What do you write / how long have you been writing / where are you based out of?
Hey! I mostly write Bosny, though I sometimes write other things as well for fun. I’ve been writing for about twelve years (since I was fourteen). It always feels misleading to count those early years when I talk about how long I’ve been writing, but then I guess everyone starts off by being terrible and that’s part of the process. I’m based out of Montréal, but as the chill spots in the city have been disappearing I’ve been painting farther and farther out into the country. I also lived in Halifax on the East Coast for two years where I co-founded Pizza Team with Olsen and Logre.
What first got you into graffiti?
I recently ran into a schoolmate from grade two whom I’d not seen since. They asked me if I still drew graffiti (I did not remember it being a thing for me at that age). I scratched my initials on the back of a stop sign with a rock around that age, that was my first outdoor graffiti. I also scribbled on the cafeteria wall at school while my dad was picking me up and chatting with a counsellor, in plain view. There are still doodles on my childhood home’s walls made by baby-me. I remember very old graffiti having had an impact on me, KOPS crew especially but also DA.
The idea of actually doing it in the street, however, really came about as a teenager. I was a sensitive, artsy kid at an all boys high school where perceived weakness was preyed upon. I think that at first, it was a way of both justifying my solitude and redeeming my artistic side. My drawing skills helped me get good quick (as did the advice of older writers from DHS and DA over MSN and MySpace) and by the time I was 15-16 I’d built several solid friendships in my neighbourhood thanks to graffiti.
How would you describe your style?
I think I would describe my style as conceptual formalism (yeah I’ve been to art school…). Conceptual means that it’s the idea behind a piece that matters more than the piece itself. Formalism is a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach to art making, what’s often referred to as art for art’s sake. Conceptual art actually began as a response to formalism, and I’m sure some people cringed when I named the two together.
My work examines the implicit assumptions regarding graffiti and murals as well as digital and print media. When you look at graffiti on Instagram, you’re not looking at graffiti: you’re looking at a picture of graffiti on a screen. The scale is different, the colours change, the smells and the sounds… We frequently overlook how differently context affects our art viewing. Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe was addressing the same issue nearly 100 years ago.
For example, I painted a mural of a face in a tight alley which is only perceptible when it’s shrunken to screen-size. I painted a graffiti piece that has no beginning or end and only really works as an infinitely scrolling video. I made a blurry piece that made Instagram viewers think their internet was acting up. My work aims to be disruptive but also playful.
What other writers to you look up to / what other forms of art (not graffiti) inspires you?
I read an interview by Roids MSK several years ago now in which he said he tries to look at as little graffiti as possible, to keep his work fresh. I’ve been unfollowing graffiti quite a bit in order to push my own aesthetics better. That being said, some graffiti/street artists I have been enjoying a lot lately are Revok, Dais, Dems, PantOne, Oker, Wais, Wider, Outside, Street Pointillist and 2Alas. Outside of graffiti, one of my all-time biggest inspirations is the music video director Michel Gondry whose playful use of video editing techniques really draws your attention to the medium itself. Chuck Close also played a big role (sadly, he’s been ousted as a big perv recently). M.C. Escher is a returning figure as well (I like maths!). Someone who’s been popping into my mind quite a bit lately is Joseph Kosuth, one of the forefathers of conceptual art, and I will likely be delving into his work deeper in the near future.
I’m very interested in artisanal art practices – sewing, stitching, ceramics, looming, dyeing, woodworking, cooking, printmaking all appeal to me. The things in our lives are so mass-produced, I find it crucial to bare in mind the labour involved in making it oneself. These media also strive for sustainability better than graffiti or street art do and I feel that an aesthetic based in sustainability is crucial at this point in time.
You often incorporate a character face in the O of your name, any background story to the character?
I like drawing characters way better than drawing Os haha. I find it makes for a good compositional element a lot of the time as well, to create an asymmetrical element to work off of. Sometimes it’s just a lack of creativity, though, a trope. It’s hard to stay fresh sometimes when you’ve been painting for a long time – habits creep up on you.
Going thru your Instagram, I noticed you’ve curated a couple of shows, how did you get into curating and what do you think of it?
Good question. I have worked at/ run art galleries since I was nineteen. It’s something I’ve done mostly under my legal name. It started as a way to get a better sense of the art world and how it works – the second gallery I worked at was one of the big Canadian commercial art galleries. I’ve definitely learnt a lot from it. Gallery work requires a more meticulous mind than mine, however, but in the local graffiti community there aren’t that many people with that sort of experience so I’m happy when I get to help the scene with my experience.
The bridge between graffiti and galleries is very touchy. Graffiti, by definition, is illegal whereas galleries need to appear legal and legit. What’s more, the current trend in galleries is still the white cube, white walls with artworks hung at similar distances, allowing the art to speak for itself without any outside influences. This falls in direct contradiction with graffiti which is entirely related to its’ surrounding context (a shitty graffiti piece in a heaven spot doesn’t read the same if it’s in a kid’s garage). Bringing something contextual and illegal into a sterile, authoritative space is almost always contradictory. My usual work-around is to have artists examine a peripherally related aspect of graffiti (camaraderie, wonky sleep schedules, intermedia practices, etc.) and bring that into a gallery space in order to make it translate from one space to another. Nothing puts me to sleep faster than “graffiti” on a canvas in a gallery – yawn! In my own practice, I try to have my practice not gravitate around a given medium but a set of ideas, that way it can easily flow through different environments without being negatively affected by it or made irrelevant.
Your pieces have a digital / tech vibe going on, how did that start?
I started graffiti steeped in internet culture. I didn’t have shoeboxes of flicks, I had computer folders and a Myspace and Flickr account. Sometimes I call myself an internet artist to piss other graffiti writers off because my work is primarily shared on the internet, not seen in person (I don’t bomb as much as I used to). If you’re the kind of writer who posts to Instagram right after being done a piece, what is your medium really? Is it the graffiti or the picture of the graffiti?
The digital elements are usually a way of disrupting viewers’ scrolling-and-tap ping through Instagram or Facebook. I leave cursors in my pieces in the hopes that viewers won’t know where their mouse is or I put a glitch in so they think their phone got sat on. I know some artists are using digital aesthetics as a celebration of new media, a utopian futurism. They make cool stuff. I’m personally just trying to disrupt your daily scroll in a playful manner and remind you that you’re not looking at graffiti but an image of a picture of graffiti.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to get involved with graffiti?
Let yourself suck. Be dog-shit for as long as you can. There are so many things to get good at: composition, colours, figure drawing, abstraction, type design, message, style, can control, creativity… Some people are bad at nearly all of these, but put enough artifice for it not to show – steeped writers can see through them, though, and it’s hard for them to move past their façades. Take the time to really master as many (if not all) of these aspects of graffiti as possible – yes you will feel like your buddies are more successful than you at first, but they will be quicker to stagnate. The bigger your artistic tool belt, the more playful and varied your work will be. Focus on where you want to get, not where you want to be.
If you had to pick 1 other art form that your graffiti resembles, what would it be and why?
I studied printmaking in university and it influences my work a lot. Digital screens make colours by putting together red, green and blue pixels (white is produced by all three rays together, light is trippy!) whereas commercial printers use cyan (blue), magenta (pink), yellow and black inks to produce pictures. My work frequently tries to echo these image-making processes by either using RGB or CMYK palettes. What happens when you look at an RGB print, say, or a digital image of a CMYK picture?
I’d say, however, that it’s important to me that my graffiti be differentiated from not only the photo of itself but other art processes: if it makes more sense to photoshop a drawing onto a wall than to paint it, the formalist suggests, why bother? The medium you use should relate to the message you are getting through: the medium is the message (a dope idiom, but also a great essay by Marshall McLuhan).
Any dope spraycation stories?
Hmm. My crew PH and I were in New Brunswick this summer looking for a bridge to paint and sleep under. After several no-go spots and as the night was drawing near it started to hail, of all things. Pask suggested that we keep driving along a dead-end road and we were all very disenchanted with his plan. There were signs saying that the bridge at the end is shut off yet he urged us to keep exploring. Ugh. But it was a shut-down coveredbridge! There had been a big flood and one side of the bridge was missing entirely. We set up our tent on the damn bridge, roof and all! We got a fire going and started making dinner when three cars pull up. The bridge is a huge point of contention in the two neighbouring towns: some politicians want to turn it into a pedestrian path while local residents need it for their local commute. Anyway, these residents took photos of these trespassing Quebs in order to make a case to their local politicians of the dangers they’d face as a community if the bridge didn’t get put back in service ASAP. It’s fun to be a local celebrity somewhere we will never go back to.
As for graffiti-relevant anecdotes, in general when people catch us painting, we just smile, wave and talk to them – they’re generally pretty stoked once they see us as friendlies. Our spraycations are pretty chill.