Berlin is such an international city; people come here from all over the world and for a variety of different reasons. The city is vibrating with artistic energy; theatre, dance, fashion, design, music, art. Since moving here in July 2012, I’ve had the privilege to meet so many creative people including Wesr and Alaniz; two artists who use the city as their gallery.
Wesr and Alaniz are two artists from South America who have been collaborating and painting together since they met in Berlin in 2011 through a mutual friend, NAF (from the famous crew Fumakaka). Wesr and NAF painted together in Lima and Alaniz met NAF at the Wash Festival in Hamburg. Both Wesr and Alaniz have participated in paintings festivals and have exhibited in Berlin. They go out to paint together all the time, but only collaborate 3-4 times a year because their styles are so different, which makes those collaborations so interesting.
The first time they went painting together, they decided to collaborate on a piece. They were with a group of other famous artists from all over the world. (Israel, England, US, South America). The collaboration was done in a large swimming pool; they took the two corners closest to each other and painted two large pieces. Alaniz painted a representation of war – a soldier, a commentary on how war kills many things including culture.
Although Wesr and Alaniz have very different backgrounds and influences, they respect each other and their unique styles. They also share some common reasons for painting; mainly self-expression and the need to communicate. Going out to paint with others also provides an opportunity to meet new people as well as for creative development.
I caught up with Wesr one Sunday afternoon while he was collaborating with Nineta on a large piece on the roof of an old abandoned building. Wesr – Huesos – Bones – when he first started painting he only used the first 3 letters – Wes, he changed the letters so that they gave the same sound but so that the letters looked cooler. Wesr hails from Lima, Peru and has been drawing his entire life and started painting in 1996. He’s from the 2nd generation of graffiti artists in Peru. “My generation is the old school because they still paint and they are the most important in Peru”.
Wesr saw graffiti in the movies and he was fascinated by the big format, but never thought that he could do it; until one day when he saw graffiti in his city, it was a very important moment. He began doing sketches with the intention of throwing them up –painting them on the streets. Wesr sketched for one year before doing his 1st piece on the street.
Although deeply involved in Lima’s hip hop scene – at the beginning he mostly painted alone, he only knew a few artists and they met a few times a month to paint and hang out. Most of his work was done illegally and the first throw-ups were mostly bubbles and wildstyle.
Before moving to Berlin in 2008, Wesr started working as an illustrator, hand drawing t-shirt designs. He put the energy that he usually put into his bombing stuff into his drawings and illustrations. After his arrival, before he started learning German, he made contacts in the graffiti scene and painted as much as possible. In Berlin you can do exhibits anywhere and everywhere, naturally he took advantage of the opportunities. Wesr looked for opportunities and was introduced around by his German friends, that’s how it began and he wants to continue to do more. In Germany, he has exhibited in many galleries including; Die Kunstagentin, Vicious Gallery, Pretty Portal and Intoxicated Demon.
The difference between the scenes in Lima and Berlin is that here (in Berlin) the scene is really big. But, personally, he likes the images and techniques from South America – it’s more about the style, culture and personality of the artists that resonates with him. When he was coming up, most of the painting in South America was done with brushes and rollers. Everyone worked with these materials because the cans weren’t as good at the beginning plus they were hard to get and expensive. Now that the same cans that are available in Europe as also available in Peru, they’re being used too.
Earlier, Wesr saw graffiti as a lone thing, as its’ own thing – but now he sees it more as a part of art history. For him it’s important to paint with friends because he wants to enjoy the moment as much as possible and you learn new things about technique and get ideas. He’s always looking for opportunities to make street art and work on projects in Berlin and beyond Berlin.
Additionally, Wesr began tattooing in November 2012 and for him it’s another medium to master. Similar to illustration or painting, it’s just the tools are different. Tattooing has freed him from the pressure of having to earn money with his painting and drawing – unnecessary pressure which kills you and your art.
I spoke with Alaniz last month before he got his first 2 tattoos from Wesr. Alaniz likes to use his real name because he doesn’t feel like he has to or that he should hide himself, which is the only thing that he doesn’t like about street art. He doesn’t feel that what he’s doing is wrong or illegal “if the police wants to think that I’m doing something wrong or illegal, that’s their problem not mine”.
Although he only started painting three years ago, he began drawing when he was a kid. In the beginning it was purely for fun, he would copy his favorite comic books to train his hand. Influences are important and necessary, especially when you’re starting out, but what defines you as an artist is you. It was in his teenage years that his talent grew into a means of expression, there was always that need to express himself. The desire to paint was like a time bomb growing inside of him, growing year after year. Ala dreamed of becoming an artist, but never had the time or the money to really devote to it.
Ala uses use brushes and rollers for several reasons; mostly because it’s the cheapest way of painting and it’s also the way that he learned to paint. One of the first jobs that he had was painting street advertising for shops and restaurants. It wasn’t his favorite however, he really learned how to control the materials.
In Argentina there’s not so much of a connection with your roots. Ala doesn’t have a particularly strong connection to his Argentinian roots, instead he paints more from his experiences and emotions. Everything that touches him strongly comes out in his art, his relationships; different experiences…social, human connections dominate his work.
For Alaniz, painting is a way of talking, it’s a conversation and you can talk about anything and everything that touches you. The conversation is not only between the art and the viewer but also between Alaniz and the places that he goes to paint. The places he goes to paint speak to him, he’s not doing sketches anymore. The work he does is completely defined by the environment, what’s around him, the materials he finds, the form and textures of the wall, it’s become more instinctual and organic.
Each person has something unique and original, something special about themselves that sets them apart. That’s the job of an artist, to find that something and develop it.
This is a reporting of a guest post that I originally wrote for a great blog called the Nonsense Society.
Click here to see more work by Wesr.
Click here to see more work by Alaniz.