When I arrived at gallery Vroom & Varossieau Mr. Rafael Sliks was busy wrapping three beautiful girls in plastic foil. Hip-hop music playing in the background, the girls sweating and bouncing to the music, Mr. Sliks started his performance, spraying the girls on the sidewalk in front of the gallery with signature, smooth touches of spraypaint. After the session the artist transformed into a soft-spoken, friendly guy, ready to talk about the thoughts behind his work.
-Written by Claudia Cosma Instagram: ccartlover
How did you start out?
I started writing in 1997. First in school, on the tables in the classroom and the walls, and later on the streets.
You are from São Paolo. I’ve read that there is a big graffiti community there. Can you tell me something about this community?
São Paolo has a tradition of “Pixação”; there is writing with thick black paint covering the walls everywhere. (“pichar” in Portuguese means to cover with tar). The Pixação is unique to São Paolo, and I started writing on the streets there. It’s all letters, straight lines, and sharp edges. The challenge is to climb a building façade and write your pixados on a free piece of wall that has never been touched by any of the other pixadores.
What, to you, is the essential difference between Street Art in Europe, the U.S. and Brasil, São Paolo?
There is no tradition of ‘visual’ Street Art in São Paolo. And the writing, compared to graffiti, is sharp, with hard edges, instead of characterized by round letters with blending and shading techniques.
I saw you working on some murals on YouTube, writing several words over and over on top of each other. Do you always know what you will write in advance or do you prefer to let your hand and marker take over?
It is about the lines and the flow and the feeling.
I try not to compare artists to each other too much, but I see a great resemblance between your work and the works of Jackson Pollock — one of the first abstract expressionists in the 1950’s. Are you familiar with his work?
Yes I am. I love modern painters like Pollock and Picasso.
Do you like his work? Do you see the resemblance?
I think it is a huge honor that you should compare my work to Jackson Pollock’s.
Your recent work is a combination of graffiti and photography. Can you tell me something about the process and what’s behind it?
I choose the models myself and I photograph them myself. The tags I spray over the picture, but I leave the eyes free. For me, it is all about the eyes. The eyes are the center. If you talk to people and they do not really look at you there is no connection. If you see the eyes, you can see the people, you know what they are all about.
How do you select the pictures/models?
Sometimes I call friends; I want to know the person, not just use the model as a pretty face.
What is your meaning behind the imagery and words?
With the portraits the focus is on the eyes, the paintings with words and forms are all about texture and layering, depth and feelings.
You have a very special technique. How did you acquire it? What were the inspirations for it?
It’s like Japanese calligraphy: it’s all about a loose wrist. There is a movement and a flow to it, it’s very organic. The works in the Pixação-tradition are very geometric, I like to work with flares.
What inspires you?
I get my inspiration from urban life (the city) and nature… The mix is very important to me, as I live in São Paolo, where there is a lot of traffic and information. It is a very big city and it gives me a lot of inspiration, but I need nature as well to breath, and to give me new energy so I can focus.
What are your favorite types of paint and colors?
I like to work with spray-paint but my abstract work is with oil-paint and a brush. When I get inspired by nature I use natural pigments and handmade paper.
Would you like to say something to our readers, can you give them some advice?
Don’t imitate, be original.