In recent years more and more color has been coming to the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. The enthusiastic artist ACHILLEAS MICHAELIDES, better known as PAPARAZZI, just kept on creating one fantastic artwork after the other. He is playing an important role in the development of the local scene and the passionate inventor builds up communities, hosts festivals, connects artists and runs his own studio in Larnaka.
We spoke with the fabulous artist in an extensive interview about his creative doings and about the story how he became an artist. True words with a lot of respect, experience and wisdom. You can click on the podcast below and listen to it, or you can read the following written interview. Peppered with super cool artworks from PAPARAZZI.
We are sitting in the studio of the famous Cypriot artist PAPARAZZI. He is a streetart and graffiti artist, as well he is the organizer of several mural festivals and actually he is one of the main guys here on the island who is bringing urban art closer to the people. He did a lot for Cyprus and he will tell us now more about his art and his projects. Hello Paparazzi!
Hello, hello, welcome to paradise!
Let’s start with the beginning. Tell us how and when did you start doing art?
I am pretty much from an artistic family. My grandfather used to make wood carving and he was a musicians. He was playing the clarinet. My father also did art, he was drawing quite nice. But he never kept it as a job. It was more like his hobby. He studied art a bit, but then he quit and took another direction. Me, I was born in 1982 in Georgia, in Tbilisi, which is the capital of Georgia. I started doing art from very early days. They got me to art school, so I have this theory base. I am also from a Greek neighborhood of Tbilisi. It was in early 90s when the USSR collapsed, my family could leave the country and go back to Greece. Because before there was the Iron Curtain. When I saw graffiti in Europe as a child the first time of my life, I was like “Wow! This is cool stuff!” I started to listen to hip hop and I was also hanging around with the guys playing basket ball. I was the shortest guy in the team. Everybody was like two meters and I was more like one and a half. Whatever. And then when I was kind of bored from the art school. You know, like the rules and that you always have to draw the ancient people and this kind of stuff. Then graffiti came in my life. For me as a kid of immigrants it was really a way out. Because I was growing in a very, let’s say fucked up area. There were a lot of junkies and thieves and drugs. I also think for me, that graffiti saved my life. I took a totally different direction. When I started, like all the other kids, I was always looking for my tag. I was trying to find it, like with three letters or something like this. Like Can2 or Hos1 or something like that. It was super cool what they did. But I couldn’t find a tag for me.
Then one day a friend of mine, Stathis Kanelis, we were playing basket ball together, he gave me his head phones and passed me the song Paparazzi from Xzibit. I was like “Wow! This is cool man! Paparazzi, Paparazzi!” So he started calling me Paparazzi. Then as well at school all the other kids started also calling me Paparazzi. And then when I was trying to choose my tag, I thought about what to write and was trying to find something small with three letters. But then a friend of mine, Jakov Vosvolkov, who is also a kid of immigrants, half Russian half Greek. And he said “Why you don’t try to write Paparazzi?” I was like “Ok, let’s try. But how do you spell it?” I didn’t know English. Then he told me and I said “Yes, but it is too long man! How should I manage to make a bombing with the tag Paparazzi? It is nine letters, they will catch me!” And he said “Ah it’s ok, come on. I will show you a guy, his name is Loomit. He also has a very long name. And back in the days, Loomit was the king, like a legend. So I said “Ok, let’s try it”. To be honest after years I was considering to change it maybe and maybe to start to write with my real name Achilleas Michaelides. But even if I would do that, the people would still call me Paparazzi.
I have seen several artworks with shorter signature. You can do as well the short form like “PAPA”.
Yes, I do it sometimes. PAPA, PAPS and this kind of stuff. But in Cyprus I cannot do super illegal stuff. First of all it is not that much an urbanistic surrounding. And secondly everybody knows me. They will come and ask me “Why do you paint my building? Or why do you paint my car?” But when I travel usually I do some stuff. I like to go to Athens and rock there with old friends. Or as well to Thessaloniki. I didn’t went for a long time and I miss that. So when I travel I do that stuff. Nowadays I do more other things, for example when I was in Spain I did this wood paste. I draw them in the studio and stick them on a figure, as well I draw the surrounding a little bit to make it faster. You always have very limited time so you try to make something fast.
You started basically as a graffiti writer and with the letter. But over time as more and more you evolved you started to do bigger and bigger murals and also characters? Or how did it go?
It was a bit earlier. From the beginning I was like all the other kids trying to do styles and stuff like this. I really like letters, but I really believe that letters are not my cup of tea. One reason is because I am dyslectic, but I mean I love letters, but it is not my way to express myself with a text. And also when we were kids and we were going to paint, everybody was like “Paparazzi, you are so good in making characters. Can you make a character next to my piece or something like that?” So I was usually doing the backgrounds and the characters. Because I already had the background and the base to those skills, so it was easier. When I moved to Cyprus I was pretty famous in Greece and I was sponsored by Montana. Then I moved to Cyprus and there was nothing here. Like zero. Just a few guys who were trying to do their first baby steps. I was like “Ok, there is nothing here.” There were not even the cans to do paintings.
So you thought, this has to be changed!
Yes! And I started slowly slowly. I started from the streets and it was a long time. Now I am here for twenty years and meanwhile there grew a second generation with what we do. In the beginning I was kind of alone and I felt a bit lonely, but then there started to appear a scene on the island step by step. This was very cool. The last years happened as well a lot. There is a lot of impact from me, but also from an artist in Limassol called RATE. He does more letter elements and also gives workshops. I used to do workshops too, but I stopped to do them. Because I like to pass my knowledge to people who really appreciate that and not just to the rich kids whose parents are paying. They just come and actually want to play football. It is important why they are doing it. My first question was always “Why are you here?” And often they answered “Because the girls like it” or “I want to be funky”. So I thought, ok, fuck off. I prefer to take a talented guy or girl and teach them. I always tell them “I cannot teach you graffiti or streetart. I just teach you the technics and the way, but you need to find yourself. You need your find your style. I cannot pass you your style, you have to find it”.
RATE is the proper graffiti writer; he is really into the letters. And you do more the characters and figurative art. I have seen on several places in Limassol or in Ayia Napa, as well here in Larnaka at the down way of the Rise Hotel, there are spots where you collaborated with RATE and did artworks together. I met him in Limassol and he is as well an organizer guy. So after a while there came more and more other artists to Cyprus and with more people it is easier to make something like a mural festival.
Of course. When I did the Ayia Napa Streetart Festival it was the first time when we did the big murals here on the island. A lot of people were against it at the beginning, but when they saw the result, they were like wow! Because I brought really big guys to Cyprus. Like TASSO from Berlin. When the people think about graffiti, first they think of the letters, bombings, throw ups and tags. But when I showed them different ways of expressions, like also more figurative or more abstract, also with new school elements, the people loved it. They really loved the idea and it went super crazy. But then unfortunately Covid came. I would like to go back to the story of my life and about my development, because then I left Cyprus again and went to England.
What year was this? Around ten years ago?
No, more. I was around 23 years old. I was still young. So I went to England and I tried it for one and a half year. Maybe I did not meet the right people there. I was really struggling there. There I was working and did some airbrushing in a garage. And I hate airbrushing and the cars. It is not my area. And the guys who I was working with, they could not understand why I spend my own money to go outside at night and paint some shitty walls. They couldn’t understand. “Why are you doing that? You have a job you get paid for and you don’t really like to do that. But you spend your own money to go out and do it there?” So I was just fed up there and the weather is nicer here, so I am came back to Cyprus. The family here was super against it. They said “Listen. It is time to grow up. You still paint the walls, you go out at night, and blablabla. Look at your cousins, they are doctors or accountant, and they already bought apartments, they made a family. And you are already 25 and you are acting like a teenager. Time to grow up! Time to find a job!” And all that blablabla. So I found a shitty job and I was super depressed. Sometimes in life there come these times and I thought, ok, maybe I am just not that good. And then in this moment when I was super down, I was doing a shitty job and was going on the weekend and painting the stuff with the friends outside. Then one friend of mine called me, Efis Michaelidis, he told me “Listen, I found a gallery and they want to exhibit your stuff!” I told him “Bro, I am not a gallery guy. I just writing my name, you know, I am just doing my shit on the streets. This is not a gallery thing. I am not doing paintings that much”.
Not yet. At this time it was completely new. Meanwhile there are pop up galleries everywhere.
Yes, at that time it was new. So I told him “Ok bro, but who is going to buy it? I mean who gives a fuck about this shit?” But he said, no, no, and he pushed me. And he said “Hey man, I support you”. And he really supported me. Efis Michaelidis was one of my best friends and he still is till today. He is an art collector and he really helps the new generation. If somebody is in the beginning and if he sees someone with potential, he really supports. And not like one of “them” who tell you that they support you and they come and drink some wine, they say you are brilliant. But they never buy anything, they never do anything in the end. But you have some way to pay the bills and make your living. So when we made the first show, there came one Arab guy who bought the whole show.
He bought all your works? And you were like what the fuck?
Yes, what the fuck! He said he would like to have them for his offices. I could not believe it man! It was the first time when I started to have some money and could make my living. Then I made a few murals and could do stuff. It started to grow and people started to like it. After that I had a period of, you know, drinking and getting wild, parties wherever whenever. I passed from this period and then I realized some things. At that time we had kind of a warehouse in Limassol. There we were making exhibitions and parties. It was the first time that we did collaborations with cool galleries, like for example the Pure Evil Gallery from England or the Blue Cheap Gallery. We brought proper streetart pieces.
It started to get really international and a global network.
Yes, yes. We started to bring BANKSY, HERAKUT, SHEPARD FAIREY, so the really big names. We brought big artworks. And we showed to people what it is and how it can be and so on. Before maybe I had a vision that artists have to be a bit like JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT or like AMEDEO MODIGLIANI, like a bit rebel, like drinking, going with the groove and crazy and a bit loco. But then at some point when I entered the warehouse, there was a party there, and I entered the first time and I wasn’t drunk, I went inside and I saw it. Then I told to myself “Hey, this is not you man. I mean, this is definitely not me. I am just wasting my time here”. I told to the others “Guys, we are closing this place here. Enough is enough.” It is too boring and it doesn’t make sense anymore having party every night. I told them “Guys, this place went more to party then to creativity”. It was just drinking, sniffing, party and shit like this. So I said “Guys, I don’t like it anymore. It doesn’t make me happy”. Then they locked me up in the prison for some things I wasn’t paying. Like I had a penalty for drink driving, for graffiti and a lot of different bunch of shit.
You lived like a wild rebel.
Yes, so they put me in. Then in the prison, I was there for one and a half month, and there I realized things. And the people who took me out, they were the friends who I wasn’t so much in touch anymore. I was more with the party guys. But I said, fuck that shit man. I realized a lot of things in my life. Then also my father died. So I said, ok, I locked up that place, I went to rehab, also my girlfriend helped me a lot to open my eyes. She also told me “Hey man, you are not drawing anymore. You are just partying”.
Where is the creativity and artistic energy gone?
Exactly. So I quit drinking, it was maybe ten or eleven years ago. I also changed the city and I went to Ayia Napa. There I met the major of the city. He invited me and we talked. He is an amazing guy and he wanted to do a festival in Ayia Napa. So I offered him an idea of an open air gallery. Every artist can create a piece and we can also create a map to that. People can walk around and take a little piece of Ayia Napa with them on a photo. The murals are not there forever but they will attract a lot of people. It will open a big dialogue.
When was the first Streetart Festival in Ayia Napa? Was it in 2014 or was there one before?
No, there was one before. So two years before, the first one was in 2012. So when I met there guys like TASSO or like DOME, you know, big names and big guys. I really appreciate their work. And I was like “I want to be like these guys!” Like healthy, travelling the world, earning good money, doing what they love, meeting new people. That I like a lot more. Instead of party all the time and die with 30 years old. So I also started to travel and met new people. This really elevated a lot. Because I was for so long in Cyprus and it wasn’t a big thing there. Also there started a scene and the kids grew and it became a very nice thing. But at some point I started as well to travel and to do exhibitions. I did an exhibition in a museum and went around a lot. A healthy competition makes you better. A good one, healthy one and positive one. Because when you are the best in your village, this is nothing for me. I prefer to be the last one in a bigger city.
You need a challenge.
Exactly. So you can give your 100 percent. And also it is a dialogue and an international community. Especially with graffiti. It started around the 70s and I think it will never stop. Because there will always come a new generation who will have their need for expression. They just want to write their names and just to leave a marker, a symbol. This is a way of communication. I think we achieved all this on Cyprus by bringing in big names. That also helped the new generation. They could see the new stuff and the new techniques, it really helped to develop.
Of course. And it is actually a challenge for everybody. So if you see only the not good stuff around, they don’t even know what is possible and on which level they want to be. But if there are some king artists showing their work, they can say “Wow, that’s my hero, one day I want to paint like that artist”.
Exactly. And you could also see how the kids developed after this. You could see a lot of kids copying my style. It is kind of a compliment, but in the beginning I was more like “Come on man, why are you copying my style?” And then I was like ok, this is what they see. It is not bad.
Some way they have to start. If they would still copy it after several years, then it is definitely not good. But everybody has to begin somewhere and mostly you just start with copying other things. And then you develop your own style.
Yes, sure, this is what they see. And also for being for so many years on an isolated island, I stopped developing. When I was like 18, I remember I was painting on the Battle of the Year with KACAO 77 and with the TOUCH CREW. That was really cool and they were really big names of graffiti in those times. And I was like, wow! I remember seeing how NOSE was doing his characters. And I was like, wow, ok, they start from dark and then they build it up to the light. I saw it and I tried it myself. It was super easy. So I was painting in this manner for a decade. And when I was quit drinking I realized I didn’t develop. I am doing the same shit for a decade. I didn’t grow that much. And then came a friend of mine, PEST. He came to Cyprus and he was still at the high school. I taught him at when he was a kid like how to do the first things. He left to the art academy to Athens and we didn’t see each other for many years. And then when he came back from Athens, he said “Paps, come one man. You are still putting black for the shadow and white for light. There are also some other things”. They taught him the fine art way, like a proper European school. He learned about Rembrandt, Vermeer, you know these elements. And he then showed me how to think with the forms and what they taught him at the academy. I said “Alright, let’s try. Let’s try to work with the forms and not with the fades”. I took this and started to do it. And at some point I realized that I start to do the forms as letters of light and shadow. So like a puzzle of letters basically. Like a mixture of really oldschool 90s graffiti with the fine art. It was also with usage of different colors and to grow it bigger. I think TASSO was also a very big inspiration for me. When we met in Zurich, we were painting at the same jam. It was the Swizz Hip Hop Jam. And I met the guy and I said “Hey man, I am your fan!” When I was a kid, someone gave me the book of MA’CLAIM with photorealism art. So when I thought that I was super good and when I opened the book, then I realized that I am not man. These guys are rocking! It was a very big inspiration. CASE, TASSO, AKUT, the whole team. They create like something different. When I finally met TASSO I invited him to Ayia Napa and told him, that I am his fan. And I saw him painting live, that was a very good inspiration. It was fun. And the funniest part was in the end when he came to me and said “Paparazzi, what you did, after this I am your fan too” This was a very big compliment for me.
What I am trying to do now, so I did a big show in Dubai recently. It was a little bit south and it had a big exposure and was even on the Euronews TV channel. I gave an interview for Euronews and it went like super worldwide and so on. But it was right of the beginning of the first lock down. So it went down with the whole story. During the lock down there didn’t change a lot in my life. I was still going to the studio. Some people don’t like it to stay alone. But I don’t mind. Sometimes I even need to be alone. I was just locking up myself in the studio and kept going. I kept doing stuff.
About the festivals in Ayia Napa, so there was the first one in 2012, then the second one in 2014 and then another one?
No, at first not and then there came Covid. It stopped. But maybe we will do it again next year. We have to see how it is going till then. But we made a little jam here in Larnaka. We called it “Bubble”. But it was more smaller. In Ayia Napa we had the municipality next to us and they gave us a five star hotel for the artists to stay. They gave us the lifts, they paid the colors and gave money for the event. There the guys who were coming, they told me it was one of the best festivals they went. I mean, they were staying in a five star hotel, all the things got paid and I found them even those electric little motorbikes, so they could drive to the spots. And everybody said, it is so good organized. And it was because I wanted to create a mural paradise let’s say. A beautiful place with nice beaches. And also when they asked me something I already knew what they want. They need a lift or they need this or that. Because I am painting myself I know what they need. So I tried to give them everything so that they can create as best as possible. So this is the story.
The newest project was the painting of the whole Rise Streetart Hotel. This was the latest big project.
Yes, the Rise Hotel was one of the latest. To be honest, when we started it was a very grey business hotel without any character. It doesn’t even have a swimming pool. But it is right in the center. So we said, ok, let’s make something that is going to be as crazy as fuck. The owners are also super cool guys. So we started to paint the Rise and I was literally living in the hotel for two month. I wasn’t even going home. Sometimes my wife was coming to see me in the hotel. It was ridiculous, because they wanted to open and we didn’t have much time. And also because it is in the center, they didn’t let us close the road with the lifting machines. So we were working outside only at night. It was like painting from 12 o’clock till 5 o’clock. I also brought very good artist friends, like ALEX MARTINEZ, PEST or YETI. We left the stairs uncovered and whoever is visiting the hotel, they can leave their mark. This is to have a free spot in the hotel so it will have some continuation. The main guy who did it was ANDRÉ SCHOCHOV, he is from Moscow and he is a fine artist. I brought him really to the streets because I like his style. He has this arrows and a very specific way. So I told him he should try it. I brought many people to the streets. It is like when you pass them the “virus” and they start to like it. But this one, he doesn’t has the same mentality with the graffiti. When someone like 20 years ago was painting trains it is different. So he came from a different mentality. When we were kids and were painting the streets and busses and wherever whenever. Everything what was moving or not moving. We weren’t thinking of becoming famous. We weren’t also not thinking about making money out of it. So no chance. We were just having fun. Hanging around with friends and express yourself. And nowadays it started to be super fashionable. That is not bad, but still a lot of people are coming from art schools and they go to galleries. But then the galleries say “Listen, you go to Berlin, you go to Madrid, New York, Tokyo, whatever. You go for two years and you paint some stuff. We sponsor you. And then we can make an exhibition”. It doesn’t have the same energy and I don’t think they are one of us.
A lot of freedom gets lost that way.
Exactly. It is a loss of freedom and as well I think a loss of meaning. It is not a way to advertise yourself, it is a way of communication. This is how I see it. People are saying “Oh, you do it because of this and that”. No, it is not an advertising. It is a dialogue. That is different. This is the story man.
It is a very interesting story, can you tell this again, what you said before when I arrived. You told me about your daughter. One day at school everybody had to tell in class what the parents are doing. Like my father is a lawyer or a doctor. And what did your daughter say?
Yes, yes. They were asking the kids what their parents are doing. The one said lawyer, the other accountant or whatever. And then my daughter, the teacher actually told me this, but she went there very proud and said “You know what my Dad is doing? My Dad is a Graffiti Gypsy King!” The teacher started laughing and she was very proud. I think I am trying to pass it to my daughter, but I will never force her. She is coming to the studio, actually she grew up in the studio. This is a normal surrounding for her. She is knows about the paint and about other artists and crazy friends. She was in her Mom’s belly and we were doing Woodpaste on the Pompidou Museum in Paris. She was already part of it since she was in her Mommy’s belly.
What new projects are going to come next? Is there anything in planning? Maybe a new streetart festival?
I am really trying to expand with the space here. I took the place next to my studio. But I want to keep my studio as my studio and no people coming here trying to buy something or whatever. Here I want to have a place where I can just do my stuff. And the place next door I try to open with friends kind of an urban spot. Where everybody can come and hang around. As a residency and with different exhibitions from different artists and friends.
So the studio here will be the working place where you can be creative and the place next door will be a spot for socializing.
Yes, exactly. I think it is very important. It’s good. I appreciate people and I love being with people, but sometimes you really need to be alone and to think and to experiment. I don’t like it then with people around and I really don’t like it when people refuse to understand. Like they are all the time coming and “Hey, Paparazzi, how are you, what are you doing”. Fuck off man! I appreciate people, but sometimes you need to be alone. You need your corner to create. It is hard for me to focus and usually when I paint I put on my headphones and listen to music. I also like to listen to audio books. Because I am dyslectic I was missing this part of my life. I cannot read books, because I cannot concentrate so long on reading. You know it is hard for me to read such long texts. But listening to audio books it is alright. While I travelled, or sometimes as well when I get bored or I get tired, then sometime times I get inspiration from my youth and from the teenager times. I put on my Wu Tang and my M.O.P., the oldschool shit. And that reminds me when we were kids and I would do anything for spray cans. Also because I can from a poor family I didn’t have cans when I was a kid. And now you see here nearly the whole palette of Montana Gold and Black here in my studio. Come on man! You do it and enjoy your life.
Yes, you have more paint here than in a can store. As well you have here interesting other artworks. You started experimenting on sculptures and you painted old stone sculptures. As well you painted old spray cans and made portraits on it. And the latest work of art is Michael Jordan on a basketball backboard with basket. I haven’t seen something like that yet, it is really cool!
I will put it outside. If someone is passing buy and wants to buy it, I will say that it is not for sale. I will put it outside my studio and we can play basketball in our neighborhood with friends. If someone will steal it, I know where you live and I will come and break your legs. People cannot understand why I would put it outside. And this is a new concept which I want to do. People are trying to bring the streets to the gallery. Ok, I did it. On all my exhibitions I am doing also some walls inside.
But now you bring the gallery to the streets.
Yes, I am trying to do the opposite. I have a few ideas and I think this is the one. You know, you bring the gallery to the street. You bring the goodies and show them under bridge what is going on. There are plenty of idiots on the streets, let’s be honest. But I really believe on the streets it is not just the hate. There is also love and respect. There are many other things. There is a lot of friendship.
One of the most important things in crews is to support each other.
Yes, exactly. And you make a piece, you could sell it for 5k and you just put it on the streets. Ok, it could be damaged, but that’s part of the game. So many pieces get destroyed over the years.
It is as well about teaching the younger generation. We have now all this social media where you get forced to becoming famous, to make money and everything like that. They get very strongly forced in this capitalistic way of thinking. And with such actions like you do, you can show that there are other values than money. And there are other values which are much more important than money.
Yes, of course. Other values and also another thing what I like when I am on the street. I have been travelling now to so many countries. When you do something on the street and someone is passing, but somebody like really working class. Some of them have never been to any museum, they never go to galleries or things like that. And then they just stop there and are watching with open mouth what you are doing. Or they are just smiling. Even the one who stops and starts yelling at you, still it is a reaction. It means that person didn’t just pass like that. It impressed them, it made something and it caused some reaction. And anywhere where I went, people stopped and for example offered me a coffee or asked if I want to eat something. They would by me something. It is like a musician playing on the street and then there is this smile of the people passing by. This is an energy and a dialogue and this is very important. In Athens it happened that I took a taxi and the guy started talking to me. Like all the taxi drivers like to talk. And he asked me what I am doing. So I told him that I do graffiti and streetart and stuff like this. Then he said “Oh yeah, I also used to do graffiti man! What is your tag name?” So I said Paparazzi. And he was going “Are you fucking joking me? Wow bro! I am your fan! I follow your shit” And when he stopped the taxi and I asked how much the price is, normally it would have been around 50 Euro. But he said “For you nothing bro. This is on my own and I gave you a lift”. I said “Listen man, I appreciate it, but take the 50 Euro. I think you need them more than me”. But he was always like no, no, he wouldn’t take it, no chance.
I also remember another story when I was in Yekaterinburg in Russia. It was super freezing. I mean it was summer, but for me it was super freezing. For them, they don’t give a fuck. I was painting and a guy was passing by. He had golden teeth and looked super criminal. The stars and all blue, full of tattoos, the hands and just everything. The blue guy, you know, the Gobniki, the crazy fucker man. And he asked “You did that?” Because I was born in Georgia I speak Russian fluently. I speak around six languages quite good by the way. So I could answer him in Russian, that I am the artist. He said then “Put up your bag man, because I was planning to steal it. But I saw you are doing good stuff. So I have respect and I don’t want to steal from you. Pick the bag up and put it in your lift”. I mean this is respect. The guy didn’t steal it and he was a proper fucking thief. Or it can also happen that there is just somebody passing by and brings you something. Or says “Thank you. You make my city beautiful”. In a super grey background when you are smiling they can take it wrong. They don’t know why you are smiling and this kind of shit. And then someone just comes by and says thank you. Or just brings you something and says “This is a present for you”. This kind of stuff happened a lot. Also for example a ninety years old granny in Athens. She came to me and told me “I am watching you for three days from the balcony and you are doing amazing stuff! I brought you this pasta here”. You understand, this kind of stuff. This is really beautiful. And you cannot buy the respect. These are the values which the money-money people cannot understand. They ask me, do you know this and that guy, like for example Alex Monopoly or whatever. So a fucking dick, he is a fucking Toy. And they say “But he sells a lot and he is with the celebrities and blabla”. So I tell them “Listen, if you put this guy in some fucking area in São Paolo or just in some real city on the streets. He will not survive. And I don’t think they will respect him on the streets.
Because maybe he is also not respecting the street either.
Yes, because he is a rich guy and he started with connections. And he is selling to rich guys who have no fucking clue. And it is the biggest community ever in art. But if I make a few phone calls and I post something on my social medias, I write to a few people, then I will just find somebody who gives me a few cans, a wall and a plate a food. Because I am real. You cannot buy this shit.
He sold his soul and you kept on being true to yourself.
Of course man. And when you sleep, you fall asleep with a smile. I mean ok, I don’t say that money is bad. Money is good and you need it. You need to pay your rent and your stuff. But it is not the most important. When you obey to money then you are losing the meaning. You have a million, then you want ten millions. You have ten millions, now you need one billion. You have the one billion, then again you want three billions. It is never enough. Human beings are pigs man. If the money is what makes you happy, those are just numbers. And as soon that you have achieved one number, it doesn’t make you happy anymore. And what makes us happy as human beings? When you see the caves of the first human beings, there are paintings. It is not a biological need like to shit or eat and to survive. The creativity is something to leave your mark. To pass the knowledge to the new generation. To pass the language, the poems and how to make music. This is what makes us human. It is not a big difference to animals to be honest. We dominate the planet and we fuck it up. On social media you can see some really cool work and it has around 100 likes and then you some fucking or some chick trying to make some shitty stuff and showing her ass, and this is having 150.000 likes. Then you think, come on, this girl is not even an artist. Let’s be honest guys. And then you understand that people have no fucking clue about art today. For me personal, I open a dialogue, I do stuff for the street, ok. But to be honest I do it for around ten friends, maximum 15. The ones who really understand what is going on. I do it for me first of all and then I do it for them. Fuck all the rest, because they have no fucking clue anyway. This is the story. And this is what keeps my story alive. I will tell it to you in a different way. If some comes to me and tells me, they give me 20 billion Euro and I should never do art in my life again. I would say “Put the money in your ass”. I would not stop. Sometimes when we go on holiday with my wife I have to promise that I will not paint. But as soon we arrive I check online where is the next place to find spray cans. And my wife gets angry “You promised me not to paint!” But I say “Come on, I didn’t paint for already three days. I cannot hang around the fucking swimming pool. Fuck that shit, I need to leave my mark somewhere.” And well, she got used to it. With the social media I see that the value of the younger people has changed so much. For example when I was a kid and someone would ask me if I am Paparazzi, I would say no. Because maybe I painted his house or his car or whatever. So it was a very close community and everybody knew everybody in the city. You had to be careful. And nowadays it started to becoming so much posing. Everybody is showing, here I am mixing the colors, there I am doing this and here I am doing that. It is not bad, but for me it is very difficult. I am very bad at this. It is good to share your work and so on, but I think people are overdoing it really big time.
If you wouldn’t be here on Cyprus and the other artists in your age, meanwhile you became role models for the younger ones. And if you wouldn’t have been there, they would have to start now with zero. So now you can teach them and show them which direction is good and what is not good. And you can also tell them about respect, honesty and loyalty.
I am trying, but you know it is very hard. The people who are real artists, there are some kind of unwritten rules, and they follow them. It is about having honor and there are just some things which I wouldn’t do. For example I wouldn’t do a portrait of Hitler or Putin for any money. I would refuse to do that and say fuck it. I am an idealist. And I would say I am fucking super romantic. Sometimes maybe beliefs are super toppy, but I think there it needs more people who are responsible. Because people are just ignorant. And when I say “Guys, SOS, we need to do something! We need to do it now! Now is the story, because tomorrow it is going to be too late for our kids”. And people just think it is overrating and the other wannabe role models show online how they are having a daughter, who is posing in a gold digger and telling it is cool there. Or somebody on Mykonos in St. Tropez and all this show. But the person is just posing and doing nothing. Just an empty person, a parasite. When the fucking half of the planet is hungry and there they are throwing food away just for taking photos and shit like that. I don’t know, but there are just different values. I won’t pass this. Maybe sometimes I am super romantic and oldschool, but I want to pass that to my daughter.
Not only to your daughter, as well to the other new graffiti generation.
Of course. I also want to teach them. And some of the kids they have grown their own art stuff. I have seen their development. Some of them I see like my own kids. And I feel proud when they do good stuff. Yeah man, that’s my kid. I like it. Because I never studied art at university and stuff like this. So for me all my mistakes and all my experiments, this were my best teachers. My study was on the street and in the exchange between us. I remember when we were kids and we had this little magazine. The Stylefile. We were passing it from one to another and copying some letters. We were learning and checking, like wow, this guy is doing blocks in this way. We asked each other “Did you see how he made this stencil cap?” and stuff like this. It was like passing the knowledge from neighborhood to neighborhood and from generation to generation. This is cool man. It is good to share your experience. And also the elements around us. We were kids of immigrants and lived in a poor neighborhood, so we started to experiment with the rollies and with sticking stuff. We didn’t have so much money to buy cans. So this created different styles as well. You need to be creative to do stuff then. For example a friend of mine he stole from an abandoned factory 200 liters of kind of emulsion wall paint and he started to write with the rolly on the big buildings some messages to a girl he was in love. Like “I miss your smell” or “I want to kiss you”. It was so romantic and on a big scale.
He took what he could find.
Yes, exactly. And we were doing that very often. The woodpaste which I am doing now, I stole it from an abandoned factory. It is also recycling paper and I use it in a good purpose. I draw on it, I cut it and I stick it somewhere when it suits to the surrounding.
Are you planning new exhibitions?
I am planning two shows, one in Amsterdam and one in Warsaw in Poland. To be honest I am at some point in my life with what I was doing for the last few years, I kind of got bored a little bit. Even this big faces I was doing on canvases with the old frames. They were super colorful. They are selling really good, but they are not making me so happy anymore. So I am experimenting and trying to do something new. You always try to convince yourself that you are good at drawing and at doing stuff. But now is the time when I don’t want to draw a figure, maybe I want to paint a story. And I want to express my emotions more. Maybe more abstract. You come to some point when you say, ok, I want to change something. Then you experiment, you do a few new things, like ten or twenty pieces which are developing, and also you don’t know where you are going. You are experimenting. And then boom, there comes something new and then you follow this. I think I am at this stage now.
It will stay very interesting, we keep on following your art and your great project on your channels Thank you for the cool interview!
Yes, thank you too. Was great man. Babylon! Keep it real! Haha!
Photo Credits: PAPARAZZI & Vagabundler Archive
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