Poet from the GFA crew in Berlin give us a few minutes to discuss about style, letters, beef, the early Berlin and his work on canvas.
Lectrics: You seem to be a real letters purist. Always looking for new styles and new connections. What can you tell us about your will to always innovate?
Poet: For me, it is the personal touch that is very important, it shows who you are and in the Art of Stylewriting letters is what count. As how I understood “writing”, it is more important to be original then to be only and always on the look out to do a burner. I think also that originality is what will survive the time, but I also learned from history that when you have 100 followers of your ideas, then nobody will know years later who put them out first, it’s a classical writing history phenomenon. And of course, you have to study a lot, to stay in the context, otherwise you will not create something new, you maybe just repeat what you saw or what others already did. What I mean is, that you have to create out of consciousness and consolidated knowledge. For example it took me years of studying to find out where my own style roots are located.
Lectrics: Does it mean that you bring originality into every pieces to let the followers behind you ?
Poet: Of course not! Honestly, I dont even think in this categories. I think, if i have followers then it’s maybe just because I paint longer then them or maybe I am more talented then them, I dont know?. But that’s actually not my intention. I am doing mostly when it comes to letters, like the other writers, just a interpretation of something that has been done in one way or another. What I only can do, is to add my own version or vision of it.¬†When we talk about pieces, style and writers, we can only talk and judge about, what we have seen, no matter if we have seen it live or in some media. I guess there is alot of stuff that we all didn’t have seen over the past decades. So in this context, I think it doesnt really matters if you where in front, behind or just in the middle with your Style, because if you where in front one day, you can be behind the next day with your style. In this matter it is worthless to think about. For example, I know a lot of writers that tell me, that my style was at its best 10 Years ago when I wrote the name Kaos45 or some say it was even 15 years ago with the old Poet pieces from the mid90ties, but I say the stuff I do today on the bigsize canvases is the best stuff and most individual stuff, I ever did in relation to writing or graffiti. Because I started as a illegal painter, playing the hide-and-seek game for more than 23 years with cops, my family, friends and even with other competitors. This game goes so far that I have even hide pictures of my adventures so good, that I didnt found them back. And now I paint legal bigsize canvases, but still I even hide the letters in the painting. I had people and even writers looking at some of my paintings, without realizing that there are still letters all over. And when I point them out to them, people start to be astonish, how i did this. So I think, I have created more than in the past, my own vision of a painting or style that has different levels and functions. What I want to say is, I dont want to be a rolemodel and I also dont want to follow any other rolemodel, I just want to be me.
L: Lots of writers don‚Äôt have any reflexion about their own work. Working on your style is something really important for you. Why ?
P: It showed me where I am coming from. It gives me and my style identity and in the same moment it leads me to the right direction, where I have to go to in the future. It has a lot to do with identity. We as humans have a natural need for identity. No identity, no home, no place to go. Then, I guess you become restless. And I think it’s true that everybody is inspired by something in the beginning. Most people are just to narcistic to admit so, especially the writers. There are a lot of writers out, that have fame and sucess but are just a copy of another identity. And most of them, dont even know wich identity they adopt.
L: The Color compositions you are using are totally mad. Finding new color compositions, is it really important to you ?
P: I’am not really looking for something new when it comes to color compositions, maybe it just happen. I just try to give the color composition also like the style a personal note. What I learned over the time from painting is, freestyling on a wall or creating the letters take the most energy and it depends on your daily mood how it will look like. The letters are the essence of stylewriting and everything builds up on the first lines, they lead you to the whole direction of the piece and are the frame for every further step when you paint. So within time I learned whats for me the best approach, it’s better to be prepared and to come with a sketch to the wall, then I can put the most energy into the coloring and other details like designs instead to create the letterstyle. For the coloring I go inside myself and try to find out, what color fits best and why I think so. It can happen that I do a 2 hours break just to find out if I should use yellow or not. But in the other way around it can also happen that I do a real full color burner within 20 min. and not thinking a second about it. Like I said before, it‚Äôs about the daily mood. Nothing is really planned within the colors, I just take as much as I can carry to the wall to have as much opportunity as possible and then just let it flow. But I had also times were I said to myself: 23 colors in the fill-in is way to much, you know I call it “eyecancer fill-in”. It took too much attraction away from the letterstyle, the essence. So then I was training to use 4 different colors for everything, like blu, red and yellow in the fillin, 3-d, designs and background at the same time.
L: In the “Hard to burn” video, you are painting with a spray can in each hand… that was impressive ! What’s your secret… are you ambidextrous (video readable at the end of the interview) ?
P: No, I am a right hander, I am not really good in painting with the left hand, exept filling in with fatcap. But serious, the secret is more like that it has alot to do with circles, triangle and paralell short and long lines. Also some letters are better then others, to execute in that style. You are much more limited in your construction of the letters, but I trained hard within freestyles, to let it look like easy and flowin executed. It’s like Olympic games, for a good performance of 30 sec, you are training for years. The interesting part about it is, that the left side of your brain controls your right hand and the right side of your brain controls your left hand, always. So for that reason the most humans have problems to do 2 different things at the same time with their hands, me also. I found this out when I tryed to go to the limit with that style, I realized that its not really working without the use of paralel lines and curves. Honestly the idea behind this style was more a perception of a puristic style performance, to show people a different and even faster approach to create a Style. With that kind of freestyle you are always walkin on the edge between complete success or complete fail. I mean, I am the creator of this technic, but I didnt reinvent the wheel. It’s just another approach to create still a style.
L: As an old school Berliner, what can you say about the early stages of Graffiti in Berlin ? There’s a lots of stories going around about the debuts in the East and the West…
P: Me as a born West-berliner can only talk about West. The early stages where fascinating, because nobody had really information about anything, You had to find out everything by your own, because information where back then like gold. I can remember, that I have to give one spraycan in exchange for one picture with graff from Munich. So 30 pictures mean to give 30 spraycans, but this only counts for West-Berlin where you could find around 82 the first pieces on the Berlin wall, that was only reachable from West-Berlin. East-berlin came into the game after the fall of the wall in 1989. The whole scene from the West moved on to the trains in East-Berlin until 93-94. After that it became an All City game for everybody. I can remember for example in 1990, that one of the guys from the CAF crew, which belongs to the first generation in the East, came to a workshop from Shek and me and we taught him how to do the first lines with a spraycan instead with chalk.
L: After the wall fall down it was easy torecognize a piece from the east to another from the west. It took time to the east to catch up this 10 years ?
P: Yeah I think so. Or better put it¬†this way, the first piece I saw, that I personal like, from an East-Berliner was around 1994-95. Some of them really maked quik progress, but I also think, the conditions back then for painting, were for all really good in the entire City. 20 years later, it seems like that the most young talented writers come from the Eastern part of the town and the Westside is full of Oldschoolers, who had maked a comeback. So I guess it’s da perfect mix for the Future.
L: You keep marking your name in daily life a chrome in a street, a graffiti on a ground and even stickers on the streetposts, you do never stop! Where does all your motivation come from after all this years.
P: There is no real reason to stop. It’s still the fun to create, that it makes exiting and if you start to create without passion then you should better stop. Also fucking up property can be fun, sometimes it doesn‚Äôt have to be artistic. Thats what I really like about writing. First, it’s a way of self-expression and sometimes when the only message is, that you have been there. Then is this the message, that your alive and you had maybe fun in this moment. There is no need to have always a deeper meaning, if you just scrawl your name. I see more the problem within people who reduces you, the ones that think, if he do so, he can not do it better.
My motivation? hmm, I dont know?!. After 23 years I didn‚Äôt really request that anymore. I make my first steps with 12 and really started to write everyday with 14 . Back then I decided for myself to paint, that this is the way I wanted to life. So for me it was actually never a question, because I love to paint. Today its more a questions of how you master the challenge of combining regular live with your visions and dreams. This is the point where I had to accept that bombing trains doesn‚Äôt pay your bills. So at a certain point I had to reduce these activities in the end of the 90′ties. But that was after all the years of fun and nightlife not that hard. I became a neighborhood bomber and a hall writer, some tags and street pieces on the weekend, I was thinking why not, it was all good. Compared to a lot of my old homeboys who started carriers on heavy drugs, after the so called Berlin golden age of graffiti, I was fine with it. The main fixed rules in my life were always: stay out of jail and stay away from hard drugs. I also think, graffiti writer mentality nowadays seems not to be what it was like some years ago. The greed for fame, jealousy and hate became more important than quality, unity and have some fun. The writers are also still just a mirror of society. The more popular writing graffiti became, so more it became average or assimilationed within society and their standarts. But on the other hand the new times also offer you a lot of other interesting thinks. Its not that black and white thing, it changes more from light grey to dark grey.
L: Do you mean that the Berlin scene are becoming harder ? Maybe the new generation comes into graffiti not for the same reason than at this golden age. What do you think about this ?
P: I dont think that the Berlin scene became harder. It just change in direction. Maybe it became harder to paint a train, then in the 90ties. But even with this I am not sure because I see mostly every day fullcolor painted S-Trains running. It seems to me more the other way around, that the scene has become softer and more introverted. It also seems like that Berlin had the most graff-tourist in Europe. A lot of foreign Toys come to paint in Berlin, which also means a lot of cans for free. Back in the days things where definitly different but the motivation is nowadays still the same I guess: Fame. But I think, back then you had much more writers running around armed with knifes and shit. It was kind of ruffer on the street not that zero tolerance politics. Nowadays it’s a crime to carry a knife. For example, you had also a lot of the train bombers after the nienties turning into heavy crime, I know a lot of writers who just were released from jail after 7-8 years, or who are still hiding from the law in foreign countrys.
L: Following the beef with the TC5 and the wall dedicated to them. Did they ever pay you back with a new piece ?
P: The wall was not dedicated to TC5, it was in order for Doc and Sye. I dont want to disscredit the other TC5 or original TC5 including Blade and Comet. There it start already for me, it always seemed that there are 2 separate TC5 in N.Y.C, or did you ever saw a production of both TC5? Me not, but Honestly I dont even care if they answer, because this was not a request for a answer. It was more a statement, for the politics they did on Sye’s blog wich they used as a platform to disscredit us. I don‚Äôt know why they did it that way, because Doc could send me a mail as usual an we could handle everything peacefull. It was even planned to bring them next year to Berlin, but they choose to offend us with words, that were uneccaptable. I guess they where jalous or frustrated from their 9-5 job.
It started with the Yard5 jamflyer and a classical B-Boy character on it done by Phos4, that was 30 Years ago invented by Rock Steady’s Doze. 1000 times already executed by 1000 different writers, from N.Y.C and worldwide. Thats why we see the mugsy image as part of the whole aerosoul culture. But the thing is for them Phos4 have not the authority from TC5 to draw this kind of B-boy with a “5″ on its chest. So it was also the bite of the Number 5, then the bite of the name Yard5 from them and then it ended with the accuse of making money with a mugsy character and the 5 on it. I mean its pointy headed or mental deficiency, Phos4 as a b-boy, MC and painter since more then 20 years, with a great contribution to stylewriting, just printed his 50 shirts, its not that big bissnezz what they were acusse. Doc brags about their strong philosophy and that he have more pieces around the globe than Phos4 in Germany, I am in reasonable doubt about that. And even when it is a trace, thats how Doc called it, they should show everyone where it was traced from. When it is so!. About the 5 symbol. Doc knew everything better than this what they accuse us. He knew that GFA was founded way before he took me to TC5 in 1993. We did a wall together where Kage painted a big GFA on the side. He even saw my Glorious 5 tattoo back then (which I have since 1991) and gave me a shake for it. But then he let allow Sye to argue that the whole 5 influence came from them and so on. Which is definitly not true and he knew it. That was for me the point where I knew its just politics, they just wanted to disscredit us on purpose. Maybe they are frustrated for what reason ever. Also Sye didnt put all comments online that we wrote, it was like a set-up I think.
But honestly we as GFA the crew dont take the “crys from the retirement home” serious. I think that they were not that smart, but smart enough to know that their time has pass. Thats why I only used 20 restcans for the Wall. Like I said, i didnt wanted to challenge them it was more a personal godbye to Doc, because you have to understand that i wrote for mostly 17 Years TC5, next to my name. So for me, after all they deserved to get this message. And they should know that we hold on, on our history and identity and on our 5. I mean, ask a kid in New York to wich crew the 5 belongs and they maybe say TC5, but on the other hand ask a kid in Berlin to wich crew the 5 belongs? Every kid overhere will tell you GFA, and that for no reason. So they have to accept finally, that their sphere of control of the 5, end at the East Atlantic beach and that in Europe, Berlin Glorious 5 or GFA is existing.
Wall done by Poet for Doc and Sye (on higher resolution in the gallery, below)
L: GFA & RTZ are your main crew. Lots of GFA are equally RTZ, as well. Can you explain this affiliation ?
P: Maybe its because Phos4 and me know each other since more then 20 Years and we hanged out together intensive for a couple of years. We have been in the 90ties together joining SOS crew and RTZ is founded by him. But I also have to mention that GFA has a longer history with a lot more members than RTZ. It’s more the other way around that a lot of the RTZ members are also down with GFA. But it‚Äôs true that we all are Family, also with GHS.
L: You have been painting with a few diferent names, Saer, Buff17, Kaos45 & Poet… Which one is your favorite ?
P: Honestly it’s one of my first names from 1988, “the Art of Aero” sounds so pretty much senseless. No.. for real. Poet is da shit. Near taught me how to do tags and back then when you had a padavan, you gave him a name that leeds back to you, so I was Sear. Then because of lots of illegal activities I mixed it to Saer, Sare, Zear, Ser and so on…I use alias mostly to misdirect the executive or to step out of my routines. But since a year I am searching for a new alias that maybe leads me to the Alpha style, I am looking for. The problem is I couldn‚Äôt find a decision finally between two new names, but i think it will happen soon. I am feeling it. Maybe I just do both and give Poet a break.
L: Lots of european and american graffiti artists are trying to make money out of graffiti, selling canvas, working for fashion brands. You are one of the biggest German graffiti artists, known in whole Europe, but I feel like you are not really into that… Am I right ?
P: Maybe you are or maybe you are not?! I dont know whats the benchmark. For sure they are some writers that have more business running. But thats not the point for me. I do sell Canvas regularly, but I dont promote every deal. I have 4-5 exhibitions a year and it’s still growing. I can pay all my bills with my artworks and I want to keep it like that. Maybe it has something to do with my personal background. Where I come from, it’s not good to talk about success and money, because the most people dont have it. I learned really early what it means when people are frustrated and have no perspective and that money and fame brings enviousness and attracts false friends. That’s also the reason why I work alot under aliases.
You also have to know that back in 1990 I won a battle called: Berlin Graffiti Championship. I was 17 years old and started then to have a manager already who brought to me a lot of painting jobs for big companys and the industry. Sometimes I earned several thousand german marks a month and it went on like that for years in the 90ties. Then one day came a job for a big pharmacy company, which I did with Shek together. We had to paint a wall in the basement for 10.000, but then came into an dispute with the Company. In the end they were happy with the finish result and we getted the money. But I realized back then, that I was just an executive customer fulfillment and I was not satisfied with it. I became tired of always to please everybody, just because they pay us alot of money or to get the next big job. Maybe I was also to young, I dont know. So I stopped for a while with commercial painting jobs and started also with the print/magazine buissness together with Adrian Nabi in our appartment, where we were living together. We worked on the Backjumps magazine together by turns with Phos4 and Jay1, which was a really succesfull time. I worked back then under the alias “Jimmy” as an illustrator, editor and later also as chief editor for Backjumps.
In the year 2000 I started to paint the first canvases and since then I am looking more and more for my own european interpretation of Graffiti writing on big size canvases, that is detached from the classical american train image or piece. But of course I also paint and will always paint smaller canvases with only a style on it. Because the Art of Stylewriting is where I came from. Nowadays I dont make compromise. I only paint, what I feel and like. The same I do with the buisness. I had over the last 2 years, several offers from different people to do a Poet book. But I would never give my stuff away for a Poet book, where the main part of the benefits goes to somebody else. Within time you never know how much they really sold of your book. If I do something like that, I will do it by my own.
L: There’s many gifted graffiti artists in Berlin. What do you think about the new generation of graffiti artists in your town ?
P: I am not sure. With time I learned that the age has it own rules. I saw the most talented young writers turning there back on writing because of girls and partying. Then you also have Kids that dont care about fame, they just do it for the fun of it, which seems kind of healthy. But I think the major problem is for the most kids, that with time they dont earn anything exxept stress. To become really famous in Berlin you need good tactics or supernatural talent.
L: You recently created your own blog. Is that essential for you to stay connected ?
P: It started with the need to bring a lot of activities under one umbrella, that what I am working on rightnow, own webpage and so on and the Web is the effective and cheapest way to do so. Also I have a lot of fotos still that I want to put on my blog. I tooked alot of fotos from graff allover the last 23 Years which I will share with people who love graff like I do.
L: 3 years ago, you created a T-Shirt in collaboration with Lectrics. Which memory do you keep from our collaboration, maybe this famous flicks you’ve done with the gunshot ?
P: The shotgun i had back then, I didnt have it anymore, I like to have it back. Beautiful design. Anyway you wanna know what’s my favorite designobjekt ? A chainsaw from Stihl. They have one plastik model for kids that make the original sound when you push the button. Very nice.
Posing with a Lectrics tee. (thanks Pro)
For more flicks check the GFACREW account on Streetfiles
For more about Poet check his blog after the jump.
Poet provide us with a few exclusive ¬†old pieces (high definition flicks on the gallery, below).
Shek (Victim), Echo (from Paris), Poet (Wild)
Wesp, Poet (Sume)
Sare by Poet
Here is the video of Hard 2 burn we are speaking in the interview: