This is an interview that I did with the Porto based graffiti artist, Mr. Dheo. It is part of my story on Graffiti in Portugal that I wrote for Cafe Abroad magazine. If you would like more information about graffiti in Portugal or would like to check out some more of Mr.Dheo’s work, please visit his website at www.mrdheo.com.
What attracted you to the art of graffiti? Why did you start writing?
I was drawing before I even know how to speak fluently. When I was 3 years old I was already drawing my own stuff and I used to copy every font of the newspaper just beacuse they were visually attractive to me. Ever since I have never stopped and I did it every single day, even though there’s a curious thing: I absolutely hated to draw with pencil. All my life I used just a pen, to fill, to outline, to do shadows and the 3d effects and specially due to the fact that I couldn’t erase. I guess this explains why I’ve always rejected to paint with oil, acrylic or other ink, it just wasn’t my thing. Plus, I’ve had always rejected as well to have any type of art classes.
When I was 15 I’ve seen an Hip Hop videoclip on the tv, where all the backgorund was graffiti. For the first time I felt connected to something, mainly because it was different. It was the unique art form in years that really gave me that special feeling inside.
So I’ve grabbed my pen and a sketch book and Íve started to practice. A few weeks later I got my first cans and did the first piece, without knowing anyone who even liked graffiiti. That came with time and with it I was able to paint in so many times and in so many different spots that graffiti turned the biggest virus in my life. It was 7 years ago and nowadays I keep so active and still hungry for more.
Why do you write graffiti? What does it mean? What are you trying to communicate?
I write graffiti because my head and my heart demands me to write. Because I wake up and I go to bed with graffiti in my mind. Because it’s the only thing that makes me forget my problems and my sadness completely. Because it makes me happy. Because I couldn’t be more addicted to something as I am with graff. And I could go on and give you so many reasons why I do it.
I do it for myself, just as simple as that. Even when I do a graffiti job I still do it for myself, but adapted to the client. Doing it for myself means that I just communicate what I am. I usually don’t have an explicit message, I don’t like it to be that way. I don’t like people to look at my piece and understand it so quickly that they will not look twice. I want people to be glued and stuck to it. I want them to understand what took me to do that specific artwork, or at least to make them think. If they do, I’ve made my day. And if they follow my work they’ll start to get to know me, maybe understanding me, maybe agreeing with me and maybe feeling close to me. The most amazing thing is that if they try to imagine how I look like they have no idea. That makes me feel how strong can be an artwork placed on the street.
How do you do your big graffiti pieces? It seems as if they take a long time, do you get the permission of land owners?
I only paint with permission, so I can take all the time in the World, even though I work fast and a day is usually enough to do a medium size piece. In Portugal city councils don’t support graffiti, they don’t care about graffiti artists, they just want to stop graffiti vandalism. So the only way for you to grow up as an artist and have opportunity to work is to try to legalize walls for your own. I use to knock on doors with my portfolio and try my luck.
What is the graffiti community in Portugal like? Do the artist work together? Or are they in competition with each other?
The graff community here is similar to almost every country. We are a small country but we have amazing artists here, who work together many times. But there’s always competition, you can not avoid it. Mostly between bombing / train writers, who buff each other and keep little wars . It’s normal, you have your own spots, your risky pieces, you want to keep your name and fame and in the ilegal side it’s a race, a constant race. I see competition as a good thing, if healthy. Without it you have no one to push you, to make you be a better artist, you see what I mean? But when competition means violence I’m completely against it. Graffiti is the opposite of violence.
I was in Lisboa one month ago (I am in Milfontes now) and I was really impressed by how much really good graffiti writing there was all over the buildings. How do you think most people in Lisboa feel about graffiti? Do you think they like it?
Well as you know I live in Gaia (Porto), in the North side of the country, but I know Lisbon graff scene very well and have painted there a few times. I couldn’t agree more with you in the quality you’ve mentioned. Lisbon is actually the most advanced graffiti city in the country because there are more writers there and the graff scene in Portugal actually began there. So Lisbon cityzens are now used to it, and accept it more, but it’s obvious that a lot of people don’t like it. Those are the older ones, who don’t understand it, who are not open minded and can’t even separate art from vandalism. For them it’s all the same and it sucks. But of course there are people who like it, otherwise there wouldn’t exist graff job opportunities.
Interview by Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
The following are photographs of Mr.Dheo’s graffiti: