SWK is renowned as one of Rio’s genuine style writers and graffiti stalwarts, with instantly recognizable, brightly coloured pieces and beautifully structured letters. I was fortunate to hang out and paint with him in Florianópolis last year, where I discovered that as well as being a talented artist, he is also an outgoing and friendly guy who has played generous host to many international writers wanting to paint in the teeming city of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
SWK does not speak much English and I speak even less Portuguese, but our mutual love of the language of graffiti transcends dialect and allowed us to put together this interview for you. –Dirty Harry.
SWK, hello my friend!
Hello Mr Palms!
I know you hail from Rio De Janeiro, tell us a little bit about your beginnings?
My story begins in the favela known as ‘Morro dos Prazeres’, in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood of Rio De Janeiro where I was born and rasied and still live today. When I was growing up adults and children did not have much choice of entertainment and culture, football was something practiced by all my friends leaving me frustrated because I could not play nice ha ha, and still don’t! At 11 years old I had my first contact with “pichação” because I always looked at what was around me. There was too much to repair what had already happened in the streets…
As I got older I noticed that something different was happening on the streets of Rio de Janeiro; huge rounded letters with various designs, panels… Graffiti was coming to Rio!
So like many of us you started to notice graffiti on the walls around you and it captivated you. How did you you become involved?
I frequented a place called the ‘Zoeira’ that is in the center of town. There I met some people who did graffiti and I was interested to go deeper into this universe. I started to converse with them, gathering some basic information, then in 2000 these same people would give a workshop in the community where I lived for three months. This was a good opportunity to learn and I would never look back, been painting ever since.
In graffiti many kids come and go in a very short time, but for some of us it grabs us like an addiction and never lets go. Would you say you are in it for the long haul?
That same year I did my first piece, around 2000, it was just so exciting and something totally new to me, something that my heart directed me to; an eternal love! Graffiti in Rio de Janeiro is still something very new, if I remember correctly was only around 1990 when it started. The evolution and love for graffiti grows every day in the city, and I value this art at every moment to be an important tool for people who do not have much opportunity in their lives. I can say that graffiti saved my life, thank God!
Internationally the favelas of Brazil have a fearsome reputation for being very dangerous places, yet you live and paint there regularly. You must have experienced the truth of it all; the good, the bad and the ugly. Tell us what it is like to write graffiti in these places?
The truth is that the slums are very frowned upon by the media but it is not always all evil as the media makes it seem. I might be afraid to visit the U.S.A or Europe and suffer a terrorist bombing if I believed everything the news portrays, but wow ha ha ha… If you get too attached to the media you will miss opportunities to know different places and cultures such as is found in the slums, where the receptivity of the people is one of the warmest in the world.
Many of us have brought friends to paint and never had a problem here, of course there is a possibility, just as it is possible in any other place. Painting in the community where I live for me is something super natural because I’m painting in the place where I know most people are with me and who will have the same feeling.
I have been told you sometimes play host to visiting writers from overseas, they must have some interesting reactions to painting in your city. Can you share any good stories with us?
Painting here is something totally relaxing; the people here enjoy graffiti and I think graffiti writers from other countries who have visited have enjoyed the vibe. Adverse reactions are very rare, many writers are fascinated with the involvement of the public.
One wild story is about a crazy gringo who was ‘asked’ to paint a character of a dealer. The dealer was there watching him while he painted the portrait, holding a grenade and a pistol during the painting ha ha ha! He was hurrying like crazy! There was no problem though, the gangster liked it.
Most writers that paint for a long time seem to catch the travelling bug. It is impossible not to want to go and see for yourself, the scenes you have seen in magazines and nowadays, on the internet. Have you had the chance to travel much yourself? Any plans to do so in the near future?
Of course, travelling is always good and never hurts but it is expensive to do! The main place I have travelled to outside of Brazil to paint is Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was very good to know another culture and make new friends. This year I have a possible trip planned to Miami and another for Europe. I will wait to see if it goes ahead, I hope so!
For those not lucky enough to have visited Brazil, your country has some dope, talented writers who may not get a lot of exposure outside of their hometown. Whom would you recommend we should check for?
Ha ha ha yeah dude this is difficult because there are many good writers here, I’m afraid of forgetting some but check out FINS, AFA, CH2, AJUMA, TARM, SNEK, BTS, VALEN… And there is many many more!
Thanks for chatting with Artillery my friend, any final words?
Thank you for the opportunity and I look forward to painting and beers with you soon!
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