Number 3 in our artist interviews, has certainly found an unconventional route into the world of art. With his canvas’s more often than not taking the form of walls and public spaces, you are more likely to have seen Pez’s work on a city street than in an art gallery. In this interview we discuss the origins of his ‘fish’ character, as well as his thoughts on the dichotomy between street art and vandalism.
I was going to start by asking, what are your earliest memories relating to art? When did you first become aware of it as an idea?
“My first experience of art was, when I was young, I picked up a pencil and began to draw in school. My mum kept one of my drawings, and I remember it with a lot of nostalgia.”
Can you describe the stage in which you decided that creating art was something that you wanted to pursue?
“I got into graffiti and began painting street art. Above all, this was because of the other artists who also came from the street like Basquiat, Keith Haring, Ron English and all of these guys. They were in part my inspiration as well as the graffiti artists of the 80s who appeared in the film Style Wars and all of the magazines that my friends that painted graffiti were my first encounters with art.”
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into street art? What were the origins of it for you?
“I had two friends [Sosen] and [Mash], we used to go to punk, ska and hip-hop concerts and they always painted on the metro. And after watching them and having seen graffiti in my neighbourhood for a long time I went to paint with them one day and from there decided that I wanted to paint seriously.”
“I did a lot of bombing and vandalism at the beginning, and then murals, but I always knew what I wanted to share with people and I wanted my character to be known in the graffiti world. I started painting in the streets of cities in Europe and Spain. I became known and I got to know other graffiti artists and other cities. It was a beautiful time compared to the quiet times painting canvases at home, but I think that each period was enjoyable in its own way.”
With the rise of street artists like Shepard Fairy, Banksy and yourself, street art has earned a better reputation and become more respected than it maybe was 20 to 30 years ago. How did you feel when this was less so the case?
“Street has become very commercial and I think this is good for the artists because we can live from what we enjoy. We have to be careful not to sell ourselves short to multinationals and appreciate that art and artists are not always this well paid. And good remuneration for artists, I think is a way of living, for the artists can carry on investing in their projects.”
How do you feel about the fact that street art still divides opinion? It’s not what I think, but there are some who would call it vandalism.
“I think that with street art and vandalism, there is always going to be debate because what for some people is art, for others is vandalism. There are some things that to everyone is vandalism, and other things that to everyone is art. There is always going to be this debate, there will always be people talking about what is pretty and what is not, whether it is good or bad but the important thing is to talk, that the discussion about what is art and what is vandalism continues, as always with these things it depends on the viewpoint of each person.”
On the flip side to the previous question, how does it feel for you knowing that any wall is potentially a canvas? I imagine that it is quite liberating?
“For me a wall is more than a canvas because a canvas has limited space. A wall is much bigger, more movement, and the most important is that it is in the street and is saying something to the pedestrians, the passers-by, that there is communication with people, that you relate to people. At home, you are much more alone, with a wall there is always more communication of the message as well as at the time you are working on it.”
One of the most striking things about your work is how vibrant it is. Can you tell us about how you came to choose your colours?
“Really, I am drawn to the relation between colours. Visually I think it is an attraction to the view, that grabs your attention. When I paint in the street and also in my house, I like to draw attention, to provoke a smile or something else that gets your attention. I always use vibrant colours which are very contrasting and which have a visual impact and are attractive.”
You are obviously most famous for your fish design. Are you able to describe the origins of him?
“When I started to paint graffiti, I started with letters, like all graffiti artists. One day when I was painting letters I decided my character and I realised I had much more potential to do anything else. So I adopted it as my signature, as my insignia or as my logo. And so I started to repeat this image always in my works. I did a lot of bombing and vandalism at the beginning, and then murals, but I always knew what I wanted to share with people and I wanted my character to be known in the graffiti world. I started painting in the streets of cities in Europe and Spain. I became known and I got to know other graffiti artists and other cities. It was a beautiful time compared to the quiet times painting canvases at home, but I think that each period was enjoyable in its own way.”
Can you talk to us about the design you did for Pepita? What was your thought process at that time?
“The design for Pepita is quite a long story, I was convinced 12 years ago to paint a mural, and this mural I use a lot. It became a digital design which was going to be used by a clothing label which never took off. After this I designed it as a canvas. When I received the invitation from Pepita, I had in mind that this design had a lot of potential and could be a good fit.
You can discover more about PEZ on Pez’s Website