Sat-One has been through a series of transitions as an artist, coming from a ‘normal’ graffiti background painting letters and characters to producing large-scale murals with deeper meanings and a more graphic feel. His recent piece at See No Evil festival in Bristol was an epic mural subtly twisting the notion of artists being celebrated as heroes. We caught up with him to find out more.
I was born in Venezuela but that was just because of my father’s job. I grew up in Munich. I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember; I started painting on walls over 20 years ago, in 1991. I used to live just outside Munich in a small village and started noticing illegal graffiti by the side of the train tracks. I would ride my bike and take photos – I was inspired and I started drawing graffiti.
During my early years with graffiti I mostly painted close to my parents’ home – there were huge abandoned areas. It wasn’t really legal or illegal—no one cared. I developed a lot there, it was my own little microcosm. I was really focused on painting there for about 10 years and after this period I started painting more elsewhere. So I started to travel a lot more after 1999 when I also was involved in the first exhibitions.
For roughly the last 10 years I’ve been making a full-time living with my canvases, painting murals, having exhibitions, and doing illustrations. As for my name, I wanted something simple and ‘Sat’ can be short for ‘satellite’, it’s more of an accident really!
In 2000 I started changing my subject matter, adding more stories and meaning (the last two to three years have been the most important). Today my style is a mixture of abstract and graphic styles (I studied graphic design formally) – most of my ideas are based on natural things. I also like using a blurry graphic effect, you can see it in my mural in Bristol. I’ve blurred the superheroes so it’s not so obvious.
I’m attracted to ironic stories and dark humour. I also like abstract figurative pieces. I like to show contrast. It was really in the last few years that I got bored of just painting characters for the sake of it. That side of graffiti doesn’t interest me so much anymore. Now, for me, the story behind the piece is much more important and that keeps things fresh.
There’s a word in German: momentaufnahme. It means “a moment’s survey or snapshot”. That talks a lot about my art. I once did an interview with the TV station, ARTE, where I explained: I wanted to make an image like you’re pausing a movie. This makes the viewer ask what was going on and question how the story will continue. The story is key!
Each piece for me is like a page in my diary. I remember what was going on at this moment when I painted. I try to put my feelings and emotions in the paintings (they come through naturally when I paint). My abstract work is like a second language for me; it’s a visual language so it’s hard to put into words.
I still have the hunger to paint and get a great deal of joy from it. Art has a function for me – the sense of play keeps my ‘inner child’ alive. I have some commissions coming up and I’m part of the upcoming ‘Futurism 2.0’ show in London. I’ll be travelling a lot in the coming months, including a festival in Zaragoza, Spain, in September and Beirut in October for a large commission with about ten other artists.
It’s quite hard for me to collaborate with people in Munich because there are a lot of people with a more old school mindset. Travel helps me meet with people who are doing more interesting things. I tend to work alone a lot at home, but at these festivals there are more people who really stand out. When we paint together, in the end, it’s not about style so much – it’s about combining energies with different artists.
I want to tell you about my idea for the wall at See No Evil. When artists get invited to festivals we are sometimes treated like superstars and some artists can have big egos. For this reason I interpreted a lot of superhero comic characters; each hero has their own style, technique, look, etc. The artists invited to Bristol are at a very high level and everyone here has their own signature style. Everyone is looking for the biggest wall or the highest spot. There’s a healthy competition; with all of these ideas coming up, it made sense to paint superheroes. These superhero characters have really strong colour combinations, like the red, blue and yellow in Superman; the piece is like a battlefield of colours. That said, the piece is also subtle, otherwise it’s too easy to understand. The characters are not so obvious; I like making people look twice.