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November 2007

The beginning of an interview is always quite hard – the question after the first question poses itself anew and anew. Mostly you use standard questions like “when?”, “who?”, “how?”, “what?” or “why?”, helping yourself with a portfolio.
While interviewing the Swiss Ata Bozaci, in graffiti scene also known as TOAST, the situation changes. It’s not less difficult, but different.
TOAST is an incredible all-round-artist from Bern. Most people know his characters, but those who are more involved also appreciate his styles – no matter if classic 2d graffiti or 3d styles; design-interested may know his works at atalier.com, while he also earns reputation in art scene.
Those who have already met him – socially or for business matters – might not have failed to notice his sense of (black) humour and his professionalism. To sum it up: He’s a real nice and creative person.

Ata, which came first, the chicken or the egg? I mean, you came from drawing to graffiti or was it vice versa?
I started drawing when I was five. So the question about the chicken and the egg is superfluous.

You have been into graffiti for almost 20 years now! Can you personally divide this time into chapters?
20 years? That must be the reason why most people address me formally. I think dividing into chapters has something definite. I’d rather call it daily learning processes. I’m an excessive person who always needs a formal kick. I get it out of travelling, observing, gaining impressions and drawing. But there are also a lot of failures I made which I’d prefer being a closed chapter.

What was your greatest failure?
Like Caesar used to say: You have to lose a lot of wars to finally win one. I already botched up a lot of paintings last year.

Talking graffiti – is there a certain style you see your future in? Or will it stay a mixture of all?
To cultivate many self-willed styles does mean to handle different languages to communicate with. This is a good reinsurance for an illustrator. For a long time now I have been dealing with letters in space and their effect in size and their resulting shortenings and deceptions.

Regarding graffiti, is there something that you have not tried yet? If so, why is that?
There are a lot of things on my list. But I feel like I don’t have the required ripeness. At present DARE (Sigi von Koeding) and I are supported by Gunter Sachs, which offers new possibilities to romp.

So you’re not getting tired … Can you give an example?
At the moment I’m working on sculptures. It’s not that easy.

While painting a wall, what is most fun?
Being in front of my piece and doing the outline with a well-covering colour.

When we go back in time several years, we find that back in the days there were just a half-handful of 3d stylers. Nowadays, a lot of pieces are painted three-dimensionally. How many artists can you name which impress you?
There are a lot of interesting approaches in the 3d graffiti world but a lot of guys from the new generation see 3d styles as the initial position. I’m convinced that those who have been engaged to styles of letters for any length of time will see that the most difficult thing is to rest simple but to “burn” anyhow. There are not many who I found remarkable lately.

Where do you think is graffiti going to?
To Poland?

Tell us something about your hometown. Do you notice anything from there or are you rather out of it?
I got two or three guys with whom I paint regularly. Apart from that there’s my crew TWS. I became more chary.

How often do you still go “out”?
Once a week. Otherwise I stay at home and draw and read non-stop.

Which people have accompanied you on your path? Are you still in contact with them?
There are a lot of people who are really close to me and whom I have known since I was a child. But caring about family relations and friendships gets more and more difficult because I’m often en route.

For many years now I have been enjoying your characters. I remember a perfectly worked out character with some neon red high lights at the MZEE jam in Cologne in the 90s, or a freaky fly which licks your name in some powder on a table. After that you have painted very minimalist characters. Where do all those (positively) ill ideas come from?
Maybe I know the negative perversions of the advanced Neanderthal man. It’s easy for me to react to this in an illustrative form.
But I don’t consider myself as being especially funny. I’m not a comedian or something like that.
My strong point is rather to so see and combine everyday things which result in a visual wittiness when composing them together.

Let’s be honest: no drugs?
How honest must I be?

You got a pet?
Yeah, I do. AMANZILLA (species Kara Kurba).

Amanzilla also is a graphic orientated species – do you take her with you to work?
It’s difficult to let it at home because it always needs to be fed. Here at our office we fitted out a nice enclosure where she can romp about and get herself well.

Your office is the company Atalier, a design studio with several employees. The name presumes that you set the tone. Since when does the company exist and how is the constellation?
Atalier does have an exciting history. During this time I improved my mind a lot. Today we reached a point where new and pioneering decisions are needed.

So Atalier became history?
I had to decide between advertising and art. I chose art.

On the home page of atalier.com you can read at present: “The serious side of life shadows all of us. All the more important are the short breaks in everyday life; those precious five minutes when you forget everything around you and simply have fun. Atalier GmbH in Bern specialized in those carefree five minutes” Do you also take those precious minutes during all of your work on different projects?
It seems that taking time without having a bad conscience became a real luxury in our society of today. But I allow myself this luxury.

And what do you do during this free time?
I have been skateboarding intensively for 13 year now. It gives me the opportunity to relax. Cooking, feeding and annoying my neighbours with my electric guitar are my other forms of therapy.

Right now, in autumn 2007 your book “BLACK INK – Illustrations of Ata ›TOAST‹ Bozaci” is being published. It shows a wide cross-section of your long career. Like the name lets presume it is published as a black and white printed title, and does therewith renounce to colours. How did you come up with this courageous idea?
The challenge was to find a language or a common denominator to give the book a consistency. The reduction to the essential. Nobody will miss the colours.

So, one needs to presume that a large part of your graffitis does without colours. Offhand, I don’t think of too many right now …
So you haven’t seen the Pyrochimps yet. Most sprayed works of this project are black, white and red.

Every artist who wants to publish a book about his works might think of one question: When is the right time? Why do you think the time was right for you now?
Toast: I already attempted to publish a book about seven years ago. But at that time some pieces of the puzzle were missing.
Amanzilla, my pet, has archived all of my works during a year. This has been a good initial position for a book.

The book is dedicated to your family – normally parents don’t like to see their kids spending their spare time with a spray can. Were there some conflicts in your family, too?
My parents are behind me.

What would you do if you’d find some hidden spray cans in your kid’s wardrobe or in the cellar?
I’d grasp the cans to go out to paint.

Back to the book: How’d you define the target group?
Toast: People with taste. The book addresses to all who have followed my works for some time and who also want to see some unpublished material.
To many people I asked riddles with my diversity. This book hopefully helps to find the solution.

How long did it take from the first idea to the book’s publication?
Toast: It has been a long process. Maybe one year of intense work.

While working on the book, you and your crew mate DARE also have done a really interesting commission work at the estate of Gunter Sachs. This work is partly shown in the book but can also be seen in some media like “Der Spiegel” or “Architectural Digest”. How did this come about?
Toast: It actually happened by chance and due to my long-lasting friendship with Sigi. He asked me if I wanted to realize this project with him. Since I haven’t had much lively contact with him at that time, it was a good opportunity to see each over a long period of time. This was in December 2006. It was about designing a private apartment in the castle at Lake Wörthersee. We had much freedom and were allowed to paint everything from head to feet. Buy the AD magazine if you want to know more about, because it’s well documented in there.

Gunter Sachs already showed that he has a knack for new art talents. Just before the huge hype begins, he already got in. Thus he’s lucky to have such great names like Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein in his private collection. It cannot be bad sign to be courted by an art collector like him …
Toast: You’re right. In the beginning I was suspicious. But the master proved that he was a generous man. And for an artist this is a challenge and a unique opportunity to get into art market.

If you should choose a definition of yourself, what would you choose: writer, graphic designer, illustrator or artist?

Toast: I am TOAST.

And if this toast was only allowed to keep on doing one thing, which one would it be? Doing spray paints, working with the computer or drawing with a pencil and a brush?
Toast: Drawing with a pencil and a brush. It’s the most healthy of those.

This Interview has been published in

Stylefile #25:
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