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StreetArtNewsJapan x Pøbel Interview

February 14, 2013
11 min read
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Our friends from StreetArtNewsJapan spent some time with Pøbel and asked him a few questions…
Pøbel is a Norwegian street artist based in Stavanger. He is best known for the Getto spedalsk project, painting abandoned buildings in at the Lofoten islands in the north of Norway, along with DOLK.
Enjoy the read!

SANJP: How and when did you get into Street Art?

Pøbel: I never really got into street art but rather the art of stencilling. I was a huge fan of Rage Against The Machine when I was growing up. And a friend of mine had one of their t-shirts with the Che Guevara image on it. I was looking at it and could not understand how it was possible to make an image of just black and white (Young and dumb). So he said, draw only the shadows on photographs and you get the same effect. So I tried this a few times and I got hooked. 
I started drawing and cutting everything I could get my hands on from newspapers, magazines and band posters on my wall. So I really became a cutting nerd, this was in 98-99 and I had never heard of street art. 
A few years later I of course realised there was a scene overseas and I was really surprised that there were other “nerds” out there. Around 01-02 I started painting outside. Starting stencilling now is not the same as back then. Now you can Google all the different techniques. All the stuff I did/do I came up with on my own as I went along. 
 Now kids do like a 20 layer stencil the first time they try it out. But for me it took a long time before I mastered the techniques for painting outside (illegal). Like it took me a year or two before I realised that by cutting a small hole in the stencils I could align the layers perfectly, this sound really stupid now because it is so obvious, but it really says allot about how it was back then. I did stencils for 5-6 years before I met other stencil artists, and that was Strøk and Dolk in 2004.

SANJP: What drives you to create art?

Pøbel: That people can get a feeling from looking at it, and hopefully make them think.

SANJP: What do you hope to present through your artwork?

Pøbel: It depends on the work, but I like to make kind of depressing images that also can work as an image of hope and optimism. The later years I have focused just as much in the photography as actual paintings. I like to paint places where no one will ever see the paintings in person, so they have to see the photos to actually see the work. So in a way the photo is the artwork, not the painting, becouse the paintings is based on the suroundings, and without them the painting wold not make any sense. So what I want to present with the photos is more like an escape from daily life. They become almost like dreams. Like if you live in a stressful city, work in an office place, it can be funny to see a photo of people in suits having small talk over the water dispenser in the middle of the Norwegian wilderness. Hehe now I sound like a hippie, but yeah it’s like a state of mind, put into a photo/painting.

SANJP: How do you choose your images and where does your inspiration come from?
Pøbel: I like best to work with site-specific paintings. So normally I find the wall first and make up the image based on the wall and surroundings. So for me biggest inspiration is the contrast between nature and city life. I like to put familiar images and scenarios from the “city life” and place it way out in the nature just to put it on pause and show how ridicules many of the things we do daily really are.

More questions after the jump….

SANJP: Are you using computers to create your pieces? 

Pøbel: When I started doing stencils I did everything by drawing on photos. But it started getting really boring after a while because I could only cut the image as it was in the photo, and was not able to edit, add on and twist the image. So I started scanning and printing images, after a while I started using the Microsoft paint program, and in 2003 I got Photoshop witch was great. Doing stencils with and without Photoshop is pretty much the same, but in Photoshop you can work much faster, and it is easier to edit your images. But if you ask me if I use a computer / machine to cut my stencils, the answer is of course no, I cut everything by hand.
SANJP: Who influenced you the most ? Any current favorite artist?
Pøbel: The biggest influence was my friend with the RATM t-shirt. And in 2001 I saw some works by Banksy, this was an eye opener for me. That was the first time I realized I could use my work / Techniques to tell stories, and could actually make artworks that meant something. Norwegian black metal has also been a great inspiration. Current favorite artists (even though they have been for many years) : E.B.Itso, Adams, Akay, Brad Downey, Escif, Horfee, Elmgreen and Dragset.
SANJP: Any idea why so many important street artists are coming from Norway?
Pøbel: It just a coincident I guess, because there has never been a street art scene here. All the artists I know started on their own in very different places and for different reasons.

SANJP: In 2008,  you released a documentary called “Living Decay“, where you visited the fjords of Norway to “decorate”abandoned houses with DOLK. Could you give us some more info on this project ?
Pøbel: It was a project I started in 2006 with the name “Øde Dekor (Desolate decoration)” Me and a friend wanted to paint desolated houses to highlight the problem of the depopulation in the northern part of Norway. So we started by painting one house, but realized we had to think bigger, and to make an impact and a statement we needed to paint allot of houses in a short period of time. So I wanted to turn it into a art festival, and get 10-15 artists to paint one house each In one or two weeks. I started planning the festival but it was allot of work, so I asked Dolk to join the project and together make the festival. He joined, and we changed the name to “Ghetto Spedalsk” the following month we traveled to lofoten to document the houses, get permissions and organize the logical part of the project. This was in 2007, and the first year we stayed there for two months doing boring paperwork, and in the end… out of boredom we painted one house each. The next year (2008) it was pretty much the same; this was the year Davide Fasolo made the short documentary. So yeah, in the end we painted too many houses ourselves so we just dropped the plans on turning it into a festival. And much of the reasons were also that lofoten is such a big area that it would be almost impossible to organize it there. In 2011 I was invited to a town called Vardø. Here I saw the same problems that lofoten had. The city had been struggling with mass depopulation the last 10-20 years. After seeing the town and meting the people who lived there I decided to arrange the festival in Vardø instead. I called it “Komafest” ….Google it! This time Roa, Steve Powers, Vhils, Atle Østrem, Horfee, Ken sortais, Conor Harrington, E.B. Itso, Husk mit navn and Remed joined the project / festival.

SANJP: Is there any artist with whom you’d like to work with?
Pøbel: It would be cool to do a project with Elmgreen and Dragset.
SANJP: What are your other interests besides art?
Pøbel: Music, and I sometimes paraglide… even though it is really boring.
SANJP: Are you interested in Japanese culture?

Pøbel: There is alot of cool movies from japan, I really liked Soredemo boku wa yattenai. Also a lot of great tattoo artists. Don’t really know too much about the art scene to be honest. Also maximum the hormone and melt-banana are really great bands.

SANJP: What are your plans for 2013?
Pøbel: I’m going back up to vardø next week to do paint more cabins in the finnmark plateau. I also want to organize a new round of Komafest.

SANJP: Any message for the fans from Japan?

Pøbel: This is my message. Check this out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gye4XCFAmo

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