From Seville, but adopted by Barcelona which fits her like a glove, LAHE178 has been painting since 2001, demonstrating her style in a very personal and convincing way.
On the 8th of March, in our Barcelona gallery, she’ll show us what has been passing through her head most recently, so we took the opportunity to get to know her a little better. Amongst laughter and noise in the background, the conversation unravelled…
Where does your name come from?
I used to write ‘Heldt’, which is part of my surname (Langeheldt), and people thought that ‘LDT’ was my crew and that I called myself ‘He’, which then turned into ‘Lahe’. Then I added ‘178’ ‘cos it’s “more rapper”. 178 is the year that I was born in, minus the 9, in case anyone wants to know my age.
How did you get into graffiti?
I’d like to have begun painting much earlier… It wasn’t till ’94 that I began doing tags; there were writers in my neighborhood at the time, but I didn’t know them. I studied in a school run by nuns, it was fairly posh, though my friends weren’t posh, and nobody liked rap or what I liked. So I didn’t have anyone to paint with.
I would only see people painting when I went to my Grandfather’s house, in San Bernando; I would see them and think, “I do that, I can do that”, but not until 2001, studying in the Fine Arts faculty, where I met Fafa, did I start painting.
You could say that I should have started out on my own, but I had no idea where the stores where, or the other writers… Fafa brought me into the ‘sect’, and brought me to buy some cans, four classics: white, burgundy, yellow, and chocolate brown. I did a part of Heldt on the ramp of a skatepark, it was horrible, full of drips.
You mainly do characters… is that how it’s always been?
No, in the beginning, I did pieces, but I realized that I felt more comfortable doing characters, and that I could complement the pieces of my colleagues by adding characters. I got used to that and, well, every now and again I’ll do pieces…
Do you think that’s because they express more of who you are?
I’m more comfortable doing them. I can sort of reflect on what is going through my head and the crazy things that happen, or the opinion that I have about certain things. I always like to reflect on the type of character that I have or make it clear what I am not. I like doing pieces, but in my city there are more people that are doing them. You get used to doing characters on walls and when you want to do something else, people don’t let you, hehehe.
What difference do you see between your paintings and what you paint on the street?
Before, there was less of a difference because I would sketch first and then spray paint. You could say that I painted with a more ‘impressionist’ style. This taught me what looked good or not, and it taught me how to control the can and use different techniques, etc…But now, more and more, I try to separate the two, first in using the surface, and second, in using a different technique. I don’t like using spray paint for paintings/ drawings. I will sometimes use it just for small additions, to create textures, but I feel that spray paint is for the street. Also, I’m now rediscovering more old-school graffiti, doing things flatter and more quickly, I’m returning to the beginning. More intricate things, both in form and idea, I leave for paintings, I’ve bored of doing that on murals.
Regarding themes, is there a difference? Would you say that there are two Lahes?
Maybe not “two Lahes”, no, but one Ana Langeheldt and one Lahe, yes. Ana Langeheldt is academy, canvas, paper, pencil, reading lamp… Ana Langeheldt doesn’t do sketches before painting or draw, because it’ll never turn out how it is in her head, and she’ll end up scribbling over the drawing or ripping up the paper…
For murals, I do like doing sketches, because normally I’m doing work with someone else and, out of respect for them (and to save time, of course), I don’t like just painting crazily and scribbling out what I’ve done if I don’t end up with something fresh.
I don’t like following a concrete theme or line, because doing the same thing bores me too quickly, and anyway, thematic murals where more 2001. At the same time, I can’t deny that, whether I want to or not, I always end up painting characters, rappers, and strange and dark things.
I don’t know… maybe someone else would be better at answering this question…
“The Lahe Universe”… where does it come from?
I don’t really know, I haven’t really dwelled on it, but I can say, for example, that I like painting pretty things. With graffiti, I avoid the topics. I don’t paint dolls with rosy cheeks and big eyes and all that. If I paint a female character, I try to make her aggressive and give her character. I try to add a bit of me to everything I paint.
You’ve just moved cities, from Seville to Barcelona. What do you hope to find here, and what differences do you see between the two scenes?
I want to try new avenues in Barcelona, new opportunities, widen my horizon. Between the scenes, the main difference is the number of people painting. Here there are lots of people, but the people doing trains, murals, and the competition is the similar, because in reality it’s the same game.
Do you do more work on the street here or there?
In Seville, in the beginning I did more, but you become less ambitious, you paint by the river, with some beers and friends, and the street gets strewn by the wayside. Then you get bored and you have to do some bombing again. I suppose that here, because it’s harder to do walls and because more people do more stuff on the street, the drive gets awakened… hehehe.
What are your plans?
Conquer the world from my computer… hehehe. On the 8th of March, my exhibition in the Montana gallery opens here in Barcelona (which is taking up all my time; I have withdrawals from painting on the street like you wouldn’t believe), and after that I’m going to do a banner for the website. In May I have an ‘expository operation’ in Seville, and I’m also taking part in the making of a graffiti book, but I can’t say much more about that for the moment…
Apart from that, I want to grab hold of Barcelona with my teeth and nails, so fighting to stay here is my main plan at the moment.
Social networks… you have a few blogs… tell us about them.
I have a blog, Zumbienuts, where I upload things that I like; videos, photos, graffiti, etc… I was sick of seeing the type of blogs that have stuff that I like, but mixed in with pictures of naked chicks and big tits. I know people like that kind of thing, but I’m into guys, so I did the same thing, but for the ladies.
I also have a tumblr, Lukin Yu, where I usually upload my photos. It’s kind of a way of showing the world how the world looks through my eyes; things that I come across, on a day to day basis. It’s my particular way of seeing what surrounds me.
Then I also have my personal blog where I upload my new pieces.
I have a pretty active ‘cyber-life’…
Do you think social networks help or damage graffiti?
That’s a complicated question… they can help you get to know people that are painting, really great people who maybe you wouldn’t know existed otherwise because they live in another part of the world. They also help you keep up to date on what’s going on on the scene, the events, the exhibitions, videos of missions; and that’s all good.
On the other hand, I think that it makes it easy for the thieves…
I also think it’s important to know that no matter how many photos you have on flickr (for example) or how many comments you have, if you’re bad, you’re bad, and that’s the double-edged sword of the internet. In my opinion, there are lots of people who are bad just because they’re everywhere, so they’re just annoying because you see them everywhere on the internet.
So basically, I think that anyone that can tell what is real graffiti, if before the internet they would have sought to do things well, then they’ll do that with or without internet.
“The party of the first part is hereinafter…” (how did that go again? hehehe)
What do you admire in graffiti writers?
The fierceness, the purity, and the addiction. The type of brotherhood which you get with graffiti allows you to travel to other parts of the world and stay in the house of someone you’ve never met before. I love the cockiness that goes with ‘having style’, having more tags, pieces, murals, and trains that anyone else. Competing only for recognition. Writers who spend hours in the cold and rain, just to keep watch on a train. The obsession with searching for empty spaces for doing a tag that’s even better than the one next to it. And orientating yourself in a new city by the tags! I like it all, from the biggest toy, to the best stylish writer.
What do you think about street art?
Your weak point, and your strong point?
I’m always worrying if something is shit or not, all the time “hmm, this isn’t any good”, or “hmm, I dunno if this works”, but at the same time I believe in myself too much. I know what I can and can’t do. It’s the two sides of the coin. Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde alwaaaays.
Last few words.
A big hug to my people in Seville, I think about them a lot (especially of times spent in the Nowet´s bar ‘La Rosa’), and much love to Barcelona which has welcomed me with open arms.
I’m gonna cry alllll the time….
(With Ger and Dems in Sevilla)
(With Yubia at The Forum in Barcelona).
(With Musa at the ‘Juice Jam’)