Interview with Chuck Sperry, November 2022, Paris

Questions by Vladimir Palibrk

Chuck Sperry lives in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, where he’s made his particular style of rock poster designs for over 20 years. He operates Hangar 18, a silkscreen print studio, located in Oakland.

Sperry works in San Francisco, but exhibits internationally from Athens to Argentina, Bristol to Belgrade (visited Belgrade at the invitation of The Ministry of Culture of Serbia). By conducting workshops and lectures all over the planet, Sperry’s tutelage has inspired a new generation of rock poster and silkscreen artists worldwide.

“Chuck has propelled the American rock poster genre to a new level of fine art status with his print work.” – Juxtapoz

His artwork has been exhibited at leading art institutions including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Fort Wayne Museum of Art; his prints have been archived in the collections of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, The Oakland Museum of California, The Fort Wayne Museum of Art, San Francisco Public Library (Main Branch), the United States Library of Congress, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

One can find his art featured in many books, most notably Color x Color: The Sperry Archive 1980-2020, High Volume: The Art of Chuck Sperry,  Helikon: The Muses of Chuck Sperry, Chthoneon: The Art of Chuck Sperry, Idyllion: The Art of Chuck Sperry, The Art of Modern Rock,  Peace Signs: The Anti-War Movement Illustrated, and Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo.

Chuck Sperry has honed the craft of designing and hand screen printing for over 20 years to become recognized throughout the world as one of the foremost rock poster artists and printmakers. Elevating the craft to fine art, Sperry creates socio-political artwork beyond rock. He adheres to the ideal that beauty strengthens his message.

This interview was recorded at the occasion of the opening of his exhibition in Paris in November 2022 – we kindly send big thanks to our friend Shpira for editing and post-production of the audio file that seemed terribly low quality due to fact that we moved over the street during the interview, and some other unexpected elements coming into the scene like garbage truck etc..the boosted audio file and transcript are below…enjoy!


VP: Okay so welcome to another small episode of Street Art Residencies podcast, believe it or not we are now in the middle of Paris, in 10th district, and we just stumbled upon the exhibition of our old friend Chuck Sperry. It’s another exhibition of silkscreen prints. First time we met it was maybe twelve years ago in Pancevo, Serbia. What happened in the meantime Chuck? I heard that you moved to France.

CS: Hahah, hello everyone, I’m Chuck , yeah I moved to France in 2019. I moved just in time for the pandemic, which was a really good timing. Now I’m living half the time in San Francisco, half the time in France. At this point my print shop is in Oakland, California, so I spend my work time in California. More and more I’m starting to work in France. I make screen prints, rock posters and art prints.

VP: How was this change for you, changing the country, at the same time the reality changed totally?

CS: EVERYTHING changed, it wasn’t just pandemic. It’s like, pandemic, then political change, technological change, now we have this silly war, so a lot changed. We come back up out of the pandemic, and not only has everything changed, also I have one foot in France. I’m adjusting to French culture. It’s been like a mellow move. I find the French culture really attractive and friendly. There’s so much to learn, it’s just been, I don’t know, pretty cool!

VP: It’s a bit like being born again I guess, tuning into new realities.

CS: Yeah, learning how to walk again, haha.

VP: Can you tell us, did anything change in your art with this change of context? How do you see your work now?

CS: You know, it’s really interesting. In January 2021 I got contacted by a group of women from Artists 4 ERA who where trying to pass the equal rights amendment into the constitution of USA, and I was completely all in. I was like OMG that’s great! They said, I was one of the first few people they asked. Do I know anyone else? 

It’s not like I write to Shepard Fairey every day, or all the time. But his name came to my mind immediately, and I had his e-mail. So I wrote and said “hey Shepard, a group called Artists 4 ERA is working with Vote Equality and they are fighting for equality, and want to try to get the ERA passed into the constitution, are you interested, should I hook you up?” Shepard wrote me back like three minutes later and he was like ‘dude, yeah!’ Hahah, then I hit up Tara McPherson who is a really great graphic artist and painter. Also I hit up Tracie Ching. All four of us joined a group of 28 artists and had a whole year of activist art shows involved with getting the Equal Rights Amendment passed. 

That was completely growing out of BLM (Black Lives Matter), MeToo, and the social changes that happened in the last three to four years. So, yes I feel engaged in that.

VP: It’s really great to see this visual language and the power of print posters that you do are now united with this activist energy and contributing to it. Not to mention, the universal power of these images to cross the language barriers also. How do you see the scene in France, since you’re here? Have you had any contacts, interesting discoveries?

CS: Somehow Paris has became the center of the art world again. You can see it year by year growing stronger. I think it’s because, honestly I think it’s because, the graffiti and urban art scene reinvigorated Paris and made it a 21st Century city. That’s what I see as changing in France. That’s my interesting discovery.

VP: Yeah somehow it’s the center of the world in many ways… /laughs

CS: I mean also Serbia, San Francisco..

VP: Yes i guess all the countries and cities starting with S../laughter/

CS: hahah, no we are just at that page of the

VP: It’s interesting that your work here is also falling in such a niche, let’s say, or is seen as urban art, which can connect it to the general topic of our podcast. We are usually taking interviews with street artists. How do you see this change in perception? How does it work for you?

CS: I think the reason that I happen to fall into the urban art category, is that I’m doing posters for concerts and for events, so these posters are sort of part of the street scene. They were always been used for actual street — I would say advertisement — but they are not really advertisement, they are actually communication. Because I’m working in that field, it is part of urban environment, it’s on the walls. I’m working with a Cuban artist Jorge Jorge that I met in France — speaking of cosmopolitan stuff — and he is working with collage. What he is doing is ripping pubs down and re-utilizing all those kind of images that he gets from posters from advertisers, and turning them into collages. So, he took my pieces from the show and ripped them apart and put them back together in his own conception. Our joke is that we are improving Cubo-American relations /laughter/

VP: ..through the art and collages, hahah..

CS: Yeah!

VP: Maybe politicians should also have some kind of graphic art jams in order to understand each others better.

CS: hahah yes, approved!

VP: Can you tell us a little bit about this exhibition now for our listeners? Can you explain where is it happening, the name of the gallery, the name of the expo, concept behind it, how long did you work on these artworks..?

CS: The show is called Idyllion, and it’s the name of the book that I am releasing. It’s about a hundred and thirty pages, my imagery paired with poetry and musical lyrics, and all of the pieces were intended to emphasize the…

…pardon me we got a garbage truck entering the scene…

VP: …unexpectedly entering the interview…

CS: …because here we are in the street. Okay, he’s gonna go…

VP: Maybe I could help them to put this stuff inside so it goes faster. Monsieur, monsieur! It’s like a radio drama, not only an interview all this…isn’t it?

CS: It’s like they’re getting rid of the bodies. 

VP: Yes, that’s the best way to do it /laughs/

CS: Okay, I will start that over. 

So, the show is called Idyllion, and it’s the name of the book that I am coming out with, which is a hundred and thirty pages pairing the work from the last year with poetry that inspired the pieces, or lyrics of songs. The show is at L’Oeil Ouvert, which is a gallery in 10th arrondisement, at 1 rue Lucien Sampaix. I’ve worked with this gallery for like 10 years, and with this owner for about four. 

The work being shown represents a year of work that I put together about this time last year, starting with the designs and then moving into the printing phase. I did ten screen printed wood panels, each seven colors, and in editions of thirty copies. They’re pretty rare, hard to get, and there’s ten designs in total. I’m able to reach lot of people this way. 

The heart of it is kind of a meditation on the power of femininity and ritual energy. I get into mythological themes. I’m really trying to reach images that appeal to collective unconscious. So that’s kind of the vibe on that.

VP: Back to the roots.

CS: Yeah, exactly, back to the roots. Overlayed over that whole thing was this Equal Rights Amendment drive that I took part in. That’s the project!

VP: Thanks a lot. I have just few more short questions, maybe less informative about situation now, more about yourself. If some young artist is listening to this at the moment, what would you recommend to her/him in terms of strategies, or at least what to read, listen, watch? Anything interesting?

CS: Whoa, you know, what I would recommend is just to kind of work work work and don’t be afraid to get your art in front of people. You can pick up inexpensive tools and paint — spray can, screen printing materials — and it doesn’t take a lot of money. It’s pretty much open to everyone, and just go for it. 

You know, I always got involved in art groups, or associated with other artists, and just found people that were friendly enough to teach me this or the other. One of the things that I did is, I made zines, you know. I started using just regular drawing pens, making images that I wanted, printing those out, making like little zine and getting that out. I just started leaving those around the neighborhood, and you start to get response once you get your art in front of people. And then that’s a real kick in the butt to start doing more and more. And so then you know, you might get the confidence to paint on the street, make your own images for people who are living with your work. That would be my advice, just get out there and do it.

VP: Thanks a lot, so, not being afraid to communicate with wider audience is essential for you.

CS: Yes. Totally.

VP: Thank you. Maybe just for the end, is there any movie you would recommend watching?

CS: Aw, dude! You know I just saw Roma, which came out a couple of years ago. It’s about the student revolt in Mexico City that was suppressed by some really bizarre secret operation. Woven through this movie is the story of modern Mexico, and it’s politics today. It’s just really something you got to see.

VP: Thanks, one last question: your favorite music at the moment?

CS: Oh shit! It’s funny, I’m listening to a lot of reggae right now, like Desmond Dekker, Junior Murvin — that kind of stuff — really deep, kind of groovy stuff.

VP: For you, reggae is a happy or sad music?

CS: I don’t know, for me it’s happy. It’s inspirational. It really makes me stop and think about where the world is now. It’s almost prophetic, you know.

VP: That’s interesting. Once I was painting walls in the house, you know, this regular paint job you do every five years. At first, it was very hard, but then when I played reggae, it became so easy. I realized, man, reggae is the working class music. It makes work go more easy, apart from other things.

CS: Yeah that’s it! And it’s inspiring too. It makes you think that your place in the world is more important, because you’re gonna win, you know, and that’s really the message I get from it.

VP : Thank you, thanks for everything ☺

photo above: Jorge Jorge, Chuck Sperry and the happy podcast journalist

More art, news and posters by Chuck Sperry at the following links:


Interview with Mihailo Stanisavac, questions by Vladimir Palibrk, Paris 2022

Mihailo Stanisavac is an artist from Belgrade, living and working in Paris since many years. His primary education and activities are focused on graphic art and printing, though in this interview we will discover that he is also productive in fields of drawing, photography and mural art. Conversation that is following below was recorded during his work on a wall situated in the legendary, street-art-friendly thirteenth arrondisement of Paris. We visited him in various stages of this work – at the very beginning, and after the painting was finished. This was a great opportunity for us to approach the mural painting practice (and public art in general) from the perspective and mindset of a classically educated, graphic print focused artist. The success of his final product is evident also in the fact that this mural very soon appeared as one of the key locations in the latest production of famous French director Alex Lutz, which is at the moment in post-production phase. Part of the passage was painted by Mihailo’s colleague from Belgrade Matija Blagojevic, designer with long history of activity on the graffiti scene. Matija had to leave fast back to Belgrade so we did not manage to catch him and record his comments and thoughts, but we of course present here his work too. Thank you for your attention! /audio interview is in Serbian, below you can find written translation to English/

VP: Good afternoon, here we are in another episode of our little research podcast project Street Art Residencies. We are in the thirteenth arrondisement district of Paris, together with Mihailo Stanisavac, artist from Belgrade. Hello Mihailo!

MS: Hello!

VP: Can you briefly explain us what is happening here, why are we here?

MS: Well yes, I mean, we happen to be in the middle of implementation of one project in domain of street art as people like to say, though I prefer to call it painting on the wall. The spot is situated between the metro stations Chevaleret and Nationale, this area is famous by numerous murals and big walls painted by famous artists…this location where we are now is one passage between buildings, not really in the open street but more covered sort of, which is even better as I feel as if I am in an atelier…I never had such a big atelier in my life so far /laughs/. What is interesting about this project is that it was implemented with the support of the 13th district municipality administration. They asked if this could be a participative project, with participation of locals who live here, which of course was possible and very welcome. So I had many assistants, which brought in another element into the process that was heading from order to the chaos, from chaos to the order and so on..

VP: So actually you had an open atelier here for few weeks and you were painting…

MS: Yes that’s how it was, exactly.

VP: You were working and people were approaching you and..

MS: Yes that’s how I felt it, since this is a passage, people are passing, commeting all the time and looking at the process, and on the wall there were sketches of these murals and one announcement inviting people to join if they want to participate  and to help…

VP: Which profiles of people have gone through the process so far, which age groups and professional backgrounds?  

MS: They were either kids or old, retired people.

VP: That’s an interesting topic in general to discuss, specifics of work process in the public space..

MS: Yes. This is my first time, not the first time that I am exposed in public while working on something, but this type of public work I haven’t experienced so far…and all that’s a good experience and I must admit that I like it a lot. It’s true though that it can be a bit tiring..i did dedicate time for all this so that’s part of the planning.

VP : How long did it take in total, the implementation of the project ?

MS: Until this moment, around ten days has passed, and I will keep working till the end of next week. So it will be around fifteen days in total, lets say two weeks, as we skipped some days too and so on… My buddy Matija Blagojevic is working with me, he does not live here in Paris so he had to finish his work fast as he had to go back to Belgrade. Me, on the other hand, I planned two weeks for this.

VP: How do you feel, will you be making more murals after this?

 MS: Of course, that’s the only thing I am thinking about right now,to be honest..that’s all I am interested in right now, as it’s been a long time since I had the opportunity to work on such a big format too, I would like to explore that more. And I must add one more thing, due to certain circumstances of life I did a lot of painting jobs here in Paris as one has to make a living out of something, so I got already a hand for it, so to say. It’s not a same thing of course, I don’t want to call it art, but there is something in common, that action of covering big surfaces with color has became something quite known and close to me, as well as some technology things with materials and so on…and opening the space in general, that’s interesting to me, the space itself and transformation of space in ideological, architectonic, visual or any other sense…

VP: Okay, this is the second part of the conversation with Mihailo, the first part we recorded few weeks ago or more, maybe even a month…can you tell us a bit about the other disciplines you are active in? Here we meet you as someone who is painting the mural, but what else do you do exactly in life?

MS: Well, most of all so far I was active in printing graphic art in fact, I can say that’s what I consider my main focus. Though, next to the graphic there is always the drawing too, so that’s hard to separate from each other, for me. Graphics and drawing. When I say graphics, I mean classical methods of print, as graphics can be considered as quite wide term. Can be also digital graphic art, there are many ways to do it, me for example I use metal a lot, I make matrix and stencils, after I print that, as one matrix can be multiplied in many different ways..

VP: I know you’re also a bit of a street photographer…

MS: Well yes, though that’s really more of a hobby I would say…yes, I did street photography for some time, simply as you’re all the time in movement, you spend so much time in public transport so you have to make some breaks…so I travel one part of the journey, then I go out a bit and walk, and during this walk I try to spend time constructively so I take the camera and make photos. Meeting with photography is the meeting with the light, in fact.

VP: Famous Parisian light played  part in that, I’d say..

MS: Well you know that Parisian light is very good for photography. It’s cloudy quite often, which gives some kind of diffused light, and often when it’s humid that gives some reflections too..

VP: We discussed not so long ago how various fields of activity can influence each other..

MS: Yes, that’s also the spirit of the époque too, you can do graphic in various ways but it’s sort of a complicated discipline that usually requires some special space for it, though with the photography nowadays it’s enough to carry the camera with you and that’s it.

VP: Which are the key elements and traits that are important for the success of an artist, in your opinion?

MS: Well that’s sort of a complicated question, I thought a lot about it since I’m observing a lot these artists who have lots of success…in general, you shall be in possession of many items that are all the same. That’s what you can see recently at the exhibitions, one and the same thing many times. And it should look like some kind of ready-made, or something similar that does not require too much work invested in it, or it’s even better if you can pay someone to do it for you, so then when you have many times that one same thing, you can easily occupy some big space, which gives you possibility that your work seems like being monumental. Then, second thing that’s quite present when successful artists are in question are so called statements. That suggests that nothing else is needed to be drawn nor painted, it’s enough to write something and hang it on the wall and that’s very useful for gaining some success, especially if it’s politically engaged, so to say. Anything that has no connection with politics is very hard to gain success, as well the projects where connection with politics is less visible, and is not so direct..

VP: What do you think, how important is the pedagogical work, for development of an artist?

MS: Pedagogical, in which sense?

VP: I mean artist in the role of a mentor or pedagogue…

MS: I think that’s something very important. I believe, in fact, that everything is an exchange,your ability to be a good pedagogue is depending on your ability to receive fromothers, to be receptive towards the same ones that you are in position to teach. It has to be a constant exchange, otherwise it’s a dead end, I would say.

VP: Okay, thank you…tell us something about Paris?

MS: What can I say about Paris, I don’t know what to say…maybe I can tell you the things I told to people in Belgrade who asked me about it, since I visited that city not so long ago after many years…one does not know even how to answer that queston, so I said to one friend well it’s great, I like it, it’s super. He got a bit surprised, and said “hm listen I heard it’s a hard place for living, I don’t know…” Then I said well yes, that’s true, Paris is one very heavy city that runs over you just like that, but it also has it’s ways to give you back that energy afterwards. When I just remember all kinds of things that happened to me here, I surprise myself each time. How many flats and living spaces I changed since I’m here, when I see all the people I met here at one place I also get surprised, when I also remember how many people from Belgrade I met in Paris, which could not happen over there because of this or that reason..

VP: Thank you for this sincere answer…whose work you appreciate, what inspires you from the cultural legacy of the world?

MS: In my case that changes quite often. For example, it’s been ages since I did something similar to these murals, and now this experience is reconnecting me with painting practices. While searching for solutions, I payed more attention to the process, I started rewinding the films in my head, some exhibitions that I saw before, and am still wondering how to connect all that in a whole. For example I saw an exhibition of Roy Liechtenstein, and all of a sudden I had impression that some part of my painting looks too much like his work, which became annoying to me… Then I said to myself hm maybe I can put something of Bacon in there…you have mentioned photography a moment ago, in the last period I got interested in it a lot, I didn’t use to know too much about it, that’s sort of a new field for me, so lately I follow that a lot. There was one exhibition recently, maybe it’s still on – Vivien Meier at Musee de Luxembourg, her retrospective exhibition. She was completely anonymous, and then when she died they found enormous amounts of her negatives, she mainly photographed the streets…while in her professional life she was a maid or something like that…

VP: I have three more short questions – is there any highlight or anecdote from this painting action that you can share with us?

MS: Hm, I am trying to remember something specific…it’s a highlight for me non stop, so many people passing by all the time, asking questions and getting interested about the work, so you have to speak to them, they thank you, they have also suggestions and criticisms, that happens too… That’s also quite disturbing, because when you are at the street you are exposed all the time, that can slow you down but definitely it gives completely another dimension to your work…that’s maybe exactly what can be identified as main characteristic of so called street art, that exposure of the author…let’s say that’s the main highlight for me.

VP: Okay so all in all this is an interesting new experience for you, all this…can you please briefly represent your colleague who painted the other part of this hallway?

MS: Sure, that’s Matija Blagojevic, my buddy…he is a designer. He is a graphic designer, also active in fields of drawing and graphic prints. Maybe I recognized in his work some common points with my work, though there are also many points where we are completely different from each other, so I find it very interesting because of that. We are part of different generations, with totally different approach…still, it seems to me that it goes well together, what do you think?

VP: it fits quite well together I would say, maybe also because it’s within the same architectural frame, which gave the continuity to your styles on some level..

MS: That’s right, the space itself with the arcades, the architecture of the place itself, this wall with three holes was already attractive to me and that’s why I proposed to paint exactly here – as it looked like a graphic matrix. Graphics and architecture have many common points. I just read somewhere, it was Rudolph Arnheim I think, “Dynamic of form in architecture”, unfortunately I forgot the names of all the chapters, but each chapter is a world for itself in that book. So one of the chapters was entitled “Solid bodies and the cavities”- that’s exactly like these two walls, solid body and the cavity, and we have it also in the printing process and in the stencils, there is always this cavity that lets the paint go through, some kind of positive and some kind of negative space…

VP: I find it quite intriguing here that thanks to these holes, visitor has ability to see both walls in the same time, in fact.

MS: That’s right, that was a big challenge for me, to create a solution that suggests the space, geometrically fits into it, while at the same time communicating with the street.

VP: Thank you, for the end – you can choose a question you want to answer, between these two: First one is to tell us one older dream, from few years ago, that you still remember. Second one – which is your favourite dish?

MS: My favorite dish?

Well that one is much easier to answer. I think I have even dreamed of that dish once…it’s a dish that needs to be rolled, and rolled /laughs/ quite a rolled dish indeed…yes I can tell you one dream in fact, the dish itself is sarma…and the dream, it was quite interesting. You know that feeling when you are in train and everything moves, actually the train is moving and you have illusion that world moves around you…so I dreamt as if I have to catch some train, but there was some wall in front of it that I had to jump over, I was in extreme hurry to catch the train but as I didn’t manage to overcome the obstacles and walls the train has already started moving – but it turned out actually that the space around it, with me in that space, are moving, while the train stayed still somewhere there behind…so that’s the dream I often remember.


In November 2022 we had great opportunity to organize sort of art brut mural painting workshop with kids from Mara Mandic special education school. Action was part of annual self-propelled festival coordinated by NKSS independent cultural scene network in Serbia. Here comes short aftermovie, shot by Natalija Stojanovic and Darko Pavlovic, with great soundtrack by Jovan Shpira Obradovic. Workshop was conducted by Dzaizku – do not forget to turn on the subtitles, drama is translated to French and English..enjoy! Big thanks goes to the collective of professors and professionals at the Mara Mandic, who were super supportive and helpful during the process! Photos by Natalija Stojanovic @tona_tozla


Interview with Ami Imaginaire, France. June 2022

Among many artists who target big walls and huge projects, Ami Imaginaire is someone who approaches the street art work through small details and treats it as a micro-universe…we had opportunity to collaborate at the crossover between street art and textile handcrafts some years ago – visiting various places in Serbia and collaborating with many multidisciplinary teams and other street artists – that helped us test our work in different fields apart from classical street art/wall painting practices, to meet traditional crafts associations, youth collectives, hand weavers, etc. Few years later, we reached out to try to sum up these experiences and have another insight into the personal sensibility of this nice person – thank you Ami for taking time to answer our set of questions 🙂

VP: Can you explain us, how did you get your name, Ami Imaginaire? What it means to you personally?

AI: Ami imaginaire is French for imaginary friend. I have a fondness for this concept, I think it is wonderful that children have this somehow instinctive reflex to invent themselves a friend when they feel lonely or threatened. When I began street art a few years ago, I thought about how challenging the time was (and still is) economically, politically, socially, and how depressed people seem to be. I decided to bring something positive, joyful and friendly for them to see, and to become, in some ways, an imaginary friend myself.

VP: What makes people invent imaginary friends, do you have an explanation or a guess?

AI: I guess they come from loneliness or maybe in an attempt to feel less powerless in life struggles. I thought a lot about the fact that inventing an imaginary friend is considered weird or even a mental illness. Of course it can be in some cases. But isn’t it also a proof of self-love? I mean obviously an imaginary friend is invented by you, it’s your creation, he/she/it IS actually you. And he/she/it is kind, helpful, funny – all those qualities YOU are. So what if we thought of it as a kindness people want to show to themselves? That doesn’t seem so insane anymore, right?

VP: We met some years ago in Belgrade and Novi Sad when you took part in our residency program. How did the visit to Serbia affect the way you approach your creative process and your career? Did anything change for you after this journey?

AI : My stay in Serbia left me wonderful souvenirs! It was my very first residence abroad and I had a great time. Discovering new people, a new country and a new culture was very fulfilling, and to be able to work fast on murals was quite a new experience too. The major change for me was that it gave me more confidence in my art and my process, I felt very happy and this feeling has nourished my inspiration afterwards.

VP: What was the highlight of your stay, something you will remember forever or at least find a significant detail worth remembering?

AI : There are several! I remember a night in Novi Sad spent with Vlad Palibrk who organized the residence, and the  Austrian artist Skirl. We went to a very typical Serbian restaurant and had a great time talking about art, love and relationships. This talk was very deep and meaningful, it touched my heart a lot to share such sincere feelings with fellows artists I barely knew two days before. Art has this magic power to gather people and I felt super lucky to live that.

The other moment was in city of Nìs, I was there to paint a panel during an soirée event in a super nice bar, the atmosphere was very cool and it was my first time ever painting in the dark, quite a challenge but such a great time!

VP: Soon after your visit to Serbia, Covid era has started. How has this affected your worldviews and your art practice, now when we look behind us at these two dynamic years? What has changed on the street art scene specifically, after this rupture in regularity of reality?

AI : I won’t lie, Covid has been (and is) very tough. 2020 and the lockdown was very peculiar and induced a lot of anxiety for me. I felt the urge to work and create, it was almost vital, but couldn’t leave my flat to go to my studio, so it forced me to try new techniques. As spray paint wasn’t possible in my apartment, I learned watercolor, and tried to be as serious as possible in my learning process. But I missed the streets a lot, sharing my art freely with people is the cornerstone of street art. I decided to put online free coloring pages for kids and adults, one every day. It was a great way to continue sharing something free and soothing.

Since then, I haven’t been pasting a lot. I had time to reflect on my artistic approach and decided to change it : quality over quantity. I now paste a lot less than before, but each piece I want to be 100% sure of. It takes more time, but it makes me more confident.

VP: Between galleries and street – where do you spend more time, in which context?

AI : Since Covid, I have essentially been working in studio and not much in the streets, as I said above. I worked a lot for galleries too because let’s be honest the economy is complicated, I had to secure my income if I want to be able to continue my career. I miss the streets, though. Hope to be able to go back as soon as possible.

VP: We met you together with Polar Bear, you two were also partners and friends in life, apart from your art practices – how do these two fields interact and influence each other in your case, if at all?

AI : Being partners has influenced my art practice a lot, being able to talk about my process and share thoughts and doubts with Polar Bear was great. I learned stencil by watching him doing it, and he could always come to me for advice knowing that I would be brutally honest. Creative stimulation going both ways. We had a show together just before covid, only collaborations where we mixed our styles, it was a great experience.

VP: Would it be easier to have a partner who is into something totally different, eg finances, banking, public administration, whatever?

AI: What an interesting question! I really don’t know. Depends on personalities more than occupation, I guess.

Put two artists together, and you’ll find creative emulation and understanding,  but there’s a risk for it to become competitive or a battle of egos. Put an artist and a banker (for example) together, it might work, opposites attract, but I guess maybe there would be a lack of understanding/empathy in both ways. I really don’t know! For my personal case, I think I’ll always be attracted to creativity and sensitivity, I need to share that with a partner above all, and I need someone who’ll understand/tolerate my way of life, too.

VP: What are the essential qualities important for a success of an artist in your opinion? Is it a skill, imagination, network of friends, social status, family background, education, communication abilities?

AI: I don’t know. A bit of all that, except social status and family background, I’m really not sure they’re important at all. Good for you if you come from a supporting art-loving family, but I don’t think it’s crucial!

Essential qualities in my opinion would be work, patience, honesty, open mind. Success is a very fragile thing, it comes and goes. You can’t rely on that. What you can rely on is the sincerity of your process, including success and failures, that’s what builds a career. Some things work, some other don’t, but as long as you’re being true to yourself as an artist, then there’s joy, and that’s more important than success for me.

VP: How this ideal changed over time?

AI: It didn’t, really. I’m a very idealistic person with big dreams of happiness and peace. I have no celebrity envy, I don’t care about fame or money. As long as I can put a roof over my head and fill the fridge, it’s ok by me. I haven’t even thought I could do a career as a street artist when I started, I’m still amazed by how things turned up and I’m very grateful for it. I did not have any agenda when I started because I didn’t imagine it could be possible for my art to become « something », it was not the point, I just wanted/needed to do it. Now a few years have passed but I’m still very much believing in the same values : be true, work, be open minded, and things will happen.

VP: What would be your message to aspiring young artist that is just starting, how to get noticed by the art galleries?

AI : Be yourself, do your thing, don’t copy, be sincere, try, fail, try again, learn, be humble, and most of all work hard. Don’t go to the galleries. Go to the streets. Be serious, be sincere, tame your ego, know why and what you want to share, and the galleries will come to you.

VP: You also had some experience in film industry, if I am not wrong? How did that go? Did it influence the other things you did/do in your life?

AI: I did. I worked as a director (and pretty much every job available on a shooting) for more than a decade. I directed a few short movies, especially in stop motion animation. It was super challenging and exciting, I loved the creative process in it, where you have nothing to start with, and then you have to create everything with your mind and your hands. It fitted me well! Unfortunately (or fortunately?!) I was struggling a lot to make a living of it, it was always the same story : exciting projects with no money, or  money but sh*tty projects (commercials, for the main). Stop motion is so time consuming that I got discouraged of being either happy creatively but can’t pay the rent or being comfortable financially but miserable at work. I was already painting and selling my art since a few years, so I just decided to concentrate on that, which made me really happy. Those years seem like another life now, and I don’t regret any of it. What I learned from it, which is useful today for my art, is obviously patience! I like to work at my pace, if a flower or a pattern takes several days to be made, I’m okay with it, no problem! 🙂

VP: Who is your favorite artist of all times?

AI: Tough question!!! Only one artist? It’s too hard, I can’t answer that. I love too many artists. I’ll cheat on this one, and tell you what’s my favorite artwork of all time instead, ok?

It’s « Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose » by John  Sargent.  It’s very classic, I know! 🙂

I was lucky to see this painting several times in London, it always takes my breath away. The quiet atmosphere in this scene, the light, the innocence, the sweetness, it’s pure bliss (and let’s not even talk about the technique).

VP: What are you working on at the moment?

AI : I am working on a solo show that will happen in fall 2022 . I want it to be about evasion, travel, all the things we weren’t able to do much this couple past years. I didn’t intellectualize it much, it’s just a strong need that I have now.

More at:


Interview with MTO, France/planet Earth, May 2022

French artist MTO is famous for his sharp, black and white realistic style of intense presence – where the reduced use of colors gives you opportunity to focus on expression and psychology of the characters represented in his works, which are delivered with almost chirurgical preciseness of execution. Very wide spectrum of connaissance of popular culture and all its nuances gave this artist ability to boldly underline iconic nature of cult aspects of film culture. However, film references were just a starting point in his work long ago, and over time, he moved to other topics and motives – we will try to discover which ones, in this short interview. Thank you MTO for your precious time and attention taken to answer these questions! /Intro and questions by Dzaizku/

DZ: One important phase of your development as an artist is connected with the years you spent in Berlin. Can you tell us a bit about that period, what did it look like, your daily life? What were the things that were driving and impressing you?

MTO: During my studies I traveled twice to Berlin and really enjoyed it. So when I finished my cursus I went to live there, from 2006 to 2013. This city impressed me a lot. Its overflowing energy. Its techno-hippy side. There are a million things going on in the streets every day. The arts are spread out on all levels and in all possible and imaginable forms. I arrived without money, without knowing any German and without a clear idea of what I was going to do with my life. The first years I did a few bullshit-jobs so I could live a decent life, thanks to the low economy of the city.

I was looking for ways to live from an artistic practice. I was inspired by street-art but I didn’t feel particularly concerned since even if I drew a lot as a teen I had never painted and I’m not a big fan of stencil or collage. Anything else was too expensive for my wallet.

Then in 2008, Arone, a graffiti painter and long time friend of mine (without any relation to graffiti) kinda « forced » me to try spray painting during a trip we made together in Barcelona. There I realized that I could maybe do some decent things with a can of paint. When I came back to Berlin I realized that I was already living in a graffiti mecca and that it could solve almost all my problems at once: Low cost, self production, self exhibition, international language of images… So I started to devote 100% of my time to it. Trying to develop my technique and my style alone with my bike and my backpack full of sprays. And with the hope that one day I might be able to paint giant facades. I dreamed of being on the short list of muralists. There really weren’t many of them in the 2000’s and I was particularly inspired by BLU.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity” Berlin, Germany – read the full story & artists’ statement here

DZ: How is that period different for you from now?

Everything is different now. Money came to the field and there is ten new guys popping-up every month, muralism has become a global market held by business people with more supply than demand, so the whole movement got replaced by mostly consensual painters whose work could please your kids and your grandmother at the same time, and it is now unfortunately a decorative industry for gentrification facilitation and insta photo-bombing.

Before 2000, what started to be called « Street-art » was beautiful because it was a giant «fuck off» to the hegemony of the gallery world, resulting from a sort of fusion between « contemporary art » and « Graffiti ».  Artists taking control of the streets, showing their art without any middle-man, for the beauty of it. Unfortunately, a few decades later, the system rebuilt itself with new faces and took control as usual. Now, a huge part of the people pulling the major strings of this field ignore the initial purpose of that movement. They came with the money and entirely rewrote the history through hundreds of useless books celebrating useless works, not even paying the artists to use their images. Berlin for example was an avant-garde laboratory from which a great part of the most interesting artists are now forgotten and/or hidden by the constant flow of decorative bullshit. (pardon my french)

Even if there is nothing very surprising with that development, I’m quite sad about it. I’m too young to have known the very beginning of it all but too old to be ok with what it is now. That’s one of the main reasons I’m not really active anymore since Covid. I might do some new stuff here or there sometimes in the future for the fun of it but at the time I’m writing these words, I have no idea if I will ever try to come back seriously.

“The Mediterranean tunnel” – read the full artist’s statement here

DZ: Your work is famous also because a number of references to cult movies and singers… did you ever had any feedback from the authors on that?

MTO: Not really. There were a couple actors that shared images to say « hey look, someone painted my face » but that’s pretty much it. And it never was my goal anyway. But your question should say that my work was famous MAINLY because of those references. And about that: Painting singers and movie portraits in my early years was the top of my three biggest career mistakes.

Believe it or not, when I started, big hand-painted portraits were actually quite new (or let’s say: rare), so I did it as a way to be easily recognizable inside of the gigantic panel of art in the streets of Berlin, as a way to insert a bit of soul / funk flavor in this worldwide techno mecca, and more than anything, it was a 2-year technical training to master the use of a spray can… nothing more than that. Since day one I intended to work afterwards on some more engaged and politically charged works once I would feel more comfortable with the technique (which is not as easy as it looks). The paradox is that I actually became quite known as a sort of Pop artist, which I hated. What was supposed to be a 2-year anecdote in my career became my main public identification for years but it was all my fault.

Then I lost a bit of interest for street graffiti and wanted to do mostly big scale walls for its great political impact potential and I spent the next ten years doing conceptual, site specific and militant works (occasionally funny or surrealistic stuff) but that «pop graffiti» identification stuck with me. The proof: 15 years later I’m still speaking about it.

Also I was always a little lazy and reluctant regarding studio work so I never entered the gallery world and didn’t clarify my identity there either: second mistake. Big scale muralism is a practice you would hardly sponsor by yourself alone over the years unless you reach commercial success.

And third mistake: I never wished to enter the «Instagram game». I used it only as a passive and silent «show-room» like I was doing with Facebook, while the main purpose of Insta is to engage and communicate directly with your audience as much as you can, as often as you can. Today, not being active on Insta or being dead is pretty much the same thing.

DZ: Speaking of movies, can you recommend us some must-see classics/new movies?

MTO: Hell no !

(See previous question)

Or if you’ve got an hour to spare, you can check my film:

DZ: Where is your art between aesthetical and political? You as a person, your mind, your focus?

MTO: My work is essentially militant and political. That’s how I see art. I have a rather absolute vision of it. Art is about the meaning, the message. Duchamp made it clear enough. Otherwise it is not art. It is « expression plastique » (as we say in French) or decoration. It is not at all a pejorative word in my mouth. I have respect for that and some guys reach amazing technical levels but things need to be called by their right name. There is a mistake in the definition. There are too many people who are defined as artists, when in fact they are craftsmen. They use craft qualities to a subject which does not belong to them, which they do not control…or there’s often no subject at all. Those kinds of works have every right to exist but shouldn’t be affiliated to the term «urban art» as there is nothing related to urban culture in it.

In terms of aesthetics my work is certainly as bad as any others for local inhabitants’ eyes but technique and aesthetic never was my focus point. I even progressively destroyed my own visual identity over the time in order to (try to) erase this «pop artist» thing and to show that I was more a contemporary artist with aerosols than a brand. I used the majority of those walls as a means to question important local or general issues. To show my local implication and respect. Most topics were dividing and not used to gain the most followers. One could call that «the BLU school». To me he is the godfather of it, in direct legacy of the political war-muralism in Belfast, Mexico etc…

I believe this should be a moral responsibility of muralism that very few artists and curators understand. Muralism today holds a unique place in the entire art history and should be used for subjects that matter. Before 1990, large-scale muralism was only ever permitted for corporate high-cost advertising, or for institutional and memorial purposes. Nowadays it is the first time in the whole history of art that single individuals are offered the opportunity to express themselves on such gigantic surfaces which will be seen and photographed, shared millions, even billions of times in the course of their rather long life although ephemeral by nature.

Great power should come with great responsibilities.

“We live on Google Earth”, Gaeta, Italy, 2015 full info here

DZ: All around the world many kids are very intensively attracted to spray paint and wall painting/street art/graffiti…what do you think, why is this happening?

MTO: Banksy!

He proved it is possible to become a billionaire by drawing doodles on walls and still look like a badass with street cred. He pretty much created a market on it’s own. So now everyone wants a piece of the cake.

But don’t get me wrong, despite the sarcasm, he is a genius and I really dig his work.

DZ: Though, not all these countries full of great artists have developed art systems that can support a full time career… in your opinion, what takes for a person to get transformed from this frenzy painter/sprayer into a professional artist without losing himself/herself?

MTO: You should ask someone who actually succeeded in the art « system ».

I tried to develop a strong work integrity, I gained some fame more or less on a misunderstanding and I ended up kinda « retiring » 15 years later with very few bucks in my pocket so I don’t feel in the right position to give any advice.

DZ: I might be wrong, but I have impression that between the contact with his own inspiration/intuition and contact with the market, some artists get recognized in certain niche and somehow get blocked in that niche from further development – at least for me personally it’s hard to find satisfaction in observing always the same works being repeated by some artists over the years with minimal variety from artwork to artwork…what is your opinion on this? Is this something intentional, is it a trap, something normal or not? /Who is the boss here, THE market or the artist himself?/

MTO: In my case, I do something specific in shape and content for each location, I insist on « content » cause my technique has a lot of limits. The result could be good or bad, that’s still what makes these pieces « artworks » by definition and not decoration. But this is definitely the hard way. This is pretty much the opposite of having a recipe for success, it’s a recipe for « relevancy », that which doesn’t go hand to hand with success…at all. I’m no big fan of works that are repeated over and over with few variations either, to me this is no art, however this is a much suitable process to make money. That’s marketing basics.

When I started to paint whole building facades, we were rarely paid to do it, we were mostly «sponsored» (travel, arrangement, material etc…).  And when I was paid, the amount was barely ever worth the amount of work, but I was totally ok with it, because there was some space for free speech. I had the amazing opportunity to place my messages on incredible spots with a potential reach I would have never expected possible. So I didn’t make much money during all these years but I still liked what I was doing and knew why I was doing it. It made sense to me.

Fifteen years later, we’re not paid much more, however it is rarely possible to speak about the topic I want anymore. Multiple sketches got refused, projects got cancelled, and guys like me are replaced by consensual decorators. So I’d say this is really becoming a business of painters exploitation. And if someone is not happy with it, there are thousands of other painters waiting for your place. Most guys/girls++ who last very long in the field are pretty much the ones that were using the previously mentioned «recipe» that which may prove that my way of doing things isn’t the right one…you decide.

Test-city, Salem Massachusetts – full story here

DZ: If you met today a person who wants to jump off a bridge and commit suicide due to global/political situation in the world, what would you say to stop him/her from doing that?

MTO: If you’re looking for a «life is beautiful» type of answer, I’m afraid I’m not the person to ask. I’m still a humanist and a nice guy (I guess) so I’d probably grab him by surprise and force him back on land while I call an ambulance or firefighters (fuck police) but even if I wanted to reason him I clearly don’t have much to say so that he would think the world is not such a shit show after all… To me it clearly is.

DZ: What are you working on at the moment?

MTO: Nothing street-art related.

I’m focusing on some other aspects of my life for the moment But we’ll see what the future brings…

More documentation and stories at MTO FB PAGE.

instagram: @mtograff

The Wynwood Family – Miami (USA)
“Desperate attempt to get noticed” – Milwaukee, USA /info here/
TAGTICAL MEDIA 4 : ” My name is MO “, 2014, Kentucky USA, 23 x 83m – full info & aftermovie here
Music/Movie series


Conversation between TKV and Aleksandar Zograf, March 2022.

In this episode of Street Art Residencies podcast, our friend Aleksandar Zograf interviewed TKV, one of the most persistent, active and internationally recognized stencil street artist from Belgrade. Two artists from different generations and different fields, that is – comics/graphic storytelling and street art, but with same drive for authentic life choices, result: one interesting conversation. More to follow at:

sound edited by Darko Pavlovic/MediaNova, transcript by Dzaizku


AZ: Okay, so we are speaking with TKV, street artist from Belgrade. Can you tell us, you started with street art when you were sixteen – what was the initial thrill of living your art in the street?

TKV: When you’re sixteen, everything is a thrill. You are discovering the world around you and you discover what you actually like, what are your interests. And, what I discovered with street art and doing stencils in the street is that you’re free, you’re completely free, you’re exploring the city.. Also with street art and all kinds of graffiti or street art you have this adrenaline rush, of doing something completely new for you, being in public space, adapting, walking around, you have a general sense of freedom. And I always go back to that feeling, even now after, how many years since 2004 until today…I always go back to that feeling how I felt for the first time when I started, and everything was a discovery for me, and I completely didn’t think about other people, whether others are going to see it or recognize it, I was completely free to do whatever I want, I was in my own world of doing stuff that I really really like, and also my motives for the stencils were the things that I was discovering at that time. I love and cherish that period, I even like some of the stencils from that period and it’s like a core of me, I guess.

AZ: Can you tell us about how your work and your style and your attitude developed from start until now, what was your inner dynamism that brought you to where are you now? I know it’s complicated question..

TKV: It is complicated and it isn’t complicated in my case, as I was very lucky not to be burdened with questions is it accurate, is it good or not good, what it is that I do you know, I just did it…and I think that when you start that early figuring out what you like, everything goes kind of organically or intuitively in that sense…i mean I do a lot of stuff intuitively, this is how I work. And I think if you made a retrospective of my work you can see a young person growing up, you can see how my topics change, how I switch to my own stuff…in the beginning I was doing other painters, musicians, films, stuff like that, things that were influencing me, and later on you can see also parallel to that my technique getting better and better and better, and everything went completely naturally for me, I discovered everything slowly. Which today a lot of young people I talk to have this pressure that they have to be the best, you know, or whatever like, and there is no, you can be just playful and make mistakes because from mistakes you get something, from experimenting with what you do, but not thinking about final what it is going to be, is someone going to like it or not, it’s just you and what you do, and that’s the best part. And I had luxury of never doing anything else in my life, I finished the faculty of media and communication and that helped me in sense that I could explain myself and communicate to other people, but I never did anything else but art. I am on this path that you go and you just try to discover, of course when you learn the technique and you feel comfortable with what you do, then you have to forget everything that you did and go completely crazy, be the person you were when you were sixteen, completely free from expectation of what is going to be..

AZ: One of the things that are characteristic for your work are faces, how did you choose to concentrate on faces?

TKV: I think my work is very intimate, I basically explore my own feelings and feelings in general, I am interested in how something feels, to think about it like you’re some kind of therapist of feelings, and feelings create different atmospheres. With portraits it’s a face usually but you can still set some kind of mood to it, so it’s not just a face, it’s what is this person thinking about, who is she, what does she do, why is she doing it…and anybody can have their own interpretation, and that is also very important to me that people who see it or look at it in the street, they have their own version of what it means to them. So it’s somewhere between me and them that you get the real deal, it’s not really a material, you cannot really buy it or sell it, you can just feel it. And that’s also important for me as human, I guess, to feel as much things as possible. So, I guess for me faces are the easiest way to communicate what I want to express in that sense.

AZ: How do you see the street art scene today in Serbia? Is it different now from some years before?

TKV: It is very, very, very different. When I was starting in 2004, you had a graffiti scene in traditional sense, letterings and stuff like that, you had guys who did all kinds of stuff even before, but you had no idea of street art. In 2004 when I was telling to people that I do street art, they were like ‘ok, can you explain that a bit..?’ and it’s different aesthetics to it, I guess, because I do stencils and there is much more street art in that sense, and if you look from 2004 up till now, it’s completely different. On one side you can buy much more different paints now, back then you had only one or two type spray paints that were really good.

AZ: So technically it’s easier now?

TKV: It’s much easier, also with internet…ok there was internet in 2004 as well, but we weren’t this connected, ok on the graffiti scene we were connected as that scene per se is connected, everybody knows everybody and then you call somebody ‘hey, do you wanna paint together’ – no matter where you are, but I think it /internet/ gave us more broad perspective of what people do. And for Serbia, especially had more and more people painting, and also it became a trend. We got caught up with the trend, you can build a career around it more easily if you really want to, you know there is people work/job/business wise/whatever because people like to use that aesthetics for commercials or whatever…so in that sense I think it’s easier and it became more recognized as art than just as something on the street…you can see huge change and also now you have more women on the scene

AZ: You mean, more female artists in general?

TKV: Yes, you have more girls who decide to persist in that way…and what people don’t understand is that the city or whatever environment that are painting in dictates how are you going to paint, and Belgrade is very easy to paint around, and people are very welcoming to it – compared to Germany, Netherlands or so where it’s not so easy to paint, you have to go through lots of hussle to get a permission if you want to paint a big wall and bla bla bla.. I mean I’m not saying like this here is super easy but it’s easier, I think. And for me that’s perfect.

AZ: There is some sense of freedom, in that sense that things are pretty much chaotic here so nobody will run after you if they see that you are painting a wall or something..

TKV: yes, it’s like two-sided blade I guess, because then you have a lot of, Idk, football hooligans or nationalist graffers who recognize that type of art and do their own propaganda through it, which don’t really like. But yes everything is pretty chaotic as you said so if you paint something nobody will really track you down.. Ok maybe we have this other type of censorship, like what if I decided to do political graffiti against current regime, I am pretty sure I would be tracked down in 24h and questioned why I did that. So on that side it’s not very liberal.

AZ: And now a question I wanted to ask you, as TKV stands for ‘The queen of fairies’, I wonder if you were aware of a great tradition of belief in fairies in Serbia. Fairies are part of common European tradition that comes from pre-Christian time, but in Serbia it retained until the modern time. I remember when I was a kid, one of our neighbors went to woman who was supposedly communicating with fairies. Back then I was quite young, I remember that I was shocked to find that such belief was still existing somewhere in the neighborhood, those were just simple people, not new age hipsters or something…

TKV: I really like that, and with whole Balkans actually, we call it pre-Christian, it was existing in these territories for long time and was connected with nature, but I think if you look at certain parts of Serbia you can see that type of folklore very much alive, and I think with pre-Christian religions magic was something that was practiced on daily basis, it had use in some kind of cultural segment, social segment of societies back then. And for me, I had my research on old Slavic religions in this area, and I really was inspired by that. I did couple of works as my own interpretation of it, but as for the fairies I think my father told me like, ‘you choose that name for yourself and that is not a coincidence – you carry certain values or certain sentiment that connects some people to fairies or magical world in that sense’. I really appreciate when people who see my stuff on the street give me their own version of what they feel, because that gives them a little distraction from the society that can be very burdening, and we live that every day. We need to connect even symbolically with something that is not just this. Just different type of sentiment. It’s about how we feel, as I said before.

AZ: You are also very active in exhibiting your art in galleries. How do you feel about this transfer from street environment to gallery spaces?

TKV:  I think that became very common. It’s not street art if it’s not on the street, that’s the main argument, but still aesthetics belong to the street. Or you can make your own different concepts of exhibition if it’s in gallery spaces, for example I did one exhibition where I collected stuff from the street like garbage, objects etc., I repainted them and I put them in the gallery so that you have the sense of the street inside the gallery. I loved doing that because I find it’s important to recycle and give back new life to something that was discarded, in that sense. But I think it’s more about creativity of individual artist and what they want from the gallery space.

AZ: What do you think is the advantage of life of an artist, compared to walking down the office or working at the factory every day?

TKV: Well it’s the best, the worst and the best job ever. You have always these mixed feelings, you are free in this sense or way that you can choose your own work hours, it’s a job but it’s not a job, it’s a part of you so it’s a mixture of what defines you as a person, it’s also that you have to learn how to be more professional, if you have a deadline to do, but at the same time you can have so much fun while you do it and it gives you a lot of stuff in return, even sometimes when I do a commercial job that I am not really interested in and inspired with, I try to learn something from it so maybe I can use it in what I do for myself. To be an artist is a privileged place and position.

AZ: Yes you can just think about your place in the world, something, actually you can get philosophical…

TKV: I think in one moment I realized artists are allowed to go through different classes of society, to blend with people who have nothing or people who have everything, and everything in between, so I am kind of witnessing..

AZ: you see many different sides..

TKV: Yes you see many different sides, you are not stuck in one position, because people tend to stay in their place and for artist it’s like I am an artist and everyone is like, ok then – so you have this maneouvre space which is bigger compared to work in office…or whatever.

AZ: As an artist you are free to be a little bit crazy, it’s like part of what you do.

TKV: Before I was very upset before when somebody calls me an artist, am I an artist or an author…it was like ok, you had to go through all these phases within you, but then I realized – no, you have to be crazy artist, that’s good thing. You can just like, do whatever you want, or say whatever you want, wear whatever you want, and everyone was like ‘you’re very artistic’. And nobody can rush you, nobody can pressure art…

AZ: You are also very active on international scene, can you tell us a little bit about that and is it possible to travel during the Covid times? If yes, where are you planning to travel next?

TKV: If we don’t count Balkans, I didn’t move anywhere since 3 years, but now in January 2022 I went to Paris, because I had a lot of connections with Paris, I had exhibition there and got awarded the medal decoration for achievements in art in literature in rank of chevalier/knight, but that doesn’t really change anything until you go there and try to work and to connect with people. So I think my next trip will be in May also to France, I will do this project with an amazing theater group there, so I am painting their tour buses. I had chance to see them how they work in the theater and to realize how hard it is to do other type of art. They are completely in training, how you eat, how you sleep, when you perform, it’s like you’re in the army. And I really appreciate that experience because then you see how when you’re in this very specific level of making your own art you have to be completely submitted to what you do, to your art. And I really like that, long story short that’s the masterpiece.

AZ: Where will you go in France in May?

TKV: I go to Paris, then I go to Rennes, and maybe I will go to Arles, in 2020 I was supposed to have an exhibition in Amsterdam so maybe this year I have to reconnect with them to see if there is any available dates for that gallery, so maybe Amsterdam will happen as well.. Before I went to Paris I was a bit worried how is this going to look like with Covid and everything, but in the end of the day you just hope that you’re not going to get sick and everything else is just a routine.

AZ: How do you see yourself in the future, let’s say twenty years from now?

TKV: Ouuuh, twenty years from now… I will be, I don’t know. I always wanted to, like, if you make enough money you can be able to support other artists who need a scholarship or something like that. That’s like a super big dream, it would be great if I could support somebody else with what I make. And in Serbia I think it’s very important to support other artists because this is very difficult environment for art..

AZ: You mean you would like to help other artists, maybe some younger artists?

TKV: Yes, younger artists, because people helped me. They helped me. Because I think like, forget the scolarships or whatever, artists need to do that, we need to inspire each other and talk to each other and brainstorm with each other, so it’s just like one big mix of what we do, because only then you can have something new from it. And I think all this society in general has this like competition between artists, who is better, or have more likes or whatever, which is bullshit. Because that means nothing, If you’re overburdened with that type of thing and if people don’t want to open to each other.

AZ: Will you do street art when you’re in your 50’s?

TKV: I will always love street art. Now I have a broken arm, it puts you in this position that your body cannot do what you usually do. And I discovered this limit, of course it’s just temporary, but still I guess when I’m 50 or 60 my body will not be able to do what I do now. So I guess I will always do it but in this moderate way. That’s why I try to be fit now, so that in 20 years’ time I am not completely run down. But it is a very demanding physical job if you want to paint a mural, it requires a lot of strength and body work. I hope that in 20 years from now, I have this feeling that it will develop differently and I think that’s the journey, you discover what else you can do and mix, so we will see.

AZ: Okay, thank you.

TKV: Thank you.


Conversation with Jana Danilovic, Serbia


Vladimir Palibrk:
Hello everyone. Welcome to the, believe it or not, the first episode of Street Art Residencies Podcast. Our small project has been active since some five, six years, and it’s just now that we’re are starting actually a series of interviews and talks with different artists from different scenes, or different artists from one scene, which is kind of a global planetary scene of street art, let’s call it that way. So for the first time, we are speaking with Jana Danilovic from Serbia. She’s our friend, very active both as a painter and as a promoter of street art. But maybe I should not say everything right now and let the suspense grow. Yes. Hello, Yana. Can you tell us how are you feeling these days? What are your activities? We are speaking about middle of May 2021.
Jana Danilovic

It sounds weird when you hear the middle of May 2021 because it seems as if the past year hasn’t even existed. So it’s kind of bridging the gap between normal life and what seems to be becoming regular life nowadays. I would like to mention that I’m really honored to be the first person to be interviewed for this podcast because it means a lot.

Vladimir Palibrk

Yeah, it’s very symbolic.

Jana Danilovic

The local solidarity among people who are street art promoters and artists is really something to be proud of.

Jana & TKV at Silo Belgrade
Vladimir Palibrk

Yeah, that’s an amazing amount of energy actually circulating through this scene. Since I started doing this, I just got addicted and I migrated from comics into this world. Speaking of first times, what are your other first things ever you did? Maybe this year?

Jana Danilovic

Well, let’s count 2020 as well. Well, first time I did, I painted mural in the winter time. Outdoor mural in the winter time. It was kind of scary experience because of all the wind and height, when you’re out there you start reassessing your priorities. Once you’re at 30 meters height with the wind hitting your basket and you’re like, okay, I need to tell my parents more often than I love them because I’ll maybe never do this again, I promise..but the adrenaline and I don’t know, the boost you get from overcoming not only a big wall, big height, but also the elements around you, is something that’s really ego flattering, if I may say honestly.

Vladimir Palibrk

This sounds really great, as if somehow, your art both in symbolic and the physical way approaches you closer to your life.

Jana Danilovic

What I really like about street art, especially about murals, is that they’re really physical thing, and not just that, you have to come up with an idea that has to conquer the surface and you have that type of satisfaction after painting one. It’s called a honest day of work. You do something with your hands and now you need to sleep. So I don’t know, there’s something archaic about it, but I like it.

Vladimir Palibrk

Can you tell us maybe where was this wall based? What kind of project it was?

Jana Danilovic

Maybe I kind of sneaked it into 2021 because it was at the end of 2020 actually. It was in Brussels as a part of Balkan Traffic Festival, and it was pretty exotic experience given the fact that following all the instructions, technically I couldn’t even be in Belgium. But somehow I ended up there against all odds and against all the rules that foreign citizens weren’t allowed to enter the country. But somehow, I’m still not pretty clear on how, I ended up there, painting biggest mural so far and had so far the best time of my life.

UP! Mural in Brussels made by Jana at the Balkan Trafik Festival
Vladimir Palibrk
That sounds really amazing in a way, as it happens at the moment when the world is going into downward curve in many ways…
Jana Danilovic

Yes, something like that happens, but I gave it a lot of thought about. I was asked to compare the experience of participating in a street art festival or big production in Balkans, and that one I had in Belgium. But it’s beyond comparison, not only because, to have a big, easy going production of monumental wall is kind of easy when you have all kinds of support from the institutions. But the making a festival in Balkans is a constant suicide mission. They have no kind of support. They’re really Sysiphian types of characters because nothing gets easier as the time gets along.

Vladimir Palibrk

Can you maybe tell me a little bit more about your festival Rekonstrukcija?

Jana Danilovic

Rekonstrukcija is basically example of what I described as a thing that grew out of nothing, pretty much because it came to be from our friendly chats and from our mutual notion that no structured, curated and thought-through street art festival exists in Serbia. So once we got tired of waiting for someone else to create one such thing, we tried to make it on our own. So, Rekonstrukcija is technically a pet project of ours that we decided to put efforts into, due to lack of the type of festival and the type of manifestation that we needed to see as the audience. I had a double-agent role in all that. As someone who is commonly participant of street art festivals, now I had to be the person who is behind the scenes, who organizes things, who takes care of and anticipates the needs of the participants. So it was an eye-opening experience for me because I anticipated to one point what my role would be. But I really could not even guess in my wildest dream the amount and the type of obstacles that we will be facing. So yeah, it’s an eye opener, really.

Vladimir Palibrk

Yeah, that’s quite often happening in Serbia. I see that on the various scenes. Like, you want to be a curator and have your Gallery, but then you end up doing so many administrative things and all the other things, and you’re facing it for the first time. Me personally, I was running one space in Serbia and I just wanted to be the guy curating exhibitions. But in the end I became a cultural manager and everything else. Can you just give us briefly some information, numbers, names, like how long the festival was lasting, what were the results? Who was there? Just to give us some illustration…

Jana Danilovic

Rekonstrukcija festival has been on for three editions so far. The first one happened in the abandoned skyscraper in Zeleni Venac area in Belgrade, which is technically one of the central city areas but the most polluted one. It was really interesting to see 20 or so street artists painting in the abandoned building that has no outside walls, so it could be visible from the street. The audience could also enter the skyscraper which is planned to be boarded down. The second edition was the biggest one so far. Over 40 participants came to Belgrade, including local artists and local artist groups. One of the interesting things about that festival in 2020 was the fact that it was a 20-year anniversary since the first ever legal graffiti jam in Belgrade. So we teamed up with the Paint Cartel crew and decided to go to the very same place where the first jam took place, and re-create it as much as possible, inviting the original participants but also adding new young graffiti writers and street artists. So it was really touching and sentimental for those who are into graffiti scene. What was really important about that first jam 20 years ago was that it was the first occasion that graffiti writers from Croatia came organized together to paint in Belgrade.

So 20 years later it has also been very sentimental, very theatrical setting at the very same place, same people only 20 years older and still friends, and still painting. So it was really beautiful, nice.

Vladimir Palibrk

And it was actually happening in the primary school Kralj Petar Prvi in Belgrade.

Jana Danilovic

Yeah. And it also took place at several more locations in Dorcol neighborhood, where the chosen artists painted murals in more conventional sense. So on standalone walls, that were dedicated to artists or groups of artists, and with neighbors waking up in their communal solidarity, wanting to participate. In my opinion, that should be, I don’t know, the main goal of street art as such, to actually gather the community. And it really seems that they established the connection among themselves over these murals, that is going to last. Now they know each other, now they communicate, the born has been established

Vladimir Palibrk

Thank you for this. I’m thinking of it actually, it is something that was not planned in the project, the activation of the community, but it happened spontaneously and came out as quite central result of the project /apart from murals of course/. Maybe it’s worth thinking how to repeat it, or if someone was planning how to do it as a project maybe it would not turn out that’s really interesting to see how things emerged this way..

Jana Danilovic

The idea of including the community in some real and very material sense was one of our goals, which we tried to achieve by asking residents to candidate their walls, not choosing the walls and then asking for permission… So this way we were talking to people who are already willing to participate in some sense. I think that street art should belong to the community, and I honestly think that it mustn’t be something that belongs and is only an issue for the production, it must be everyone’s. Now we come to 2020, after that wonderful and exhausting as well experience of 2020, when all the major events had to be cancelled, so we did it in a really small scale with only three walls, but we also changed the concept – because we found that the street artists and muralists weren’t in as bad position as the artists who depend on galleries, so we decided to find three experienced street artists /turned out to be three girls/, to actually mentor the artists from other disciplines of visual arts, who haven’t painted in the public space before, and to team them up, to get collaborations among the people who didn’t work before together, some of whom have never painted walls, but who got the chance to actually display their work in the situation where their regular display spots were closed and unreachable. So it was really fun, because as it turns out all of the participants of this small mentorship program were girls who produced an eye-popping amount of energy and quality.

Vladimir Palibrk

I find it so great that you don’t hesitate to conceptualize the work in street art, so that it’s not only just painting some walls /as it should be of course/, I see that you discover also many ways to travel through collaborations and experiences and establish certain concepts or principles of working on different aspects..

Jana Danilovic

Why we actually deal with street art and art in public space? It’s because it gives you space for such big flexibility. Because if we treated street art or festival concept as something that’s not flexible, we would be creating just another traditional type of manifestation, traditional type of festival. And we started this festival exactly because we were sick of seeing always the same things that are so predictable and so out of touch with everyone’s reality and everyday life. I think that flexibility in the concept and in thinking about the festival has to be the basis for creating one.

Vladimir Palibrk

Thank you. Maybe let’s shift the focus now a bit, I have more questions for you – how do you see the situation on the local and international scene at this moment?

Jana Danilovic

They aren’t really comparable in every aspect of their existence, but the local scene is growing, in the places and in the ways that one cannot anticipate and I think that’s good. Global scene is facing of course commercialization but at the same time I think that street art will be always resilient to becoming mainstream as such, because it always leaves you the space to swim upstream and to decide to which degree you will agree to collaborate with the formal institutions. So I don’t think that street art as such is in danger, globally viewed. While on the other hand, in our local area we are just seeing the beginnings of commercialization and it combines with really bad economic situation of the area, but the street art and muralism in our part of the world have always been in a way underground, self-sufficient in a very humble way. So at the same time I think that authentic kind of street art isn’t in danger of becoming something that is shallow mainstream. But what I lack when I look at the local scene is some truly socially engaged street art. It appears, but given the situation generally I would have expected to see more of rebellion on the city walls. The type of restrictions and repression people here are feeling is at the same time the type of the thing that kind of stops the socially engaged street art from really blooming.

Vladimir Palibrk

Do you think that, I mean, in my humble opinion, there are different types of changing reality, one is probably what we know as frontal confrontation with values and things that we don’t accept, the other one is just simply building a new world next to it that is better I think..

Jana Danilovic

Also in the situation when the real world is getting so unbearable, I really think that attempt to build your own world, even if it’s not based on full frontal confrontation, really is an act of resistance itself. I really value local street art because of it’s resilience, because it exists, and goes on, and grows, and gets better against all odds and everything that surrounds it.

Vladimir Palibrk

What would be your top five-six artists/inspirations/influences in any field?

Jana Danilovic

Given that I never grown out of punk/rock music and aesthetics, there will be some music influences for sure. Let’s start from more conventional ones, painters and muralists, since walls and streets have been in my focus for long time now that I really draw the most of inspiration from other people’s way of thinking, so I would mention Escif from Valencia as one of my absolutely favorite artists, I would mention Parisian Kashink, recently passed Hyuro, Pussy Riot, Kud Idijoti as punk band and activists, and probably would remember more people and groups that influenced me but for now I would underline these five influences as some of the most important.

Vladimir Palibrk

How do you see the gender relations on the scene?

Jana Danilovic

That’s really common question, what’s the position of female artist in street art, and I think it really differs from the area, from the local space. At the same time it is apparent that there are fewer women in this world than men, but situation is changing and I’m feeling it on my own skin. When I became mildly visible and mildly recognizable in my own local space, aside from two or three women out of which I would like to mention TKV, who is the constant when we speak about these things – there were not many women and they were subdued to very specific type of comments and valorizations that wasn’t the same one that applied to boys. I’m getting the feeling that the local people and local scene is getting more used to having women as important players in this game. Situation is changing very slowly but it is changing, and that’s not result of some natural process, but result of really hard work of not only individuals, the girls who are painting in the streets but also a number of activists and organizations that are fighting against prejudices against women and fighting for equal rights and that are anarchists fighting against traditional myzoginy here..

Collab Jana Danilovic/Ojomagico
Vladimir Palibrk

For sure your festival is a big victory in this field. Can you tell us something about the future? How is your feeling about it, how do you see the world in 5-10 years?

Jana Danilovic

Last period made me kind of quit thinking about future because I thought it was cancelled. It’s really hard as I always have to separate the global future from the local future. The local future is really unpredictable and surreal as local present time too.. It’s really hard to anticipate anything in any field. At some points in the past you could notice certain regularities in development of some things in culture, arts, in i-don’t-know.. and then there are such huge twists from progressive towards very traditional, very..let’s use word traditional, not to use any harder words to name it. You see some things you considered progressive and generally accepted ten years ago are being attacked now as too radical and too confrontational, for example this exhibition of comics group Momci that was torn down last year by right-wing extremists.. The comics book authors Momci exhibited their works from early 1990’s and group of very young right-wing activists came into the gallery, torn down the exhibition and threw in the tear gas.

Vladimir Palibrk

Just to contextualize it for the audience who do not know the background story – those were the works made during the Milosevic era and were quite free-expression oriented with lots of nudity and lots of high-quality social criticism towards the system, and absolutely high level of execution when it comes to drawing, so to say. And in the end, was it discovered who did this?

Jana Danilovic

I think that some kids got caught, but the irony of it all is that the artworks on display were even older than the kids who tore them down. I don’t know, it’s like a swing, we are having some really good things and then we sink back into middle ages, some really good things and then middle ages again… So it is in a way really fun and interesting experience to live as an artist here and now, while on the other hand we kind of all wish to live in some more steady environment where we could also fully dedicate ourselves to our own work of art, not into fixing what has been broken. I hope that in a number of years this will be a period that we will talk about and no one would believe us how crazy it was.

While globally things are getting interesting as well in a number of ways, there are some really interesting productions speaking of street art and stuff, really progressive ways of rethinking public space, including less visible groups of people into something that’s very visible by definition, as street art is. Also the thing that has been very ill-spoken of for a reason – those collaborations between marketing and street art, are getting more sensible and more society-oriented. So I think that street art globally is really evolving and it’s evolving in so many different branches and directions so that it’s going to be really interesting to see what we are living now from a ten years distance.

 Vladimir Palibrk

It’s a nice moment to let these words echo as an open ending of this talk, I hope we will meet soon in Serbia this summer

Jana Danilovic

Me too!

 Vladimir Palibrk

I am happy to see you are doing bigger and bigger walls lately and that it looks so good, I wish you new accomplishments in this field – do you have any message for the end, maybe some message to young street artists?

Jana Danilovic

Couple of days ago I was walking through Dorcol neighborhood in Belgrade on my way to regular veterinarian visit with my dog, and I noticed a graffiti that says “Please write on the walls” – so that would be my message: Please write on the walls.


Interview with Polar Bear, France

Since 2018, we had the opportunity to collaborate with Polar Bear, stencil paste up artist from Paris. More dedicated to highly elaborated, multilayered and nuanced artworks in mid-sized format, his visual style was very thankful and communicative as a basis for cross-over with other disciplines, such as traditional crafts and contemporary art practices. So we had a great walk with Polar Bear through the wider spectrum of realities than usual in our program, including age, gender and audience groups that we usually didn’t reach before, and that is, among other things, what you will see in this recapitulation. Besides his work for the streets and galleries, Polar Bear himself is a professional gaffer in the film industry – that is, the guy whose job is to work on all kinds of aspects of light in the moviemaking process, and that is definitely echoing in the use of nuances in his art too. We took a moment to steal this very busy guy from his day job and ask him few questions, backed up with visual report from his participation in our residency programs. Enjoy!

Q: How did the visit to Serbia affect the way you approach your creative process and your career? Did anything change for you after this journey?

PB: Visiting Serbia was awesome. It was the first time ever for me to be invited to an artist residency in fact, so that was a big deal for me for sure. Meeting other artists there was a nice experience. All these talks and exchanges about technics, paint, tattoos, creation… It was also my first international exhibition, the one in Museum of Contemporary Art in Novi Sad . My stay in Serbia will remain etched in my mind for a long time.

Speaking of the methodologies, to create my pieces for the exhibition, I changed a bit my process. Usually I print my visuals, but this time, as pieces were bigger than usual and the time was very short, I used a video projector to project the visual on huge piece on paper, draw the lines and then cut. Since then, it’s a technique I now use a lot for big formats.

Space Chimp by Polar Bear, Museum of contemporary art Novi Sad, Serbia

Q: What was the highlight of your stay, something you will remember forever, or at least a significant detail worth remembering?

PB: I’ll definitely remember the kindness of the people I met there. And that moment when I was painting my Judy piece will stay in my mind forever I think. I painted it at the Voïvodine Museum nextto a military tank that was all-covered with art. Seeing this killing machine transformed into a piece of art was gripping!

Q: Soon after your visit to Serbia, the Covid era has started…how has this affected your worldviews and your art practice, now when we look behind us at these two dynamic years? What has changed on the street art scene specifically after this rupture in regularity of reality? 

PB: Covid era...well, it was challenging for sure. At the beginning at least. The fact that we couldn’t go outside to make art wasn’t easy to deal with. As days passed, my willingness to paint and paste on walls grew bigger. I wanted so bad to give people art to see so they can have a moment to take  bit of breath from this pandemic. I definitely don’t do street art enough. But as I put only originals in the street, I must say it’s really time consuming – to create a visual, cut it, paint it and then paste it outside. Between the first idea and the moment when the piece is out there for everyone to see, it can be a long process.

TKV & Polar Bear @ Museum of contemporary art Novi Sad

Q: Between the galleries and the street – where do you spend more time, in which context?

PB: I really try to answer to the call of galleries and their wishes, but the street is what drives me.

Q: What would be your message to aspiring young artist that is just starting, how to get noticed by the art galleries?

PB: My message…? I guess it would be – if you want to get noticed by art galleries, just do street, just express yourself. If what you do resonates with people, galleries will follow. For me, this is what art is. Expressing yourself. If you do it in order just to be contacted by the galleries, you’re more of a salesman than an artist…

Tapistry accomplished in colaboration with Atelje 61 craft studio, Novi Sad
Stencil art workshop for the teenage girls, backyard of the Institut Francais Novi Sad

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

PB: New visuals, and I really think about making a “Don’t make us History” exhibition, dedicated to the species that are on the way of extinction.

More images and informations at

Judy the rescue dog by Polar Bear, MSUV Novi Sad
Hannibal’s elephants by Polar Bear, MSUV Novi Sad


A conversation with SKIRL, December 2021

SKIRL has visited us in September 2019 as participant in our artist in residence program and Rekonstrukcija street art festival. During his short stay he was literally painting minimum one wall per day – while doing our best to follow up on this rhythm, everyone in our team got blasted by the creative drive, life philosophy and gentle energy of this nice guy. His paintings of organic curves, resembling something halfway between letters of an ancient civilization manuscripts, mutated shapes of yet unknown print-animals and medieval print graphics, easily get engraved in imagination and perception of a spectator to stay there forever. Unmistakably authentic, somehow familiar but yet very fresh and progressive style of this artist has been spreading over the walls worldwide with amazing speed lately. We took a moment to ask SKIRL few questions about his work, his worldviews  and methodologies at the end of 2021. From his favorite sea animal, to the reflections on development of graffiti/street art scene in Austria, SKIRL was generous and kind to give us lots of insights into his personal and professional universes.

Intro, questions and transcript by Vladimir Palibrk

VP: Can you describe one day in the life of SKIRL?

SKIRL: I wake up in the morning, I go to shower and to toilet and brush my teeth, then I go out to the bakery, I take chai tea latte, and then I take a walk in the park for one hour, sometimes max two hours in the Schlosspark Schönbrunn here in Vienna. Then I go back home and then I start working: I have different stuff to do every day, whether it is indoor works, household, painting canvases, paper work, meeting up with the graphic designer to make designs, whatever it is on the list to do, meeting up with clients..i do not work every day but I work a lot in this period and very hard. I eat really good lunch, and in afternoon I resume working or meet with friends. In the evening most active time happens, I go to sleep early again, this is a normal day. I work all day and actually to be honest I enjoy it.

VP: That’s a quite disciplined routine. In your personal perception, time spent painting walls vs time spent doing other things – what would be the proportion, what do you do more?

SKIRL: Other things, of course. Because I paint very fast. It’s everything around, preparations, etc. that takes time. I make also different stuff now at the moment, I work with fashion companies etc, but when it’s just about working on walls or paper i would say its 20% painting and 80% everything around it…

VP: Did you count and write down number of murals you painted so far?


VP: When did you stop counting? 

SKIRL: I never counted. Because I started with classic graffiti and I did many pieces, I never took pictures of all of them, it went from the graffiti pieces to the murals in some cross-fading, so even if I wanted to count it’s actually impossible to determine when I actually started to do murals, you know.

VP: I suppose that’s going to be a big headache for art historians one day, it will be very blurry and hard to discover/reconstruct all these things and details they are usually interested in – like who went where/met who/painted what/when/what they did together, how the influence was passed…

SKIRL: Yeah maybe. I guess the digital documentation that artists are doing these days is really going to help art historians in the future.

VP: Yes, or some digital forensic methodologies.

SKIRL: Yes that’s going to be used for sure..

VP: Do you watch movies?


VP: You don’t have a favorite movie since ever?

SKIRL: I like this movie Apocalypto, from George Clooney..

VP: That’s George Clooney? Or.. I thought it was Mel Gibson?

SKIRL: Ah yes man you’re right, Mel Gibson.

VP: Wait maybe that IS George Clooney, but he did some kind of plastic operation and took face of MG for this film..?

SKIRL: As you can tell already I have no idea about movies because I don’t watch any…the only movies I have watched I watched in a plane.

VP: To go back to Apocalypto, can you tell us what exactly in this movie attracts/fascinates you?

SKIRL: The authenticity, and the irony. Because you see this guy from this ancient civilization, and you see him going through really the hardest times of his life, he is very brave and going through really hardcore life lesson, and in the end, when he is achieving all his goals and he is rescuing his wife and his kid and they seem to be “happy ever after”, you see the Spanish conquistadors ship appearing in the background on the horizon. And if you have some historical knowledge then you know these are the last happy days for these people anyway. It’s really crazy, I was crying, laughing, screaming and going crazy on this movie and this is what makes it a really good movie.

VP: How important for you is the environment in which you are living?

SKIRL: Very important. I love to feel safe in the space where i live, where everything is arranged the way I want it to be. I like stuff being organized, I have looots of pot plants, so I sit in my little paradise with my furniture and all my stuff… I’m really into things somehow…i got rid of many things on the way though while preparing to move to Germany, which didn’t happen in the end.

VP: How did that happen?

I am not any more with my long-time partner with whom I was supposed to move there.

VP: Sorry to hear that. How does that affect your work, the things happening on your personal plane?

SKIRL: To be honest, I had some two months period in last year when I didn’t feel like doing anything. I did have lots of archive material so I was still present on the scene and in the galleries with fresh stuff though. Then at some point the work started again because I had some jobs, really big jobs for some hotel where i made thousands of square meters wall space, and it was really strange because I had to really force myself to do it. Customer is very happy but I can totally tell that I did not like this during I did it, that I didn’t enjoy it. It really goes along with my mental health and my feeling about myself, because as soon as I start painting, these thoughts that you normally try to block away or try to overlay with something else like keeping yourself busy and shit, it’s not working any more when you draw, when you suffer the drawing is really suffering, for me.

VP:  Recently with my flatmate I watched all Rocky movies, from 1 to 7  – it’s more or less same film, just being repeated scene by scene and shot again in different epoques – but usually you see Rocky at the end of the movie totally in blood, deformed from hits and punches, but he is winning, while hardly standing on his legs – so I said to myself, maybe this is the real face of the victory – you get punched, wasted, mutilated and partially destroyed on the way, it’s not pleasant experience, but the price you pay for being brave pays back sooner or later…you somehow remind me of this Rocky after I hear what you’ve been through recently. Huh, this conversation is going in many directions at the same time. Let’s go back to questions list: who was your childhood hero? Did it change over time?

SKIRL: I really liked Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles…what age in childhood we talk about?

VP: Idk, any time from which you remember strong impression of a hero/idol/fascination with some figure?

SKIRL: I think Michael Jackson.

VP: For what reason?

SKIRL: You know the “Smooth Criminal” video, which is shot in billiard bar, with all these gangsters and hot chicks all dressed up in 1930’s style, I saw this video when I was very young because my mom had it on the video cassette, and I really liked it a lot.

VP: The Al Capone era influence sort of..?

SKIRL: it’s exactly this, I think even came in the same years like Scarface and other big gangster movies of 90’s, I think it’s the same vibes..

VP: That’s a great remark, as none of these movies were a musical/dance film, and this is kind of a queering the genre..

SKIRL: Yes, just using the parameters of the same aesthetics..

VP: do you still appreciate Michael Jackson nowadays?

SKIRL: No, not really. Or maybe a little bit, I am more into early Michael Jackson stuff, when it was still disco and funk…this young Michael Jackson I prefer much more, not the white one.

VP: I guess we could wonder how would it look like if he stayed the same Michael Jackson from that early period.

SKIRL: I think we would only know that if he didn’t have that much money and didn’t become famous, but then we would know it because he would not be famous. /laughter/

VP: Few more trick-questions: if you were an animal, which one would you be and why?

SKIRL: /long breath, pause../  Hm. that’s really a good one.

VP: Or in a broader sense, which animals you appreciate?

SKIRL: I like most animals to be honest, most of them…i just don’t like mosquitos and ticks. I really like seahorses, the swimming cow, the really slow, fat dolphin things, I think the name is MANATEE, they’re cool.

VP: Going back to painting and art – you’ve been on the scene since a while, when you look behind yourself, what can you tell us about the difference between then and now, on any level this could relate to?

SKIRL: You mean for me or what changed in general?

VP: Would be great if you could answer both, thank you 🙂

SKIRL: I think In Vienna the scene really changed. When I started graffiti, hip hop was playing much bigger role in all German-speaking areas, but in Austria the whole hip hop vibes really went down in the last years…we have much more friendly interaction, people from the whole scene know each others, they write more or less friendly messages on Instagram, talk to each other, being in contact, meeting each others on the exhibitions and so on.. That was not the case when I was starting graffiti. People were not very friendly and not really welcoming new people to the scene, and they were not really happy if somebody new would start to paint the walls or go to the legal painting places or stuff like that. Also, with the train graffiti scene, it was really unfriendly and everybody was suspicious and everybody hated each others.. But as the people I started with grew older, and got more influential on the scene, the scene really changed. Also the new generations that came after us were more oriented towards this new way of treating this and seeing the whole thing… Starting graffiti now and being a new graffiti/street artist/or being interested in painting walls nowadays you have much more possibilities and many more friendly people who will answer your questions, personally or online, and would introduce you into this scene. It all moved more towards arts and figurative message stuff, still there is lots of graffiti writers who will do classical graffiti and write the same name with different colors on the wall, but the average of people who do something else on the walls raised, or is much higher than back in the days..

For me personally, it’s completely different from when I started. Now I have position where I can ask people for stuff which would be unheard of ten years ago, and I have lots of possibilities. My friends grew older, things are now maybe more easy to achieve but I am also interested in something else, I do not do the same stuff anymore.. I do not go to the hall of fame anymore.

VP: In your opinion, what influenced this change of mood? Was it the street art that got more recognized, or people changed..?

SKIRL: Yes it’s always same thing with subcultures, with different scenes and hobbies or interests that get young people together – that they have to make a new subculture, that they form out the rules. Because humans want to judge each other, when you do something you want to know if you are the best or the second best, and who is what and who does how much of what, you want to give points for shit… After one generation has set up the rules and played the game by the rules and everybody knows who is the best, who are the kings and who are the losers, then more or less the next generation has to make up new rules, because a new generation always has to find a new identity and they cannot just play the game after the rules of first generation, they have to bring it to a new level. And that’s why it’s just normal that in ten years also graffiti and street art scene is changing. The only consistant in the fucking universe is the change, so I think that plays the biggest role in why everything changed../laughter from both sides/

 VP: What would be your recipe for adapting to change?

SKIRL: I don’t know, I am also getting older you know, adapting to change is much more easy when you are young, but when you find your ways to do the stuff and your partial solutions to your problems then it’s getting harder and harder to adapt to change. I just observe the world, and I am really into people, and I also observe what is happening between people and how the world is changing, because it is not changing a lot you know, it is just getting more and more digital. The functions and parameters of things are staying the same, it’s just taking over new roles from new things.. My recipe in adapting to change is I guess don’t stay still and never think you reached the point when you don’t have to change anything any more…You have to stay constantly busy and focused if you want to survive.

VP: Which music plays in your ears while you paint?

SKIRL: I listen to melodic death metal and black metal when I paint, mostly, Scandinavian bands from 1990’s and early 2000’s.

VP: That’s very interesting, I guess nobody would imagine that there is some connection between your work and that context, or you think it is connected, as something obvious?

SKIRL: Most of my titles especially from the walls I did between 2017 and late 2020 are the song titles from death metal tracks. You can google them and find some really really hard and angry death metal music.

VP: Do they know about this, the musicians?

SKIRL:  No, they all are not active anymore and some of them are in prison…

VP: For what? Killing their band members?

SKIRL: Yeah stuff like that, killing or raping their band members…those are really serious people, I don’t even want to know if I want to have anything with them, but the music they do is really beautiful.

VP: Following up on this, what would be your top 5 artists to recommend to our audience, in any field?

SKIRL: I have one guy to recommend, he is drawing very very very detailed things, it’s the artist Ben Tolman from USA, then I would recommend music of, Metronomy, Mr Oizo, /as I said I don’t like movies but I did check some of his movies too/, then the Spanish artist I follow on instagram called Ampparito, and Nelio Riga. I also have this guy in instagram.

VP: What would be your advice to a young artist who is at the start of the career at the moment?

SKIRL: Try always to follow your heart, not the working concept that has proven to already work. Don’t do too many different things and wonder why it didn’t work, because if you just put three hours a month into something it’s never going to work. When you really get focused into something, you want to be sure with something when you will spend a lot of time in it, choose it always from the heart and not from the brain. If you choose it from your brain, as a concept that is already proven and working, and then you copy it, you should never wonder why it didn’t work, because it is already old when you start doing it. When you do something from the heart, and something that hasn’t been done or is not just a pure copy of something that you think is potentially successful, you will enjoy it much more and you have a chance to be a pioneer in something. Maybe you will not be successful with that then, but at least you did something that you really loved all the time…and when you are successful with it, it’s the greatest feeling ever.

VP: Did you ever imagine yourself in a role of professor or a coach?

SKIRL: No. I can do talks and that stuff, I give interviews, though.

VP: Can you describe one dream that you remember from minimum 2-5 years ago?

SKIRL: Many of them are nightmares. Most of the time when can I remember my dreams I dream more or less the same thing. I stand somewhere, and to understand the whole dream and the fascination behind it you have to know that I am really into maps and into birdview, so I dream I am standing somewhere and I realize that I can fly. I really cramp my muscles and I start to levitate and I fly away. So I am flying a little bit, and it’s really fun and games and all that, but at some point I realize that I can’t really control it, and I want to land again, but landing always happens too fast and I crash into some shit, and at the moment when I impact, I wake up.

VP: What is your favorite era or ancient civilization/historical period?

SKIRL: That’s really hard one man. Egyptians I guess man. I have extremely big knowledge on ancient civilizations in fact, I like Egyptians. Babilonians too, Maya, Inka, but I think Egyptians are the most badass from their whole visual style and to the whole structure around it. Their graphic and architectural solutions, everything looks fucking cool in ancient Egypt and still looks cool and impressive.

VP: I guess they definitely had very well made interventions on walls, that survived thousands of years /laughter/. So if you had teleport machine you would go to ancient Egypt?

SKIRL: No no surely no, that’s way too dangerous. I would teleport myself to Studio 54 and have a dance with some really good disco music.

VP: The closing question – what can you tell us about the future, what do you see in future?

SKIRL: Nothing, really. I don’t care. I try to have good time and I don’t think about future too much. I go out, I eat good food, I meet nice people, I make few euros, that’s all that counts.

VP: If you could choose, in which country would you like to be the president?

SKIRL: No, I don’t want to be a president. I don’t want to have so many people with different opinions in front of me and me being responsible for everything. I am already overwhelmed by being responsible for myself.

more photos and infos:


Natasa Zivkov Stojkov

October 2021

In the late October 2021, we hosted another street art jam, this time at the primary school Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj in beautiful town of Zrenjanin, north Serbia. The workshop was led by Jovan Shpira Obradovic and Aleksandar Buncic , and resulted in total of 14 new murals at the walls of the school yard!

Shpira Obradovic

Conceptually, the variety of styles and topics treated in these 14 wall paintings was united by choosing the same selection of colors for all the artworks. We had very wide selection of participants between 6 and 76 years of age, starting with 6 years old school kids followed by the teenagers, their professors, even the retired parents of the older participants…for the local scene, quite notable and important was participation of Daniel Pengrapher, young multidisciplinary artist from Nigeria, and Aleksandra Vrebalov, New York-based music composer of Serbian origin, famous for her works with Kronos Quartet – at our workshop, she made her first mural ever!

Daniel Pengrapher, Nigeria
A. Vrebalov USA/Serbia

Another mural debut was done by our curator Dzaizku, with a generous help of his kid. The whole two-days process was documented by Darko Pavlovic /Medianova/ and Veronika Spalajkovic-Vegas. Big thanks to NKSS network, to the teachers from the Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj school for their support, and to Rastko Stefanovic from association ALUZ, our local coordination partner.

Aleksandar Buncic, Serbia
Ana Stanar
Nina Stanar
Milica Stanar
Una Sevaljevic
Milica Ognjenovic
Filip Popov