Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday ProFile: Tomo

Last year, Remi/Rough gave an interview for the Tate Modern’s street art exhibition that touched on graffiti’s arrival in the United Kingdom. He mentioned break dancers, hip hop culture, and (of course)Subway Art. Once the medium arrived in England, writers added their own touches to create unique styles. Tomo’s arrival on the scene parallels Remi’s experience. “I’ve always liked scribbling on things,” he confesses. “As a teen, I would walk around town tagging up at night, going to hip hop nights, and watching Wild Style.” After working as a glass collector in local night clubs, he’d take off and paint in old tunnels or bridges before heading home.
“It wasn’t like I was particularly great as a traditional graffer,” Tomo admits. “Besides, I always had other creative ideas floating around in my head.” For a while, he took a break from the scene before he schemed up new ways to hit the streets. “I reached a point where I felt the need to evolve,” he explains. “I was drawing and painting as myself by day. By night, I donned a pseudonym and crept into the shadows. After some contemplation, I ditched the double personality and unified these two lifestyles.”
Tomo started with stickers and worked his way up. As his stickers became more intricate, he turned them into posters. “The poster is such an accessible medium unlike tagging,” he argues. “It can be used to cover a whole neighborhood quite efficiently. Years ago, I had earned a bit of money by flyposting for local bands and club promoters, so this seemed like a fitting progression.” Unlike his early graffiti days, Tomo feels like he hit his stride with street art. “I really felt like this was my time,” he insists. “I was in the right place. Here were dozens of artists demonstrating some really different and creative ways of getting up. It would’ve been nearly impossible to be unaffected by all that.”
Although he possesses graphic design sensibilities, Tomo prefers the path of greatest resistance as opposed to making easy cash. “I became disillusioned with graphic design, which for a large part is just used to sell shit people don’t need and make uncool companies look cool,” he says. “I didn’t exactly choose the most profitable of paths, but it’s not like I care much for that anyway. Whenever I haven’t been able to afford the right materials, I would often take to improvising in one way or another. Over time, this recycling ethic has become a prominent feature and much more important to my work than merely saving money. Transforming waste into art is a kind of alchemy.”
Sometimes, things get wild in the street. After one of his friends died, Tomo and an accomplice hit the road and tagged the deceased’s name everywhere. "It started in a quiet fashion," he recalls. "We'd just paint on roadsides next to other hitchhiker graffiti, service stations, toilets and the like. Eventually, we got to Berlin and felt the need to bring things up a few notches in order to give a proper tribute. We took turns rolling out massive letters. As we were leaving through a gap in a fence, the security guard was right there in front of him. We walked right past him and he gave us this completely shocked 'Oh dear, I'm not doing my job!' look. We gave him a nod and replied with a 'Yes, you're completely right and now you're too late' look. It was magic."
In the future, expect to see more projects with a creative twist from Tomo. "My next project is going to heavily involve the work of the security firm I run," he hints. "We're called Tomo Securities. Our favorite colors are black and yellow. We like to hold it down with a bit more style than your usual security firms and we're coming soon to a neighbourhood near you."

Thanks, Tomo! For more updates, check his website regularly. That's all for now! I'm off to New Orleans for Mardi Gras on Sunday, so I'll report from the Deep South all next week. Have a good one!

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