EVOL: A Site for Eye Sores

Berlin-based stencil graffiti artist EVOL takes on the UK with “A Site for Eye Sores”, his first-ever solo show in the region.

Words & Interview: Aimstar
Images: Courtesy of EVOL & POW gallery

EVOL has been at this for years…Yes, he’s a graffiti artist, but not in the sense that he “throws up” or tags his name across every raw surface visible to the eye of man. Instead he creates buildings, mini replicas of massive urban dwellings, if you will. Using stencils, storage boxes and flower pots as his only tools, he essentially reconstructs the type of structures that one would expect to see “graffiti” on and then sets them in the least likely of places.

At first glance, it’s hard to determine whether EVOL imagines these buildings in his head, or if they are familiar images of his past that he can’t seem to shake. In his first interview with STARK, celebrating his first solo exhibit in the UK, EVOL tells us what his work—and the A Site for Eye Sores exhibit— is really all about.

When did you become so fascinated with buildings and structures? Can you remember the first time you noticed?

Actually two things came across, when I started to do these. First, I like being a ‘flaneur’, looking for good sites to intervene in as well as observing what’s happening around. Not only conscious interventions, but also unintended traces of the people living there. So I was always wondering what to do with these powerboxes, as they’re everywhere, every city, every country, like a format. And second, I was so broke that time, that i finally had to look for work in a state-run job center. The closest one to my home was located in a huge complex of these buildings. Quite a depressing moment, once you’re down anyway getting a smash in your face by this kind of architecture additionally. Even though this economically-optimized method of construction is not an invention of the former German Democratic Republic, these apartment blocks are still a symbol of the socialist regime. On the basis of a serious lack of living space after World War II, the government started an ambitious undertaking to create affordable flats for all their workers. Unlike the deteriorating townhouses, these housing projects promised to make the socialist dream come true, by offering a higher standard of living that everyone could afford, but beside the fact that the government ran out of money, this dream has turned into a (dys)functional nightmare. And not only in Eastern cities, you’ll find these “storage-boxes” everywhere, pushed carefully away from the city center, not to be too visible to the visitors eyes or maybe the ones of the city planers…. For me they’re symbols of human error and class society. So I took some photos of the windows, made stencils to put small reminders back into the centre of the city again.

So when did building your own structures become a priority for you?

It never or always has. I hook on existing structures, but I try to create an “own” out of it.

Are you building what you see in your travels or imagining a new world?

Both, but probably more the second.

Do you name the structures after you make them?

Yes. Titles are always important for me. As I prefer a visual language to “communicate”, titles are the only way to put words in and they mostly work well as a counterpart.

Can you describe the building you live in? No address necessary, but is it as interesting as your work?

Oh thanks. A random building in a traditional East Berlin working class neighborhood. Estimated build, around 1915. High ceilings, simple wooden floors and very basic appearance. Hit with plaster from the GDR [German Democratic Republic].

Sometimes looking at some photographs of your work, I find that I have an eerie feeling… like a fear of what the future of urbanism—the evolution of the world (rural and non city areas) into major metropolises everywhere—might look like. Is this something that interests you or that you think about when you’re creating?

Actually, these kinds of buildings are something negative for me already, but what might create this feeling for you is rather the texture and structure of the actual space and of course the (endless) repetition of the units.

What I find interesting is that you don’t seem to include people in your work. There is no community. No little figurines. And no addresses. Why is that?

I’m talking about the architecture as a result of people’s actions. If I’d put people or faces in, everybody would focus on “themselves” only.

You’ve been matched up with Banksy, Blek and others in various group exhibitions that cater to the urban set. Do you consider yourself a street artist? An urban artist? An urban planner?

No. It just happens to be that I’m an artist, who finds it very interesting (or feels the need) to use a public space as well.

How do you go about selecting locations to place your work? There must be some rhyme or reason to it all…

Hard to tell. I’m not trying to dominate a space, it’s more that a space dictates my work. I’m just working on spaces, that are in some way appealing to me. Site comes first. I have to find this place, so I walk a lot. Maybe spaces find me then.

Do you think you’ll ever collaborate with architects to conceive real buildings, or are your buildings enough for now?

Well, I’m not sure if my knowledge is big enough for this. I have a lot of respect for the responsibility of architects, or —even harder— city planners. Surely, I have some experiences and ideas to share, but inserting flats into a meadow surely is a plain idea… no matter how deep this will be.

EVOL’s A Site for Eye Sores exhibit is now on view until December 23, 2011 at the Pictures on Walls Gallery, located at 46-48 Commercial Street, London, E1.

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