Jaz (Franco Fasoli)
What led you into the street art scene?
I was led into it by the environment that surrounded me. I began to paint graffiti in skate parks in 1998 and there was very limited street art at the time. That year, Cekis, Derick and Sick came from Chile, and Esher, Liter, Os Gemeos, Binho, and Espeto came down from Brazil, and Buenos Aires began to fill up with graffiti. That’s how I began, by being exposed to that movement and also, I was influenced by my family who are artists and the art school I attended. I was sixteen and I said, “I want to try that,” I was rebellious and I wanted to paint without permission. I would go out with my dog and paint walls in my neighbourhood.
I commenced with the typical tag. My idea was a nickname that I could exploit as much as possible to find a determined style. That was the only intention that I began with, just to have fun and feel adrenaline.
Why do you paint characters that fight or confront?
It began with the theme of struggle as the central focus. Today, this theme isn’t as central to my work as it used to be. While I was still working on it, I was enthralled by violence in rituals, such as the “tigrada” in Mexico. This is a pre-hispanic ritual in the the south of Mexico that is performed at harvest and the purpose of the event is to dress as jaguars and celebrate, but there is also a tradition of fighting to the death. I also was interested in a ritual from Bolivia called, “el tinku.” I wanted to pay tribute to these type of ancient fights and entertainment from different places that have deep symbolic roots. Soccer and barras bravas (ultras) is a very local tradition that generates a level of violence that is not connected to me, but yet a part of me because of where I live, and that’s why it’s an important source of inspiration. I use photos from the news and intervene them digitally, taking fragments and composing new images.
With time, the confrontation became less explicit and I began to generate tension through my painting expressions, colours, materials, and symmetry. From here on, I began to explore materials and the reactions that can occur between them. For example, I would mix water based paint with oil based paint, or take materials that are meant for one surface and apply them to another. Today, this confrontational aspect to my work is still present, but in another form.
Confrontation lives within you?
It lives in me, as well. Maybe not in me as a person, but in my artist profile, where I work a certain way in public and a different way with institutions, the difference between painting outdoors and indoors, the usage of a name and the usage of my real identity, all those things generate an internal battle.
Where did you get the parallel lines that cover your images?
Those lines are used to make a connection or to generate a separation between these characters. That is mainly it. It was born from that manner of superimposing a completely abstract, lineal and flat figure over a figurative and expressive way of painting. Anything that you see me paint has that double…
Abstraction versus figurative.
It’s figurative, but it superimposes or sometimes, it’s a line that separates them.
Obviously when you work in the public eye you are painting for all audiences who aren’t necessarily art literate, so the message can be anything. I was never interested in leaving an explicit message, so that it’s open to interpretation.
Are you influenced by your audience?
I paint in public due to the necessity for people to see my work, analyse it and intervene it. I don’t have a direct relation with the public, nor do I paint for them. I focus on what I’m doing. There are people who have been following me for many years and there are others who are completely indifferent to what I do. The audience that I specifically target is not the general one. They see it, because I paint on the streets, but it is geared towards the people who are interested in interpreting certain things and giving the painting some thought.
What can you tell us about your evolution as an artist?
I am defined by very distinct phases. When I began, I worked with 100 percent graffiti, not just with painting, but also in my head. This changed when I traveled for the first time to Europe. I went to Barcelona, which at that time was the Mecca of street art. That was a mind opening experience that prompted my first evolutionary stage. I came back home after two months of travel with my head having undergone a revolution. It was difficult to try to share what I had experienced there, back home.
The second change came between 2007 and 2008, when I began painting inside the studio, in addition to my work on the streets. At the same time there was an explosion of street art at a global level and all these artists were going beyond the street to work on other surfaces. I was always very receptive to all of this, I didn’t inhibit myself to a definition of what graffiti is. I saw things and fed off of them.
After that, I would do graffiti and typography. Then, I broke through and began to draw more and use other materials. Later I valued concept more than image and technique. Those are the three phases.
Is there one specific message that you express through your work?
There is no specific message. It’s wrong to talk about what I feel, because it is completely egoistic to pretend that everyone else understands what I feel and that the world cares about it. My drawings carry my point of view, and the message can be interpreted in many ways. I am not an apologist for violence.
What requirements do you need in a space to intervene it?
The space in and of itself is not that important. I try to adapt my way of painting to the space. If it’s big, it’s a plus, because I like big spaces. If it has an aged aspect to it, then that’s a plus, too. Otherwise, it doesn’t affect me, because I can adapt. I don’t know if it’s due to my work in scenography, but I don’t have any problems resolving the “how can we do it.” That’s why I can paint with small walls and big walls, if there’s a crane – great – if not then I will reach with a pole. It’s my way of working. There are many artists who will send out a list of their needs before beginning a piece. I don’t do this. I will show up to location and finish the concept for the design. A big part of painting on the street is reading the public space. If you don’t do this then you will end up copying and pasting, and there isn’t a genuine challenge when you have everything previously planned out. That’s my opinion and I know very few people who see it the way I do. The vast majority want to go with a sense of security to paint at a determined place.
How do you compare the local urban art scene with the national or international scene?
Like everything in this country, eighty percent of everything is concentrated in the capital, Buenos Aires. I have very little experience painting outside Buenos Aires. I tried to paint in Rosario, but I couldn’t, I tried to paint in Salta and I almost got lynched, I didn’t even try in Mar del Plata. Soon, I’ll be painting in Cordoba and I’ll see how it goes, because I’m not familiar with the reception of artists there. I know that there are few people working in other cities. There are some working in Mendoza, Rosario, Cordoba, Tucuman, and Ushuaia, but like everything, it’s all concentrated here. There are better relations between Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo, or with Santiago than the relationship between Buenos Aires and Cordoba. It’s due to the fact that they are all capitals where all the movements take place.
At the regional level there is plenty of affinity between all the countries in regards to what is happening with street art. We all have a similar story, we all have the same language, the same problems and so this enables us to work in public spaces with similar approaches. Buenos Aires has an abundant amount of art and the scene has grown tremendously. Sao Paulo is still the Mecca, however, not just because of reception, but also due to the amount of work and artists. Santiago has always been one of the first models, because artists there began way before everyone else and with more force. The graffiti scene here in Buenos Aires was born because of the connection between Brazil and Chile. There are a few places that followed, like Lima, Venezuela and Ecuador. In Uruguay and Paraguay there is very little and I don’t know of anything going on in Bolivia. In the Caribbean and Central America there is a very small scene, but the Pandilla in Puerto Rico is going at it with full force.
The main difference between Latina America and Europe and North America is the liberty that we have to work without paranoid oppression. In Europe and the U.S., there’s the repression from the city, then there’s repression from the people, so everything has to be extremely controlled. However, they do have the luck that institutions offer more support, so they can put forth monumental things. When someone does something differently, thinks outside the box, they find a pair of sponsors and generate a new movement.
Here, we have more liberty and we have a different perspective on things. There’s more reception from the people, because they enjoy and value that artists give of their time and money to provide art to others. In the U.S. the first thing you’ll get asked is where’s your permission, why are you doing it. Then they will see if they like it or not, what it means, and within what parameters you lie. There is a lot of paranoia. You have to keep your identity completely hidden, be sure that you don’t leave your fingerprints and the police have registers of everything you do on the street. That’s the main difference for me, because otherwise, images tend to repeat themselves.
With which urban artist would you like to collaborate?
I have various influences that aren’t very well-known for what they do. There is an Irish artist by the name of Conor Harrington who inspires me. Then a Spanish artist called Axel Void. These guys work on the border between street and gallery, with high quality touches. They know how to wear both hats. A more well-known artist that I look up to is Anthony Lister, an Australian who has lived in New York for many years and who has been one of my biggest influences during this last phase. I have had the opportunity to get to know many who I hallucinated with, like Escif, Blu, Roa, and Aryz. Being able to treat them like friends and equals was an amazing experience. I am talking to a South African and at the same time I’m planning things with people from Puerto Rico and I know we are going to meet half way. These things fascinate me. If I were to stay in my studio painting I would get completely bored.
Are you currently working on a project that you would like to tell us about?
I am preparing for an expo in Cordoba. The showing has very little of my image, but contains much more of the materials that I use, forms of expression of all types, forms of communication, especially political communication in Latin America, which is different to the communication in other places. It’s about experiments with different types of materials that Argentinean political campaigns have used, from their beginnings in dictatorship to developing democracy. I also include the topic of opposites confronting. That’s the concept behind it, which will enable me to begin another work. Some time ago, I began to work with materials found on the walls that I intervene. Lime, brick, clay, and even the plants that grow around the wall. In this manner I include the street in my work, not just with the image that I paint. In fact, if I just focus on the image, I will be a simple illustrator. I’ve always loved working with materials, especially since I come from scenography. In scenography you use all materials that are available to you.
Thank you, Franco
Interviewer: Brian Gray on behalf of tMoUA