Over Sprayby Andrew Thompson / 04.11.2009
Graffiti artists are a strange breed, inhabiting a space on the edges of society, blurring the neat lines between art and vandalism. Amongst the clutter of corporate outdoor communications taking over our visual environment, the graffiti artist, sometimes, plays the role of liberator, freedom fighter and zeitgeist communicator/commentator. Other times they play the other side, as guerilla marketeers, corporate mercenaries. Either way, their position in society is always peripheral, caught between the law and the suburban dream.
Bruno Brown sees the world through the nozzle of his spray can, and with the help of his alter-ego Rasty, he’s transformed countless dull walls and buildings into mind-blowing, thought-provoking artworks and murals. Along with his crew, Pressure Control Projects, they’ve single-handedly moved graffiti out of the shadows and into respected public spaces around the country. And even though Rasty spends many days doing commissioned graf work. He also finds the time for the odd artistic intervention or bombing spree. Maybe it heralds the end of an era, but traditionally snooty art-scene types are starting to take notice. Originally a Durban boy, Rasty now feeds off the raw Jozi energy and transforms this into living, breathing works of art that are impossible to ignore.
Where were you born?
I was born in Durban and moved to Joburg when I was about eight. I love the craziness that comes with living here, all the different types of people, the different neighbourhoods and the hustle and bustle of energy thats in the streets. Living in Joburg has taught me many valuable lessons, it has shown me that you have to take the good with the bad and be grateful for what you have. Most of important of all, it has provided me with countless canvasses to create my art on and show to the rest of the world.
How does the city inspire your work?
When you live in Johannesburg you have to be on your toes all the time, it is a financial and industrial hub and there is an intense energy driving this. People are always on a mission and if you don’t keep up you’ll be left behind. I feel this energy helps me push and challenge myself to do more and not become complacent in what I have done so far. I also think this energy comes out in my artwork, I like the rawness and aggression it brings even when I’m trying to find the funnier side to something. Joburg is also just a great place to paint, its so big and there are so many walls, especially in the CBD and the suburbs that border it. People really like and appreciate the artwork, even if just for the colour. And generally your piece will stay up until you decide to come paint over it again. This just inspires you to want to paint even more.
Did you draw on the walls in your mom’s house?
When I started Graffiti I sprayed all over my bedroom walls but after a few years it just got too much and I painted them all white. I had free reign in the garage as well.
How vibrant is the graffiti scene in Jozi right now?
The graffiti scene in Joburg is looking pretty good at the moment, its growing bigger everyday. For the first few years that I was painting it was just the same usual suspects doing stuff. They are all still painting and over recent years there has been a lot of new kids starting, and at a younger and younger age. We run a graffiti store in Joburg and we’ve started seeing kids as young as 11 coming in with their parents to buy paint. This is very promising for the scene because it means it will not be going dormant any time soon.
Do you think graf art is a continuation of the great masters like Picasso?
I think that Graffiti art through its execution in public space becomes part of our daily lives by default, so naturally the artists will draw a lot of their inspiration from their daily lives. There are so many different styles of Graffiti that one cannot say where graffiti artist’s generally get their inspiration. It’s also distinctive in that it is an art form that inspires the youth to be creative and have their say. It is this constant flow of youngsters starting graffiti that has kept it growing and evolving into the worldwide movement that it is.
Which places, spaces and landmarks inspire you?
I am especially fascinated by the architecture in the city centre. There are stark contrasts between old and new. Pristine buildings and slums, and everything in between. My favourite places in Joburg would have to be under the M1 freeway in Newtown, and Louis Botha Drive between Hillbrow and Yeoville, just because of how much graffiti there is in these areas.
Find out more about Rasty and the other Nike IAM1 Revolutionaries here.