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March 2008

It does not happen every day that a graffiti writer has his very own style. Of course, it is the aim of everyone, but the difference of the appearance of graffiti pieces can only be recognized by real insiders. What a pity, we think, because graffiti is too young to already repeat itself, and the limit should not be reached by now. Maybe there had to come a writer from Moscow to show the world that graffiti doesn’t have to look New York style just because it was born there.

The first time he called attention to us was while we worked on STYLEFILE.BLACKBOOK.SESSIONS.#3 and our first scepticism was quickly transformed into euphoria. After some time of observation we finally wanted to know: Who is this man, what’s behind his paintings and what does he think about graffiti – he, who paints so differently than all the others and who grew up so complementary to the roots of graffiti. We are glad he told us ...

Hey Scheme, let’s start the interview with a little small talk. Tell us something about yourself. How old are you, where are you from and when did you start doing graffiti?
My real name is Stanislav. I was born and now live in Moscow. I study design and do some free lance work. I got into graffiti and did my first wall at the age of 15, more exactly in 2004. Since then I have been into it and it has become the main activity of my life. 

How come, a kid in Moscow starts doing graffiti? If I take a look at your style you don’t seem to have these typical influences of the New York Old School history thing …
Graffiti, just as any other part of hip hop culture, appears very fashionable for a teenager. So every teenager proves himself at this age the best he or she can. I have always loved to draw, so when I found out that my class mates from the new college painted on walls, I decided to try it, too. At that time it was just for fun. Nobody really thought about the stuff to paint or the technique. The process was the main thing, new sensations. We were using a cheap paint, and I did my first average wall only half a year later. My photo album starts with that wall. Concerning the influences in Russia, I would say that Europe affects more than New York.

Can you describe how it was to be a graffiti writer in Moscow when you were young, and what has changed until now? 
Starting to paint in Moscow is the same as starting from zero. Today writers can exchange graffiti stuff with Europe. Different magazines are published (“Iron Curtain”, “Code Red”, and others). But before, you could only receive less information about other writers. I remember my emotions when I first saw “Wild Styles” on the Internet. At that time the peak of subway painting activity was over, it seemed like writers were doing a lot and securities just started to realize it, and now with every year it’s getting more and more difficult. The same with streets. If you are stopped by the police with spray-paint in the street, you don’t have to explain that you are walking home from work or would like to paint your bike.

How is the political and social situation in Russia regarding graffiti? Does it cause any problems?

Russian authorities just start to handle with the problem graffiti. Many people still don’t pay any attention to it. This is because the city streets are mainly clean. The buff-squad is really active. Colored squares often defeat by their absurdity. Ha ha sometimes you can notice big tags painted over, because they were over painted right along their outline, which makes them eternalized. Besides, they almost don’t rub anything off, just paint over with a new layer of paint. And trains as well!  Speaking about problems with the police, they can be solved with moderate money, depending on what you have done! No doubt, everything changes in time, law-enforcement authorities become more experienced and start to fight graffiti more seriously, but it’s not yet on a critical level.

Is there any political aspect in what you are doing?
I’m far from politics and my behavior was never affected by politics.

Have you been painting in other countries? What experiences did you have and where are the differences between Moscow and other cities?
Ukraine, in Belarus there are many interesting artists to communicate with. This summer we had a nice and pretty long trip to Europe. It was my first time in Berlin, Paris, Antwerp, and Amsterdam. Everywhere we managed to paint and to talk with famous artists, whose art we really appreciate. I was impressed by the
level of graffiti itself and the activity of some writers. We don’t have it here yet. The difference between the European countries and Russia appears in everything. I think there is a gap of 10-15 years generated by the Iron Curtain and the Soviet time.

Let’s talk about your style. The name of your crew is STYLE KONSTRUKTOR. I think that’s a perfect description of what you are doing. What’s the idea behind your way of constructing letters and words?
STYLE KONSTRUKTOR is a crew of two artists: OSKES and me. We started to cooperate long time before the establishment of the crew. Although our styles are different, they coincide in some way and complete each other. We got a perfect understanding. It is the prime thing for a crew. Originally, STYLE KONSTRUKTOR was a project for the PLANET PROZESS exhibition in Berlin. The idea was that visitors could line up their names using cubes with Cyrillic letters. Each cube side had its alphabet, its style. The project as such revealed the core – achievement of harmony through construction of different styles. As for the forms, this is a complete geometry. Volumes, pseudo-volumes and no perspective. Same module values everywhere. Often the cube form takes a major place and everything else is developed out of it. Even the crew logo partly reflects it. Some more difficult forms are plotted along the grid, that’s why I do sketches on checked paper. I love typography. In most of my works letters generally derive from one form. That’s why they look best when they’re in a row. Sometimes I experiment with flowing one letter into another, as an “evolution of forms”.
There was a time, when letters consisted of stripes and elements made with 10 cm paint rollers. It was very convenient to measure and paint at one time. So the pieces were just of the right size. It doesn’t matter whether it is the outline or a silhouette form, it is very important to avoid unnecessary stuff. No highlights and outlines at the wrong places. The form should dictate, not the outlook of your piece. Simple color schemes, contrast colors. Not always, but ideally it’s like that. So, minimalism in everything. There were also some experiments with sculptures, I try to devote more time to it. It may become my primary occupation in the future. Speaking about joined works, it is either crew works or cooperation with several writers whose styles can be conjoined with mine. Respect to SICKS, 56, ex-AM! I still paint alone most of the time, I walk alone and it is very efficient from the time-saving point of view. You don’t have to fit anyone, just walk and do what you want and where you want. You don’t have to fit anyone, just walk and do what you want and where you want.

What does a perfect SCHEME piece look like?
If there was a perfect SCHEME piece, it most likely would have black outlines, simple letters, on a white background. But I haven’t done perfect pieces yet. There is always something to work upon. As for the technique, it’s always different, depending on tasks, paint, the wall, and often the weather. For example, during winter the paint on the rollers freezes in a thick layer, it doesn‘t  even dry. You can’t paint long time with spray paint on the frost as well. Some forms look pretty good when they are badly filled. In some places, pieces of other writers can harmonize with the whole wall outlook. It can be rarely but I’m ready for experiments. 100 % quality is not always important. The main thing is to avoid anything unnecessary in your piece. That’s why my perfect piece will be a single work, not collective.

So, if we had a perfect SCHEME piece, could you describe where the perfect place for it would be?

The perfect place is a flat wall, proportionally complying with the piece. I suppose it might be about 8 to 3 meters. But I have never seen such walls, as well as other which could be ideal. Sometimes the place is not as important as the piece. It is difficult to write in, one into another. I strive for it, and this is the future – correlation of piece and wall.

Are you interested in trains?
No. But I think that if I would have get into train-writing when I just started graffiti, I would probably keep on doing it. Now they are of no interest for me. I doubt that my pieces would look better if they would be on the side of a train. And the result doesn’t serve inputs. Painting for emotions – many other things bring me much more emotions.

Your style looks different, in a positive way. I could imagine that it has not always been easy to go your own way when everybody is going in another direction. But, what do you think in the end … Was it worth the way?
My style is something that is inside of me. I remember the very first piece consisted of straight lines with corners, same as now. So I suppose, there is no other way. I always need something new. It is the main stimulus for development. Creative development may be divided in periods, lasting for about half a year each, but every time the periods get shorter and shorter. A new period starts when I reach a deadlock and invent something totally different, later it appears in most of the following works. Sometimes I return to old forms, updating and developing them. It can be continued endlessly, but in the end, generally, the style looks almost the same as before. Enough time has passed to discover myself and to understand which direction to choose. I often hear that styles are very different, but accuracy, rhythm, construction in line, this is presented in all works, and comes from the inside. I can‘t do it the other way. I never repeat ideas on walls. It can be in sketches but not on walls. Many of my works have similar forms, almost identical, but they look very different. I try to make each of them simple to a maximum, to take away any excessive details, that’s why they become like that. Valuable, and the only way for me, is constant development. Otherwise it all will end up. It is difficult to raise activity after a pause, even if it‘s just a short one. It is inappropriate to run after the quantity, when you don‘t have ideas. Many people strive for quantity just because it’s fashion. If it was different, people would do different things. There is very little original stuff. When you only see definite styles you start to do the same-looking stuff. Of course in Moscow, the beginner doesn’t feel as much pressure, as for example in Berlin. But Ukrainian styles, for instance, look very much alike. While nobody in Moscow does the same – styled trash, like most of the writers in Ukraine. Over the time style starts to appear in everything: from look to lifestyle.

Which other writer’s works are you interested in?

I like a lot of different stuff! I’m greatly impressed by the styles that are absolutely opposite to mine. A different matter is that I for myself can’t do it the same way. It’s important when works are not over-sophisticated. I estimate everything I see from an emotional point of view. Of course you change your views when you get more experienced. But you have to know much stuff to assess the work right: Like, why does someone do it like this and not the other way, his attitude to the work process, a bit of style history after all. In most cases you don’t know it at all, so you just see the finished work. That’s why I bear on emotional criteria. And in time it tricks me less. Regarding other people’s opinion about my art, I totally don’t care what most of them think. The opinion of just a couple of people is of real interest for me. These are the people, whose art I respect a lot, and with whom I have a very good understanding. Yes, I care about what some foreign writers think of my art, but I don’t have the chance to know it by now. Unfortunately many artists, who were really cool before, stopped their activity or just stopped writing. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because they got new interests: work, family, or probably just laziness. It’s a pity. I hope it will not happen to me, because I don’t know the real reasons for it. If someone’s style becomes “respected” and he stops developing, thinking that he has done enough – he is a fool. There are always enough people who will do better and more. I remember that when I just started, I heard that the main thing for a writer was to find his own style. In practice it occurs to be the most important thing. There are some people who want to stop writing but their attempts fail and they start to paint even more. Graffiti knows how to wait.
What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of graffiti?

Graffiti tourism is very cool! When you can come and stay at some artist’s place just because you also write. Unfortunately, sometimes you get to know some bad people behind the mask of good style, but this is very rare.
If you see that a writer has a clue, he is usually fine in everyday life as well. The most negative part is the problem with your health. People start to care about it too late. I’m thinking of painting more with masks. Graffiti is some kind of illness, too. One day it will fill your life to an extent that there is no way back. And you shouldn’t prevent it.

Some science fiction: If you imagine the future of graffiti. Where will it all go and … much more interesting, where do you want it to be?
If we look at Moscow, each year the scale of graff grows more and more. People, who start painting now, when there is always something going on around, are getting involved and develop much quicker than it was the case before. So the future is after the enormous development of the culture. There’s no doubt that measures against illegal graffiti will develop as well, but it won’t change anything. The interest will grow the same way and the ways to reach goals for someone, too. There is an opinion that everything has already been invented in styles and you don’t have to try to invent. But that’s not true, there is no limit. Probably all ways of expression were developed but there are still so much ideas. The existence of people who will do it is very important. Communication development, when you know who is in the scent and what he does, doesn’t interfere with you art, as many think. On the contrary, if I see someone doing this stuff, I consciously avoid it. And what can be better than being inspired by really cool works? It’s great to travel to Europe from time to time, to some jams or exhibitions, because it’s not that often that people come here.

Let’s forget graffiti for a minute and take a look at life in general. Do you like what you see and if you could change anything, what would it be?
Once my crew member introduced me like that: “This guy is a real robot!” Of course I’m not like that, but there is always a choice between doing graffiti and doing other stuff. This is a fine line. Otherwise one can become a graffiti-robot for sure. Writing is the only thing that I can trust, it will not betray, so it’s stupid to raise a straight question, the choice will not be in someone’s favor. My parents understood it quite a long time ago. As for my life position – everyone has its own. Everyone has different aims. You can achieve anything, it just depends on how much you are ready to pay for it. I don’t really like what I see around, but It’s impossible to change anything. Many guys don’t know what to do in their free time, such lifestyle is being imposed. And also fashion is evil. I try not to do unnecessary things. No drugs, cigarettes, alcohol. Not that I care for my health, I simply think that I don’t need it. If I could be inspired by that, maybe I would use it. I like very sweet hot tea and chocolate. Ha ha, glucose is a stimulus for my brain. And Russian rap, oh yes! So no night life, I hate the club atmosphere. I’d rather sit at home and sketch. As for the circle of friends, it decreased after I had gotten into graffiti. And I don’t have a need for it, like I had before. Вy the way, there is a crew in Moscow named No Future Forever, this is my answer to this question.

What is your main lifestyle position?
It’s important that your life time doesn’t pass away for empty stuff. If you do something, you have to be totally concentrated and committed to it. It’s better to do something for half a day but finish it, than extend it for a week, paying really attention to your work just an hour per day. I hate lots of little stuff that takes too much of my time. If I go to rest, nothing should interfere, to have a real result.

What are you doing besides graffiti?
My extra work is some designing activity. But I try to pay as less time to it as I can. I still live with my parents and there is no money pressure. I never want to work with the habitual Russian schedule from 10:00 to 18:00. It’s better to have less money but to paint more. No special interests, but I used to be into skateboarding and basketball before.

What does a normal day in your life look like?
I don’t have any day schedule. It’s always different. Usually it is a short running and physical exercises early in the morning. I’m not a sportsman, but I think it makes a pace for your day. Then study, painting and other stuff. I spend pretty much time at home, because work goes much better in habitual atmosphere. I would love to have my workshop, but still I haven’t had the opportunity. I rarely can go to bed early, that’s why a lack of sleep has become a constant feeling. There are many examples of health destruction, but it‘s just a pity to spend so much time for sleep.

Anything else to add?

My respect goes to all those who do graffiti in my city and in the whole world! 
www.stylekonstruktor.com – watch out for updates!

This Interview has been published in

Stylefile #26:
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