Here is our weekly interview with the street: this week featuring Faile, Stikman, Elle, Queen Andrea, CRKSHNK, Shiro, Espo, Homesick, DeGrupo, Michael Alan, Dark Clouds, Gats, Manik, Drones, ICU463, El Chalvo Del Ocho, Saxgraf, Smart RIS, Bianca Does New York, Uloang, and Chespirito.
Punk Rock Politics, an Arctic fox, a Circumpolar Biome…
New York, a city that never sleeps, truly comes alive in the summer with an influx of international street artists and graffiti writers adorning its walls with fresh ideas and paint. Among them, Vegan Flava, a Swedish artist of global repute, seized his inaugural trip to unveil his unique approach—a synthesis of activism, urban aesthetics, and environmental consciousness. Over the past three decades, his artistic journey has been a contemplative exploration of art’s societal role, driven by his unwavering commitment to illuminate both local and global environmental and social issues. Woven through the fabric of hardcore punk music, veganism, environmentalism, graffiti, and urban art, Vegan Flava’s oeuvre emerges as a profound dialogue on societal complexities, hoping to stimulate your contemplation as well.
Vegan Flava’s artistic themes crystallize with clarity. He perceives his art as a mirror reflecting society’s nuances. He advocates for a shift in environmental awareness—a transformation that goes beyond human-centric perspectives to embrace a broader ecological responsibility. With an astute focus on the interconnectedness of all life forms, he delves into the intricate relationships between species and ecosystems. During a sweltering summer sojourn to New York, we had the privilege to engage with Vegan Flava, learning about his perspective on the natural world’s interwoven tapestry, our place within it, and the reverberating impact of even a solitary species’ disappearance.
BSA: Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, how long you have been an artist on the streets, other information you would like to share.
VF: I live in Stockholm between Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea. I’ve been an artist ever since I could hold a pencil. I discovered graffiti when I was 11 years old in 1989. I sprayed my first wall two years later. I painted graffiti during the 90’s, which evolved into urban art after the millennia. I’ve attended several art schools and graduated with a Master’s in fine art in 2005.
BSA: How did you conceive of being Vegan Flava, and what does it mean to you to adopt this moniker?
VF: It’s something that’s been interesting to explore. My alias Vegan Flava, has been a long-time art project where I’ve looked into how art can reflect society and influence it through urban art. I took this alias 25 years ago, and I was confronting the human-centric world with it.
I’ve noticed along the way that my alias sometimes affects people’s ability to appreciate my art. Art is a wide and open space for complex ideas, and what I’ve experienced is that my alias can be a narrow door that tends to close instead of opening into the broad thoughts, ideas, and topics my art explores. At the moment, I’m considering how my work would be affected if I start using my real name moving forward.
In the early 90s, the day after being at my first hardcore punk concert in the neighboring town of Vänersborg, Sweden, my friends and I formed our city’s first hardcore band. Beginning in 1993, I was active in the hardcore punk music movement, which brought my attention to many social issues. There were songs about how animals were treated in the meat and dairy industry, and at the merch tables at the concerts, info was spread through zines, pamphlets, and books.
The songs questioned human dominance, but it wasn’t until 1998 that I switched to a plant-based diet, and I started to write ‘Vegan’ in my graffiti. Later, I added the word ‘Flava’ to my street alias. In the hardcore scene, I learned that music and art can be used to reflect, change, and build society and not merely be experienced for pleasure. I was greatly affected by the visual language on all printed matter, such as concert posters, band t-shirts, CD covers, and booklets. Parallel to this, I was deeply into skateboarding and graffiti, which all had connections and were different forms of youth-oriented DIY culture with strong visual aesthetics.
BSA: Your earlier work often featured skeletal remains and dark imagery. Has that changed for you, and if so, how?
VF: Yes, I moved on from it a few years ago. I’ve been working on topics from nature around my hometown, animals, and flowers from the Swedish Arctic. A few years ago, I became interested in how much Swedes know about how the climate crisis affects Sweden. So, I focused even more on exploring local topics.
The Baltic harbor’s porpoise is critically endangered and is the only whale species living in the Baltic Sea. I’ve painted it in several artworks as a symbol for the critical state of the Baltic Sea, which has the largest dead sea floor area on the planet.
In February this year, my solo exhibition had the title Tears Of The Cryosphere and explored the many effects of the loss of water in frozen form. The cryosphere is basically the planet’s cooling system and is deeply part of Swedish identity. I’ve done several land-art pieces on snow-covered frozen lakes with large poems and motifs of endangered animals.
In paste-ups primarily in European cities, but now also in New York, and in murals and studio work, I’m looking into the movements of nature. As the climate warms, plants and animals in the biosphere must adapt to the new environmental conditions – or emigrate if they can. This is also the reality for many humans.
BSA: Is this the first time you have painted in New York? Can you describe what the experience was like for you?
VF: Yes, and I enjoyed every moment of it. It’s been a long-time dream to travel to the US, and I finally made it. My main goal was, of course, to paint a mural, and thanks to East Village Walls, I got the opportunity to paint a small mural in Manhattan. I was happy to meet people from the community and the many photographers who came by my wall and artists and curators from the NY urban art scene during my stay. The city’s art ecosystem was hard to enter, but I really loved New York, and I’m hoping to get an opportunity to go back soon.
BSA: Can you speak about the arctic fox in this image and its connection to Finnish or Swedish culture and ecology?
VF: The mural’s title is ”Rooted above the taiga,” and it depicts an arctic fox that lives far north above the tree line in the arctic tundra. Taiga is a circumpolar biome, an enormous pine and fir forest belt stretching through Russia, Alaska, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Due to the warming climate, the nature of the tundra is changing and decreasing. I’m painting the Arctic fox as a representative of this biome. It is not a threatened species in North America, but it was hunted to extinction in Finland, and in Sweden, it is listed as critically endangered.
In Sweden, the winter season is shorter, and it often rains in places where it used to snow. Winter trails that used to cross through frozen lakes can now be too weak. It changes the living circumstances of animals, plants, and humans. I’m concerned about the effects of the changing cryosphere, with melting permafrost and glaciers and the decreasing lake and sea ice.
In my art, I’m exploring topics and raising questions about species loss and changing planetary systems. Many species risk extinction before we even get to know them, such as the unique Baltic Harbour porpoise. I often face the question of what happens when some species disappear. Is it really a problem? What benefits do we lose when they are extinct? A species is often linked to several other species, so losing one affects others. We might not see what is already evident for other species. If the entire biomes of the tundra, the taiga, and the cryosphere could ask us, what is your reason for being? How would you answer that question?
BSA: Artists have myriad roles in society. How do you see your role as an artist who works on the street and whose paintings remain there long after you have finished?
VF: I’m interested in creating my art in dialog with the surroundings and in places that are not always necessarily designated spaces for art. Places where art can be intertwined with daily life and can be discovered in a spontaneous way. The art experience becomes a natural and simple part of the day instead of an active, planned, and conscious choice for a few. I also see public art as a language that expresses something non-commercial and can be a parallel dialog about something else. During my whole life, art of all sorts has challenged and inspired me to evolve as a person, and that’s what I hope my art can be a part of for others.
In Ukraine, Russia has bombed theaters and art schools and ruined public art and artworks. The Kyiv Soloists string ensemble was in Italy when their nation was invaded, and they decided to stay on tour to let the world hear Ukrainian music. Art collectives in Kyiv started producing bulletproof vests in their workshops, and Ukrainian poets and artists were voices of their culture in news channels worldwide. What this clearly shows is that art is producing identity; it is a home.
Back in dirty old Brooklyn from squeaky clean Norway, nothing has changed, and everything has changed. The Pokémon GO Fest is bringing 70,000 players to Randalls Island and elsewhere in the city, city government is banning TikTok from all official devices, and stabbings are up by 26% so Stay on your A-game out there people. The city is still beckoning you to Summer Streets, and we do too because wherever you go in New York, there is always a show, and sometimes you are it.
Welcome to BSA Images of the Week! These are our longest days of the year. Savor them, luxuriate in them, celebrate the light. The trees, the grass, the plants, all richly green. The breezes are smooth against your cheek, the sound of kids screaming as they play in the park is like music.
The ebb and flow of humanity washes across the pavement daily here in our gritty city – forlorn, inquisitive, raucous, opinionated, gentle, buoyant, clever, blunt, wonderous, rarely neutral. Our murals are mighty, our styles can be wild, illustrative, fantastic, inertly corporate, romantically impressionist, electric and eclectic. Unlike many downtowns, this collection is organic and unmediated – perfectly imperfect. As inhospitable as this city can feel to a newcomer, remember this; You are welcome. Do your thing.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Faile, Joe Iurato, Queen Andrea, Dasic Fernandez, Optimo NYC, CES, Hef, Spot, KMS Crew, Ange, Bekah Bad, Logan Hicks, Hiraku, Agud, Lexi bella, and Jeff Hernandez.
Remember last summer when you realized it was already August, and you didn’t go to the beach or for a hike yet? I vow not to let that happen this summer. New York is full of summer fun opportunities; getting outside the city, even for a day is revelatory. If you want to catch street art, step outside in many neighborhoods across the five boroughs. If you want your art viewing experience to be accompanied by live Hip Hop performances and plenty of places to grab a drink amongst the live aerosol painting on the street, just go to the Bushwick Collective’s annual block party, which is happening right now.
Similarly, we shudder to see campaigns to humanize the robot “dogs”, like this puff piece in the New York Post featuring an office visit to normalize them – in fact using one to create a painting.
“The robots march across canvasses with paint-covered paws.
Pilat’s works have become a favorite of Silicon Valley’s tech arrivistes.”
Uh, it’s not a dog, and it will probably be weaponized against you in the future. C’mon Sport! Let’s play catch!
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Skewville, Matt Siren, David Puck, Martin Whatson, Loose, Anso, Rham Bow, Narol, Forever Up, Fuckz, 156 CRU, Ebony, Aims Pukers, Feye, and Sper.
We take this day to reflect upon how far we have come and how very far we have to go to achieve parity. Our systemic racism and broken minds enable inequality to exist, and persist. Thanks to street artist Dragon 76 for reminding us that it’s in our hands.
Leading up to Thanksgiving this Thursday, we can say that we are thankful to you for your support and encouragement. Thanks to the artists for the inspiring ideas and the loosely woven ecosystem that keeps them going – gallerists, festival organizers, brands, museums, curators, and fans. We’re happy to bring you more fresh stuff this week too.
21 years since the Twin Towers came down here in New York City. We remember today in our hearts.
Reliably, street art plays a role in bringing up the socio-political topics that are in the public realm. This week we see artists addressing gun violence, the ongoing battle for/against legal abortion, and LGBT rights. Also, there are just a lot of fun, colorful exhortations that we may or may not understand but which tell us all that the streets of New York are alive and well.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Stikman, City Kitty, Praxis, Sinned, Miyok, Trap, Spite, Tea, Goomba, John Domine, WoWi, and Helaenable.
The rain hasn’t been coming around much this summer, so we begin the postings with a dreamy sequence from Dan Kitchener and his muse walking with an umbrella. Good to see so much quality art in the streets this summer. Things may be difficult in many ways when it comes to life in this city, but the vibe on the streets is still rockin’ it.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: SacSix, Degrupo, Sara Lynne-Leo, Dan Kitchener, Doves, IMK, @2easae, GanoWon, Your Camera is a Weapon, and Habibi.
Jesus it’s rough out there! Throwing a frisbee could cause a heart attack in this heat wave. This situation is like the polar opposite of a winter snowstorm that forces everyone to stay inside their apartments. Believe it or not, in this city we have such extremes. We gave you Trump and we also gave you Bernie Sanders, for example.
Trying to think happy thoughts on the street despite the crushing debilitating heat and we are greeted by a mopey Gen Z guy carrying a sign that says “this is the coolest summer of the rest of your life”. Thanks, Senor Killjoy.
The good thing, and we insist on concentrating on these good things, is that New York is positively swimming with gorgeous young things who are traipsing through the streets in barely there gear and you don’t even need to buy pot to get high now because the streets are swirling with it. Also, you can buy pot anywhere; in a curbside truck, on a brownstone stoop, from a Nigerian guy out of a suitcase on the sidewalk on Canal street, even at your grandma’s Saturday canasta match.
$100 two years ago is worth only $85, but our parks are still free and full of leafy trees and concerts and theater and city pools are staying open extra hours to cool off. Burning Spear, UB40, Animal Collective, Sharon Van Etten, The Decemberists, Khruangbin, Erykah Badu, Shakespeare in the Park, anybody? We always sit on a blanket outside the gate and enjoy the music nonetheless – you can too. Also, as a reminder, we are not at war with each other – all us different races and religions. That’s all a huge lie on the TV machine. New Yorkers actually like each other.
Our street art as usual is off the hook. This week it seems a little bit cuddly, to tell the truth.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Rambo,Hiss, Dirty Bandits, Modomatic, Neon Savage, Muckrock, You Are Not Alone, Third Rail Art, Rari Grafix, OH!, Drama, and Banksy Hates Me.
Just for fun, here’s a list of the artists we brought to that first auction in April 2008 – any of them sound familiar? Anera, Armsrock, Borf, Celso, C.Damage, DAIN, Dark Clouds, Deeks, DiRQuo, Elbowtoe, ELC, Fauxreel, Flower Face Killah, Gaia, GoreB, Haculla, Infinity, Judith Supine, Jp, McMutt, MOMO, Noah Sparkes, Royce Bannon, Skewville, Swoon, Dan Witz, and WK Interact.
How many of these names are still in the game? Some have faded, some have accelerated, and there are many new names bandied about on New York streets; It’s a constantly changing tableau.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring: Matt Siren, City Kitty, Hijack, Li-Hill, Raddington Falls, Rose Cory, HOACS, Voxx Romana, Jet, Nite Owl, HEFS, and HAVOC.
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” … The Raven. Edgar Allan Poe