even though I am the same person with the same thoughts. This outside stuff I am doing because I like it, but I don’t get paid for it. Of course, as I want to be an artist, I am exposing my works in galleries, and I get paid by selling pieces, so I don’t see a problem with this. I don’t see why this shouldn’t go along.
MK Yes, and finally, what do you make of the scene in London?
EV Actually, I am the first time in London. So everything I know is sort of through media, in whatever sense.
MK Final question, promise. Do you have any idea of what you are going to be ding in the future, are you going to continue to do this sort of stuff, or have you got ideas to branch out?
EV I have a lot of ideas, what I would like to do one way. I will probably wake up and I am bored with this, but so far I am not. But one day, I will be bored, because at the moment, I have a lot of ideas, what I would like to experiment with though. I have to say, my time is really short most days, like I really have to find time to just do for my own.