2501’s paintings are erratic whimsical thoughts leaning towards the unsettling. Figures are rendered with hint of realism and then distorted by a wash technique which gives the pieces an almost expressionist appeal. Mostly having monochromatic schemes, the artist’s allow the limited range of color bleed all over the canvas. This creates a sense of softness amongst the otherwise stiff, solitary subjects that he paints. The artist’s interpretation fills his subjects with emotions ranging from calm to obscurely disturbing. Hints of geometric abstractions are also very visible in 2501’s art. Circles and lines appear on several of his studio pieces lending an abstract feel to his artworks. 2501’s paintings are erratic whimsical thoughts leaning towards the unsettling. Figures are rendered with hint of realism and then distorted by a wash technique which gives the pieces an almost expressionist appeal. Mostly having monochromatic schemes, the artist’s allow the limited range of color bleed all over the canvas. This creates a sense of softness amongst the otherwise stiff, solitary subjects that he paints. The artist’s interpretation fills his subjects with emotions ranging from calm to obscurely disturbing. Hints of geometric abstractions are also very visible in 2501’s art. Circles and lines appear on several of his studio pieces lending an abstract feel to his artworks.
During his last years mural campaign he has used a very minimal style of painting that (at times) is almost purely abstract. Wavy lines of solid black vibrate through out the pieces making patterns that are sometimes familiar and sometimes alien. With this technique he is able to shift between figurative and non-representational painting as he desires. This is what I find fascinating in this artist; his unorthodox attitude towards art. After I researched about his works for this interview I found out that he has used several styles of painting before. Amazingly, his is a range of visual styles that somehow still retains an attribute that’s uniquely his.
To look at his body of works is to realize that 2501 is an artist who’s constantly changing.
A prolific artist with a very progressive attitude.
Did you know from a young age that you were gonna be an artist?
No I don’t. I’ve always done graffiti. I painted mostly train and subway. Until the age of 20, I’m still part of SK and VB kru from Milano and of PIF from São Paulo, Brazil. I’ve always been creative but I didn’t go to any art school. In reality, I graduated at the school of cinema in Milano and then I spent 6 months going crazy with my brother Mork at the Bauhaus University in Weimar.
When did you first showed signs that you were the creative type?
I don’t remember exactly when, but if I do I have early memories of painting with my step father (he was a painter but he has stopped painting 25 years ago) on a nice big smooth cardboard 6 large colored lines. I remember it clearly, it was big and kind of minimal I didn’t want to add anything to the lines and my step father liked that. I think I was around the age of 8. But maybe this is not true, I have a strange memory.
When and how did you get into art?
I got into art when I did my first tag, I was 14.
What’s the story behind your street name? What does 2501 mean?
I used the name “never” when I started writing. After that I used the name “Robot inc.” during my first transformation. I got published under this name in one of the first book from Tristan Manco about street art called “Street Logo”. Then everything changed in my mind about what I need to do with my art so I took 2501, which is simply my date of birth, to remind me of my artistic rebirth. A fresh start.
Later on, I realized that the foundation date of São Paulo, Brazil was also 25th of January like my date of birth. São Paulo by the way, is my second home. I lived there for almost 3 years and where I had my first solo show, so the new name fits perfectly.
Why did you choose public art (street art) as a medium?
I didn’t choose public art, street art or graffiti however you want to call it… it chose me.
When did you start doing this current abstract style you have (the black and white “wavy lines” style)?
This style is really new actually, I have been using it a year and half maybe. As you can see in my site (www.2501.org.uk) I was painting differently before; a lot of colors and use of spray paint. Don’t forget that I grew up with Brazilian artists like Higraff, Prozak, Ciro and Zezao. We start to develop our styles together in 2000 while I was living in Brazil. I definitely came from the abstract and organic São Paulo school.
After a while, I got really bored of spray and the need to carry so many things when going out to paint in abandoned factories. During this time I was also longing for simplicity. If you look at my early works from 2008 -2010 you will see that in the colors I use patterns of line or dots, so I just simplified/eliminate the color and use the line patterns.
Are the wavy lines representations of anything?
In a way, they represent the constant changing of perception. Nothing that you look at is exactly the same twice.
So I take it that your works are open to your audience’s interpretation?
I just give a path, then the audience is free to find meaning that I didn’t t find by myself in my work. I always try not to be didascalic in what I say. I think that art has got to have many possible interpretations otherwise, a painting for example, becomes just an illustration.
Why did you choose to represent nature this way?
Nature is in constant evolution and is the most powerful thing I ever experienced in my life. Nature is life and is the best teacher you can find. Nature is also the best painter and sculptor.
You use to paint figuratively, right? Do you think your artistic growth will revert back to doing figures?
I use to paint figuratively and I still paint figuratively. In reality I’m always in between, I love the essential path of the abstract but at the same time I also love to draw figuratively.
When did you start breaking away from painting figuratively? Why did you choose a dominantly abstractionist path?
From the early beginnings it was already like this. Also, as I see it, my old works were strange animals made of abstract. For me it was really natural to start with the abstract and go back to figurative while I was developing my technique. I didn’t attend art school so I just go with the flow and experiment a lot of things. This doesn’t mean that I don’t study a lot to perfect my way of drawing and painting though.
How important is progress in art?
Progress is everything. Art is research and the research can’t stop. Art is always in motion.
I totally agree with you on that one. How do you adapt between the gallery setting and the street setting?
I think street and gallery are two different environments that’s why I have developed another kind of style that I use all the time that I make and exhibit. These two styles can seem really different but in reality are like the yin and the yang of the same concept: “gestuality”. The line style is the gestuality of the line the alcohol ink style is about the gestuality of the color.
Can you elaborate on your “gestuality” concept?
Gestuality in painting means focusing on every movement of my hands. So it’s a kind of approach that doesn’t have regret. It’s all spur of the moment… purely instinctive.
So you prioritize expressing your concepts rather than focusing on style?
All my exhibitions are built on a concept. They tell a story and they try to pass a very specific concept to the people that look at it. The style is just a medium. The more I grow as an artist, the more I feel the need to express concept instead of just to showcase style.
Do you have a different approach for the streets and the gallery? How much are your concepts affected by this difference?
Yes. For sure. In the street it is pure instinct, short time to paint big walls. You are in the middle of the people. You paint like you walk… without thinking. In the gallery, your instinct is diluted with the time so it is a different moment and is more intimate. Months of preparation, the loneliness of the studio… it is completely different.
You have been travelling all over the world painting in public places. How does your concept change from country to country? What would you say are the factors that determine these changes?
My concept never changes, I’m my concept. But of course, as I’m my concept, I’m influenced by what surrounds me. Traveling is the best way to learn, if mother earth is our best teacher know her and she will make you better.
Do you have a favorite street piece? Why is it your favorite? What’s the story behind the piece?
No I don’t. For me, as Anselm Kiefer said, “every work of art cancels out the previous one”.
I’m sure you’ve heard of critics saying street art is dead. Having said this, where do you think street art is headed? Where do you think art is headed in general?
Street art is becoming boring because it has become mainstream. This, unfortunately, is the destiny of almost every art movement. Too much money involved and not enough passion. The same thing is happening in contemporary art. More than in movements and name invented for copywriter (like “street art”), I believe in good artists out there struggling and there are a lot.
You are probably one of the most prolific artists I know. The amount of works you put out this year is just mind-blowing. What constantly inspire you to do art? What wake you up every morning and make you push forward?
For me, art is my cure and is the only constant in my life. I thank god every morning for giving me this beautiful life. This is what’s really pushing me forward.
2501’s latest exhibition entitled “VAJRAPANI” is currently on view at eLaSTiCo Studio. eLaSTiCo Studio is located at Via Porta Nova 12, Bologna, Italy. Exhibit runs until February 9, 2013.