In a couple of months I will officially celebrate my second anniversary as an Athenian resident; two amazing years, so many experiences (good and bad), emotions, challenges, adventures, socializing and, despite the ups and downs and the more or less serious difficulties, I have to say that I feel grateful and I wouldn’t change a thing. Something that has remained always unchanged is my deep love for graffiti, for street art and for the underground scene. This interest, in fact, has never diminished, not even when I slowed down Urban Lives’ activities and articles, and led me to a constant observation of the walls of the city and to keep up updating my disordered but big photographic database.
In the last months I’ve also started to “paint” graffiti (a sort of ihihih), nothing serious but a lot of fun, perhaps an inevitable consequence of 5 years of Urban Lives. I’ve also started travelling again (a beautiful weekend in Emilia Romagna), and most of all I’ve spent very good time with artists and graffiti writers in Athens, including chats, beers, bombing and explorations.
Afternoon walk in Koukaki with Mazilax (Spain)
The meeting and the acquaintance of this Spanish street artist would not have been possible without Instagram. After noticing a couple of new interesting artworks around the city, without a signature, I uploaded the photos on my profile but without being able to mention the author. Thanks to a comment by an Athenian artist, Barba Dee, whom I know and with whom this mysterious artist collaborated, I was able to contact and spend time with Mazilax. The meeting took place the day before his departure in Koukaki neighbourhood, where there is the greatest concentration of his murals in Athens. His street art, as he told me, is spontaneous, often painted on shutters and windows of closed and degraded shops, and is sometimes site specific, such as the one on human rights painted in the “sexy shop street”.
In general, almost all his mural, have some references to social issues or animal rights. On this last topic, and anti-speciesism in general, Mazilax has also realized a self-produced book that I had bought from him, entitled “Se venden niños“; in every page there’s a black and white photo on the left regarding a specific circumstance of animal exploitation and on the right there’s a drawing that reproduces the same situation but with human beings instead of animals; strong contents and very nice project. In general I really appreciated his kindness, his approach to the street, the city and its problems as well as his interest in meeting and collaborating with others artists (such as Barba Dee and Doa Oa).
Athens, as already mentioned many times, is a cultural city with plenty of potential that attracts artists and writers from all over Europe. That’s why it didn’t surprised me to find out that, in the same period, another foreigner talented artist was staying in Athens, Ceepil from Belgium. Just like Mazilax, he also met many locals, painted with some writers and spread many spontaneous artworks in Athens and also in Thessaloniki, where he painted, together with Asod (Nr4t crew) in the University and in a refugee camp. Once more just just like with Mazilax, unfortunately we met the day before his departure. This time the appointment was in a nice and typically Athenian bar in Metaxourgio, one of my favourite district, not far from his last mural in Athens. We chatted about one million topics, from art to travels, from nature to adventures and of course about our personal view of the city. Speaking of his art, he uses to paint with spray cans and his murals are a combination of two photos, in which one or both have an animal as their subject. The result, which often includes geometric elements in strips that hide the animal figure, is a sort of glitch effect, truly original and almost pleasantly alienating if you look at it in person. If you like his work I suggest you to take a look at his Instagram profile, and in particular at the beautiful time-lapse videos or footages of the phases of realization.
Graffiti around Athens, with the local crew Xtcs
After this full immersion in illegal street art, I went back to my greatest love, graffiti writing. The first writers I had the chance to meet during this time were the guys from Xtcs crew in Athens, active since 2000, quite known for pieces on trains, trainlines, in the city, but also graffiti in abandoned places or on abandoned trucks and vans and a lot of tags. The first meeting took place in a fascinating and unusual hidden place, which is accessed only by a narrow and secret passage from the road, as it was a gate to another reality. Surrounded by greenery and trash heaps, the crew painted one of their classic 3D pieces on an impressive concrete wall, which, in my opinion, was a perfect spot for their style.
It was even more more interesting the second time we met, night-time, looking for spots for painting in the streets. Not only has been a great opportunity to chat and to discover stories and anecdotes that they collected during years of intense activity, I could also look at half of my new beautiful city from the car, including neighborhoods unknown to me, underpasses full of graffiti and unauthorized hall of fame.
However, the best part was certainly being able to see them in action. I’ve seen many “graffiti night bombing” in the last years, but I have to admit I’ve never seen such a combination of speed of execution, precision, technical skills and accuracy of details, which is even more admirable considering that the first piece was practically painted in the dark (I could barely distinguished the colors) while the second one in a spot very visible. It was a really nice experience.
Sunny Sunday afternoon and with Lol (Fix crew) and Tae (writers from Athens)
Another nice day with graffiti writers has been organized on a Sunday afternoon by Lol (Fix crew), good guy and great writer whom I know since a long time and I have already mentioned in other articles. We were together with Tae, another old school writer well-known in the Athenian graffiti scene, together with another writer who asked me not to be mentioned (as, actually, some others I’ve known recently, from Sweden). On a beautiful day of warm spring sunshine, long-awaited after a crazy and unusual April-winter, we went for painting in a sort of sport center, already full of tags and faded graffiti, a location that reminded us of the a classic 90’s hip hop video. If we’d had a stereo with us would have been perfect.
The guys painted one next to the other one on the same wall, while talking, laughing, making jokes and enjoying the sun. Before leaving Tae painted one of his legendary throw ups, spread for twenty years on trains and streets of Athens, he gave me some technical graffiti tips, and we all tagged the wall. It’s good that there’s a writer like Lol in the city, who not only loves to paint but also to connect people and have fun all together.
For my last appointments with local graffiti writers, I’ve passed from old school ones to a part of the talentuous “new generation“. At first I met Artis, Beiff and Aner, and this time I was the one who was connecting people (and I hope I will have time and possibility to do it more often). After taking a photo of a piece painted by Beiff and Aner in a parking, we went for a quick visit to the National Technical University of Athens in Zografou, to see the graffiti by Artis (419 crew) and other writers during a recent graffiti jam and then we went around for a couple of hours.
During the walk they painted pieces and tagged on shutters and walls and we all have a lot of fun, as it was fun to look at passers-by reactions, such as over-excited kids and even a guy working in a parking lot who suggested to go to paint in the city center to have more visibility (maybe he’s an ex writer? ihihih).
After the nice walk we ended up with a beer in a park and a long chat and stories and in general we had a very good time.
During the same week I had a quick appointment with the guys from the (brand new) Voodoo Death crew. After missing, due to work, a night bombing in Omonia square with them, where I passed the day after to take some photos, the next day I invited them to paint in “my” secret spot; nice weather, chilling time, no passers-by and it was quick but fun!
Extra – Fanzine by GW crew
In the midst of this intense period I also met Miele, an Italian writer from GW crew, for a beer in Exarchia neighbourhood. Simple guy, as simple but very interesting and “a bit trash” is his lettering’s style. Due to lack of time (and lack of spray cans) we couldn’t hang out for painting, but the time in Exarchia was nice and I thank him very much for a gift he had for me; a very nice and a little crazy self-produced fanzine printed in limited edition in risograph, made with his crew from Pesaro (Italy). The content is really original, is a mix of graffiti, urban photography, travel photos and graffiti sketches.
I must confess that it’ one of several beautiful gifts I have received since I’ve moved to Athens, including stickers, prints, fanzines, hand-made drawings. Every time I feel so moved and excited at the same time, and in general I feel grateful for all the good memories, stories, situations I’ve collected and experienced. The graffiti one is a crazy world but is also a great way of bringing people together.