Graphic designer, visual artist, columnist and skater in other words Billy Gee. We present you his artworks although he doesn’t need any particular recommendations and we discuss with him about the age of innocence and the today that looks so different.
What have you studied and when did you began getting involved with street art?
My first touch with graffiti was in November 1993 at Ag. Paraskebi’s square. When I graduated from high school, I continued my studies in Athens Graphic Design Department. A few years later I ended up for 3 years at the painting workshop in Plaka which functioned as a department of asfa. It used to be a beautiful place, it’s a pity it doesn’t exist nowadays. Since I was spending many hours there sketching and painting I was offered to attend classes as a listener on asfa, which helped me a lot.
Practically the years of innocence are your starting line, the murals were made just so the creators could express themselves since there wasn’t the slightest knowledge from the crowd that this isn’t separated from the rest of the arts. How was the experience of creating in a public space?
The situation back then was like a big school, both from a practical and from an ethical point of view. Feuds didn’t exist between us. What everyone wanted was to create on a surface with their friends and enjoy. Our concern back then was whether a hooligan would approach us to steal our money. They called us “Americans” and the truth is we were different from others mainly because of our clothes. The result of this was to be considered everything but artists. Really messed up situation.
Groups, spray and music. What was the relationship among the different crews and how connected was graffiti with the urban culture?
Those years music was what united us in such a magical way we didn’t even realize it. The first hip hop bands were TXC, FFC, RAZASTAR, Paremboles, ZN ect. who created a movement by graffiti artists, b-boys, skaters, bmxers and many supporting fans who followed. We weren’t thousands, but we could fill the ‘’AN club’’ and that seemed amazing! So as you can understand there weren’t any troubles in our circle, we were united, facing daily the whole intensity of our adolescence which many times felt extreme. Graffiti was the element of the urban culture that was spreading constantly throughout Greece at the golden age of 90’s. Magic!
Murals full of details on a bigger or a smaller scale and co-creator of the emblematic figure of Loukanikos on Psirri area. How many time is needed for a work like this one? Give us some information for the specific mural.
I was in Belgium when I learned about the death of Loukanikos, with whom I had spent several years in Syntagma Square. He was around skaters on a daily basis, we used to give him water and food, it was a wonderful creature. So I came up with the idea of creating a mural in his memory. Around these days I met up with Alex Martinez for a coffee when I told him I had found a spot to create the dog and he looked at me saying : “ I can’t believe it, today I was thinking the same”, so we ended up painting together the favorite dog of Athens . Sunday is the day of graffiti artists. Thus early in a Sunday morning we headed for the Sarri street to paint. The rest just rolled naturally. Back then we couldn’t imagine that the specific theme would have such an impact on people and that was very moving for our work.That’s why Loukanikos continues to stand still there until now. The vandalisms at the background of the mural is a natural result of the ‘’street’’ what I mean is that by being exposed, like all street art’s artworks, in a public view, they are simultaneously exposed in a varied, heterogeneous reactions, coming from multiple politics and other beliefs. We accept it, it’s how we learned, how we grew up!
You work almost exclusively with specific roadside partners. Lune82, Martinez, pupet… How important is that for you? Describe us the stages of your working process.
In Athens I now work only with the specific artists for different reasons in each occasion. We are connected by the same things, we are close by age but most importantly we all have our roots on graffiti. The key element is not to have strong ego, which is rare. A mural isn’t a simple thing, so you have to know well you partner in order to continue together afterwards and build an even stronger relationship. When we work we chose our theme and we study the way we are going to process it on the surface we have on our disposal, depending on the each time available space.
What are your views on the belief that Athens is the new Berlin or that we are the capital of graffiti in Europe!?
I wish Athens had the museum infrastructure and the support of modern art that exists in Berlin and generally in German almost immediately after the end of War World 2. I would be sincerely happy if something like that happened. So from that point of view Athens clearly isn’t Berlin and I’m afraid that it’ll never be. But because I think that’s not exactly what you mean and you’re referring at the existent rumor that due to the abundant presence of graffiti in the city Athens is becoming more like Berlin, I have to answer that in that case too the social, economic and above all cultural conditions between the two cities are so different, that even if we’d say that Athens is right now the capital of graffiti, it would be in a totally different way from Berlin.
Muralists, street artists, graffiti artists, writers… and everyone on top of each other. Too much information, too many visuals especially in areas like Exarcheia. Is each one so good? How come and the perception that we respect the precedent on the same wall and we don’t paint on it has changed?
This particular question pleases me because it proves that I am not only one to observe the exaggerated visual information in Athens. You are not the only one who has asked me that question, my answer as an older writer is this:We grow up, and that means everything around us is evolving. Since the internet has entered into our lives, it’s only reasonable to lose the values and the habits based on which we grew up. The younger ones learn through the internet, and this helps them to choose which way they’ll follow in order to leave their stigma in the city. Everything must exist in order to have the potentiality of comparison. At the end of the day I accept them all. Whatever we used to do, the young ones do it now, just on an other era and by having on their disposal all kind of means and much more comforts. Nowadays writing on the wall, with any form of writing, has become fashion and little consumption, as opposed to the beginning of this story where a strong eroticism dominated our relationship with the wall. The important thing to me is that in the general chaos you can discover unique pearls. So it would be great to just enjoy the freedom in our city, like going on a wall and paint on it without having anyone to bother you, where else would we do that? If the situation was different, your page wouldn’t exist, many other pages that care only about their image depending on other people’s effort without giving credits on the artists wouldn’t exist, like so many others that take advantage of the specific art with a good or a bad manner wouldn’t exist. So create as much as you can because this feast will end and we won’t believe it.
Passionate skater who creates on the boards with visuals. Talk to us about your Project.
Skateboarding was my link to graffiti, my acquaintance with it, it marked me and it made me want to learn to create myself. After 25 years of being on stage, some times on a professional level, I continue skateboarding with my friends. Art was always and continues to be more than ever connected to skateboarding culture. Many of those who have gotten involved from time to time with skate evolved into artists in many fields like direction, photography, painting, music… So in my case the inseparable relationship between skating and painting looks completely normal. By acting somewhat heretically, I try to combine great classical painting with a solid dose of humor and caution by redefining my relationship with classical works through a fresh, contemporary look adapted to skate’s and society’s today reality in which this is included. I cooperate with S.O.S Skateboards which founded 3 years ago.
In ten years from now?
To have health, integrity and the rest is coming. I wish great creation to everyone!