Interview Spanish graffiti artist (english)

Spanish graffiti artist, Berok: “now there are more graffiti artists than walls” (english)

By Georgina Garriga

He says it has to do “either with talent and hours of huge work”. The Spanish graffiti artist Óscar García, known as Berok, reminds his beginnings in the street art when he could spend twelve hours per day painting. Although his company is set up in Barcelona, he has travelled all around the world asked to paint in countries such as Mexico, France or Belgium.

When did you first started to take part in the graffiti world?

I started in 1992 because I liked a lot rap and hip hop music and drawing, too. I started painting in the streets illegally, without any permission, until I realised I had responsibilities which I could not be able to attend if I kept investing time in graffiti. So, I quit painting. In fact, I spent the following ten years working as a computer technician in a big company. But, some years later, a friend of mine, who is a painter, called and asked me to paint graffiti in one of the walls he was paid to paint. That graffiti liked a lot and then I realised, I could maybe have a professional future as a graffiti artist. Thanks to my computing knowledge I knew how to work with the Internet and make myself visible online.

So you decided to become a full-time graffiti artist.

Yes, I set up my own company alone because none of my companions thought this kind of initiative would have any success. But later on, when I was already established, I looked for a team to work with me as I had so many orders I could not deal with.

What kind of orders do you receive?

Any kind. I have painted rooms for children, decorated discotheques, bars, events to sponsor brands, etc. For example, tomorrow I am going to Hospitalet de Llobregat because of a family who has asked me to paint their children’s room.

Graffitis are associated to big cities, moving in a permanent state of change. Do graffitis live in the same conditions?

Graffitis move at the same rhythm cities do. Graffitis disappear constantly because of walls falling apart or because someone paints over them. When I started in this world, we were just four graffiti artists and thousands of walls, because it was quite a new tendency. If, at that time, you wanted to paint a wall, you could look for such a hidden place and no one would punish you. But now the situation has changed: there are more graffiti artists than walls. Now, when someone wants to paint in the streets, it always has to be done over other paintings.

What has happened so this difference between the amount of graffiti artists and walls has increased that much?

A little bit of everything. The Internet and the social media have helped a lot in the sense that it has made this movement worldwide known. And, on the other hand, it has also helped the fact that now it is easier to learn. Many years ago looking for a graffiti artists was like trying to find Superman: you could find the paintings but you never knew who the artist was. Now, if there is someone interested in becoming part of this movement it is easy as everyone knows someone who paints.

Which do you think is the vision public opinion has about graffiti understood as an art?

I think now, after many years, people have started to distinguish between the two existing types of graffiti: the vandal and the legal. Usually, the vandal one is the one which people don’t like but, the artistic one is more associated with pieces of art. Especially if we look at spectacular murals rather than the classical graffiti, more focused on artists’ signatures. However, people’s opinion towards graffiti can change depending on many conditions. For example, graffiti is a culture more opened to young people who understands the classical graffiti concept easily. Although there are increasing the people who consider artistic graffiti an art as it is also related to fine arts.

Now that you are professionally set up in the graffiti sector, which is your opinion towards the illegal graffiti?

It would be hypocrite to say it is something wrong, because I started practising this kind of graffiti. Vandal graffiti is something really difficult to eradicate although it could happen with drastic measures as the ones taken by the United States where a graffiti artist can be compared with a criminal. The truth is, however, it doesn’t dislike me to see graffitis and signatures painted on the walls, it actually entertains me.

In fact, there are graffitis that have moved from streets to museums.

Yes, but this is not every graffiti artist’ goal. I have friends who painted with me and now they have their paintings in museums where they are paid a lot of money for things they before did illegally as a hobby. I would also like to see my pieces exhibited in a gallery because now I practise graffiti professionally and legally. But, for example, graffiti artists who paint in trains would not like at all to see their paintings in a museum because they would lose all their essence.

What kind of messages can be communicated through graffiti?

Everyone communicates the message they want with the paintings to express whatever they feel. But, we should not forget either that behind every painting there is an auto publicity message as, at the end, we all end looking at the signature. Everyone draws their name in the paintings and this is, actually, how the graffiti was born. As more times you name is read, more known you will be. However, there are also people who draw to protest against the war or other ideological components. There is such a polemic in this case as there are people saying this kind of paintings are murals rather than graffitis.

And in your case? What do your paintings want to communicate?

It depends. When I paint in the streets I do a kind of painting, but when I am hired by a company I have to work as a kind of psychologist when trying to translate in paintings what the customer is asking to me. Whenever I paint in the streets, for passion, my paintings change according to my mood and feelings.

Could we be talking about a cultural mean of communication?

Well, more than a cultural mean of communication itself maybe it would be considered an urban cultural mean of expression. When you first arrive to Barcelona you realize the city is full of graffiti and, when you move to further towns, you maybe don’t see that much pieces. Through the graffitis of each place I can know, more or less, how evolved they are. If there are really worked paintings it means there are good communications there: Internet, information, good materials, etc.

Do you think Barcelona is an evolved city with future for the graffiti?

When I went to Mexico I was surprised because people told me that New York was the graffiti capital in America and that, Barcelona, was considered to be the capital for graffiti in Europe. Honestly, I didn’t know that. However, this idea has lost power as so many laws against graffiti have been established. Thanks to associations and social movements in favour of this tendency, there are now more legal possibilities for graffiti artist to paint in Barcelona and many people from all over the world come here to do so.

Do you paint for passion or for work?

When I really enjoy my job is when I paint for passion. It can happen whether if the customer lets me paint whatever I want or when I go to the streets and paint anything I want. It is in both cases when I enjoy my job as I think about an idea, feel it and capture it on the wall. Whenever I feel like going outdoors to paint, I usually gather with a group of friends and we meet outskirts of the city to merge styles.

How would you define your artistic style?

I basically work with the ‘free hand’ technique. If any customer asks me something really complicated, I work with the stencil technique but I don’t really like it. What I enjoy the most is working ‘free hand’ with sprays. If you make a mistake it is not a problem as you can paint again over it. Now I am actually realising my style has evolved since the last years as I am now more used to paint murals rather than the classical signature graffiti kind I did at the beginning.

What should do anyone wanting to hold to street art?

There are so many people painting in streams, a little hidden. But in Barcelona there are actually many walls where you can easily paint by asking for the Council permission through its web page. Although the paintings done there don’t last much as people paints over them very often.


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