Insane 51

Issue 27

HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine has the pleasure of hosting the eminent artist Insane 51, who gave us an exclusive interview and "launches" our new column "Street Art / Graffiti".

Insane 51 was born in 1992 in Athens and is one of the most famous Greek muralists, who started his creative career in 2007 as a Graffiti artist. He is a pioneer in creating the special Double exposure 3D style. An artistic style where depending on the colour of the light, different figures and shapes become visible. He has participated in more than fifty street art festivals around the world and as he says, he would never want to stay away from them.

Interview: Calliope & Thomas / street art hunters & founders of Awesome Athens Experiences.

How did you start to engage in visual arts and which are your most important influences?

From a young age, I used to see paintings inside my home. Paintings that my father had painted before I was born. Although I never saw him paint, I inclined to art, crafts, etc. since I was a small child.

Later, the shift to graffiti came into my life through a video game, "Marc Ecko's Getting Up", from where I was influenced and decided to get my first spray cans and go out on the street. Along the way, I had the opportunity to be exposed to several graffiti in Athens.

I won a competition in which Sake was the judge and this was the occasion for us to meet. Somehow, I became a member of STC, but no… I cannot draw a tattoo.

Then I started travelling abroad and being influenced daily by other artists.

How do you define yourself and why? Artist? Street artist? Something else?

The most appropriate title would be a muralist. Generally, what I like and try to do as much as possible, is to paint large surfaces.

Rise Up // 70 square meters // Bristol, UK // Festival UPFEST

In all forms of art, inspiration is crucial. What inspires you and how does that end up in your art?

I think the major source of inspiration is pain. You can paint very beautifully with the feeling of love, but the inspiration that pain offers you is much greater. You want to externalize your emotions. You have the strongest weapon, the motivation to relieve your pain. Then you need to paint, to create.

In general, however, I think that everything inspires me. Travel, new shows, different cultures, people I meet for the first time, stories, moments!

Despite your young age, your style is quite distinctive and special. Is that important for an artist? A characteristic continuity in his works?

I consider it to be the most important thing. It gives you an identity. All these years I was trying to find something that suits me and, I experimented a lot, I dared to be different. So, I ended up with my current style.

However, it happened, and I found it at the age of twenty-five, something that is so special and unique. Age does not matter though, I was lucky and, I worked hard. It is exceedingly difficult, there are endless artists out there trying new things every day. 
It is important to try and look for your style, which will express your soul. This way, the world will be able to distinguish your art.

Beyond the aesthetic purposes, does your Double Exposure 3D style include symbolisms, messages or repeated patterns? How has it evolved?

Interpersonal relationships are very often something I choose to promote through my art. We are all in some way the same and my skeletons prove it.

When someone looks through a colour filter, will see the skeleton, regardless of gender, colour, nationality, or age, we are all internally the same. We are humans.

When transferred to the other filter, phobias, prejudices, various thoughts, and feelings can arise. Here comes what we call "diversity". Something we all see outside and forget that inside we are all the same.

Quite often also, people see life and death. One filter is full of vibrancy and expressions, and the other filter shows how all of those will be lost in time. A moment can disappear in seconds. And this is again shown by the skeletons.

However, everyone perceives something different, in every work and every art form. I like people to come up with their message, their idea and interpretation.

What do you think, people feel or think of, when they see one of your works on the street?

I do not know, and it doesn’t particularly concern me. I care that people feel something. Surely, great works are awe-inspiring. Nevertheless, what I want to get through is beautiful feelings.

State of Peace // 12 x 9 m (108 square meters) // Palmerston North, New Zealand // Street Prints Papaioea // 2020

You are one of the artists whose primary purpose is murals in public space. What fascinates you so much that doesn’t exist in other areas of creation?

You have more freedom on the wall. The road has no rules. It is not a gallery; it does not have anyone to decide what is allowed and what is not. I am excited about this freedom, to be able to capture what I want, how I want it and to share it with the world.
I like other applications such as canvases, where one can integrate his art in his own home or office. He can make it his own.

Respectively the prints. Every year I try to make three-four print releases so that all my fans can get a work of mine and I usually choose a design that I have done on the wall so that they have already loved my piece.

The majority of your murals are large-scale. Is there a particular difficulty in them or you face the large scale as a series of smaller pieces?

The second. In the beginning, it causes you awe. Particularly, if you do not do it often. Ordering enough materials, facing height phobia, acrophobia, and weather phenomena. 

Breaking your piece into smaller ones, in the right way and with the detail that suits them is a challenge. Think of a small project that you like. Now imagine seeing it big, on a massive wall, up close, away. How much bigger would your enthusiasm be? I love the big walls. They excite people and remain unforgettable. They offer a terrific experience.

Our universe // 4m x 13m (52 square meters) // Atlanta, United States // Outer Space Festival // 2018

Do you approach your canvas work in a different way from murals?

Yes, because the techniques are different. It has limitations because the artwork is intended for indoor use. It must have another aesthetic, another detail. I have to manage red and blue in such a way that it is relaxing on a daily contact and space with many other objects.

Also, the materials I use are different. On the wall, I can use plastic paint with a spray gun and spray cans. On the canvas, I have acrylic brushes and an airbrush.

The festivals are a good opportunity for an artist to travel and increase his reputation. What do you think of them as you have participated in some?

Honestly, there are over fifty festivals I have participated in the last four years. I love festivals. If it was not for the festivals, I would not be where I am. "It opens your eye", you see other cultures, you meet different people, you exchange information with other artists, and you draw inspiration from every moment.

I remember how much I admired the main artist of the festivals. He had the central and largest wall. Everyone wanted to see how he would use it. I cannot describe to you my joy every time they call me as the main artist. It is a dream come true. I would never want to stay away from festivals in my career!

What is your favourite place you have painted in your career and where would you most like to paint if you had the choice?

My favourite huh? Maybe, it will seem strange to you. I may have travelled halfway around the world, but my favourite place was Naoussa in Imathia, at the Lobart Festival.

Why; Because the people make the place.

After that, I would say New Zealand. Awesome people, amazing landscapes and they are on the other side of the planet!

As for where I would like to go, the answer is undoubtedly Japan. Food, culture, bikes, animation. One of my first destinations when I can travel again.

Is it important in your opinion for a city and its people to have murals and why?

It is certainly important. Have you ever been to a city that does not have a lot of street art? What would the world be like without art?

It gives soul to the buildings, to the city. It gives life to the street when it is empty. When you paint something on a wall, you transform it from concrete to canvas.

Fall Down // 25 square meters // Copenhagen, Denmark // Amass Restaurant

What have you been working on recently and which are your creative plans for the future?

You can say that my last work is the design of my new print "EROS" or a canvas I made in my new studio. I plan to do the canvas design on a wall at UpFest in Bristol, England in the summer of 2021.

Unfortunately, many works were cancelled in 2020 and several of them I look forward to doing in 2021. I could not travel anywhere and, almost all the actions / events we had as commissions got cancelled.

In the good news of the day, I am building my new studio in Athens located in Chalandri and very soon I will paint its exterior wall.

First, I want to travel, go to countries I have never been to and share a piece of my art there. For 2021 I have already talked with some galleries in the USA, Canada and France and there will be several print releases. Of course, I will also attend some festivals that have been postponed until 2021.

Another reason I am excited is that within the next year, my website will be "uploaded" and I will start releasing some merch that people have been asking me for so long!

What music would you pick to accompany your artwork? What’s the soundtrack of your life?

Audiobooks. Because I usually do not have time to read books, I like to paint while listening to books and learning things. It calms me down.

The soundtrack of my life huh? At this time, I would choose "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes. 

Mooncake // 740 square meters // Worcester, USA // Festival Pow Wow

All photographs are courtesy of Insane 51.