Street art is a form of art that attracts me for many reasons. Street art built the personality of a city, makes it colorful and graphic. It often refers to events that affected the population. Street art is mysterious. In the morning you discover a new piece of art when walking in the street. We don’t often see the street artist creating. At night, he hides in the shadow of the buildings and in the narrow streets waiting for the best time to display his work on the wall. It is complex to distinguish what is legal or illegal in street art. This ambiguity and the notion of risk taken by the artist are mysterious, therefore fascinating. Meeting street artist is not common so I took the opportunity to do so in Belgrade, Serbia. The artist named TKV, quite popular in Belgrade, opened the doors of her studio to Wizardbonvin and me for a chat and an art session. She is a street artist for twelve years now. She is mainly using stencils and work as a freelancer. Today she fully lives from her creative work. I could finally ask all the things I always wondered about street art and the process around it.
exquisse journal (E.J): How did you start with street art ?
TKV: I started when I was sixteen years old, in Rome, where my father lived. I was living between Rome and Belgrade. After a while, when I knew the city, I had a lot of time to spend in Rome while my father was at work. One day, he came to me and said: “You should try this!” and he gave me stencils. I tried and I loved it immediately. I told to myself: “This is it!” I was always a creative person but I never found my medium. I got just amazed by stencils art. What I loved was the amount of freedom and energy that I was getting from it. It just blew my mind completely. So it simply started like this. For me, that was just something to do, a hobby.
E.J: What event or person allowed your hobby to become a real job ?
TKV: All happened very naturally. I didn’t expect anything from this. So after I discovered this activity I started to do it more and more. I was really attracted by walking in the street and feeling free. When I came back to Belgrade, street art was not really a thing. Twelve years ago, it just didn’t really exist. I continued to do it in the streets of Belgrade. Two years later, people started noticing my art. It was a time when people started to chat on the Internet and someone created a topic about my art. One day, my cousin sent me a link and said: “Look, people are trying to discover who you are!” I was very surprised by that. Years after years, I was getting more and more attention on the Internet (nowadays, street art and graffitis live through the Internet). Then, I started to get jobs for creating commercials. I got invited to paint and so on. So just like this, I started to get more and more work. It was slowly building up to a point when I could live from it. That was life changing for me. It just completely changed my life.
E.J: So you didn’t study art ?
TKV: No, I didn’t have formal art training except when I was in high school. My major was photography. I completed my studies at the Faculty of media and communications of Belgrade. Actually, I was supposed to study art. I prepared eight months for photography studies but three months before the exam I had a God feeling that I was not supposed to do that. So I chose something else. At the end, I think it is a good thing that I didn’t study art. Instead, I learned useful knowledge about media and public relations. Because you know, you can not just do your art. You need to know how to present it and to see things from a specific angle. You need to know how things work around you. It gave me a different perspective.
E.J: Working in the public space implies that you display your art to everyone. Everyone can see it, that they like it or not. Do you think about this dimension when you create ? How does it influence your work ?
TKV: I wasn’t really thinking about that before. Today, I am analyzing more and I try to see what kind of space needs what kind of change. Working with public space gives you many opportunities but also a completely different perception of public space. I believe art should be free and when it is in the street it is free. It belongs to everyone. Serbia can be a tricky country to live in. It can be very hard for some people. Art brings hope and energy to people. I want to distract people from their daily duties. I want to bring the opportunity to people to discover something. I had lovely feedbacks from people. They often have their own interpretation of my art. So there is their interpretation and mine and I guess my work is just in between.
E.J: Do you get permission to do your art ? Is it difficult in Belgrade ?
TKV: Most of the time, it is illegal but for some occasion you get permission from the municipality for some projects. For instance, I did a piece of work on the Dutch embassy. In general, it depends on the city. In Belgrade, it is ok. Not that easy but still. I know for example in Germany, an artist that had to pay something like 25 000€. In the US, it is even worst. When you decide to do street art you decide to take risks. You are never protected. Here in Belgrade, it is kind of a Mecca for street art, you have a lot of space, but people don’t seem to realize that.
E.J: Would you say that the history especially the war has an impact on your art ?
TKV: I wouldn’t say that but war teaches you to survive. Before, I didn’t know what it was like to live in a stable country. You never knew what was going to happen. Belgrade was destroyed and rebuilt more than 50 times throughout history. Everyone from different generations experienced the war. I hope that the next generation won’t. This context gives you a force. You need to do whatever it takes to keep going. So we have to live the time we have now. All of this happened. The past is the past. I live my life as fully and freely as I can.
E.J: What is the next step for you ? What are your ambitions ?
TKV: Well, I would love to expand what I do more, like reaching out to new countries, to more art galleries, to more art markets. I just got my own studio. I finally have a proper work space. Before I was doing my art everywhere I could. So this is the first time, I have my own space, a good work environment where I can do whatever I want. So my plans are now to sit down and articulate some messages for a solar exhibition taking place next year. I also started experiencing 3D printing, very different from street art but also fascinating. It is a form of art that fits well in our time. I can not believe the technology jump that we are experiencing. When I see the gap between me and my grandmother speaking of technology innovation, I can not believe it is really happening. The revolution in technology is fascinating. Communications got so fast in so little time. Technology gives a lot of opportunities and I am very excited about it. I am trying to find a way to do something with it. When you look at little children, they try to interact with the images. For them, an image must be interactive. That’s crazy.
After we spoke, we improvised a stencil session where she showed us how the magic happens. I really wanted to try and couldn’t resist to spray a little. Spraying on stencils seems indeed really fun to do. It is definitely something I would like to explore more. Wizardbonvin made a timelapse of our session. You can watch it at the end of his video:
See more of TKV’s art on her Facebook page.
Thank you for reading. Take care.