— Dmitri, tell us about Moscow that period, when you draw graffiti (2001–2005). What was the city earlier and how did people in it react to the graffiti?
— 15-20 years ago Moscow was definitely different from nowadays. Especially the city centre. There were less cafes and restaurants, the streets were not so comfortable for walking, despite of less numbers of cars. On the outskirts, there were more abandoned construction sites and wastelands — those places attract graffiti writers. I think that elder people still have negative reaction on graffiti, cause earlier there were less of it. And for young people graffiti from that time is cooler, then now cause it was novelty and not many people who made this art.
— 'Mom, I will be street artist!' Did you have such talk with parents and how it was?
— My parents have always had a good attitude towards my creative hobbies. I did not experience any obstacles on their part, except that I could not leave to paint at night. Dad only made fun of me, saying: “Why are you wearing such wide pants? You're not in the Bronx. " At the same time, my father played a huge role in shaping what I am doing now. We always had books in our house about design, type, art, photography and so on. Even in preschool age, he took me to his work, where there were many computers. I learned what is the Internet is in 1995 and, in general, absorbed a lot from what he was doing.
— Whose graffiti names were the loudest at this time?
— In Moscow they were FU, BTK, CGS, RUS and Why! I met the guys from FU in 2002 and they showed me a stack of photographs of their drawings on trains and walls. I was, to put it mildly, very impressed. I still occasionally communicate with two members of this team.
— Was creating graffiti on the streets in the first half of the 2000s extreme?
— As for me, not really. I have always focused on the style and quality of drawings, so it was important for me to be able to draw for a long time. And I did it mainly on abandoned construction sites or other places where no one would disturb. On the trains or in the city center, as now also, it was possible to run into trouble.
— Do you remember the day when you realized: 'I am artist!'
— I think there were several such days. One of these days was when i get the first order from american Nike office. It was 2010 year. And in 2014 I was very impressed, when my paintings was bought at group exhibition. This and same events in my life made me clear, that i chose the right way.
— For a little while you stopped painting at the street and back to it in 2013. What was the reason for the break and why did you come back?
— In 2009, in Kiev, I met Waone and Aec who worked together and was called Interesni Kazki. Now I can call them the coolest street wave artists in the post-Soviet space. They also started with classic graffiti and later began to draw personages and different surreal stories. They had a distinctive style and several cool walls in Kiev, they impressed me very much with their work. Communicating with them, I came to the conclusion that simply replicating my pseudonym, even in a very original way, will not resonate with people not immersed in the graffiti subculture. So I started painting faces and figurative compositions. After 2009 when i didn’t paint my pseudonym on the walls about 5 year. I was mainly engaged in digital graphics, collaborated with brands, developed a graffiti magazine and a Code Red website.
In 2013 Nikita Nomerz invited me to Vyksa on the festival which called Art-Ovrag to paint work on the wall of residential building. This way I began to paint at the streets again but already in a completely different format — without letters and with a huge wall for those times. In the same year, I made two large-scale paintings in Moscow and Salavat, 5 and 10 floors, respectively. This was a big breakthrough for me.
— How was the collaboration with Nike and Reebok held?
— The first project for Nike I made in 2008 when I worked with Ivan Bern and Alexey Kio in Sicksystem team. We and several another artists were offered to make an art object, which was inspired by Nike trainers. We made a sculpture from polystyrene. After this project, I had collaborated with Nike several times. For the Moscow office, I made art objects, and for the American office — graphics on t-shirts.
With Reebok I collaborated in 2012-2013 years. Stash wrote me — he is writer from New York, who is very well known in graffiti environ from late 80-s. He invited me to the project in which 12 artists closely associated with graffiti needed to make works dedicated to their hometown. These works were printed on Reebok T-shirts and sneakers, sold in different continents with the logo and signature of the author.
— Three street works that you are most proud of or that are of greatest value to you:
— I think that the first large painting of 2013 called "Key" in Moscow at the LGZ festival. I will never forget the first impression of drawing from a hydraulic lift on the wall of a five-story building.
Work "Child of the Coming" in New Tregorka for Urban Morphogenes in 2019. This work is 18 stories high.
Panel "Lucky Ticket". This is not exactly street work, but it was also created in a public space — in the building of the Leningradsky railway station in Moscow.
— Street artist can make money or 'need to be hungry'?
— Any artist can make money, it’s all about his desire. He need to be hungry in spiritual food, I mean need to stay interesting and seeking answers to eternal questions.
— When did something come up in your head that later brought you to the plywood mosaic relief?
— In 2009 my friends made festival and exhibition Faces&Laces invited me to take part with their project for Adidas. They invited different artists to design plywood sneaker silhouettes. Then I thought that just painting a piece of plywood would be too boring and added plywood parts to the work, which I sawed out with an construction jigsaw. This is how I first came into contact with this material. Two years later, I made the first relief paintings for my Faces&Laces stand. I wanted to somehow transfer my vector graphics into material and plywood became this material.
— In one of your interviews you said: 'Lego, computer games and Soviet mosaics influenced into my work.' You're talking about style, right? Do you put content into mosaics and how does this content arise?
— Yes, right. I am putting in the content, of course. It is extremely important for me that the work is not just beautiful but without content. The concepts of individual works or series are born in the process of their creation and in one way or another reflect the things that excite me. I also attach great importance to the titles of works, as they are the keys to their perception.
— How much do your works cost for today?
— If we are talking about paintings — from €2 000 to €7 500. You can buy printed graphics for 12 000₽ (approximately €136).
— Does things that happen in Russia affect into the content of your work?
— Rather, I am influenced by what is happening in the world as a whole. I try to look at things globally and from a historical perspective, not get bogged down in a local obsessive agenda. I want to do works that capture our time, but will not lose relevance in the future. Therefore, hot topics are not for me.
— Leo Caillard in an interview with our Magazine
said that 'an artist should not pay attention to the reaction of the viewer to his work'. Do you agree?
— Ideally, yes. But not everyone succeeds. And someone, on the contrary, is just waiting for this reaction.
— Could you give an example of the most unpleasant feedback or comment about your works for you?
— No. I really seldom come across with this. It is important for me to be self-critical and honest with myself. If I am confident in what I am doing, then bad reviews pass me by. Moreover, I adhere to this position — what you broadcast to the world is what you get.
— Now you are a little over 34. How should the next 10 years of your creative life go so that after them you say: 'It was cool!'?
— It will be cool, I am sure about this. The specifics do not bother me.
Interview: Sergey Gutakovsky
Translation: Angelina Petrova
Editor: Sergey Fomkin