LSD Magazine interviews Pichi and Avo

Bringing a spectacularly lucid splash of Mediterranean colour to the streets of Valencia and wider Spain, Pichi and Avo have infused a stunning level of figurative detail into their work. Hints of surrealism leap out and slap the viewer about while drawing you into a radiant explosion of unrestrained, spray painted talent. Creating a massive stir in their hometown and just about to set the rest of Europe ablaze, we caught up with them for a word. The original Spanish is included after the translated answers

Tell us a little about both of you and your backgrounds and how you came together as a partnership

Pichi started painting in 1995 and was one of the first graffiti artists in Valencia doing figurative realistic paintings in the street. Throughout his artistic evolution he tried his hand at every aspect of graff – bombing, trains – but you could always see the figurative theme in whatever he did. I (Avo) started out 8 years later, where graffiti and spray work was far more widespread than in Pichi’s day and so I found it easier to break into the street art scene and my tastes were already pretty  well defined. I still did lettering when I began but I didn’t particularly enjoy doing it. We consider ourselves as coming from a graffiti background – although Pichi has more of an old school influence than me who I suppose came more out of the evolution of old school graffiti

We came together as Pichi and Avo 3 years ago, realizing that our artistic philosophies were very similar and our conceptions of how we wanted to develop as artists met perfectly. We mixed our styles more and more with every wall we did until we realized that we were doing almost exactly the same thing, and that’s when the fusion between us was born. It’s difficult to explain but two techniques and two visions do make one!

Pichi empezó en 1995, siendo uno de los primero artistas de graffiti que hizo realismos en las calles, durante toda la trayectoria en el mundo del graffiti Pichi ha probado todos los estilos dentro de este mundo, trenes, bombing… y en ellos siempre se ha visto la tendencia a lo figurativo.

Yo (Avo) empecé casi 8 años más tarde, teniendo ya muchas referencias, no como pichi que en esos años no se tenía casi nada de información del graffiti, mis comienzos fueron más sencillos, y mis gustos más o menos estaban definidos, aun que también he hecho letras, pero no disfruta haciéndolas. Consideramos que venimos del graffiti,  Pichi mucho más que yo, ya que se podría decir que tiene la influencia del Old School, y además a practicado mas esa parte de graffiti, trenes, letras… yo quizás venga de la evolución del graffiti.

Y bueno nuestro encuentro como pichi&Avo fue hace 3 años que nos conocimos y nos dimos cuenta que la filosofía que teníamos era muy similar, y que los conceptos a la hora de pintar eran similares, ha sido una progresión en cada muro nos íbamos mezclando mas hasta darnos cuenta que los dos estábamos haciendo lo mismo, y ahí nació la fusión entre los dos, y hoy en dia es lo que hacemos mezclar nuestras técnicas, es algo difícil de explicar pero bueno 2 técnicas hacen una.

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Did you have any formal training in realism or did you hone the style on the streets

We both did art studies. 3 years ago, Pichi started a fine arts course and I come from industrial design. Naturally our studies in both these fields have influenced our current work, but we fundamentally believe that there is nothing quite so powerful as actually getting out there and painting on walls. Ultimately, graffiti is about paint and walls rather than books and classrooms. Saying that, it’s always important to keep learning, and keep opening your mind to any form of external influence

Tenemos nuestros studios relacionados con el arte, pichi empezó hace tres años bellas artes y yo vengo del diseño indrustial, lógicamente estos conocimientos influencian, pero consideramos que practicando en las paredes es donde consigues el estilo, el graffiti es mas en las paredes que en estudiar y los libros, aun que lógicamente influencia mucho el estudiar algo relacionado con el arte, Te abre mucho mas la mente.

How difficult is it to get that level of realism with a spray can and do people appreciate that?

To reach a serious level doing realism involves a hell of a lot of practice and wasting untold cans. It’s time and labour intensive, so you have to be really dedicated and genuinely enjoy doing it. You have to buckle down and keep trying new lines, new colours and new combinations. I think people who aren’t in touch with the graffiti and spray paint worlds don’t really understand that this can be done with spray paint and keep asking us if we use brushes because it can be difficult for them to grasp the possibility of getting that much detail from something so supposedly blunt as a can. Those in the graffiti scene know that it’s a can but do wonder where the trick lies because they are well aware of how complicated it can be

Conseguir nivel haciendo realismo es practicarlo y sobre todo gastar muchos botes, realmente no lo sé, es tiempo y que te guste, si no te gusta el realismo nunca podrás tener un nivel, simplemente hay que atreverse, probar combinaciones de colores y cosas nuevas.
Creo que la gente ajena al mundo del graffiti realmente no se lo imagina, y preguntan, como lo hacemos, o si usamos pinceles, porque realmente les cuesta creer que con el spray se pueda detallar tanto, y ya la gente que está relacionada con el graffiti sabe que es spray pero sí que preguntan si hay algún truco, ya que ven la complicación de hacer eso.

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What is the art scene in Valencia like ?

Valencia has always had a high level of creative arts and has art in its blood and its culture, but on a graffiti level, letters, bombing and trains still totally predominate. For that reason, we are somehow not considered graffiti artists by the real ‘purists’. But it does seem that the few who can escape this rigid way of thinking as to what is and what isn’t graffiti are the ones who manage to attain a higher creative level and develop new and interesting styles. But the scene is very fluid and has seen a lot of recent changes with new blood coming in trying new techniques and pushing the artistic envelope.

Valencia artísticamente tiene mucho nivel, es una ciudad con mucho arte a su alrededor, el arte forma parte de nuestra cultura, pero a nivel de graffiti, lo que más predomina son las letras; bombing y trenes… por eso algunos no nos consideran graffiti, ..  los pocos que se salen de ese concepto la verdad que están a un alto nivel, hoy por hoy está cambiando bastante la escena y la gente nueva se está atreviendo a hacer cosas más figurativas y realistas.

What themes and emotions drive your work

This is a bit of a tricky one because it depends on whether we are painting commissions which are essentially pretty things without any underlying concept. Having said that, everything always expresses something and has some part of yourself in it. Even with the work that we do that does contain a deeper message, very often people don’t really get past the realist beauty and don’t really get what we had embedded into the piece. We tend to work with a mix of concepts while always staying true to a beautiful aesthetic. But we aren’t really about incisive social commentary, and any message that may come through is very subtly worked in. We just paint and see where it takes us.

Eso es difícil porque a veces simplemente hacemos cosas bonitas para la gente, sin ningún concepto detrás, aun que después siempre expresa algo, y también a veces lo que hacemos tiene una crítica de fondo, aun que la gente normalmente no lo ve, porque solo ven lo bonito y no la critica que tiene. Solemos trabajar con conceptos, y los mezclamos e intentamos innovar haciendo cosas bellas para la gente que al fin y al cabo es quien lo va a ver. Realmente nuestra obra no es una obra crítica, sino que la crítica sea sutil, simplemente pintamos y a veces nos apetece hacer algo crítico y a veces solo bonito.

Pichi-Avo-05So tell us about the 3 faces

That is a portrait of Avo and it’s actually on the terrace of our building. We tend to work with ourselves as models as we don’t exactly have a large queue of volunteers. In this painting, we were working with veils – transparent tones that alter what has already been painted – as if they were layers on Photo Shop with a ghostly aspect. We were trying new things and the result proved very interesting. It was left very open to interpretation with many people wondering if it wasn’t a statement on schizophrenia or the multiple characters within a personality. It expresses something different to everybody and we love leaving people free to draw their own conclusions and love it when people stand in front of a piece and really think.

Ese esta en mi terraza, ese soy yo (avo), casi siempre intentamos trabajar con nosotros como modelos ya que no disponemos de muchos modelos. En este trabajo estábamos trabajando con veladuras, como si fueran capas del photoshop con transparencias, con un aspecto de fantasma, probando cosas nuevas, y bueno el resultado fue muy interesante, por las cosas que a la gente le expresaba, como que son las diferentes personalidades de una persona… lo podemos definir como un wild style realista, lo gracioso es que a cada uno le expresa algo difente y saca sus propias conclusiones, eso nos encanta de nuestras obras que la gente fluya y piense.

And the pig eating the baby?

That one has a story because Pichi was vegetarian and he was doing a project at university about vegetarianism The theme that Pichi chose was to do a street mural about the mistreatment of animals and forcing empathy with the plight of the animals we so nonchalantly eat. I wasn’t anything to do with the course, but I pitched in and helped anyway as if it was one of our normal works. We opted for a parody on the theme with the animal eating the human, and decided on a baby because it’s a harder, more visceral image, although others have read a critique of greedy capitalism into the piece.

Ese tiene una historia, Pichi era vegetariano y tenía que hacer un trabajo de Universidad sobre el vegetarianismo, el tema que eligió Pichi era hacer un mural en la calle en contra del maltrato de los animales, yo como no estoy ya en la universidad simplemente colabore con pichi como en todo lo que hacemos.Por eso elegimos realizar una parodia sobre este tema, en este caso el animal comiéndose a al humano, y para que fuese una crítica más directa optamos por poner un bebe ya que es más duro.

Pichi-Avo-08The tortoise brain – a reference to humanity being outrun by its own development?

Well you can absolutely see it like that, but the original concept is to illustrate the way people rush around life with a million things to do bound by their needs and obligations. It is important from time to time to simply slow down and savour what life really has to offer. The shape of the tortoise fits perfectly as a brain and it adds a touch of humour and a very traditional image of placid tranquility

Bueno también se puede mirar de esa manera, el concepto real es la mente lenta, las personas van por la vida con la mente acelerada con todo lo que se tiene que hacer y hay veces que la mente tiene que ir más lenta para vivir más tranquilos. En este caso la forma de la tortuga se adaptaba perfectamente a la del cerebro y dama mucho juego…

In one or two of your paintings lightbulbs are the focus – is that the power of ideas

Yes. It is a symbolic representation of ideas. At the time, we were looking for new ideas and new inspirations within our work, and what better idea than ideas themselves! We decided to first do the lightbulb mural with the fish, and then entered it in the Badalona art competition where we won a prize. It’s a very universal image that speaks as a metaphor to all forms of creativity that were originally born as a brief flash of illuminated inspiration.

Tratan sobre el concepto simbólico de la idea, en ese periodo estábamos buscando nuevas ideas para pintar y que mejor idea que el símbolo de la bombilla. Por los que nos planteamos hacer primero el mural de las bombillas con los peces y más adelante lo aplicamos en un concurso en Badalona consiguiendo un de los premios, en definitiva para nosotros el concepto bombilla está muy unido con cualquier artista metafóricamente hablando, puesto toda obra de arte sale de una idea preconcebida.

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What is the balance between commissions and street work

The street work is naturally far freer and we have total liberty on every front – be it concept, colour, composition or finishings and this is what it’s all about for us rather than working to order. Commissions generally tend to be very specific about what they want and leaves limited room for self expression. It’s purely a means to an end and that end is to continue painting. The sex shop was not our finest hour, but we did have fun doing it because it was so different, but the Rubiks cube piece was one of the rare occasions that we were granted total freedom. The owner asked us to work as we do in the streets but just vaguely related to a clothes shop. That’s the kind of stuff that you really enjoy, we smuggled in a mild critique of fashion and they were delighted.

Los trabajos que hacemos en la calle son más libres y realmente hacemos lo que queremos con plena libertad a la hora de elegir colores, composición, acabados… disfrutamos mucho mas con esto que con los encargos, ya que en los encargos nos dicen exactamente lo que quieren y en muy pocas ocasiones nos dan plena libertad, simplemente es trabajo y con el podemos ganar dinero para seguir pintando, el sexshop es un trabajo más en el cual no nos pudimos expresar, pero se disfruto ya que ha sido diferente.La obra con el Rubiks es un caso de un trabajo con plena libertad, el dueño nos pidió que nos expresáramos como en las calles, pero haciendo algo relacionado con la tienda de ropa.Ese es el tipo de trabajo que realmente disfrutas, nos planteamos hacer una crítica de lo fashion y se quedaron muy contentos por el trabajo realizado.

Do you do gallery exhibitions ?

We would love to, but we haven’t had time to make it happen yet, and as son as we’ve finsished our pending projects, we hope to start pulling an exhibition together. We have one gallery in the Portobello Road in London interested, but people in Valencia will be expecting new stuff from us before we exhibit here and we might actually do a few canvasse

Nos gustaría la verdad, pero aun no hemos tenido tiempo, tenemos proyectos pendientes y pronto esperamos ponernos a ello, tenemos por ejemplo una galería en el mercado de Portobello en Londres que estaría interesada en  nuestro trabajo, aparte en Valencia la gente está esperando algo nuestro ya, así que cuando por fin tengamos tiempo empezaremos con los cuadros.

In Spain what is the police’s attitude to street art ?

I think it is similar to Europe. They treat us like scum and we are nothing but delinquents in their eyes. These days, we try and get permissions or paint private sites, so we come into less and less contact with the authorities – but by and large it’s pure censorship of urban art like anywhere else in the West

Creemos que igual que en Europa, no nos tratan muy bien, para ellos somos delincuentes, nosotros casi no tenemos problemas ya que tratamos de hacer cosas legales y  tenemos unos sitios específicos por lo que  la policía no se interesa por esa zona. Pero por lo demás la policía es como en Europa, es dura y censura mucho el arte urbano.

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You were saying that graffiti artists don’t see you as graffiti etc. Do you think all the different styles are breaking down and coming together ?

We think that there is a natural evolution that everything should become one. Graffiti coming together with fine art, graphic design, realism surrealism. We love the fact that the edges are being blurred and that is exactly what we are trying to do. Wheteher you are painting a wall or a canvas, it’s the inherent expression that counts

Pensamos que es una evolución natural que todo se una, el graffiti ya forma parte de arte, se están mezclando el arte, el diseño grafico…A nosotros eso nos gusta que se mezcle, de hecho es lo que intentamos. Para nosotros pintar graffiti en las calles es lo mismo y nos expresamos igual que al pintar lienzos.

What are you doing this year and what is the long term dream for your art ?

In the short term, we have various projects like Meeting of the Style in Wiesbaden, Germany, an exhibition in Sevilla this month, and some work for shops and companies. Painting is the fundamental, and if we have the opportunity to do it outside Spain, we’ll jump at it.
In the future we’d love to do bigger and bigger projects like the whole facades of buildings, and we’d just like to carry on and keep evolving. You always have to dream.
A corto plazo tenemos varios proyecto, como el meeting of styles en Wiesbaden- Alemania, una exhibición en Sevilla este mes, y trabajos para tiendas y empresas. Pintar es lo fundamental y si tenemos oportunidades de hacerlo fuera de España como es el caso lo haremos.

En el futuro nos gustaría realizar grandes proyectos como pinta fachadas de edificios, por supuesto galerías, simplemente seguir trabajando y mejorar juntos.
Siempre hay que soñar.

Pichi-Avo-07Pichi & Avo Website