Bankok Art Festival 2007




Q&A: Carlos Contente

by BK Editorial on March 15, 2007 – 11:00pm

One day Carlos Contente woke up and realized he could reach more people with public graffiti art than with photocopied underground comics or painting. Since then he’s spent years stenciling minimalist self portraits of himself all over Brazil and has recently completed graffiti murals at Din Daeng National Housing and Bed Supperclub for the Bangkok International Arts Festival.

Why did you start painting graffiti?

I was studying art and painting, and my body was full of paint. One day I started to think “What am I doing here? It means nothing.” I think that if you don’t have a real reason to paint something, it means nothing.

Graffiti is usually done in public places—what does this add to your work?

It’s important that people see my art. I want people to see me doing it. I like to meet people and instigate a dialogue with them. When I paint graffiti, it’s like a teaser, people wonder “what’s this?!” I feel this need to communicate.

How do you feel when someone paints over a piece you painted?

At one time I felt very angry about this, but contemporary art is not permanent. It’s not like the Renaissance—I am still alive and can do another piece. A recurring image in your work is a stenciled self-portrait—Where did this idea come from? I started my work thinking about the art world and how in it the most important thing is the artist’s signature. I started to play with an image that is my own self portrait, it’s not my name, but it is my signature.

What’s your work at Din Daeng about?

My work at Din Daeng has nothing to do with the minimalism presented in my other work. Since it’s a place where people live, I thought “I don’t want to impose the things I am working on.” It was improvisation.

Have you ever gotten in trouble for doing graffiti?

Yeah. [Laughs] I was in Rio de Janeiro with another Brazilian guy and a German guy. We were just bombing and doing tags. It was vandalism. A policeman came and caught me. He painted my whole head black with spray paint. This is common in Brazil. Sometimes they’ll kill you, but if they’re nice they’ll just paint your head or your body to stop you doing it again.