Interview of CES53, true Old school artist from the Netherlands, around his career from its beginning, his style, technique and influences.
FatCap : You were one of the first Graffiti artist to paint trains in northern Europe and also one of the most prolific. Can you tell us how you first aknowledged Graffiti and how you started?
CES53 : I started drawing cartoons with markers on lightpoles and electricity boxes in 1983 here in Rotterdam using permanent markers my grandma used to take from her work for me. In 1985 I saw Style Wars the famous graffiti documentary and I was sold instantly, and 2 weeks later I stole some spray paint and started piecing.
First piece (1987)
FC : What surface (wall, train, canvas, other...) did you prefer at your beginings? Which one do you prefer now? Why?
In the beginning I started piecing on walls like the schoolyard wall etc, cause those were the places we every day chilled, I was to young at the time to go to subway or train yards, also nobody was painting trains at the time over here.
Right now I don't care I paint anything, subway, train, freight, trucks, track walls, legals, canvas as long as the paint sticks to it it is fine with me. Subways and trains I like to paint once in a while for the rush and the action, wich is pure fun it gives the best high. Freights, trucks and tracksides I like to paint to get up, the pieces will stay for a while and a lot of people will see them. And legals and canvas are nice to do some more sophisticated stuff and try new techniques.
FC : You have been active since 1985. What do you think of the evolution of Graffiti since then?
Like eveything it has two sides, a good and bad side, the good side is that there is a lot of diversity in the work being made today, a lot of good paint brands and graffiti artists all over the world, a bad side could be that the scene is divided into different sections of writers, legal writers, illegal writers, streetartists, people who only bomb throw ups and in some cases they disrespect each other wich is too bad. In the beginning the scene was united, we were all writers.
Aruba, Lesser Antilles (1988)
FC : You are part of the street art collective Lastplak. Tell us more about it (its general aims, genesis, concept). What importance do you give to collective/collaborative work in your practice?
I am not part of Lastplak anymore since a while. Some times I paint with some of the Lastplak members and other streetartists under the name of new street art crew I founded 33rd collective, wich is fun to do. I like to see a nice collabo done with artists on the same level.
FC : Which artists, writers, Graffiti artists, individuals, personas can we find in your own personal Pantheon?
Charles Adrien Wettach, Achille Zavatta, Josep Andreu i Lasserre, Emmett Kelly, Otto Griebling, Yuri Nikulin, Arthur Vercoe Pedlar, Krusty The Clown, Boozy The Clown, Insane Clown Possee.
FC : Who are the new local/worldwide Graffiti artists to follow in your opinion?
I don't really follow any specific artist, I look at everything art, streetart and graffiti related I see and try to create my own personal style not too much similar to what other people are doing, tough I like using some graffiti cliches to stay connected to the origins of graffiti. I believe that your style of art should be connected to who you are, what your interests are and what you have been thru in life, instead of making something very similar as the artist you admire.
Of course when I was young I was creating styles similar to the the artists I liked, I guess it's a necessity to master the basic skills needed to paint graffiti. After painting for a year or 4/5 I realised it is important to look for yourself, your own style wich fits your personality best, since it is the most rewarding.
In all countries of the world today there are masters in this artform, I like it all, I like seeing a techniquely amazing wall or a bombed train or street art it's all good to me.
Amsterdam, Netherlands (1989)
FC : What is Graffiti to you? An Art, a statement, a political act, a lifestyle, something else?
Action art, even when I paint illegal I like to paint something as nice as possible in the given time frame. To me graffiti is a cool thing because it has action, creativity and being outside at odd places, wich I all happen to like.
With Sent & Fume in Belgium (1992)
FC : Your biggest artistic achievment.
My last painting.
Second part CES53 speaks about his style, technique and influences.
FC : Your style is really reconizable and seems to be influenced by a mix of mayan or aztec art, mexican arts and crafts and even cartoon visual language. Can you tell us more about your major influences and how you decided to mix them into creating your personal style?
When I started I was inspired by "Style Wars" and "Subway Art" and its artists and the local king of the hood "Shade" who did fresh pieces in 85, in 86 we were getting copied blackbook sketches from Bando, Shoe, Delta, Shock, Aliens and when I saw them they blew my mind that stuff was advanced and dope also the book "Spraycan Art" had and impact on me, around 87 I started to go to Amsterdam on a regular basis to check out the real work of the mentioned artists wich was also great. Around 88 we started to get traded photographs from people in New York, pieces from Ven, Reas, Ghost, Know, Sento, Dero, Magoo I was all digging, those guys were doing some fresh styles.
At the same time we started hitting trains a lot wich was a whole different ball game. Around 1990 my style was getting more personal and influenced by different things than graffiti like LSD for example, I was doing the "LSD" style in the beginning of the ninties, wich was trying to catch the visuals of a trip in a graffiti piece. Later in the ninties I studied art and archeology wich would influence my later styles. Between 1995 and 2005 I was still doing some pieces but was not really developing graffiti styles since I was busy studying and practicing art and not motivated to sharpen my graffiti skills, around 2006 I started to paint more outside again and work on my graffiti skills.
My current style is mix of all these thing combined graffiti, street art, art, tattoo, tribal and pre-columbian art, graphic design, cartoons.
With Oase (1993)
FC : You have a persasive, extensive use of the figure of the clown in your work. Is there a specific meaning to it or is it just more of a stylistic form you enjoy playing with?
The clown is my icon, it is the clown from hell, it is a way of lookin at things, the attitude of the clown, the dark side of the clown, the funny side of the clown.
FC : So the clown is a kind of representation of a certain philosophy, a distance to keep with what surrounds you, a lightness of being combined with a just but ironic vision on things?
It is the occult "Clown from hell", not just a clown, and the "Clown from hell" is in fact a duality symbol of my own like Yin and Yang.
FC : Do you do a lot of sketches/preparation before painting a piece?
Yes and No, some work is very carfully drawn and planned and others just improvised on the spot. I like both since they challenge your creativity and they sharpen your skills.
"Dope" in Frankfurt (1998)
FC : Is there a technique you would like to master but never achieved in? Is there some painting habits, abilities or eases you have you try avoid using?
No, I master a lot of techniques, and if I need a new technique for some idea I have I will train it and put it to work. No there are no things I would not try or avoid.
FC : Your current readings?
I have read hundereds of art books.
"Mc Death" in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2011)
FC : Can you specify the last one?
"Alchemy, The philosopher's stone".
Berlin, Germany (2011)
FC : What music do you listen to these days?
Jazz, Fusion and Funk, sometimes some instrumental Country and some Latin or Rock music and Trip-Hop.
FC : The last tune played on your iPod/mp3 player or car radio?
"Watermelon Man" from Herbie Hancock.
FC : The 3 things you could not live without.
My three legs.
FC : Your ongoing projects and what you feel like doing next?
Fill a bag with 20 cans and go out in the dark night.
FC : If only a word should remain (your favorite word).
CES53 on FatCap.