Malmö is Sweden’s third largest city, famous for their precious purple commuter trains and closeness to Copenhagen. Marvel, (Marr) is probably the most important name on the graffiti scene in the city, and are part of crews like NER and WUFC-SDK. We had the opportunity to see him in action in the last The MTN Diaries II. Interesting is, that this dedicated writer who always was active in graffitis most illegal form make his living through his art under another alter ego. This following interview lets us closer to his perspective on graffiti and art. We talked a lot about art, but we will show even more graffiti.
Present yourself in more than four sentences..
Shit, present myself?… I am Marr, Marvel… from Malmö in the south of Sweden which is my scene. Been in this since 94 and never quit ones since then…
I seem like the typical shallow swedish guy to many people, but I guess that appearances can be deceptive..
When I was a kid and started painting I wanted to be as active as the rest of the writers I met or heard of in the world. Today I’m more relaxed in that sense, I just wish I can continue painting the rest of my life, since I don’t have any plans on quitting.
I was about 13 years old when started writing, and now, around 17 years later it is not all about bombing and graffiti, I also have my art to take care of on the side of it. I don’t have the same need to manifest myself and get up in the same way as when I was a kid, even if still couldn’t live without painting. Graffiti raised me.
Is there a big difference between your art and your graffiti?
My art is something people can keep looking at more constantly, it can be studied in another way. Graffiti is more like playing your favorite tune… you know it well, and love doing it, but it speaks to another type of people. Graffiti speaks to people who are like me, while the art tries to speak to folks who otherwise wouldn’t appreciate our type of expression. It can be hard to make them feel the same love we feel from seeing a freshly painted panel roll in to the platform, so to say.
So biggest difference is who is watching what?
Graffiti should be looked around 30 seconds to a minute, a canvas has to able to hang in front of you on a wall in you’re house for ever.
Maybe thats why my art is a bigger challenge to me… now I have to live up to peoples expectations in another way. Its definitely something new to me since when it comes to graffiti I don’t give a fuck what other peoples opinion is. Maybe it was raining during the mission, maybe the paint was fucked, maybe the picture didn’t come out as it should have… but this picture will still make my day a lot better.
Does graffiti push and inspire you to create in other ways?
Its funny… you know, me and Leon do a lot of shows together lately, and always collaborations on the same canvas. When we haven’t made a panel together for a while it becomes so much harder for us to create something together. We need graffiti to make the art come through, but also to feel better about ourselves and more relaxed when creating.
So you can’t make art if you don’t paint graffiti?
Yeah, I guess so. But I really despise when people say that classic comment like “He left graffiti and are now making art instead”, it pisses me off for real….I haven’t gone from anything to anywhere else or whatever, all that “from the street to the galleries” is bullshit. I simply started to make canvases and art on the side. It is not about “graffiti-art” and “street art”, it is simply art made by a graffiti writer, so what? I don’t really care what label they want to put on it.
Your art, what is the concept? It always has a lot of color and abstract backgrounds same as you’re graffiti. Is it a reflection of you’re own graffiti in the form of canvas?
Im not the kind of person who tries to express some type of deep meaning with what I create, I am more into painting what I myself like looking at. Lets put it like this… I always wanted to make music, but I paint. I see my stuff a bit like music for the eye, Its playful and has a lot of tones, brakes and crescendos…(laughs). I can’t stand shows that are super thought through but not really fun to look at… I want my eyes to travel when I go to a show, and I guess thats what I am trying to create. Details, little things within a lot of things… it has to be entertaining…
You have done a lot of collaborations in the past too, not only with crew members and writers…
Yeah, I think that is one of my stronger sides, to not keep to myself in a way. It can be hard to complete each other working in a group, but I guess thats something you learn in graffiti as well. I did really fun show with Kaos… and lately the ones with Leon of course. I also did a show with Jan Olofson, a swedish photographer that has taken pictures of a long list of celebrities and musicians in the 60s and 70s, for example pictures of Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix.
The expo was really cool and we even did work together with two carpenters in the show, it became more conceptual than usual…I guess this is one way for me take things to other levels than my regular way of working.
Every time I did work with other artists we have been really satisfied and happy in the end, I never feel like I am finished with the work until my partners show that “fuck yeah” feeling… And its funny how you one day hang out in the shittiest hole tagging and bombing with people who has nothing, and the next you’re in another world with higher class society persons that stand around and looks at you’re paintings. The next day again you might be handcuffed in hold up somewhere and treated like shit by cops..
It sounds like you enjoy the contrast of these two worlds?
Definitely! Its like a “I wish you guys knew what I did yesterday” kind of feeling to it. The police in my city has an art society that wanted to buy one of my paintings….you have to love it right?
Do you live from painting?
Yes I do, completely. I have made my living thru painting since about 10 years now…
Does you’re clients know you’re other side as a painter, meaning trains and bombing etc?
I think almost all of them know that side of me, yes. On all my shows the last years I speak to all visitors about everything, even that side of the “art” if the subject comes up…I’ve even shown some clients some of my panels.
It’s interesting how you are on one side this hardcore writer, and on the other this guy who is an artist. It’s not a very common mix neither in the graffiti world or in the art world… And the fact that your art does not really show graffiti.
Is this relation something you have created purposely?
I really don’t know. It’s cool when people can see that the art is made by a writer, but I never want to make them assume that it is… I’m not trying to tell people who look at my art that I am a graffiti writer. When they ask me about graffiti I will tell them that it has a relation, definitely. I’m not interested in getting neither the love, or the hate, for the fact of being a writer when I hang my art. People are quite bad at making their own opinion in this subject, its either “ah cool”, or “fuck it” which is the reactions when you brand something as graffiti.
What is the big difference between you and other writers, and whats the big difference between you and other artist in galleries?
Hmm, I believe the difference between me and other artists is that I am raised by graffiti, and thankful for the little things, like getting a photo of what I did, and I’m used to have everyone against me…it is not the common relation in the life of an artist who paints canvases.
In the question of the difference between me and other writers I can’t really say. It’s to personal… (laughs).
So instead, name five writers who’s works you really like…
Thats a better question. Only five?… (laughs). Definitely Kaos. His attitude towards it all has inspired me a lot. He treats people with respect, always nice.
Also because whatever you give him he can make something out of it. He has family, two jobs and still checks out the yard and does his thing. He is always more busy than me, but he is still the one who insists more on doing missions and pep talk me to come along. Big up Mr. Kaos!
What Os Gemeos are doing is incredible, theres no discussion. Inspiring to see and hear of what they do..
Theres so many…
I like writers who can work fast, tag styles and skills in hand-writing…
Egs… Trama… Finnish kings, crazy fucking stuff. Love it.
As a bomber I have to say Thed from my own crew! He’s so tight it hurts.
What about Spain?
TSK. I was super inspired by these guys back in the day. I also really like the stuff by Pie, Inupie. One of the first real bombers in Barcelona as I understand.
NER crew, tell us about you and whats the connection to WUFC.
NER as a crew is a family. We don’t hire people like other crews. we want it to be us, and who we are. We are are all really close friends that have been doing this together with love. NER is like a tag we have together which also means “down”, since we come from down south in Sweden. I started NER back in 97. But then it was only me, and I painted like 6 days a week. Later Ask came along, and then Alma, Leon, and for while we had some Danish members too, but no longer. Thed, Wena, Heis, Eiser… this is the story.
The connection to WUFC is simple in a way, we always painted together and hung out together outside of graff as well. We kind of wanted to be able to write the other guys crew even if they weren’t there for the moment. It’s a kind of natural selection, we do the same thing, think alike, and love each others styles. We felt this way for over ten years, but we never got from first base before. The timing was bad, but now its on!
When people refer to Nordic or Scandinavian graffiti they seem to think only of Copenhagen or Stockholm. How did it affect Malmö being in between these two scenes?
Copenhagen didn’t have a subway but a big enough system to create a scene for writing. We didn’t have that, but we had both kind of close. Malmö had a old-school scene, and it’s interesting because up until about 15 years ago our scene didn’t really have any communication with the rest of the “world”.
We kind of got stuck in between the two. We didn’t have any magazine and we where kind of protected from the rest, kind of hidden in a way. We where the “Malmö guys”, nothing more. (laughing). I wanted to be busy back then, so I went to Stockholm and did subways, same as I went to Copenhagen and Malmö… sometimes all within the same week. Also because you can’t do 5 or 6 panels a week in Malmö. You burn the spots. But in Copenhagen… perfect!
For long periods you where the only real active crew in this kind of small city, haven’t that created a lot of trouble for you?
Yes and no… We had more problems in Lund which is a smaller city just north of Malmö… Malmö always had a lot of other problems to attend to since crime is quite high for swedish standards there. The cops was more on my ass in a city I didn’t really live in, its funny. One officer from the Lund Police authority even called our parents saying we where a organized crime group. Imagine that shit. My mom wasn’t really overwhelmed..
This really hated us. We made many panels with his name, and bombed all over with it. Anders Nilsson was big there for a while, (laughs hard).
Whats up with the Nordic styles? You can see traces of it even in your graff, the simplicity. You know Swedish and Finnish styles particularly…
Yeah, I always liked simple and clean styles, you know Reson, Rens… Skil and all them… They made me realize that less is more. It’s much harder to make a simple piece look good. Either if I make canvases or graffiti I always start with a very spontaneous move, line or attack of the surface…like a tag.
It has to be very natural, without thinking… flow! Spit it out and later I can work on details upon it, but its not like I’m trying to get away with some art farty Jackson Pollock shit if that’s how I made it sound. The simplicity is the most important, when you manage the simpleness you can add effects and details.
Isn’t also the simple “Nordic styles” somewhat a product of legal questions and the climate of having to paint fast?
True, it is a way to explain why the style became what it is. But flow is the key to it… The whole picture is very important. I don’t care if I got some drips on some part of the piece like some writers…what matters is the wholeness of the wall… or train. I hate when writers tries to make it perfect from the start and later realizes that they don’t have enough paint so that the piece kind of gets semi good at the end. I rather have my piece a little bit fucked up all the way, at least its the same all over you know.
But I have to say… bad circumstances is the best inspiration. Creativity wouldn’t exist in the same way if life was free from problems. We wouldn’t really have anything to express. It affected graffiti in Sweden. When I grew up we didn’t have what have today, so I really appreciate todays situation even more. We had to steal the paint here, the caps there… it was hard work just to get to make a piece. 50% of the time was spent only to get the paint.
Are you trying to say you have become like an old man within graffiti at only 30 something?
(laughs) Yeah, its kind of scary isn’t it? We are getting old. But that doesn’t really change anything does it?
(silence for a while)… Have fun! If you don’t have fun, why do it?