Interview with WAIS ONE from Saint Petersburg.
Tell us how and when your graffiti started getting support in a city that is so separated (or isolated) by tradition, like St. Petersburg.
Hello! I started to paint graffiti in 2000. Back then, I didn’t see or hear almost anything about it. I lived in Gatchina, which is a small town 45 km from Saint-Petersburg. I only saw 1 or 2 pieces, and a few tags, there. The first time I saw graffiti on TV was in some music video; it interested me, and later I went to some youth shop where I found the “FX” video cassette.
Which magazines or videos were the first to grab your attention?
The first graffiti video which I saw was the “FX crew” video cassette. I was delighted with it. The scale, quality and their approach inspired me. Later I found the way to the shop. It was the first graffiti shop in Spb. There I saw the magazine “Spray it” – also the first magazine in Spb and Russia. So, this video and magazine were my first acquaintance with graffiti. I saw a lot of different styles, technique skill, etc… In 2004 the video “Gop Stop” guys was published, from Moscow ЗАЧЕМ. This video was really hardcore. Guys from this crew still amaze me. Simply letters and ideas made them world famous.
Can you tell us the difference between the St. Petersburg and Moscow scenes? And what can you tell us about Finland?
To my mind the difference between Spb and Moscow is first of all mentality. Secondly, Moscow writers were under the influence of fashion. This tendency absorbed a lot of writers. Curiously enough, guys from Moscow didn’t aspire to do qualitative pieces. In Spb graffiti was really different. It didn’t follow the fashion. But I don’t like to criticize Moscow and I don’t see any sense in it. They’re two different cities with their own attitude towards graffiti. Nevertheless there are a lot of talented artists in Moscow and Spb. As for Finland: I don’t know much about graffiti there; what it’s like or how it develops. But I know that there are very few places where you can paint.
To try and understand a little more about the history, can you please tell us about a few key moments or important figures in the Russian graffiti scene?
The most famous writers in Russia for me were the SPP crew from Saint-Petersburg. This crew amazed me, I was their fan. These guys were the ones who first opened the graffiti shop in Spb and who first put on sale the magazine. Guy Worm, based in Moscow, opened up to me another side of the graffiti world. Later, A-24 (now Akue) appeared, who painted amazing backgrounds. Also, there’s the DS crew from Saint-Petersburg who painted great pieces. But guys from this crew began to wage war against a lot of artists; their politics weren’t clear. Today from the Russian scene I single out few people who show worthy level and success.
How did you guys get your hands on graffiti materials in the past?
It was hard to get good cans when I started to paint. I painted with cheap automobile spray paint and I thought it was good paint for graffiti. When I got the good paint I changed my mind. Now young writers don’t have such a problem, there are a lot of shops, and products which they can buy easily. But I was never sorry that I started graffiti at that time. It was very romantic and interesting to go through this time.
What scenes are you most interested in at the moment? Cities, writers, crews, etc…?
Now it is interesting for me to observe graffiti in Spain, Italy, New Zealand, LA and the UK. Daim, Roid, Askew, Rime, EL Mac, Smash and Aryz are the most talented and interesting writers for me from all over the world. There are many artists in the world who show original, ideological, innovative work.
Do you consider them to have an influence on your style?
I don’t think they exactly influence me. It is really interesting for me to examine famous artists not relating to graffiti; people who did things which now we can’t do without computers; such things which seem to be impossible to do without computers. They influence me. That’s the thing about skills and loops – at first, graffiti writers from Europe and Australia had some influence on me. But they were influenced by classics too. Nowadays I’m absolutely abstract from this graffiti world.
How do you describe your style?
I like to experiment. I was really interested in 3D when I started to paint. I only did 3D pieces. Then I started to paint photorealism. But I didn’t find any sense in it. A few years ago I started to learn flat letters and went deeply into it. I’m still experimenting. Knowledge and learning of 3D and photorealism, and giving myself up to letters, forms my style. I love 3D, love shadows, love everything where there’s atmosphere. I work a lot on letters, effects and backgrounds. I like graphics very much. OK, let’s rock the next question.
How do you guys do your graffiti in such extreme climate conditions? And because of that do you spend a lot of time in the studio or on paper, or on the computer…?
Saint-Petersburg is not really a favorable city for graffiti. Summers that aren’t very hot and very cold winters don’t allow you to give yourself up to graffiti fully. In winter we paint in the buildings which doesn’t make me happy. Fortunately my fanatical attitude to graffiti allows me to forget about any problems with the weather, to get into what I’m doing, to get to this portal. Also, in winter I do a lot of canvases and work on my projects with girls.
What do you think about other forms of art?
I welcome any areas: cinema, music, fashion, architecture, adverts; all of them are very interesting and marvelous sometimes.
Does a circuit of art galleries exist in St. Petersburg which supports graffiti?
There are few galleries where graffiti is welcomed. Maybe it’s because of a small quantity of people who want to exhibit their graffiti. There are too many lazy writers who do not aspire to do something.
How is the relationship between the local authorities and graffiti writers? Are there rough penalties? Is there a task force or big funding by the city to enforce anti-graffiti programs or is it that they don’t care about it so much?
What can I say about struggle with graffiti in Spb? I can say that the city doesn’t care generally. Tags in the center of the city are never buffed. When the police catch the writers they do nothing. There are a lot of places in the center where you can paint calmly. And writers in Spb are rather attentive and sly.
How far do you want to go with your graffiti?
Most of all I want to travel, meet different artists, not only writers, to communicate,to take part in festivals and organize them, to invite famous artists to my projects, to show myself, to realize my plans, to organize my exhibitions, to kill all my stereotypes…To discuss graffiti culture with old school artists, with young writers, to make them self confident, to direct them straight ahead to their aims; to bring my graffiti into showbiz, to earn money by selling my art; to immortalize myself and to leave my museum, to amaze people for ages.
Above, Wais with Kreal and Truba. Below this line a photo gallery at our warehouse in Barcelona.