Article by Brian Gonnella

Bombing Science: Here’s a hypothetical situation: It’s the end of the world and you have a secret bunker, designed impeccably by top scientists to outlast the ferocity of Armageddon and rebuild civilization when the smoke clears…and let’s also say, for some reason…you can only save 5 pieces of art.  What would you save?

PERU DYER:  Haha, well, 10 out of 10 people die so I’d count my blessings. And I wouldn’t take any art in that case, but if I HAD to choose, I’d bring “Renegade Tribes” which was a pleasant accident myself and everyone else seems to appreciate; “Hate Work” which is a little more ingeniously crafted with the hanging dollar from a nail attached with a rubber band. At first he couldn’t reach the bill, but with time the rubber band dried up and stretched for him to reach – in a way he earned his dollar; “Island Life” though a little large to carry, its one of the most recent and interesting ideas I’ve had representing the Island of Montreal as an entity flying over the St-Laurence – I‘ve also been commissioned to paint a gigantic mural of this in Montreal next summer; After that I’d bring “Big Owe” which is a local landmark and I love the way the colours worked themselves out; and for the last piece I’d bring perhaps “One Thought” which was a live art performance piece I did at Tremblant last winter. I got three long canvases and brought a bunch of assorted images, then combined and painted them in an order which narrated a story that involved and captured the audience’s attention. I’ve always enjoyed performance art; I recently did a job for the Journees de la Culture for Place des Arts, and had the chance of fabricating a giant wood cylinder which I painted with people of all ages throughout the weekend.
There’s nothing better that a mother complaining about how her kids clothes are ruined from paint.
BS: When did you start painting/making art? What was it about graffiti that appealed to you as a young artist-in-making?

PERU DYER: I started doing graffiti in the late 90s in Lima, where I was raised, mostly out of creative curiosity. What attracted me most was its unique presence, and the creative possibilities at that time changed my life forever. The first time I did tags, was when I belonged to a soccer gang way before I knew graffiti existed. We used to go around writing with anything from spray paint, to crushed flowers and sometimes even just by running your fingers on the filthy city walls would leave a mark dark enough to stick up through the rain. I did not see the relation it had to the origins of graffiti regarding tagging, which to be honest was my favorite aspect of being in a gang next to winning a game and rioting. I started noticing graffiti at the skate parks and soccer stadiums around the city, and when we got internet at school I got up on Art Crimes and started studying styles and drawing a bit, but I didn’t paint as much as I wished I’d had back then.

At age 16, a depressed economy brought me to the below zero temperatures of Canada, where I discovered my own style. I met Euphone, a writer from Ottawa that took me to the train yards as much as he schooled me on the history and culture. I studied and practiced the art form religiously with like-minded nerds whom I’m proud to still call my friends. I find Graffiti culture is a tightly bound community of talented and untalented people who inevitably inspire each other for pure enjoyment. The motive for the individual may vary, but the meaninglessness of it all remains. There has never been anything like it, I don’t think.

BS: If any art movement can be viewed as global, it’s graffiti. Between Peru and Canada there’s probably worlds of difference. As a kid moving around a lot, transitioning towards this new role as a somewhat-grown-ass-globe-trotting-artist-on-the-run; what were some of the more memorable urban canvases you’ve encountered?

PERU DYER: Oh…Planet earth is a great space to play. I’ve painted almost every spot in Ottawa and Montreal, there’s a lot of gems in there. I miss Jenkins in Montreal, an abandoned chem plant. I pretty much love to paint outdoors in the sun, with no worries about getting chased out and a good crew of people with me. The most memorable “spots” would have to be skate parks, as I get to skate around and paint while I take breaks; this guy Nychos took Other, Royal and myself to paint the track-side in Vienna. We primed big pieces and outlined them with this new giant black paint which smelled like tar; finally I’d have to say as something I always wanted to paint, in Granollers, Spain I got to paint a boat in the middle of a field.

BS: In the bio on your website, the claim is that you want to evoke “the frenzied feeling of youth” and as far as I can observe, that statement is best encapsulated by the “spirit” of graffiti–you know the late-night sessions, adrenaline rushes, fights, scuffles and run-ins with John Q. Law. Are these stigmas still part of your everyday? Or has the older, perhaps more mature artist within, found a way to generate that youthful exuberance without stepping out in black every other night?

PERU DYER: I have definitely toned down the vandal lifestyle, but I still do it on occasion. I get the itch at least once a week but only act on it once a month…with all the responsibilities I have now I can’t afford to get caught and deal with all that anymore. Last I went out was with Omen, a very talented local hero, and About from Spain, but the time before that I went out alone which is more dangerous. The problem is that when I hit what I planned I can’t stop myself and I keep zigzagging my way home, and even when I get home I don’t feel like I got it out of my system so it perpetually haunts me. I somewhat regret not doing more damage as a teen, but at the same time I have grown to appreciate painting murals more and I’ve had to resort to different methods for inspiration, like my girl and Wu Tang.

BS: It’s easy to see your roots as a graffiti writer in your canvases and murals. Is it always a conscious decision to weave said style into your more “official” pieces or does it just happen naturally?

PERU DYER: It’s funny how my paintings work; I’d say it’s more of a balance between the spontaneous and the planned. I’ve tried to avoid graffiti in my “official” pieces but it always finds a way to creep back, and I like it. It makes me feel like I have no control over it, which is a nice feeling.

I can only explain so much about how and what I paint, it speaks its own language and it tells something different to each person so I don’t hold back. The beautiful thing about art is that it speaks to us on a personal level. The person next to you may be having an epiphany about his childhood bed-wetting problems while you’re remembering when your first imaginary girlfriend broke up with you. If I see someone stop or turn around in the street to look at a piece of art, I feel that the artist has served its higher purpose in life. If I can take you away from your daily routine/thought process, and throw you into your imagination, even for a second, then I can die a happy man.

I tend to paint things based on a lose theme throughout a season as I read up on similar topics, and at the end it all comes together fitting into a series that narrate the story of the entire process. That’s how I come up with series for my paintings. In graffiti I used to plan things more, but I’ve been learning to let go and let it happen naturally thanks to the Toids (my crew). It’s more about the spot to me, and coming up with the appropriate piece for it. I see my style as a chameleonic 4 year old kid with A.D.D. I find it overwhelming to settle with one style (of lettering specifically) and running with it for longer than a couple of years at the most. In spirits of staying ahead of trends and not getting caught up in archetypes and gimmicks, I find going with whatever makes you feel happier works best. Through drawing and painting I have found my voice, as well as appreciation for myself and the world as a whole. I believe that the purpose of art in life if any, is to enlarge the dimensions of our so l by exercising our creativity and lay logic and reason to rest. Not only does art have the ability to give one a means of self-expression, but through catharsis one is able to learn about what is important in life through self-actualization; the world desperately needs to get in touch with their inner art vandal. We have an obligation to ourselves to dig up our true identity which, quoting a Sonik article I read on Art Crimes while growing up in Peru, gets “buried by years of acting like other people”. Not only this, but one must respond to the cultural responsibility and contribute something back out of self-respect and respect to the culture.

BS: I might call graffiti art’s final frontier. Others would most likely disagree. But day by day, it’s becoming more and more of an open, legitimate craft–what do you think/hope would happen if the world did get in touch with their “inner-art-vandal”?

PERU DYER: If people took more responsibility for justice in their own communities, there would be a lot of extreme scenarios where people would try anything to get to the truth of things. I find people don’t take advantage of the freedoms they have in the Western world. The world needs a little chaos to clean up the mess our ancestors have created. Graffiti as a legitimate craft is a bit of an oxymoron, the whole point of it is that it’s illegal. What I meant by getting in touch with their inner-vandal was that people need to take control of their lives, but also get artistically creative. Art has a lot of therapeutic and other benefits.
BS: So describe the mindset when you paint. Is it an ethereal out-of-body thing where you just get lost for hours on end? Is it spontaneous or does your craft require a lot of deep-thought and time?

PERU DYER:  All of the above, depending on the circumstances. When I paint in leisure at home I tend to get distracted more, so I take longer than I should. Sometimes I plug in my industrial light and paint through the night and watch the sunrise, the silence and concentration is comparable to when I paint a wall and get into a shamanic-like trance where my left brain turns off and all my worries dissolve.

When I paint a wall I prefer to have all the time in the world not only because I feel at peace, but to develop whatever ideas we come up with while painting. I like to lose track of time and prolong the experience as much as possible; clean things up nice and make something I can be proud of. Painting is too much fun, especially when I paint with my crew: the Wastoids. We’re like a support group, we may all fail at life in different areas, be it school, work, women or life choices…but in the end, getting props on a good idea or a well executed piece in the graffiti realm makes it all temporarily ok.  Haha.

BS: Who are the Wastoids? What are their origins and what’s the mission statement? Would you say the Operation is more A-TEAM or Teenage Mutants?

PERU DYER: The Wastoids are Cabin, Faser, Anode and myself. We’re more of a support group than a graffiti crew, we pretty much jock each other’s pieces so we get motivated to try new things. Our missions statement is “have fun, fuck you”. TMNT.
BS: There seems to be this line graffiti artists cross where they become so well known, that it’s actually more of honor than a burden for property owners to have their pieces gracing their building facades. Why do you think that is? And do you feel you’ve reached that point in your career?

PERU DYER: I’ve had commissions from some pretty old people, I find there are always some people more open-minded than others, mostly generation gaps and such but the old folks are catching on. I have a very eclectic style so I can usually please almost anyone.

BS: What role does/did your art education play in developing that style? Was the learning-experience more of a fine-tuning of already existing raw talent or did you walk away with something more substantial than a degree?

PERU DYER: I’ve gone through a few art teachers that have given me insight on how to perceive things differently, and how to manage myself as an artist. I have to credit people and nature for what I know about art. As a child I traveled through Peru with my parents a lot – my father being a dirt-bike racer – and I grew a deep appreciation for nature as I went from deserts to jungles. At school I learned about mediums and all kinds of rules I’ve worked hard on forgetting. What I cherish most is what I learned through my peers throughout the years, just observing them work and getting feedback whether positive or negative has pointed me in all the right directions.
I’ve always wanted to teach though, whether its art or language or whatever. I like hanging around kids mostly, they have the best ideas. They are close to their imagination so I tend to pick their little brains for concepts and bite them. HA!
BS: So was the transition from rouge vandal to professional hired-painter a surprise when it finally happened? Was there a single crystallizing moment when you realized, “holy shit, I get to paint for a living now?” What was it like to finally know that? Or do you just ignore it and keep painting–sort of renouncing all fruits if you follow me…

PERU DYER: I’ve done art jobs since I first came to Canada, either selling canvases in high school to pay fines without my parents knowing, to larger paintings for raves and jams. I guess it was a bit gradual starting with a few art shows, and escalated to bigger shows and commissions. I realized I could sucker people out of their hard earned money haha, I love doing what I do so I consider myself very lucky but it has been hard work.

BS: Was it easy to get where you are now? Did you have to put yourself out there in the art world deliberately or did things just fall into place as if they were pre-ordained? Can you knock the hustle?

PERU DYER: Everything takes work and sacrifice, but things kind of fell into place in my case. I don’t remember many times in which I’ve have to apply or look for work, things rather appear in my inbox or I meet people who show interest in working with me because of my previous work, reputation of being straight, clear, and easy to work with, as well as my often positive messages in art of love, unity and humor. Where the effort comes in is where I spend endless nights finishing up paintings and contracts, putting extra hours and making things as if they were for myself. I’m not comfortable asking for favours often either so this way I’ve learned to take care of myself in all aspects of the business from packaging the art and traveling with it, to making my own websites and promoting my art in general. I like to think of myself as a dedicated, self taught artist. I’m not much of a PR’ist though so that’s what I’ve had to struggle with as I’m rusty of social graces.

BS: So suppose you and the Wastoids, your girl and Wu Tang all miraculously survive Armageddon (even ODB somehow manages to come back once more ((as Big Baby Jesus of course)) ) and you have a chance to recreate the world how you see fit. What is graffiti’s role in that world? Also, I survive too.

PERU DYER: Haha, well, I hope there’s other women ‘cuz I’m not sharing! If so, then graffiti art would have to bring forth some next level, consciousness altering art form that would ease the times.  Art has the ability to heal and if we take it more seriously, and life less seriously, things might not seem so bad after all.

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