The Graffiti Interview
After the success of the previous interview with Francesca, finding the next subject did not come just as easy. I wanted to find an equally interesting person whose story would leave me open-mouthed and wanting for more.
Nothing came to mind or under my nose for days and weeks, then my colleague suggested a guy he had met a few years back that does street art, immediately I was intrigued. So, I called him. Mihai Stanciu, known by his tag - SONER - on Instagram @i.write.soner. Right off the bat he sounded incredibly sweet and busy. I couldn’t get a hold of him for weeks ‘cause of his crazy schedule, I actually tried him on a random Sunday and he texted me back saying he was in the middle of a graffiti jam. That just pulled me in more, I needed to know everything about this crazy world of colors and images.
The fact that we were also in a momentary period where politics and street art collide only made it more interesting to me. So I dove right in asking over the phone, given our geographical impossibility, what graffiti actually is.
“A piece of graffiti to me is an exercise of calligraphy, it’s a way of taking something already established like the alphabet, deconstructing it and remould it into my own vision. I get inspired by all kinds of people and works, rather than copying anyone I steal bits and pieces, you know, make a note of if and then develop it in my own way.”
Is there a difference between street art and graffiti?
“That is such a good question, I feel like they’re very different, yes. A few years ago you might have been able to go from a graffiti writer to a street artist, but it has never been easy to do the other way around. It has to do with attitude and motivation. The process of becoming a graffiti writer is deeply ingrained in the community built around this artform. We form Crews due to this, we form friendships based on trust and create and work together.”
Going back 15 years, Mihai tells me that he got his start in Hip Hop, a genre that was introduced to him by his brother. Highly influenced by French Hip Hop videos and American movies, he started with scribbling on his small notebook in school.
“I was seeing more and more graff everywhere and I found myself trying ‘em out in my textbook, bathroom stall walls, anywhere I felt free and not judged, really. Having recognized the potential of it and tasted the pleasure of seeing my own name written on walls I started practicing more. The older generation in town was already doing it. I’ve always looked up to them, those around me, people that worked hard and understood the worth of having a life not necessarily inside a certain box. I look up to those writers that do something unique for themselves, that matters, in their own special way.”
The way he tells me about his childhood and the community that has raised him exudes passion, passion for the art and for the environment that made him an artist. He wants me to know that the goal of it all doesn’t really have to do with images, scenery or messaging, it has to do rather with writing your name in a way that makes it wholefully yours by using your own voice and your own style, spinning the alphabet in the process while maintaining the letters’ raw shape and structure.
“There’s always a sketch at first, it can just be an idea stuck in my head for days. Over the years, my creative process has changed many times, with that came the ability to adapt and apply different forms and shapes to my artworks. Sure, there’s always something I could’ve done better, but that only pushes me to practice more.”
What do you think about the use of street art as a political weapon?
“It's funny you ask that as this was the very first reason for scribbling on walls back in the days with Romans and Greeks. I think there is a space for everything and political views are no different - you can shout your ideas from a balcony or you can write them on a wall.
I think graffiti should be a visual form that helps the environment that it's attached to, adorns buildings and spaces, and allows people to go back to being creative in a world seemingly more occupied with making an impression through a form of status and ownership. So if that's what you mean with being political then yes, it certainly can be.”
That quickly leads the both of us on a long digression about Banksy and his mission to impress an audience while shedding light on injustice and inhumanity by using sarcasm and walls, and I am, not so surprised but either way pleased, to know that we both share an immense respect for those kind of artists that use their voice for humanitarian purposes. In fact he himself does not shy away from creating communities that draw people together for higher purposes.
Ministry Of Hip Hop is an organization that he founded alongside a collective of Hip Hop Heads, Writers, Mc's, Breakers, DJ's and Producers, that aims to draw together the Hip Hop community in Romania but also unite entities like Hiphopera Foundation (UK and IT), GrowUp (Spain) and many others throughout the whole world.
“It's meant to spread Peace, Love and Unity while having fun, in the midst of building a better world for us through education and respect.”
At this point, I think I should stop the interview and let him go back to the incredible work he’s been doing to make the world a better place through his art and love, so I leave him asking one last question about his future projects, that, unfortunately, he keeps for himself, somewhat out of superstition and I applaud that, but I’m sure you’ll hear about Mihai Stanciu pretty soon, if you haven’t already.
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