Interview with the “old school” writer Cano from Milan (Italy), active since the beginning of ’90’s with his crew 16K, famous for their “organic” style of lettering
When I was living in Greece I retraced the history of the so-called “organic” style of lettering, very common and popular in the local scene. What I’ve discovered is that the origin of this style in Greece is quite recent, compared to Italy. I’ve explained to some of my Greek writer friends that the ones who invented this style (as far as I know) are the members of a crew in Milan called 16K, very active in the beginning of ‘90s; my friends were very impressed by photos of their pieces, and in particular by the ones painted by Cano.
Therefore, now that I am back in Italy, I am glad that Cano accepted to talk with me about his story, and I thank him very much for this interview.
You are currently an internationally well-known rapper and artist. How your artistic past has influenced your current career?
Everything you do, every job, every experience is useful for your present and your future, even if it seems that it is not while you are living that moment.
Do you think that having studied at the Brera Fine Art School had a big influence on your lettering?
Both my experiences in arts high school and in Brera’s academy had been negative. The only thing that these schools taught me is that art could not be part of my life because I was unable to draw or paint. These are the consequences of bad teaching and bad teachers who only chose this job because of the salary, not caring at all about the only thing they are really supposed to, that is to guide and to understand kids. My school was the streets, the yards, the subway tunnels and the New York masters that I met and with whom I was lucky enough to paint together.
Who or what do you think influenced you stylistically when you start painting in the 90’s?
A documentary called “Style Wars” and also the fact that I was joining a “brand new thing”, something that never happened before in the city of Milan and in the history of art, “PAINTING ILLEGALLY IN THE STREET”. While the other guys in my age used to go to nightclubs, to parties or to the first raves, I was spending my time underground, in the subway tunnels with spray cans, with a friend of mine who dressed like a ninja, running away from the cops on a yellow train that runs throughout the night in the subway line and the Albanian gangs who were hanging out at night robbing kiosks.
What do you miss the most of that period and what do you not regret at all?
The fact that we had built our own world with our own rules. I miss everything from that period but they were situations that had to be done only back then and at that age.
Any interesting or funny anecdote you’d like to share?
Which spray cans and style did you prefer?
Spray cans only a tool, they are all good, like burners
You took part to some of the first graffiti jams in Italy, what is still fixed in your mind about those experiences? And what do you remember of your first panels?
The first graffiti jams were very simple and familiar, like parties with friends who gathered from all over Italy.
The first panels were really exciting. Managing to do a good job in difficult conditions, in the darkness and without getting caught was pretty much like being in a scene from the Lord of the Rings.
What about Phase2?
I was very lucky to paint and to hang out with a great artist like Phase2, we practically always argued but every time we ended up with laughing and “fuck off”. Phase was from the Bronx of the 70’s and to survive in that situation you had to be a tough guy. He was always happy to teach me and I was always ready to learn from him. He was the only person from whom I accepted severe criticism … I always chose my teachers.
Did you used to travel abroad for graffiti writing in the 90’s? If yes, in which cities did you like painting the most?
Unfortunately never, but I’ve recently travelled all around the world for exhibitions; in the museums of Recolera in Buenos Aires, MAC in Sao Paulo, PAC and the Triennale in Milan, the Columbia University in Chicago and other exhibitions in New York and Canada.
How did you deal with the generational change in the late 90’s and early 2000’s?
Everything changes but nothing ever changes.
How do you balance or used to balance your private life with your life as a writer and artist?
I don’t have a private life, the only thing I have is my job, my art
Have you ever quit writing?
I’ve never taken the distance from this culture, let’s say that I had to evolve my art in the street in order to replicate it on canvases and installations; all this process was a way to make my work on the streets survive. It’s like building higher floors to protect and to enhance the foundations.
Do you ever miss painting walls or trains?
No, because they are experiences that I am glad I’ve done when I was 15, the most beautiful things that a boy can do.
Are you still interested in the Italian and international writing scene? What do you think about it?
Absolutely, and I think we still have very good writers.