After spending a week subjected to the changeable British weather, determined Greek graffiti artist Woozy finally finished his wall. Like a glorious galactic dragonfly it existed for just one day before it was muscled off the Holywell Lane wall by the “Power of Girl”. But the ever resilient Woozy (real name Vaggelis Hoursoglou) stayed in Shoreditch and left his mark on other walls before heading home. We’ve given him more space to speak out.
The chaotic order in Greece is productive and tiring, if you aren’t used to swimming in the deep end, you might drown. In a country where there is crisis, the underground movements in art - from filmmaking, to photography, to music- must flourish and inspire new creativity. I believe that there is a greater need for society to express itself. At this point, there is not one train that hasn’t been painted over in Athens and the streets are covered with tags, throw ups, political messages, posters – but monuments are also being destroyed. Personally, from one side I enjoy this but from another, it is also problematic.
In the big capitalist economies like New York or London where everything works with immense civilized order, people try to make things look pretty and beautiful. This situation has its negatives and positives; I’m not saying the art is sterile or boring, but as an artist there isn’t anything to kick against. It’s not by chance the big event Documenta will be taking place in Athens for 2015. Meaningful art comes from a place of struggle and cannot simply arise from were places are stable and set.
Athens is just one beautiful chaotic society that tries to survive and does not take street art too seriously. It was never really funded by sponsors, and the government is full of corruption. If public money was better put to use then Athens would have many more impressive murals. Now all you see there is “full body tattoos” on every wall or political slogans. What else can we expect? I understand where they’re coming from. When there is crisis, someone has to defuse the endless economic expansion and art is not a priority at the moment. What you see in street art is more knee jerk rebellion and angry attacks against the current structure.
Makari na litourgousan oi krtakoi organismoi kai na ginotan kati xoris na iparxei mesa I miza kai I kataxrisi xrimaton.
When I began to paint in the 90s, things were entirely different. Living in Athens at the time was like living in the 70s in New York. Some of us were lucky and we had international contacts and commuted to places like France and learned how this street art culture worked abroad. We returned to Greece with new knowledge about fresh talent and new ideas. I wanted to do something for the country that I loved. Because I was young, all my energy was spent organising this new wave of artistic expression in Greece. Carpe Diem developed as a platform of communication between European magazines and the network of cultural industry contacts. I became the “go to” person for the graffiti scene in Greece.
It was really hard to learn and to organise at first. Greece was still a very conservative orthodox society that didn’t want things to change. They saw us as aliens! The years passed and I fell more in love with street art and that’s when I started making the magazine with the support of some friends. The public really needed to take graffiti more seriously, and not see those artists as young children who are just doing it for a reaction. So I started an NGO that spun off the big event ‘Chromopolis’, as part of the culture Olympiad for the 2004 Olympic games. I invited my friends Os Gemeos and other big names to help with the promo and since then, I believe Greek culture started becoming more accepting of graffiti.
During this period of promotional work, I realised I had begun to neglect my own art so I decided to stop pursuing the marketing and simply focus on painting. But I did meet a lot of legendary writers such as Loomit, Besok, Os Gemeos, How Nosm, Seen, Ces, Maclaim, Toast, Shock, Codeak, Nina, Nunca, Honet, Foe and many more crazy people that I will never forget. In a way it is true that I have worked for the government but only with passionate intentions of promoting the art that I love. I like to work in places where graffiti isn’t popular because there exists a fresh appetite and willingness without sponsors, events, or other hype clouding the art. Creating work for the public keeps me honest to graffiti. Of course, if I’m ever invited to Los Angeles or New York, I would surely go to the same spots as previous great artists painted. It’ll be like flashing back to the films I used to watch like Style Wars.
The most beautiful thing is to illustrate images and feelings from everyday life in a spontaneous way with lots of colour, texture, and light. Whomever I meet and whatever I experience becomes part of my process. ‘Etsi Zw’ is another of my tags which means, ‘This is how I live’. Of course, I try to integrate my sketching process with the surrounding space otherwise I wouldn’t be called a street artist. I simply try to put my own language into it. I don’t want to change the aesthetic too much, even if it is an ugly or dirty spot. I take advantage of the characteristics the environment already provides and subtly add my own touch. I usually never work with an actual sketchbook like a freestyle freak! Before the mural, I’ve already spent many hours in my mind until I see a picture that fits perfectly. Similar to Picasso’s desire to work on a big white canvas, what counts to me is the size of the wall. You get a greater interaction with the audience and a greater freedom to be creative, small art works generally limit me.
I love futurist landscapes, mythology, geometry, and politics. My direction and perspective give an open space to one kind of freedom. This is what I want to believe and this is what I try to leave behind: a loud feeling. Symbols like boats, mazes, birds, and whatever freaks I come up with I often return to. These may be standard motifs but I try not to keep it looking the same.
An idea came to me while I was staying in London recently. There was a lot of discussion around the ancient marbles stolen from the Parthenon by Britain and since I’m not into Nationalism and don’t believe in borders, I decided to reflect on colonial ambition while I was there. I printed photos of some of the artefacts and painted over them – bringing them out of the museum and into the streets. It is one part of a larger project that I will continue to work on throughout my travels by coming up with ideas to satirise, comment on, or share my concerns on certain issues that I find problematic in every city I travel to.