Fine artist – street artist from Thessaloniki, responsible for large-scale visual artworks and co-organizer on the best festival for the street art scene in Greece. SAF kicks off in a few days and this month Greek street art will “host” Apset..
What’s the story behind your name? When and where did you created your first graffiti?
It began with an anagram of my name (Ste-Set), and it turned into something else with obvious conceptual significance which characterized me a lot. I did my first graffiti in the middle of 98’ on bridges in Basilica, just outside of Thessaloniki where I grew up, with some paint colors of ironmongery, the line was pure. Time by time I went through different styles, styles, 3d, characters… My first style was ’Set’, with ’Nes’ from AGB … It didn’t take long until I joined the crew. AGB was one of the many teams that were integrated into one, 2G, with outstanding artists from all over Thessaloniki, but mainly from the center dealing with all the elements, writers, bboys, mc’s, dj’s and others for the hell of it. Back then we began as friends and then we became crew. Somehow that was the beginning…
What have you studied and how do you introduce yourself to those who do not know about you and your work?
I studied graphic design at IEK in Thessaloniki and practiced in Poland. I worked for three years, based in Athens, on a project concerning the creation of theme parks for the Pacific Décor, in some of the largest municipalities in Greece, I have been involved with painting, sculpture, graphic design and constructions at that time, that was a kind of study too. Searching for my style from time to time, I’ve studied sculpture painting, hagiography, engraving, linear drawing, video and comics. For the last 5 years I’m a student in the Thessaloniki School of Fine Arts in the sector of painting. I’m not doing well with the titles, an ‘artist’ is enough, I think.
What’s it that draws an artist to create in public spaces, random walls and construction sights apart from the feeling that the streets are his home?
Generally, we were street children who never found peace, street was a home for many people, we simply got familiar with it. It’s the feeling, this familiar sentiment, it was the adrenaline, the change and the evolution of the environment around us. It’s the tomorrow and our way of changing it like a sign turned on the other direction, on what we are waiting for… it is just a necessity.
You live in Thessaloniki but you work throughout Greece with very important collaborations like same84, urban act… Can Greek street art become an important exportable product?
Most of the times is really hard to pursue to bring in ‘today’ the minds and the situations that are stuck in ‘yesterday’. It’s hard to fight yesterday looking at tomorrow with today stuck somewhere in between. It’s messed up situation… You are experiencing situations in many countries where things are for some reason easier to roll, or better organized or perhaps with more infrastructure to work as an artist, there is probably a little more education on the subject, not always and not everywhere though. It’s also not also easy to be absorbed in a country where artists are too many and the level too high. What we call art is also a kind of luxury in today’s Greece, when a person doesn’t have enough money to take care of himself how could he ever turn to art? However culture isn’t a luxury, in these times it’s a necessity. And of course it can become an exportable product, Greek writers have nothing to be jealous of from other foreign artists, we already have several notable artists, graffiti writers, street artists and street bombers who travel too much and are well known abroad.
For several years now I’ve been working with the Urban Act team which gives me the pushing force and opportunities to operate on large surfaces that I wouldn’t have had without it, at least on this amount. It’s essential to have good friends and partners you can share the same concerns and thoughts. For many years, Live2 was the one to share everything. In recent years, my main friend and collaborator in large murals is Same84, with whom we have shared several buildings throughout this time.
You create murals on huge surfaces. How difficult is that, how much time does that requires and which are the production stages of such a work in visual?
It’s not easy, but the large size gives you another kind of boost and visual. Typically, I complete a mural within 3 to 5 days. Generally, in the large murals I try to work practically and methodically so that I don’t get tired, making sure to have as much fun as possible. I study enough before I begin my work to make the implementation easier. I have tried many ways of sketching , I don’t have a specific method or style in the design, each surface, location and theme’s different, so I can only say it comes out empirically.
The world’s increasingly beginning to realize that street art is very important when it comes to Greek reality, especially in those years of crisis that we need more joy and color but less gray. In which way do you believe that art affects the public space but also the souls of people?
Listen, ‘’happy themes’’ aren’t the exclusive reason of our creation, nor are we here to make the world around us ‘’better’’, It’s our own way to express ourselves and yes, to spread color and joy, but also to concern about things. It’s not enough for me to watch the world run around me, see a mural and laugh, It’s an equal success to stop and observe it… If even a little feeling comes up, whatever that is, then I’m ok, at least I have caused even for a short time a thought that flew away. It’s neither easy but nor the purpose too. Entering in someone else’s space and neighborhood though without bothering to ask them it’s also an issue, but we need to communicate somehow, and that’s our way.
Co-organizer of street art festival (SAF) in Thessaloniki. How did it start, how often does it happen, what’s about, who will we see this year and what’s the goal?
It began at Kodra camp in Kalamaria, 5 years ago when a friend-organizer asked me to paint there supporting their act. They did It just for fun. Energy, romance and extroversion were the elements that won me over. In the second year, I joined them. Now we are a group of young people, artists, musicians, designers, painters, creators.
SAF is held every year around mid-June at Thessaloniki International Fair and this year it’ll be the 5th anniversary event on 9-10-11 June. It is now the greatest encounter of artists in street culture. This year, as every year, we have an open call to young artists with more than 50 street artists from Greece and abroad, musicians, dancers, concerts, live graffiti, live dance shows, special dance shows, visual interventions, seminars, exhibitions and so much more.
From musicians and bands this year we have the honor to host : GENTLEMAN / EVIDENCE (dilated peoples) / DUB FX / LEAF DOG & BVA / ZENON / HATEMOST / TAF LATHOS and many others…
The objective, purpose and dream of Street Art Festival Thessaloniki is to bring together young people, creative individuals from Greece and all over the world. We give them the opportunity to express themselves, present their activities and have fun. Communicate their art with the general public in the way they know better.
Is there a plan for this festival to move to different spaces and places during the year? Creating something like a “show” with a beginning, middle and end?
There are several shots we discuss and plan. The festival has an extrovert character and hosts more than 150 international artists each year. There are discussions about collaborations with companies and collectives from abroad but we can’t say anything until it’s announced. The key to us is to promote intercultural exchange of culture among young people without worrying about borders. We want young, creative people to co-create and exchange ideas and perspectives.
What’s that you miss the most from the ‘’innocent’’ years, when you just went out on the streets and painted without knowing that in the future this would be one of your main sources of livelihood?
The good old days of carefree and careless friend groups and the freedom of not caring what I’m going to paint and where, the only thing that mattered was to finish the painting. I never imagined it could end up like this, but I feel very lucky for that.
10. In then years from now?
I hope to be strong and to continue what I do. What we are living now doesn’t help us to look long-term, it has just made us ready to fight and be fast in our actions. Dreams are to be hunted, opportunities to fought for and failures to convince us not to give up. So I say, and let the time show..