Community Interview. Canggu Street Art. Part 1

March 01, 2017 | 0 Comment

Community Interview. Canggu Street Art. Part 1

Bali, island of the Gods, brims over with waves, temples, monkeys and tourists. The heaving, hectic city hum that once contained its self in Kuta, is now quickly seeping through the winding rice paddies and finding its way to places like Canggu. Underneath this, boiling up and spilling through out Canggu is a whole world of street art. It’s impossible now to walk through this town without noticing the bold colours decorating walls, which stand in juxtaposition to the rice fields surrounding them. In light of this, we decided to interview three of Canggu’s most prominent artists.


Little Beni

Little Beni, who has been painting since she was 8 years old, picked up her first spray can at 12. She first came to Bali in 2013 and has been telling her stories via the walls of Canggu ever since. 

Her pieces have an ukiyo-e style to them and are full of bright colours and images inspired by the nature around her. You can find her work sprawled throughout Bali, bringing the walls to life.

photo by @littlebeni 

So Beni, you are doing Graffiti Art around Bali right?

Yes, me and my friends trying to meet every Sunday (Sunday Spraycation) and go around and do Art, drive around, explore the area and find buildings and random places where we can put one of our artworks! It’s always a pretty cool adventure!

That sounds interesting! Before we get more into that. Let me back up a little bit. Can you tell us what brought you here to Canggu? What’s your story?

I was going to school in Japan and then decided to come to Bali just for surfing. That was like four years ago I guess (laughs). Yeah and then I heard a lot of good things about Canggu and loved it. It was a very chilled place back then. I always kept coming back here. And one day I decided to stay here and try to make a life through Art. And of course, surf a lot (laughs).

Did that work straight away?

No, it was pretty tough to be honest. I wasn’t painting walls in Japan as I do it here. And at the time I was moving here there wasn’t a lot of street Art here. If you go to the beach for example - you know the wall at Old Man’s – It wasn’t painted or sprayed as it is now.

When you think about street art, isn’t Bali one of the last places that comes to mind? I mean, it’s not really as urbanised as the big cities in Europe or the US.

No, not at all. When I came here I wasn’t really thinking of Street Art at all. I just wanted to paint and noticed that people didn’t really care that much if you put your Artwork somewhere. So I just started doing it for fun. (laughs)

And I loved it! So me and my friends just went out and painted and when people saw us, they came and asked us to paint something for them.

photo by @littlebeni 

That’s amazing!

But let me get back to where I started the interview. When you head out for you adventures to paint somewhere random, is it all planned or do you just go and when you find a place you paint something?

Sometimes we have a plan. For example the last time we went to that big haunted Palace, the ghost palace. It was a little scary but we thought we’d check it out. And it was cool! Or one time we found an abandoned school.

How was the ghost palace?

That thing is huge!

Is it all empty? Must be so scary in there!

It is all empty! It is so cool how all the nature has overrun everything. You can feel some weird vibes in there! But maybe that is also because there are a lot of ghost stories I guess.

Did you go there with some locals?

Yeah, I have a really good friend, her name is Fee Des Chiens. It’s just the two of us who went there that time!

How do you start the process of creating an Artwork when you have an empty wall in front of you? Do you already have the idea and just put it down? Or do you start and just keep on going with whatever comes into your mind?

I do a lot of sketching. Sometimes I have a specific image or something I want to express. If that is the case, I drive around and look where it would fit. But sometimes I just see a spot and something comes into my mind that fits perfectly for only this spot and I kinda start to create it there. I think it’s important that the Art is really relevant to the space. You know, it gives it a meaning and affects the place in a certain way.

That’s cool! So when you have sketch, do you take it with you then?

I usually do. Especially when I have some details that I want to include. For the most part I already have the forms and everything in my head and just start to paint it down. I always use some characters, which reoccur in a lot of Artworks. I paint a lot of fishes for example and ocean themed things.

photo by @littlebeni 

Is it actually legal to paint walls here in Bali? Because you know, I heard crazy stories about streetart artists in other Asian countries…

Yeahh… here in Bali ehm..

Have you ever had trouble?

Yeah… sometimes. But connections are very helpful. And you just have to show them what you are doing and talk to them or explain it to them.

Sounds like you had some adventures here. But tell me Beni, what’s your inspiration for your Art?

That’s a good question. Basically it is the wildness of the island here. The people, the life here, folk stories. I really like the Japanese style of painting as well.

photo by @rosavanmalsen

How does it work when you get a project from somebody? Does he or she already have a certain image in their head and then come to you?

Yeah exactly, most people already know the direction it’s supposed to go. I ask them what they want the mood to be. Or tell them to send over some images they like. And from that collection I start thinking about how to put it together. So, I start doing a few sketches and meet up with them again that they can tell me what they like or what they want to have changed. So I can go back and change it. That is kinda how the process goes.

That’s awesome. Well Beni, thank you so much! I wish you all the best for the future and I am excited what we will see from you!

Thank you. Yes, I am excited!

photo by @in_da_surfbali 


Sleeck

Sleeck was born and raised in Malang, where he started his art career while also flourishing as a tattoo artist. In 2016 he relocated to Bali to further his artistic career. He now works professionally as a mural artist, creating works that are described as ‘whimsical art, which draws on the symbolism, beauty and tradition of Indonesian aesthetic, depicts a beautiful fusion of East meeting West.’ His art can be seen spawning across Java, Borneo, Bali and Europe.

photo by @sleeck.id

You’re from Java right?

Yeah I come from Malang, east Java. I came to Canggu last year, not even one year, I think I am here.

So how did you end up in Canggu?

Because in Canggu there’s lot of artists from around the world who come to paint and I get to be here and have a connection with them and because I like to collaborate with other people from around the world.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists around Canggu, do you prefer collaborating than solo work?

Yeah, I prefer collaborating because it’s like, painting together and talking and couple of beers, it’s fun, I love painting with someone. With Beni, I ask like ‘Beni can we paint together?’ and she said yes and we are friends now.

Sound like fun! Canggu is full of artists like you and Beni now, how do you think they all ended up here?

I think it’s because of tropical festival last year. Everyone came here and was painting together. People just get stuck here and cannot leave Canggu, like me. Because I love it, there’s a lot of artists around.

photo by @in_da_surfbali

Do you have favourite artist in Bali?

In Bali, it’s Slinart. He’s a guy from Denpasar but he paints with a brush not with spray. We’re planning to do an exhibition here together because we have the same… we have a different style but same way. He is traditional in style, he will paint a Balinese girl or something and I do traditional painting too so it’s different, but same way. He is my favourite artist for now.

Oh cool, when is that exhibition?

At the end of March, I’ll have an exhibition here. People from around Bali will come here collaborate together.

How long have you been doing street art for, how did you get into it?

I started around 2005, 2005 or 6. It was because I saw it in Thrasher magazine, I didn’t know what it was called, but it was graffiti. I think it’s because maybe it’s more fun, painting in a big media. I was young, 10 years old when I started painting. Then I saw people painting in big media and thought is was more fun and I started painting.

How do you start the process of deciding what you’re going to paint?

Sometimes it just comes into my head like freestyle. Normally it comes to my dreams, sometimes, really! Something comes and when I wake up, just sketch what I was dreaming before.

photo by @in_da_surfbali

So for the painting you showed me outside, how did you come up with that?

This one is, the names is Surya Majapahit, it’s a kingdom in Indonesia. I think I have a dream about Surya Majapahit and I’m searching on google what is it. I found it. The mandala is protecting the dolphin, so like, it’s hard to explain, it’s like good spirit for the dolphin, so the dolphin will be happy.

And you’d never heard about it before? It just came in a dream?

Yeah

That’s incredible

I saw that you’re a tattoo artist too. Do street art and tattooing tie together for you?

I did street art first. I think that it’s a bit different between street art and graffiti. In street art I do my own style but in tattooing, sometimes it’s about what the customer wants so I sketch it. But sometimes I ask him or I ask her "can I do a sketch for you, like my style?"

photo by @sleeck.id

So when you want to start a new piece, how do you decide where to paint it?

Sometimes I just paint in the night but if it’s a really, really hard spot, I will ask permission to go and paint the wall. But sometimes I’m just painting and like, already four times I got jumped by security and the Pecalang. Pecalang are the local police here. Last time, they ganged up on me.

No way

Yeah in old mans, because I was painting.

photo by @sleeck.id

How do you convince people to let you paint on their walls?

I show them my portfolio, just my work, see if its ok and then I ask them. Maybe I can do something like the name of the shop or if they have a request for a painting like a flower or something.

How do you think street art influences Canggu?

Maybe it will take time but people will become more open minded about street art in Canggu. Because soon, I think it will become like a museum of street art. In Indonesia, Canggu is like, it’s booming, everyone is talking about Canggu right now. Canggu, Canggu, Canggu. But the problem is we don’t have much wall here, we have like small streets and its hard to find a graffiti wall; but we will find a good one.

And what happens when you run out of walls in Canggu?

Sometimes I paint over them but I ask permission first. Maybe the painting is too old so I ask "Can I paint over it?" Sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say no. I prefer to look for my own wall.

Do you think with all the street art in Canggu now, there’ll be whole generation of inspired street artists who’ve grown up around it?

I think there will be more and more artists. The kids are always curious about what I am doing when I paint. I give them cans and they just paint, painting around and I think they love it. The kids are starting to love painting too here.

So do you think if more people start painting, there’ll be less stigma?

Yeah I think it will be more accepted.

What advice would you give to the young kids starting street art now?

I will tell them, make art as beautiful as you can because Bali is no place for vandals. Just paint, make it beautiful.

photo by @sleeck.id