Little is known about SpY other than that it was born in Madrid in the mid-seventies. He is known as the Spanish Banksy for his anonymous nature and sharing discipline, although both follow a different style and it is a label with which, he confesses, he is not quite comfortable. Graffiti was his gateway to urban art, but now his works appear in all kinds of formats on the streets of capitals such as Paris, Mexico City, Bombay or New York. The last one, Madrid, with Land, which has occupied the Plaza de Colón until this Saturday in the framework of Mini Electric Art.
How was SpY born?
At the end of the eighties I began to paint graffiti like a typical kid from a Madrid neighborhood. Later, after several years dedicating myself to this activity, I wanted to change and experiment with new methods and forms, and the street was the best environment, the one I knew the most. I began to propose a slightly different dialogue with the city, that went beyond graffiti, and that is how I have evolved to this day. I realized that the city was a space of great possibilities where I could work and over the years I have been developing these interventions more and more.
Talk about dialogue, is the city more than a stage where you can exhibit your works?
Yes, especially since things happen in the city. It does not have the same dynamics that a gallery or museum can have, but it is a living entity. In the street, different dialogues are generated at different levels or layers: dialogues with the public, with architecture, with the dynamics of the cities themselves. At the national or international level, they are very different environments, but they have a very similar life and latency. The idea behind the proposals is to generate some reaction, dialogue and debate with the public and the environment, and that the pieces live in their own habitat, which is the urban environment.
How do you reconcile anonymity with something as face-to-face as creating on the street?
Anonymity is more of a question from the other side of the bridge, in the face of the media. I am not a person who likes to be present too much, nor do I think that the artist is an entity. Anonymity gives me the ability to avoid these things. It has been a line of work that I have maintained and with which I am very comfortable. The truth is that it is like a super power because it gives you a lot of freedom. It is not a question of protecting myself from anything, but it makes me move in another way. I don’t like being too public a person.
Does the Spanish Banksy label annoy or flatter you?
I think we have to bridge the gap. Banksy is a hyper-recognized artist, with a lot of popularity. It is common to refer to artists who may be successful in similar disciplines. I believe that the work we do is very different on an artistic level. The proposal, the dialogue and what takes place is very different. Someone tagged me like that in an article and stayed. When Simone Biles was asked if she felt she was the new Nadia Comaneci, she replied that she was the new Simone Biles. It seemed very intelligent on his part, because in the end you develop your career and you try to reflect that; when they compare you it’s a little weird.
How has urban art evolved? Is it understood that it goes beyond graffiti?
Yes, there are many disciplines within urban art. Now the trend is to group everything that happens on the street under the label of urban art, but there are many nuances. In recent years muralism has spread widely internationally, it is seen in all cities to give them life. But yes, more and more artists are taking to the streets to carry out activities, more or less self-managed or directly financed by other institutions. It is very much alive and is gaining a position within contemporary art: there are already high-priced artists who continue to develop both inside and outside galleries and museums. There we are, but I think it will be well recorded in history having passed through here.
Presents Land within the framework of the exhibition Mini Electric Art. How can sustainability be promoted from the art world?
I believe that it is an almost independent responsibility. The artists who want to contribute through their works by communicating or opening a reflection on the responsibility that we all have in front of our planet, which is our home, will do so. It is a question that transcends art, but it is good that there are artists who generate this debate. With Land I want to communicate that we are part of a planet where everything is connected. It is a sphere that interprets the world caged in a structure, illuminated in red because it alludes to this climate change that has always existed but has accelerated.
Is it necessary that there is always a social message behind urban art?
No, it doesn’t have to. There are artists who work on different aesthetic or conceptual territories that are developed within this environment of debate, who try to call for reflection. But it is not something that manifests itself within all urban art. There may be a bit of activism within what you want to reflect, but it depends on the artist.