For many years I lived in Turin and I followed several art shows from Truly Design. Now, since I have an independent magazine, I can interview them. I am so happy and they are really nice!
J: Outline briefly who Truly Design are and what they do.
TD: Truly Design owes its beginnings in the early Noughties to the union between Rems182, Mauro149, Ninja1, and Mach505 as a writers’ crew, and for the first years we only dealt with graffiti. As the result of the experience gained on the street we decided to deepen different fields of creativity (painting, illustration, design, etc) during university, and thanks to this knowledge, in 2007, we founded Truly Design Urban Artists – which still takes on both artistic and commercial projects.
J: What inspired you to enter the graffiti scene?
TD: Even before knowing each other, around the age of 15 each of the four of us was kind of a restless adolescent. Trying to find our way at such a difficult age, we thought that our velleities as illustrators could have made it in the graffiti world.
None of us – in the pre-internet era – knew exactly what graffiti was, but the few pictures of trains painted at night, tags on the roadside and fragments of the American hip-hop culture seen on TV looked to us as a defined horizon to get into, and made our desire of emerging from a teenage, anonymous, and provincial existence grow. After a couple of rough years spent sketching on diaries, our four destinies crossed in total illegality under motorway viaducts and railway lines. From then on everything changed for us.
J: In the main conception it is thought that graffiti is an expression of rebellion or transgression. What does it mean to you to be urban artists?
TD: In the nearly twenty years since the very first time we touched a spray can, we pondered this question several times because, in such a long span, we evolved into something different as men and writers. We thought that rebellion and transgression were the hinges which allowed us to start this adventure as adolescents. At that time we were 100% writers and very proud. In our head graffiti was something strictly illegal, so something against the system. The only words able to capture our attention were: tag, bombing, lettering, train and wall. This was the only game-field we felt we could live. Art, galleries, museums, street art and muralism came at a later stage – born from the 70’s/80’s aesthetic revolution brought by graffiti. In 2016, after almost fifty years from the first modern American graffiti, being urban artists has very little to deal with the roots we still respect and love. Nowadays it means creating art legally, on a big scale, a form of art daughter of her time characterized by a dialogue with an urban context which commissions the art-piece. Ever since street art has become a global phenomenon, the rules changed a lot. Bigger façades created a generation of new muralists thanks to their incredible technical capabilities, on the basis of an unseen creative evolution. Perhaps there is a flattening of contents – which must be agreed upon with the municipality hosting the project – but this must be mediated. Illegal graffiti of course doesn’t have clients. This made its messages much more questionable, but surely more free and out of the box. Asserting this is for us a great exercise in self-criticism, and it’s hard for us to understand what nowadays is still really special in the street art world when compared with illustration and modern painting. It can’t just be a matter of measures (wall vs digital format) or media (spray vs watercolour). What pushes us to keep drawing is giving a real meaning to our urban art. From our point of view site-specific works, which blend in perfectly with the architecture which is their support, seem to us like a coherent way to explore. To our eyes, the fact that the experience of stepping into an anamorphic work of art is not reproducible with any two-dimensional support (print or photography) makes our research compelling enough as to be continued. Furthermore, throughout the years we discovered we like to do the things the hard way!
J: In your documentary I saw that you work both in urban contexts that in museum/galleries (in fact when I lived in Turin I saw you both in the street and in a gallery!). Which are the differences? And which one do you prefer?
TD: Throughout the years, deepening our knowledge not only in the urban environment but also by studying art, graphic design, design and illustration, it seemed natural for us to approach very different contexts from the street. We must say that it is all about very different situations, each with pros and cons (for example, for the indoors in the pros could be a very peculiar architecture, which at times we develop with architects – rather than a larger budget availability). However, when we paint in the street there’s always an active exchange – that we love – with who lives the city (from the ordinary citizen to the neighborhood fool) and the fact of creating public art, visible to anyone nearby, always makes the experience unique and different. Indoor spaces (galleries, museum, private interiors) remain interesting, but by definition they limit interactions.
J: How did the City react towards your artworks on its walls? Always favorable or sometimes contrary?
TD: We can remember that our early graffiti years were really hard, as nobody (from my mother, to a politician, to a passer-by) would ever compare a writer to an artist. Since it was partly an illegal phenomenon (especially in the Italian 90’s), the first times we did our big walls – even with municipal permits – people used to yell at us all kinds of stuff while we were painting, from the evergreen <<Go to work!>> to those who directly called the police – thinking they were witnessing criminals in action.
With the years the diffidence decreased and with time some started to say <<Good work!>> or brought beers, all the way up to our last year experience in China, where it was impossible to paint since we had to sign autographs and stop for school groups or TV interviews.
Now the insults are less frequent, but I think that sometimes they’re helpful in bringing us back down to Earth. It still is public art though, so the impact isn’t the one which can be felt in a gallery – where visitors are prepared. It is as it should be in the street, anyone should express his/herself: from the daily street sweeper to the street art enthusiast. I think that the confrontation in the street – in front of our artwork – is one of the most beautiful parts of our job: at times very surprising, at times very constructive.
J: Last question. There’s four of us at NØRA as well. And sometimes getting along is a tough task. After ten years, how do you merge all the ideas and make it work as a team?!
TD: What has united us all along is the focus on teamwork, with the conviction that each task performed together is way more interesting than those created “solo”. In some way we feel like a band (or maybe it’s all we ever dreamt of :D). We’re four very different personalities and this is our strength but also the reason of 100,000 discussions, which, however, always have the ambition of taking teamwork to the next step.
All photos credits @Truly Design
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