All posts tagged: murals

MART in Argentina: “buena onda” in the Streets

MART in Argentina: “buena onda” in the Streets

“Graffiti Saved My Life”

Today Brooklyn Street Art has the pleasure to welcome Rosanna Bach as a guest collaborator. A photographer, writer, and Street Art and graffiti fan, Rosanna is exploring her new home of Buenos Aires and documenting whatever attracts her eye. Today she shares with BSA readers images from local Street Artist MART as well as an interview she had with him in his studio. Our great thanks to Rosanna and MART for this great opportunity to learn about his history as a graffiti writer and how it turned into a career as a painter.

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

Mart was kind enough to invite me up to his apartment/studio in the barrio of Palermo where he grew up. Palermo is also the barrio where has left his mark, a trail of colorfully spirited murals. Beginning as a graffiti writer, Mart says he has been painting since age eleven. In our interview he shares his artistic and personal evolution over the past fourteen years painting in the street. He also shows us the drawings he’s preparing for an upcoming exhibit.

As I was admiring a compilation of photographs and drawings sporadically hung above the staircase of the entrance, Mart comments to me, “I like photography more than painting.”

Rosanna Bach: Why?
I find meaning in things that I’m not familiar with. I’m familiar with painting. I know how to do draw, although I don’t draw hyperrealism for example but I know how I could do it. But photography is incredible.

Rosanna Bach: For me it’s the opposite.
MART: Because you’re a photographer.

Rosanna Bach: But anyone can take a photo.
MART: Anyone can paint. Do you understand why I like it? Because it’s not mine.  I feel like painting is my world and photography is another, like dance. I love dance. I’d much rather go to a dance recital than an exhibit. Exhibits don’t captivate me in the way that other art forms do; it’s like “Hmmm.. yes, yes, alright got it.” I’m very quickly able to read the person.

Rosanna Bach: You are interested because you want to learn about other worlds?
MART: But it’s not because I like it that I feel the need to do it myself. You respect what you do otherwise it’s like a lack of respect. I prefer seeing other “worlds” because they move me.

Rosanna Bach: So did you start out painting alone or was it something you did with your friends?
MART: I was very young – already in primary school when I started writing “Martin” all over the walls. My sister had a boyfriend (Dano) who was older then me and he exposed me to hip-hop style graffiti. He taught me how to do it – I thought it was so great. So I started writing “Mart”, Mart, Mart, Mart, Mart, Mart…. all over the streets until I got bored of writing my name, until it made no sense anymore.

Rosanna Bach: How long did it take you to tire of that?
MART: A considerable amount of time but I learned a lot of things. I learned how to paint.


MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

Rosanna Bach: And your style? I’m sure it’s evolved a lot over the years.
MART: I started with graffiti but simultaneously started drawing and that’s what led me to this.

Rosanna Bach: And the figures you draw? I find them to have a lot of hope and a little magic…
MART: I think that’s how I live, in a world of magic all the time. I feel like a very fortunate person, and I’m grateful for that. I don’t take it for granted. I’m lucky that I’m well, I’m happy, my family is well..

Rosanna Bach: This is a mentality that many of us are lacking.
MART: That is the exact reason why I paint in the street; For others, not for myself .  Of course it is for me a little as well because I obviously enjoy doing it but mostly it is for others. That’s why I paint what I paint, things with “buena onda” (good vibes). To paint for myself in a frame would be strange. It’s for everyone, that’s what I find interesting about painting in the streets. And I’m not talking about graffiti because it’s made for a closed community. Like, “Dude you have a great outline” — wonderful. It’s for a micro-world and it can only be appreciated by a select few… “my name” is all about my name my name my name.


MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

Rosanna Bach: But you once started like that as well.
MART: And I’m thankful for that because it’s what made me understand in time that I was painting in the streets for a reason and thanks to graffiti I learned to paint large and I learned quickly.

Rosanna Bach: So your figures are your interpretation of your life. Do you take ideas from your dreams sometimes?
MART: I love dreaming I dream a lot. But they’re not interpretations of my dreams. Or perhaps they are — But I don’t believe so.

Rosanna Bach: You could say that they’re your alter-egos?
MART: Its my feelings, my interior. So, yes.

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

Rosanna Bach: When did the transition occur when painting became your profession?
MART: There were two elements that paralleled with each other. One of them was a big job for the Cartoon Network that I got asked to do when I was 18 — an ad campaign with graffiti. And the other was that my friends went to prison. We’d always lived in this barrio, and when I was younger my friends and I were delinquents. So I realized that painting was a way to distance my self from that. With painting I can earn a living and not do bad by anyone. So I chose to paint. It wasn’t only an evolution of me as much as it was as a person, an adult, as a man. I chose that path. I chose the good path.

Rosanna Bach: That’s interesting because usually people relate graffiti to delinquency and vice.
MART: For me graffiti saved my life. I have my house and thanks to graffiti.

Rosanna Bach: Are your parents creative at all?
MART: No. But they’ve always been fully supportive. They’re like my angels. They used to drop me off to paint all over the place. They love me very much.

Rosanna Bach: Do you travel a lot?
MART: When I can and I want to I do. I like traveling. But how can I explain it? I like being patient and I like living peacefully. I don’t feel a burning need to travel, I do it when I want to in the time I want to. I want to live for many years and feel like I’m going to live for many years. That’s also why I don’t send photos of my work all over the place — I don’t like excess. Fame isn’t my prime objective. If people know my work it’s because I wanted them to see it in the street and that they understand what it’s about and what I’m about.

Rosanna Bach: I find that mentality to be quite true to a lot of graffiti artists around here, it comes from quite a pure place.
MART: I don’t know, but I paint for my city.

Rosanna Bach: Do you think you could paint for another city one day?
MART: Maybe. I don’t know, perhaps Berlin. I’m going there for three months this summer

Rosanna Bach: In the graffiti community here, most of them are your friends. So your friends are quite a big part of your working life. Have you ever wondered what it would be like without them?
MART: Good question. I’ve never thought about it. It would be very different. Firstly if I hadn’t met Dano I never would’ve started painting in the first place. I wouldn’t exist. And if my friends left I think I’d go and find them.

Rosanna Bach: If you weren’t painting have you ever thought of what else you would do?
MART: I have but it’s not worth wasting my time to be honest. I paint, that’s what I’m already doing. That’s what I do.


MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach)

MART. POETA (photo © Rosanna Bach)

MART (photo © Rosanna Bach

Please visit MART at the site below to learn more about his art.

To view more beautiful photography from Rosanna visit her Tumblr page below:

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NohJ Coley: Noise in Your Head

NohJ Coley: Noise in Your Head

Storied Portraits In a Texan Music Warehouse

Brooklyn-Street-Art-NohJ-Coley-Texas-BOY-Detail-Fall2010Street Artist NohJColey travelled to Texas for a few weeks to visit friends and put up these new portraits in the studios of a de facto music factory. The former meat packing plant is abuzz with activity day and night with up-and-coming entrepreneurs of all stripes pounding out the beats, doing fashion shoots, making videos, mixing music, and a little bit of partying to ease the stress of all that work. NohJ slept on couches for a few weeks and hung out with many unknowns on the hip-hop tip, and a few bigger names too. He also spent long stretches of time killing large walls in these artists studios with his very distinctive illustration style of portraiture. Not surprisingly, the theme of music runs through them.


“The first piece I did was done in the place I was sleeping in. It wasn’t about the owner but it was a reflection of him in a way because he literally ran around with his head cut off and he didn’t know what was going on half the time. He was mostly crying about his girlfriend or surfing the net looking at new videos.  Supposedly he was a DJ. He had gigs, but no turntables. He was scratcher and mixer,” explains NohJ about this mural going up a staircase.

If you know anything about NohJ, it’s that he is always thinking and observing people. Each piece has a story that is rooted in his imagination as much as his observation of the human condition. His characters are illustrative of greater truths and of their personal idiosyncracies. You can imagine him becoming a literary or screen writer because he knows his subjects inside and out. Psychology, sociology, and popular culture all come to fore, placed with symbolism and gesture into the portrait and into a moment. If NohJ inhabits each fictional character he creates just for a moment, he stays with them for hours, gently observing their motivations and making judgments about their judgment, blending in some social critique.


No. 1

Brooklyn Street Art: What about this dude?

NohJ: These are piano keys, I don’t know if I ever said that.

Brooklyn Street Art: No, I didn’t see that

NohJ: Yeah, they’re supposed to be exiting his chest

Brooklyn Street Art: So does it seem like musical notes coming out of his chest?

NohJ: No, just keys

Brooklyn Street Art: So they’re musical tools with which to create the sound but they don’t necessarily have a sound?

NohJ: I’d say they represent the sound just because those are the keys, you know?

Brooklyn Street Art: Biomorphic, undulating

NohJ: Definitely, contorted, yeah

Brooklyn Street Art: What about these gray lines that go around?

NohJ: That’s the chords

Brooklyn Street Art: He looks kind of constricted by them, his lower torso

NohJ: He’s can’t go anywhere because the line is wrapped. He wants to DJ but he can’t get the turntable, it keeps rocking back and forth. He can’t really see it. The right eye is covered because, you know how there are constantly music videos going – he’s constantly seeing the music video in something. He sees clothes, a phone, somebody’s chain, sneakers. He sees it in a video and thinks he’s gotta buy it.

Brooklyn Street Art: So he’s imprisoned by his consumerist tendencies?

NohJ: Yeah

Brooklyn Street Art: or just his impulses

NohJ: Probably his tendencies though because he’s like being brainwashed.

Brooklyn Street Art: It becomes a tendency after a while

NohJ: He’s like “Oh, it’s a whole lifestyle”, you know

Brooklyn Street Art: “this stuff represents ‘me’”. He doesn’t look like he’s very old.

NohJ: I don’t know – mid twenties, early thirties

Brooklyn Street Art: So what was the reaction of the person who hangs out in this space?

NohJ: He liked it. He didn’t know what it was about. It was about him though.


No. 2

NohJ: This one is about noise levels.

Brooklyn Street Art: She’s plugging her ears too.

NohJ: Even though the sound is coming out of her nose. That’s why I used the pattern- It’s octagons and triangles. I usually use triangles to represent strife, the points!

Brooklyn Street Art: So if we see shapes that are in your work that are circles or are circular, what are those going to represent?

NohJ: I rarely use circles but it probably would mean that you are going through a transition. It might be rough but it’s going to get better.  It all depends though cause it all has to do with the number.

Brooklyn Street Art: What’s her name?

NohJ: She doesn’t have a name but this is in a guys studio and when he has the speakers on, this piece makes so much sense to you.  Because it’s like all this noise coming from the right side of the house and you are just looking at this woman and she is looking at you and she’s like, “Yeah it’s noisy right?”


Brooklyn Street Art: This pattern also makes me think of some folk art or maybe Native American art.

NohJ: I kind of figured you’d…. I mean, why?

Brooklyn Street Art: Because of the diamond motif repeated. I mean it’s a quadrilateral but it’s squashed. There’s no Native American influence here.

NohJ: Maybe, but if so it subconsciously got in there.

Brooklyn Street Art: I think her name is Consuelo. That’s what I’ve decided. But you don’t have a name for her.

NohJ: She’s trying to distance herself from the rest of her body because this over here is her back and the speakers are inbetween, you know?

Brooklyn Street Art: Man! She is really trying to get away!

NohJ: She’s pulling herself apart.

While a portrait may be a symbol of a greater truth, he isn’t going to stand on a soapbox. But if you really want to know and you are listening, he’ll tell you. If not, he won’t worry very much. Amalgams of people he’s met and the person he is, the pieces and their stories have their own logic – part reality and science fiction. Mixing fantasy with reality, sometimes it’s not clear where one ends and the other starts;Just when you think you got the scenario and you think it’s all symbolism and representation, you’ll learn that a character actually does have a piece of jewelry protruding from their head, or a cassette tape flowing out of his mouth and it is not a metaphor after all.


No. 3

Brooklyn Street Art: Tell me about this boy

NohJ: He’s just like a teenager that listens to all this new music that we’ve been talking about. – Like poor quality stuff.

Brooklyn Street Art: He doesn’t think it’s poor quality though.

NohJ: Exactly, that’s the problem. That’s why there are all these tapes flying at him and he’s just covering his ears. He doesn’t want to hear the titles of the good stuff you know? – Whether it’s like Led Zepplin or the Beatles or I don’t know.

Brooklyn Street Art: What does he want  to listen to?

NohJ: I don’t know, like Justin Bieber, Souljah Boy, stuff like that.

Brooklyn Street Art: Is this other guy lecturing him?

NohJ: Yeah, definitely. He’s like an older musician, dressed in 70s fashion.

Brooklyn Street Art: He looks like he was on the set of “Sanford and Son”

NohJ: Yeah, definitely. The large oversized collar, open.

Brooklyn Street Art: That looks like a VCR tape


NohJ: It’s a cassette tape.

Brooklyn Street Art: So what do you think this guy has on these cassette tapes?

NohJ: Like Hendrix, the O’Jays

Brooklyn Street Art: Oh yeah, like “Love Train”.

NohJ: …Sonny Rollins… I mean he’s really just telling him about quality stuff, and really where most of the new stuff derives from.

Brooklyn Street Art: This kid looks a little bit mad

NohJ: Yeah he’s super angry, he doesn’t like this

Brooklyn Street Art: But he can’t talk back, that’s why his mouth is closed

NohJ: I think he’s really scared though because he’s like “how are cassette tapes coming out of someone’s mouth?”

Brooklyn Street Art: I love that kid.

Images courtesy and © of NohJColey

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