Last year I wrote a piece on the Graffiti/Fine Art biennale in São Paulo for JungleDrums. Along the way I interviewed a handful of Brazilian (and one Portuguese) graffiti writers but because of space limits the majority of the actual interviews ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. I always felt like they were pretty interesting and deserved to see the light of day, but have only just got around to translating them in full.
Read the first one, with São Paulo’s NOVE, after the jump.
Nossa: How long have you been writing?
NOVE: I started painting in the streets in 1999.
Nossa: How did you first get into graffiti?
NOVE: It wasn’t anything specific really; I just think my interest in graffiti was instinctive. Since the first time I saw it I just fell deeply in love.
Nossa: Tell me about your first time.
NOVE: The first time I painted in the street was in Santa Cecilia in São Paulo in 1999. It was an unusual experience, in those days I knew nothing about graffiti, I bought some paint rollers and a matt black spray-can and wrote ‘esmola’ [alms] because it was an area with loads of homeless people.
Nossa: Where does the tag NOVE come from?
NOVE: That’s an interesting story actually. When I started writing I needed a name, and at the time I was working as an office boy, anyway on one of my trips back and forth across the city the number 9 [‘nove’ in Portuguese] kept cropping up in various forms. The invoice I had to pay at the bank, the address of the bank, my number in the queue, the number of my bus, everything ended with the number 9 – so I wrote my first NOVE piece. After a while loads of other meaning came up, my name’s got 9 letters, I’m the 9th son, my lucky number is 9, and other stuff too. Looking back it seems like the number 9 chose me, and not the other way around.
Nossa: How would you define your style?
NOVE: My style is a mixture of design and painting, in which organic elements fuse with geometric forms creating a contemporary poetry in which the sensory and the technological blend together.
Nossa: Have you been influenced by any graffiti artists in particular?
NOVE: I’ve been influenced by different artists, like Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dali and Samson Flexor.
Nossa: Have you done any commercial work?
NOVE: Yeah, I’ve done stage sets, ad campaigns, illustrations, workshops, that kind of thing.
Nossa: Do you think that graffiti is recognised as legitimate art-form these days?
NOVE: Yes. Graffiti is present in loads of projects, cultural events, shows, exhibitions, and it all strengthens and solidifies our art.
Nossa: How do you feel about the international recognition that artists like Nunca and osgemeos have been getting in the last few years?
NOVE: It’s really important for the appreciation of urban art from Brazil, and worldwide. It shows how far urban art is diffusing across the world, and not just in Brazil. Many artists have done cultural exchanges and national/international events, which leads to a much greater exchange of information.
Nossa: What, for you, are the pros and cons of graffiti exhibitions? Do you prefer to have you work in a gallery or in the streets?
NOVE: It’s all pros, for me. You don’t have to walk many metres in the big cities to see the volume and the maturity of this art. Inserting graffiti into these important art spaces shows the recognition and valorization of an art-form that used to be considered marginal [‘marginal’ in Portuguese means both marginal and criminal]. Painting in the streets or in museums has the same value but the concepts are different, and each one offers different creative possibilities in its own way.