Speaking with Wes21

June 24, 2013

A member of schwarzmaler, a collective of outstanding graffiti writers, street artists and illustrators, Swiss artist Wes21 creates stunning, detailed works that blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy.  We recently spoke to him during his visit to 5Pointz.

Wes2, Semor, Onur and KKade

When did you first start getting up?

I was about 11 years old when I hit my father’s garage.

Where was this?

In a small town near Berne.

What inspired you at the time?

Graffiti was all around me. I grew up without a TV, and I was always drawing. So it seemed like the natural thing to do.


How did your parents feel about what you were doing?

They encouraged me.  My father used to bring me photos of graffiti.  They love it.

Have you any preferred spots?

I love painting anywhere but I especially love rooftops and places near water.

Have you ever exhibited your work?

Yes, and I do many exhibitions every year.  I’ve shown my work in both group and solo shows in Switzerland, Germany, Hungary and Italy.


How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I feel fine about it, so long as it’s well-done. Showing in a gallery pushes me to the next level. And then I’m a better artist when I paint in the streets!

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. I studied graphic design and illustration in art school for four years.

Any thoughts about the role of the Internet in all this?

I don’t pay much attention to it.


Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Not completely. If I were, I wouldn’t be motivated to paint another one!

Is there much of a graffiti/street art divide back home

Not really. Most of the artists who hit the streets are open-minded.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To capture a moment — real or imaginary — for eternity.

All photos courtesy of the artist


Onur and Wes21

We discovered the wonderfully talented Onur Dinc while he was painting over at 5Pointz during his recent visit to NYC. We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak to him before he returned to his home in Switzerland.

Your artwork that has surfaced here at 5Pointz is exquisite. Have you a formal art education?

I apprenticed as a painter in my late teens. Then I studied set-design for four years in Solothum and graphic design for another three in Basel.

And when did you begin sharing your talents in public spaces?

Five years ago. That’s when I met Wes21 and KKade of the Schwarzmaler collective


We’re so glad you guys met! How do you feel about working outdoors in the public sphere?

It’s great. I love it, and I love meeting the many people who stop by.

How does your family feel about what you are doing? Are they supportive?

At first my parents didn’t encourage me. They were quite concerned.  My dad, who had emigrated from Turkey to Switzerland, worked in a factory his entire life and felt uneasy about my not having a steady job. But these days, everyone in my family is proud of me and supportive.

What is your principal source of income these days?

Selling canvases and prints.


What about exhibits? When did you begin exhibiting your work in galleries? And where have you shown it?

I began six years ago when I was 27. I’ve exhibited in all of Switzerland’s major cities and in Germany.

Who are some of the artists who have inspired you?

The late Swiss painter, Ferdinand Hodler, and the contemporary Australian artist, Jeremy Geddess, come to mind.  The American painter and photographer, Chuck Close, and the people around me — like Wes21, Schwarzmaler, Jörg Müller and Rodja Galli — have also influenced me.

What about artists getting up in public spaces? Have you any favorites?

I think Roa is wonderful. His skills are remarkable.

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all this?

There’s too much information out there. There’s lots of dope work, but there’s also too much trash.

Onur and Wes21

Any thoughts about artists — particularly street artists – working with corporations and brands?

I’ve done it, and I don’t like it. I often felt like I was selling myself.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

I see the artist as society’s commentator and conscience, as well as its mirror.

What’s ahead?

I’d like to continue doing what I’m doing now.  Painting both in my studio and in public spaces, exhibiting and traveling.

Good luck and we are eagerly awaiting your next visit to NYC.

Photo of Onur and Wes21 at work by Lenny Collado; all other images are courtesy of Onur.