In the graff world there is still persons who are not visible on the internet or instagram, who doesn’t give a fuck about how many likes they have on their personally writer name associated profiles. Never the less some of these individuals are making a difference, and continue non stop painting, writing. This is the first in many focus series to come, focussing on writers who have done or are making a difference, in their approach to this thing called graffiti. Maybe they don’t do big lavish color fillins maybe they have never done a single train. But they have done something else. They have continued what they like to do, the way they want to do it. In a often really rule bound conservative culture as the graff culture, we want to focus on the people who break the rules inside the culture or just deserves the focus because they are not visible if you don’t know where to look.
In the first issue of this series meet old-school Danish writer Avelon31 TDR, The Killing Fields for a Q & A session.
ARL: Can you give us a introduction about yourself for all the many persons who have no idea who you are?
Avelon31: Introducing a smelly old fart with all the bollocks that come with the office.
I started back in autumn of 1984 at the age of eleven. People of that and the generations to come, will agree that those were very different times compared to “the scene” and world of today. The history of Copenhagen graffiti is very much also a greater view on world politics and the development of the electrical media and the rise of the internet.
“The cold war” – a phrase known to most people from history class only, ended by and large on a November night in Berlin in ´89 when I was at the tender age of 16. There was still the Soviet Union, there was Reagan ( and Nancy ) and the Iron Lady. Not to mention AIDS and very bad hair. Culture was embedded in punk and the thoughtful leftovers from the worries of nuclear extinction. Looking back at the signs of the time, via magazines and paperphotos, most of the gestures seem naive, not at all cool or superficial, but personal and scared. The shape of the bomb configurated the mindset for that generation : “The Red scare” – not completely unlike the “War on terror” of today.
I am an only child from a middle-class home a bit north of Copenhagen and my parents are still not divorced. The chubby kid in school who was never into sports but wanted to be a porn photographer from the age of 8 : leaving the idea of wanting to be a fireman, a soldier or a ninja behind, the summer of ´84 provided new horizons.
Images in magazines showed something I had never seen before, big colorful wall paintings presented as the visual backing to the latest fad – a thing called Break Dance and Electric Boogie.
They had me at “Hello”.
31 years later and a hiatus from 2001 until 2007, concentrating on fine art, painting with spray still hold a position in my life. As much as I don’t even consider myself neither a writer or graffiti. – walls have been the main focus, I have never done a train.
I have been involved with a lot of people over the years and a part of more than a few crews. Currently the crew of which I became a member during early summer of ´93, “The Dark Roses”, seem well revitalized and I guess the oldest and still running crew in Denmark. On the side of that crew, “Killing Fields” still operate as well but not to the same extend.
ARL: For many years you where out of the picture and not visible at all, and then all of a sudden you came back with a blast? Why? What triggered your comeback?
Avelon31: “Don’t call this a comeback”
I was lured into collaborating on a wall in the late fall of 2007 which proved anything but a success, 4 months later the same thing happened again but for tragic reasons. Later that year it happened again without the tragic lead, and going now and then had become a bit like a picnic, loads of beer with old pupils and other assholes my age. Comfy and fuss-free for a while. Late 2010 I picked up the gear and went for my self for the first time in ages and once again it started proving a problem that had to be dealt with.
ARL: Since the start you have had a very open mindset on how to be a part of this graffiti game. You have for almost 30 years painted abstract, on the walls? Where does that come from? “Is it a fuck you” to the whole conservative mindset of graff? Or what have been your motivation to go in that direction? Tell us about your concept:
Avelon31: “Counter-” within a subculture
Before most individuals establish a vocation of their own, one tends to cover what one sees. But at one point, early, the classical points of reference proved not to be enough. A few people will always stand out as influential whereas the rest more or less will follow and not stand out in their lack of originality. The Copenhagen scene in the late 80és was a very conservative one and since I was beginning to feel like me, it was beginning to show through the gestures I made. Limiting myself to just imitating or even impersonating others, lacked the integrity I felt needed in the word “expression”. I grew completely out of hip hop in ´88 and could therefore not relate to the a lot of the uni- and conformity at the time and I guess it showed. I went for myself.
“Practice” and “Choice” seem more deliberate words than “style” to me. Painting is to me an important existential gesture which places me neatly away from a romantic use of a term which nobody have felt the need to re-examine since Charlfant and Cooper contributed the blue prints back in ´82. The reason most of my stuff bears the resemblance it does, is that I was always drunk or/and high while painting. At one point it just stayed that way, but usually I still get pissed while working.
ARL: I know you have never painted a single train? Is there a reason to that?
Trains never – I am a pussy in many ways but then again I like to take my time and the train scene does not represent that. Not that the offer did not come up plenty of times to go with with the in-crowd. It just never happened.
” Back then vs today “
Back then I felt like I had to react to a very conservative and most literal interpretation of a U.S.-cultural import size. The scene is so much more democratic today which is both good and bad. “Back then” is all of the sudden 31 years ago and society as a whole has seen a vast amount of development in just about every way. The aesthetic offense however stayed the same in “applying a medium to a surface” without a permit and out of the “Hip hop-family” graffiti was the only branch that could not be completely house broken.
ARL: The whole internet, fame thing instagram facebook? It seems that all graffiti involved people need to visible on the internet? What is your opinion on that if you have any? Do to the fact that you are not visible on the internet.
Avelon31: “The internet”
“The global village” is a coined term from more than 50 years back but illustrated very well by a look out the window just now. “Getting up” was teaser marketing before the term became mainstream and the net in all it’s various forms continue just that – a natural progression with society as the main frame. To me the act of painting is more relevant than marketing for the sake of that. As opposed to a lot of the younger wonderful crazy cats who are also visible on practically every potential virtual platform, I make the photo and that’s that. It’s personal – a bit like my tattoos. Not that I mind exposure, but I like to let the work speak on it’s terms – with gestures and details that does not translate very well on a screen.
Then there is the other side of the net – the more visible you become, the easier you will be targeted by authorities. 10 plus years back, everybody was laughing when the topic of “big brother” came up but when Snowden emerged from the shadows, nobody was laughing anymore. – Any movement on the net can be traced and you as the consumer is in fact the product. Perhaps worth considering.
ARL: You are experimenting a lot, inside the box called Graffiti that is something that is really rare for other writers to do, you often see bubble background and real classical things again and again and again, even from the new comers, has graffiti stopped developing? If yes why? If not, why?
Avelon31: “Development not”
Once the local translation of “Subway Art” and “Style wars” in Copenhagen was beginning, the origins were about to close down and the whole thing has come full circle a dozen or more times already. Whether one would care to look to the individuals that made the scene or the group of individuals, the thing has played itself out many years ago.
But there is still that “Rite of passage”-thing that can be read into it. And if one is to consider, or isolate, the mere act of writing or painting, there is a profile for the individual in both communicating and carrying out the process. Both can be translated into many other social spheres, thus helpful in educating any young mind.
ARL: Conservatism in the Graffiti culture? Why do think that it is that way? People tend to forget that Futura2000 Made abstract wholecars in the late 70es and if the late 70es is the rule book? Then it shouldn’t be a problem? Is it??
Boundaries is what make up reality and one conformity sports another. Today it is probably a lot easier to stand clear of cunts who claim to bear the truth and rather to be the individual presenting the problem. Fears run most lives and some people, in most walks, just don’t take lightly to challenges from change. – Cunts !
In public school I learned how to read and still do this with great pleasure. Alcohol and drugs have been and still is, an important influence on my mentality. And then a naive and banal pursuit of honesty still echoes daily. Allusions and illusions and a ton of names.
“Progressive” is the only label that I don’t find limiting when addressing my own works but my focus tend to change now and then, but a word like “integrity” is one I find somewhat attractive. Usually it shows when people are mustard, women and men alike. Work itself is as always a great inspiration.
ARL: Always Black White Silver Red, and greys? Why the strict color scheme, don’t you get bored?
Avelon31: “Red as the only color”
Accepting, or re-reading a line of problems into painting with spray, I felt like going stricter and more concept-based than before my hiatus. The amount of choices, for my part, that go into the gesture are well planned out and thought over. I deal with “ques” or “replicas” for most part but the choice of using red as the only color, seemed fairly obvious : visibility and symbolic value ! From black to white, and red within that circle, adding silver and the challenge became obvious enough. “less is more” never really came to my mind but more the limitation as a tool. Ironic to some degree yes. “Meta” and the shape is the content.
ARL: Quick Spraylak VS The paint today
Avelon31: “Contemporary paints”
As a true romantic of synthetic enamel,I think we lack the depths of the varnish in the paints from years back. The acrylic structure does not represent my idea of anything but a flat-lined emotional landscape but contemporary paints have in fact been created for the purpose and seems optimized in any way but durability. I still use Quick paints for my canvasses. It’s bloody expensive, but since this is, if not the only, at least the best turpentine-based aerosol on the market at least I get my rocks off here. No doubt that what is shelf-present today, the brands from back then are simply no match.
ARL: Any favorite writers, artists? Who and why?
Since I see a strict difference between “art” and “fine art” I keep the topic of “artists” aside and concentrate on writers. I could mention a lot of names on both, what I regard as, the positive and the negative side. This said I would like to emphasize a certain gentleman from the local scene of Copenhagen. The guy has had an enormous impact on Danish graffiti and is a well known asset all over the world for his stylistic implications on any surface – not to mention his ink-work. A few years back he coined the phrase “Still around” which I feel in the best possible way, with the most humbly underwhelming amount of irony, ensures his greatest of positions. That said I like a lot of the younger generation as well – everything seems more open these days and certainly not restricted to Hip Hop anymore. The scene has undergone a more democratic and individually user-friendly tone since the last 15 years or so and to me that is nothing more but a very positive aspect. Still this is not a sponsored message from “the biggest youth culture in the world”, a spraycan company or “diet beverage”-what have you. Some people just don’t fit the category of taking handouts for choosing to pose an opinion – I relate to this.
ARL: You are a member of The Dark Roses and The Killing Fields, tell us about the crew philosophies? The crews in general? If there is anything to tell. Maybe many young writers out there don’t know the names, or what they stand for?
Avelon31: “The crews”
From ´85 and onwards the crew “The Dark Roses” was probably the greatest enigma to me : this was a forum with all of prose of regular wild style graffiti, but there was generally a message more than just a name. Experiments beyond what was considered “cool” – the counter of counter culture – and literally “…The balls to waste paint and try something new.” Very seldom was it focused on one name but once the TDR-label was up during those years I always felt challenged relating to the works. It was probably coincidence but through a partner, whom I worked a lot with at the time, I was introduced to a guy who happened to be the godfather of the crew. Naturally I had a great interest in unraveling his thoughts and “method” and when the chance of joining arose in ´93, it was simply a dream come true.
From ´96 I picked a number of individuals into the formation of the crew “Killing Fields” The name was partly from the movie of the same name, partly from a Slayer-track published two years earlier. At the time it was a necessary alternative but the line-up did not last for very long. One of the other guys still uses the name now and then and we just did a wall this summer together in the spirit of “Killing Fields” – felt great.
The entirety of working together, and here I don’t refer to just lining up a number of individuals piecing in a row, but consistently interacting the surface is a whole and as a group pursuing a common goal, is one of great patience and vulnerability. I have been a part of this a few times and when the format actually works, this is mere personal development. Being a hot headed ego-centered fuck, I know that I have not always been / still is / easy to be around but I try not to compromise too much and I still don’t like the general culture we inhabit and tend to voice this.
– Doing so one cannot expect to make friends with cunts !
Thanks for lending me your ears and thanks for this interview.
AVELON 31 The Dark Roses / Killing Fields