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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.

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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 #9—> Maria Uve (Spain)

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 Spanish illustrator and photographer María Uve.

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John: Hi Maria! I was excited when you first contacted me through Instagram about collaborating on a DrawBag.

María: John! Sorry for the delay in finishing everything.

John: No, no, you weren’t late. Everything is in it’s right time. I’m just happy to have connected with you.

John: I’ve recently made more contact with artists in Spain as there is quite a wealth of talent there. Elena Pancorbo had just finished an original design on a DrawBag before you and I first spoke, and Jesuso Ortiz was also a collaborator early on.  What is the artistic community like where you are in Vigo?

María: Well… the truth is that I live in a part of my country with a very small artistic community. The larger groups of artists in Spain are really in the capital, but thanks to online social networks I have met artists of many nationalities and that has enriched me a lot.

John: The idea of community is continually being redefined in terms of its borders through technology, isn’t it?

María: Yes, and I think we should really support one other instead of competing because if our related community wins… really, we all win.

John: Where did you get your training as an artist and with what different media do you work?

María: I studied illustration, photography, and graphic design at EASD Antonio Faílde (School of Art & Design) in Ourense, Spain and have spent the past year and a half dedicating myself professionally to my profession– illustrating book covers, being exhibited in galleries, publishing my own book, and collaborating with various magazines.

John: Your style is quite recognizable. Were there other artists whose work influenced you in your own development of this style?

María: I think we are all influenced by everything. By other artists for their music, by the cinema, etc… I could not tell you specific names, though, because I try to escape the similarities. 

John: I’ve been really inspired by a handful of female artists who I’ve discovered this past year primarily through Instagram… #zipcy and #littlethunder being two others beside yourself.

Illustration by #zipcy.
Illustration by #littlethunder

 

Illustration by #maria_uve_

You are all quite different in expression, but seem to be similar in that your artwork embraces love, sexuality, the body, and emotional intimacy in ways that are neither prudish nor porn. Your work celebrates a genuine and nuanced eroticism that I think has otherwise been cheapened over time by happy endings to romantic comedies, free streaming porn, and the convenience store of online dating. Truly falling in love with oneself or others is not something we click to purchase, but must engage in with our whole being to experience both its heights and depths. But that’s my perspective, of course, haha. What is it that you are doing when you create your artwork? What are you communicating through it?

María: Obviously, artists expose themselves to having a free interpretation on the part of the receiver and that is inevitable. But yes… I am communicating precisely that which you just expressed: the importance of feeling good about oneself, experiencing love in healthy ways, de-objectifying the body as only a sexual object, making relationship a natural part of our conversation, respecting all kinds of people and all types of relationships, and breaking conventions and traditional values.

Illustration by #maria_uve_

John: There are quite a few symbols and motifs you return to in your work, including what I assume to be the red thread of fate from Chinese folklore, creeping yellow vines, tiny phrases in blue on the body, the serpent, skeletons, and various images of the galaxy.

Can you share a bit about your wider perspective on life and why we are here? Where we are going? And how that is reflected in your current stage of art making?

Illustration by #maria_uve_

María: Well, I wish I knew why we are here! I guess my perspective is as simple as finding happiness and satisfaction within myself, without hurting anyone or anything else.

John: Fair enough. I think a lot of young artists would be very jealous of the 300K followers you currently have on Instagram. How did you gather that global following? Did it take long for people to find your work on Instagram?

María: I think there are no jealous artists. We are all non-conformists. Perhaps we can get too focused on how things are going with others, but I always encourage artists to support one another and help share one another’s work with the world. I think everyone deserves to have the same possibilities for success.

And the truth is that I do not know how all my followers came about… but it was fast. In just over a year I suddenly went from having 150 “friends” to 300,000.

John: There can be fine line between genuine expression of oneself and finding a strong following in that… and then monetizing that expression into a product for sale which loses its original intent. How have you kept your artistic journey genuine and connected to its source?

María: I didn’t monetize my work until recently, when my first book was published. I always have some prints available for sale in case someone wanted them but I never advertised until now, because it has been important to grow my work first.

John: And how many new pieces of work do you make… say, per week?

María: One or two.

John: Tell me more about the book Nosotros which you recently published.

 

María: It’s about self-improvement after failed relationships. At the moment I do not have a version in English… only in Spanish. Everything in time, though.

John: What else fills your life besides from art making?

María: I love animals and nature in general… music, movies, reading, and traveling. Too many things and only one life!

John: You can see more of Maria’s illustration or photography via Instagram or Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or purchase her work here. Her recently published book Nosotros is also available in Spanish. Updates when available in English!

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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)