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Track Light Interview #10—> Mario Jin (Italy)

Wall mural by Mario Jin in Milan

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with Italian graffiti artist and illustrator Mario de Stefani aka Mario Jin.

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John: So where did the name Mario “Jin” come from?

Mario: When I started to do graffiti as a kid in Milan everyone had a tag. So I decided to start with Jin, like the character from the PlayStation game Tekken.

Mario Jin graffito tag on wall
A bit more than a throwie.

Mario: But later I discovered a different meaning for this word: jin, jinn, jinie.

John: You’re sounding like David Bowie there.

Mario: Haha. I mean the djinn or genie. A demon or spirit… like a soul. For me, the meaning was like another way to be myself. Another form in which to express myself.

John: And where did you grow up and do that early tagging?

Mario: I was born in Milan and grew up in the southwestern suburbs there. Now I’m living right here in the city as a senior designer for my firm. It’s my home for now. But I’ve been feeling the need to travel and find and live in new places, too. In the future I don’t know where I will call home.

Wall mural painting of Indian by Mario Jin
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin in Milan, Italy.

John: if you could paint a wall anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Mario: Anywhere! Really. Anywhere.

John: Who do you collaborate with in Milan?

Mario: In Milan there are a lot of great artists I regularly work with. Most of the time it’s Foskia, Yems, Prosa, Daste, Trust, Plinio, Zelig, Draks, Close, Tawa e Dada, Poms, Mr. Pollo, and the 10G crew. We just paint walls together for fun.

Wall mural painting by Mario Jin and Tosk
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin and Tosk in Milan, Italy.

John: And how did you get started painting?

Mario: My aunt was a painter and teacher of art. When I was in her home as a kid I would get alot of inspiration. I was also influenced by manga and hentai growing up. And I started with graffiti in the streets in 1998.

I first started by copying the heroes and protagonists of manga or hentai and cartoons that I read or saw on TV. Some of my favorites were Lupin the Third, Kenshirō from Fist of the North Star, and others from The X-Men and Dragon Ball Z. I remember drawing them everyday on my desk at school. 

Later I started to redraw my friends and brothers in an anime style. And when I discovered graffiti, it opened a new world of inspiration, colors, and ways of expressing myself.

Wall mural painting by Mario Jin
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin in Canarias, Spain.

John: And being Italian, have you been influenced by any of the greats from the past?

Mario: A lot influenced me. I don’t have any specific preferences, but for sure I remember moments like the first time I saw Caravaggio’s paintings or one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

John: What are you communicating through your work? Are you?

Mario: Sometimes I work in freestyle simply as pure expression. Other times I think about the sick world in which we live and how I would like to change it. Or maybe that’s just a way I take refuge from it.

John: What do you mean by the world being “sick”?

Mario: I’m talking about a world full of pollution causing global climate change. I’m talking about bad vibes like hate and racism. I feel many people are thinking only for themselves these days.

LunchKraft lunchbox print designed by Mario Jin
LunchKraft Lunchbox screen printed design by Mario Jin.

John: Yes, I remember our first conversation about your design for the LunchKraft lunchbox. I asked you to just come up with something you felt strongly about and would want to communicate even through the canvas of a lunchbox.

Mario: I was thinking about our overuse of natural resources at the time, while also the respect for nature that people can and do have.

John: So the gas-masked figure is trying to protect that fragile bit of nature under the domed glass.

Mario: Yes.

John: I also asked you about drawing that LunchKraft lunchbox into the design itself, because I have some of the same concerns about our use of resources in a consumer culture. Sometimes I wonder if I’m helping or harming by manufacturing anything at this stage in history. I’m hoping to change a certain consciousness about fashion in small ways, but I still wonder.

Mario Jin's Classic DrawBag
A Classic DrawBag hand-painted by Mario Jin.

John: Currently, we don’t really play up the eco-friendly elements of the bags much in marketing. We focus on the art. But maybe we should. It’s been more of an attempted baseline rather than a marketing angle, and in some ways using it to market would feel deceptive to me.

Anyway, yeah… I’m trying to figure these things out.

Changing topics… you and I were talking recently about Playdead’s video game Limbo as well as their (somewhat) more recent release Inside. I brought it up because you had devoted a wall to the former. What is it about these games that have inspired you to reinterpret them in your work?

Wall mural of Limbo video game by Mario Jin
Wall mural painting by Mario Jin inspired by the video game Limbo.

Mario: Yes, I really like these games. The world and characters are so simple yet wonderful at the same time. But the gameplay and the stories are the best things about them. You have to think about how to overcome puzzles all the way up to the end. And the stories are speaking into the darkness of the world that the characters are entering.

I like how their stories inspire my imagination… and not in a way just meant to get you to buy the next episode. They really made me think. I did a piece of work based on Limbo. I think I’ll do another one about Inside also.

John: Cool. You can check out more of Mario’s work on Instagram and his official website.

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OWAG Track Light #7—> Derek Brown (South Africa)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with South African mixed media artist and illustrator Derek Brown.

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John: So, Derek, where did you grow up and where do you now call home?

Derek: I grew up and still live in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

John: Tell us a bit about that.

Derek: Jozi is wonderful. You have to be on your toes but it’s a beautiful place with awesome people and even better weather. Growing up here has been amazing and continues to teach me about who I am as a person in relation to our dynamic culture.

Graffiti in particular has taken a big step up in its quality in Johannesburg. There’s so much talent out on the streets and I’m honored to be a part of this really special thing being cultivated down here even if it’s only a small part for the moment.

Graffiti by Derek Brown.

John: From your Instagram account, it looks you do a bit of motocross, yeah? South Africa has a history of some top riders, including DH mountain bikers, which I really dig.

Derek: I agree, South Africa knows how to produce a classy champion or two. My brother Barry and I grew up riding and racing bikes and still try get out as much as possible. I’m more into the mountain biking and jumpers these days and having crazy fun thanks to the foundations motocross gave me.

Sasolburg Saturday, photo montage taken by Derek Brown.
Tabletop tail-whip in Johannesburg; photo taken by Derek Brown.

Unfortunately, my free time is limited because I’ve recently taken a fantastic tangent in my career, moving away from multimedia and graphic design into 3D industrial design alongside my brother in our company, Tim Mabel Design. I’m also doing original art projects and commissions as much as I can between the day-to-day work. 

Balance in life is key I believe… I refuse to have my time filled only with work. Physical activities like motocross and mountain bike riding (and hiking and building on hillsides for trails and jumps), boxing and more recently, carpentry and metal work all help me have fun, release stress and think differently allowing me to express myself in new and different ways.

John: Do you travel much for work or leisure? Any favorite places in the world?

Derek: I wish I could travel more for either. It’s a goal of mine to work overseas with my art. I can’t pick a favorite place in the world, but I will let you know when I find it. Holidays are proper luxuries these days but looking forward to one soon. Regardless of what I am doing though, I almost always have a pen and paper with me. Or my camera.

“This Time Last Year It Was Bad” doodle by Derek Brown.

John: I’m going to recommend Queenstown, New Zealand for some MTB and MX….

Derek: Sounds good. I also hear Canada has some super cool riding.

John: Absolutely. So your style is rather unique– it feels like a bit of biro and notebook scribbles plus street art. How has it developed over time? When did you get started?

Derek: I’ve had the odd notebook full of scribbles, so you got me there. My dad taught me to draw cartoons when I was really young and I haven’t put down a pen since. I studied multimedia design and also had the very fortunate luck to have an excellent art mentor for a number of years, too.

“Piece Of Escape” mixed media on paper.
“Snake Wrestling” acrylic and ink on paper.

John: Where do your inspirations come from?

Derek: My process of art-making is to have lots of fun and ultimately enjoy what I’m producing. Simply trying to do the best I can with what’s available at the time. Learning is a big part too. Everyday. About myself and the way I produce and channel my creativity. Unless I’m being paid or have a passion for a piece, I scrap or shelve work very quickly if the energy fades.

I have an amazing bunch of close people (family and mates) from whom I draw inspiration and direction. Most of them are successful creatives in their own right so we have similar mindsets and the ideas flow openly. I find strangers serve well for unexpected insights and then finally, opportunities to work with exciting new people like yourself on projects like the DrawBag has been so cool and really motivating.

 

“The Wiener Dog Confrontation” mixed media on upcycled cardboard.
Up-cycling and re-purposing are always a bonus… I’m a big fan of a waste-free world. I hate to ignore the potential to transform something most would considered as scrap or trash into a contemporary work. Creation is my aim, what it’s achieved with is negotiable.

John: Favorite artist?

Derek: Picking a favorite is difficult… I enjoy different things at different times. But Pablo Picasso would be one of my favorites. I dig his style. To me, his simple illustrations are beautifully unforced.

John: And who or what do you make art for?

Derek: In the past, I created art mostly for myself as it came very naturally to me. It was an organic practice… I was always drawing and thinking on concepts. Now, I have a more considered approach to making art for people and businesses who value the work I’m producing and are interested in the various applications that it can be executed on, in, or for. And then still for myself when I get the chance… I also love hitting up a dirty wall with some fresh cans or rollers or simply getting the camera out and shooting what’s in front of me.

John: Where did your design for your DrawBag come from? Is it something like a stream on consciousness or are there some intentional, hidden messages in there?

Derek: I had no idea how it was going to turn out when I started. The content defines itself as I work. There are definitely some deeper meanings to some of it… I drew this during a time when I was starting to find some balance in my life and focus on a new direction.

John: I think alot of artists work this way, at least from time to time. It can be difficult to trust that the work will in some ways become apparent without forcing or deciding early in the process, right? But that’s where alot of great ideas and work ultimately can come from. 

So, if anyone wants to connect with you, what’s the best way?

Derek: Feel free to hit me up on Instagram @derekbrownart and Facebook @derekbrownartko or drop me an email: helloderekbrown@gmail.com

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OWAG Track Light #6—> Sune Nesu (Mexico)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with Mexican painter and street artist Antonio Emmanuel Hernández Torres (Sune Nesu).

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John: Hey, Sune. So, is “Sune Nesu” your real name? It sounds like a combination of the four letters E-N-S-U in two different ways.

Sune: Hi, friends! No, Sune Nesu is not my real name. It’s exactly what you say… a combination of letters in two different ways that I liked and that looked good in graffiti. I liked how it sounds. My real name is Antonio Emmanuel Hernández Torres. 

John: How many years have you been painting?

Sune: I’ve been painting since I was quite young. I first started doing graffiti and public murals in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I started doing it more seriously. It was then that I decided I wanted to devote myself fully to the world of art.

John: Where did you learn to paint? Did you receive any formal training at school or elsewhere?

Sune: I always say that I learned to paint in the hospital. I say this because at the age of eight I was suffering from chronic renal failure, and this caused me to stay for long periods in the hospital. The way I entertained myself at that time was painting. By the way, I currently have a kidney transplant that my father gave me and I have been healthy by the grace of God for sixteen years now. 

Regarding school instruction– I studied Visual Arts at the Artistic Initiation School #3 of the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), and I also took a number of free art workshops in my city.

A wall mural painted by Sune Nesu outside INBA.

John: Your work often seem to focus on animals, or combinations of different animals together, with wild colors and patterns. The DrawBag you painted is done in this style as well. How did you start painting in this way?

Sune: This style originated from my love for animals. Apart from painting, what I love most is learning more about animals. I love watching documentaries about them.

The idea of combination arose one day during a trip with my family to the state of Veracruz in Mexico. I found myself in a landscape with many trees and different types of animals. I remember that I was carrying my sketchbook with me, and I simply started to make my very first drawing that mixed together all the animals that I saw that day. From then on, my style was defined and I was able to continue creating more and more fantastic animals.

John: How does your Mexican culture or heritage influence your artwork?

Sune: My culture and Mexican heritage has helped me a lot in regard to my artwork developing. People who see my style of combining different creatures often say that these fantastic animals are alebrijes. 

The alebrijes are 100% Mexican handcrafts created by the artisan Pedro Linares López originally in 1936, and the alebrijes have been a great inspiration for my own art. The many legends and stories of my country have also had a strong influence on my art, as well as its different locations and landscapes.

Alebrijes from the Museum of African, Oceanic, and American Indian Art (MAAOA) in Marseille, France.
Artisan Pedro Linares López fashioning alebrijes.
Alebrijes at the Pochote Market in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.

John: That’s interesting because Pedro Linares discovered the alebrijes when he was also very sick and began to have visions. Do you see any spiritual or mystical meaning behind your animals?

Sune: Yes, I know… this connection with Linares is very interesting and inspiring for me! The meaning that I would give to my fantastic animals is that we live in a world that I must fill with colors– these creations have made me strong in my difficult moments, and it is a gift that God has given me to use in order to paint the whole world.

John: Do you work with other artists in Mexico?

Sune: Yes, of course I have collaborated with other artists from Mexico. Although recently, I have been working mostly on my own.

John: What else do you do when you’re not painting… or learning more about animals?

Sune: Even though I spend most of my time creating art, I like to do different things, too. Maybe I’m kind of weird. I love reading comics, playing video games, going out with my family, and going out with my friends…

John: Well, that sounds pretty normal to me, haha. So how can people see more of your work or get in touch with you, Sune?

Sune: You can contact me through either Facebook or Instagram.

I’d like to thank you very much for allowing me to be part of the One World Artist Gallery and share a bit of my artistic life through this interview. I’d also like to send a message to people that if they are going through a difficult time in their life or believe that their dreams are unattainable– fight for those dreams and always trust in God. He will always have an answer for you.

Thank you very much.

John: Thank you, Sune!


(Alebrijes at the Pochote Market in the city of Oaxaca by N Saum is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

(MAAOA-Alebrijes by Rvalette is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

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OWAG Track Light #5—> Sirock (Mexico)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with Mexican street painter Angel Huerta Flores (Sirock).

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John: Hey, Angel! So first, tell us how you took the name “Sirock”.

Angel: Sirock was a nickname first created when I first started making graffiti six years ago. Over the years it’s evolved a bit.

 

John: Now, apart from your street painting, you’re actually a scientist, aren’t you?

Angel: Yes, I’m also an engineer in Biotechnology. I’m very passionate about science and technology and I like to read scientific articles about current events when I have free time.

John: So, how has your painting style developed since you really began with it in earnest six years ago?

Angel: At the beginning I leaned more towards graffiti since I was in an group of friends that were all graffiti artists, but little by little I learned more forms of expression. Out of that exploration came my interest in caricature and illustration.

A mural painted by Sirock at Balcones de Santa Anita, Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Mexico.

John: Do you remember the first wall you painted?

Angel: Yes, it was near my house. I made it in the morning before going to high school… it was just some graffiti using my name Sirock.

John: Did you get formal art training from school or somewhere else?

Angel: My art techniques are mostly self-taught. Sometimes I attended a workshop where I could learn approaches to to making murals, but for the most part I’ve just learned by doing.

a wall mural painted by Sirock in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

John: And which artists have influenced you the most in your own work?

Angel: There were several artists who inspired me to lean towards caricature during that time of development. Some of them were locals from Guadalajara (where I live), while others were national and international artists. Some of the most influential to me are Smithe from Mexico City, as well as GR170 from Spain and Bué The Warrior from Belgium.

Wall mural by GR170 “We are 99%” in Gdynia, Poland.

 

Wall mural by Bué the Warrior in Ghent, Belgium.

John: Yeah… I can see that connection stylistically especially in the last two. I think there’s something in that vintage/retro cartoon style from the 1950s that has a playful, joyous vibe to it in your work as well as theirs.

Do you think a more playful approach to drawing (such as cartoons and caricature) can sometimes communicate better than a very serious or realistic approach?

A wall mural painted by Sirock in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Mexico.

Angel: Yeah, I think that cartoons will always be a good way of communicating information to the public since they can be understood in an instant by anyone.

John: Recently you painted a wall mural in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, during the time of an election. Unfortunately it was painted over for a political ad. That was just a coincidence, right? Is any of your work political in nature?

A mural by Sirock is painted over by a political ad.

Angel: Yes, that was just a coincidence. There wasn’t enough space on the wall for both! My work rarely talks about politics. My work is more focused on joy, good times, and culture.

John: And what about sports… How do you feel Mexico did in this World Cup?

Angel: Well, I didn’t expect much from Mexico… we are better at other sports like basketball!

John: At least you made it to the cup this year! So, how can someone get in contact with you?

Angel: My official Facebook page is a good place to see my work and contact me.


(Bue The Warrior by Jurriaan Persyn is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

(Gdynia – mural “We Are 99%” by GR170 by Andrzej Otrębski is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

 

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OWAG Track Light #1—> Acer (Portugal)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with graffiti and street artist André Perreira (Acer).

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John: So, André– how did you get into art and graffiti/street art?

André: It started when I first began art school and met some big names in the portuguese graffiti scene at the time. This was around ’98/’99, at António Arroio, which is the best art school in Portugal! Most of those artists aren’t even active anymore, but I remember the names of Capone, Hel, Res and few others that were pretty strong in the scene back then.

John: What’s your memory of your first piece?

André: I have memories of my first attempts, but the biggest memory I carry with me is from when I entered my first “wall of fame” in 1999 along with some artists I admired.

John: So why do street artists use tags instead of their birth names to identify themselves?

André: In the graffiti scene all (graffiti) writers have a tag, which becomes their identity. Once the “street art” movement became part of the picture all that changed. So it’s all a matter of where you come from. I stick to my tag (alter-ego) of Acer because my background is as a graffiti writer. 

John: Why did you choose Acer as your tag?

André: Acer came from the word “Ace” and also just mixing up letters from my name. My friends picked it up and  started to call me by it, so it stuck.

John: Haha, simple enough. What’s the street art scene like in Portugal? Do you travel much to do work?

André: Portugal has a very strong street art scene right now with many local artists getting their work recognized all over the world. I travel a lot, but that’s mostly for modeling and acting jobs.

John: Who do you usually collaborate with? And who (or what) are some of your artistic inspirations?

André: I have to say the members of my crew Zk’s are both my partners and my biggest inspiration.

Acer and Zk’s.

John: What about modeling? How did you get into that?

André: Well, I started modeling for fun and to get some extra cash, because when we got hit by the financial crisis I couldn’t afford any longer to live only from my art. But soon I realized I had potential to do much more and became a professional international model and actor working around the world.

John: Nice! Sometimes what looks like a setback is really a kick in the ass to move forward, right? I actually had the same experience running a small black-box theatre in Manhattan. We shut it down around Christmas of ’98 and I left for South Korea, which launched the rest of my life’s work, really.

André: Failure is part of life; only when you fall down will you be able realize how strong you are to get back up. My advice to younger artists is to be true to yourself, find what you love and stick to it all the way… see and try different things, get inspired and keep developing your style and identity.

John: Right on. So who is the woman in the DrawBag you did up?

André: That woman is my wife. She’s my muse and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. The design on that DrawBag is all about love. If I named it, I would call it “Romance Dawn”.

John: It’s a beautiful piece. So what music are you listening to these days?

André: I like to go heavy when it comes to music. Lately I’ve been listening to August Burns Red and Architects a lot… I mean A LOT.

John: And how can someone connect with you?

André: I have Instagram accounts for both my modeling and art work. And anyone can message me through Behance, too.