“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”
When walking in the street, around us we see many writings and paintings drawn on the walls. From graffiti to street art, this form of expression on city walls has become very common. It takes only a few steps in Thessaloniki to realize this.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is considered one of the cities where it all began with Cornbread and Cool Earl considered to be the pionneers of graffiti. One of the first fields for these new artists are metro cars and trains.
This art then spread to major cities, such as New York. One of the most famous of these precursors is « Taki 183 ». His real name is Demetrios, is a young man of Greek origin living in New York. The first graffiti that appears are signatures. « Taki » for example is a diminutive for a number of Greek names, and « 183 » is his street number in Washington Heigts in upper Manhattan.
During these train trips to go to high school and then when he became a delivery man, he inscribes his signature « Taki 183 » on the walls of the city. He becomes the first graffiti artist to be recognized thanks to a New York Time article « Taki 183’ Spawnd Pen Pals ».
Little by little, this art born from the African-American culture is spread in Europe. These messages which appear on the walls refer to a counter culture. People creating them use this new medium to express themselves.
Meeting with a Yakuza member
First of all, I wanted to understand from the artist’s point of view the difference he made between street art and graffiti.
“At first it was just graffiti, graffiti was culture. We didn’t know street art, what street art meant. We only knew graffiti, we did graffiti, wrote our name and some characters. After years and years the street art is came from Europe or whatever, it was a little confusing for the graffiti and we didn’t want street art. Because it was more for the gallery, another culture. We didn’t like it, at the beginning we fought against street art, we said graffiti is not that. But after ten years, we saw street art, as time passed, we discussed with other street artists. After years the hip-hop culture wasn’t that strict, and today street art and graffiti are the same for me. It’s not something different, because also in graffiti we can do anything. For me it’s the same thing “.
To him, graffiti is his way of life. He started out very young, his passion came when he watched guys making graffiti through his classroom window. Having no other guys around him to share this passion with, he learned on his own, did his own research and copied what he saw around him. He owes his style only to himself, he learned to draw on his own by training every day. After 20 years of exercise, the result is impressive, just take a look at his Instagram wall.
The tags he creates, he makes for different reasons, first because it’s his passion, he does it in his free time with the desire to do something good. But also, like Taki 183, and the first graffiti artists, he tags his name, @Dirty_rasel on the city walls to make himself better known. It is also sometimes for a girl he is in love with or just to make people who pass in the street smile. His team called the Yakuza have done a lot of street art but most of the works that can be found in the city are old. Indeed, a majority of the graffiti that can be seen in Thessaloniki are now about 10 years old. Most of them are commissions as can be seen on many doors of bars on the streets.
Thessaloniki, a city of street art
Unlike other cities like Athens, street art and graffiti writer are very accepted in Thessaloniki.
« The Mayor of Thessaloniki, Konstantinos Zervas, set the goal of making art a part of everyday life in the city. In this context, the Public Benefit Enterprise of the Municipality of Thessaloniki designed the action for the aesthetic upgrade of KAFAO, which until recently with their aggravated appearance hurt the public space. […] Target is on the one hand to give the artists of the city the opportunity to express themselves creatively in the public space and on the other hand to upgrade CAFAO in the center of Thessaloniki, in order to harmonize perfectly with the urban environment and to be a pleasant note for the residents and visitors of the city. »
While walking in the street I met precisely one of these artists creating a work for this initiative. Alexander Kapetanou is a paint artist who voluntarily took part in this city initiative to magnify the city and add his touch to the streets of Thessaloniki.
Street art walk with @flofiz_fr.o.g
To see more personal works from street artists, you have to move away from the city center, go outside the city, to abandoned buildings or stadiums.
I also meet @flofiz_fr.o.g who tells me many places where you can go to see street art, in places outside the center.
Parko Chamenon Patridon, Kalamaria
We meet to start our street art walk in the Parko Chamenon Patridon, Kalamaria.
For Floziz_fr.o.g, street art makes it possible to give a new perception, a new dimension to places, to bring back colors and transform a place that seems cold into a very pleasant space. This is for example the case of this park where we met. A few years ago with several street artists like the Yakuza crew, they brought the park back to life by drawing on the walls. The result is magnificent, going around the park gives us the impression of walking through an open-air art gallery.
We walk around town for a bit and he shows me a lot of taggs. He started street art by watching dirty-rasel and the Yakuza crew. What he mainly does is tagging with a marker.
Although graffiti and street art represent for him the same thing (made for the street and the environment), he distinguishes the creative techniques between tagging and bombing. The tag, for example, is done with a marker, are signatures and these written messages that we can see on the walls, the bombing are the designs where we can find several colors, even if these two creative techniques often mingle and influence each other.
The reasons why he makes his tags is firstly out of passion, it is also sometimes to send messages to people he knows or to remember the paths he took when he is in cities he does not know well.
When we really pay attention to these signatures, we can follow the path of a graffiti artist . We can see which way he took, by which corner he went.
Apollon Kalamarias Stadium
We keep walking and we arrive at the Apollon Kalamarias Stadium. Around this location there is a wall on which the greatest street artists from Thessaloniki came to participate in this giant mural.
This street art are impressive, the detour to this place is worth it. We can see many creations on these walls in all different styles and filled with colors.