I’m a longstanding believer that ‘if you paint what you feel, then others will feel what you paint.’
There’s a power every writer holds to communicate so much more than just their letters on wall, a creative license that can be easily forfeited with too much preparation. While ‘style’ (the individual edge that every writer strives to develop and establish) can be blueprinted by letterforms seen in an outline, there are so many layers of manic ‘on the spot’ energy hurled at the surface which define the end result. The way a writer reacts to their environment at the time of painting is how their style truly unfolds, but unfortunately for many observers this is sidelined by the finished photo as the final is what is most magificent. These momentary improvisations tailor the masterpiece to be exactly what it is; a semipermanent artwork that can never be flawlessly duplicated, even by the artist themselves.
SEMOR never takes a sketch to the wall. He’s all about the moment, pure creationism.
He is a positivist; an enthusiastic and soulful human, a go-getter with his sights set firmly on the things that matter most in his life. It’s a pleasure to promote the doings of those who’re so eager to give something back, despite the earth’s population at large often failing to see the bigger picture. You need only to take in a handful of his works to witness the nature of his character as I think SEMOR is exactly what he paints.
In the early stages of Artillery’s online digest I dropped a short spotlight on SEMOR’s work. This interview is a snapshot in time of what he has been up to since then, but more importantly, where his head is at in the grander scheme of things.
Where are you from SEMOR? Tell us more about your neck of the woods.
I’m from Germany. I moved from a smaller town to Hennef which is near Cologne (Köln). The scene in Hennef is very small, but there are also more artists in Bonn and Köln. I would say that Cologne doesn’t have that ‘typical’ or recognisable style like Hamburg or Berlin. Cologne has a nice mix with a lot of different kind of styles. People from different cities moved to Cologne to study and that’s why there’s a blend with different types of artistic influences. I really like that.
Was there a strong graffiti scene there when you were young?
The graffiti scene in the city where I was born was really small too. Close to my town was a writer named MAZE. At this time his characters and styles were insane. He’s now one of the most famous tattoo artists in Germany.
I started with some tracksides and also hit a small wall quite regularly in my town, but mostly to practice my can control. That was a great time, a time when you had to find out everything by yourself, experimenting with which caps you could use (hairspray etc)…
What are your earliest memories of noticing graffiti?
The film ‘Style Wars’ and some tracksides on my way into Cologne. There was a guy who wrote SOVE. He was up heavily at this time… great letters!
When did you actually start painting? Did you keep photos of your first piece?
I started with tags and sketching in 1993-1994, but didn’t keep it up continuously. My first name was NES. I have some old pictures but the quality at this time was so bad!
You strike me as quite a zealous human; super enthusiastic and productive. Were you always so active as a youngster? I guess what I’m asking here is, what did you apply yourself to before you found graffiti?
Thank you. Yeah, I mean, I love this thing… I get to create my own small world. To me it’s better than soccer or whatever. You have the can in your hand and you do what you love. ‘Love what you do and do what you love’… in your own way.
You know when I started drawing with chalk in my room I didn’t have the faintest idea it was called graffiti or ‘writing.’ Some time after that I saw “Style Wars” and that was the beginning of me, myself and I… pure passion, heart blood.
You seem to handle your addiction quite well. Do you find that it takes over other parts of your life?
I love it, one hundred percent… but I also try to give my attention to my first love; my girl, and my family and friends.
So you’ve got a longterm thing happening? Has your thirst for painting impacted on your relationship much?
She’s fascinated about my passion for something like this, but we haven´t had so much time together as a result. I try to be on her side as much as I can. I love you baby… thank you so much for everything!
I know you’re big into travelling. Tell us of your exploits. Any favourite cities? Hotspots?
I love traveling and it´s important to see different cultures. I´m lucky that I have the opportunity to travel to different countries. I was in Bratislava where I met AROE, GARY and SOBEK and KCIS. I was in Vienna at NYCHOS’ place where I painted with him and VIBES from London… but it’s not only about painting a wall, it´s more like sightseeing! You will get to know so much more about a city as a graffiti artist. Favourite hotspots would St. Neots, London, Copenhagen, New York, Buenos Aires… there are so many great places!
You recently got back from a trip to the Mecca. Tell me about New York City, any major highlights on this trip? This wasn’t your first journey to the motherland was it?
New York isn’t like it was in the ’70s or ’80s anymore but I love it anyway because I have some great guys over there and it’s always a good feeling to be there. I travel to New York every year. I think this was seventh time to visit ‘the city that never sleeps’. Soho is pretty nice, a little bit like Europe; old buildings with nice architecture. I stayed on my last trip at SEN 2’s place for a couple of days, South Bronx: projects, homeless people, rough neighbourhood and disproportionately foregoing police, but I never felt in trouble. The people in that neighbourhood are nice and helpful. I did a wall with SEN 2 and LOGEK in Hunts Point/South Bronx, also two walls in Queens, one with MERES and a wall in Greenspoint/Brooklyn with HOMBRE and HOACS.
New York is definitely the ‘native town’ of graffiti, but graffiti is not really present. Zero tolerance prevails in NYC.
You’ve mentioned to me that your job has NOTHING to do with art or anything creative, and that this serves you well when you finally break out to paint. Do you think keeping you passions separate from your work is essential?
Yes, I work in an office and I like it. No art, no graffiti… nothing. Completely different. I work also in an art school where I do some workshops with kids and disabled people. That is a great experience. I try to share a little bit of my passion for graffiti writing.
It’s hard to live without writing, but for me it holds more valve to drain the pressure of my everyday life.
Tell me more about TAD. This isn’t the Top And Dope crew from Russia is it?
I’m not part of the TAD crew from Russia. I’m the founder of TAD in Germany. This was in 1994. We have the same crew name but there is no problem or disrespect with these guys and us. These guys rock it to the fullest, respect to the boys!
Your style is very geometric; lots of boldly-weighted shapes, all interwoven and layered with technical connections. Do you apply any advanced mathematical theorems to your sketches? Were you a puzzle-maker in a previous life?
Ha ha, no I’m not a puzzle maker! I never paint with a sketch. Every line is what I feel around me at the moment while I’m painting. I love to play with lines, geometric things in my letters. I won’t stay like this forever, I want to go on and on… to develop my lines further. These lines are like my life; direct, honest, carefree… with a lot of fun.
Do you have any major influences you’d like to mention?
I get my influences from everything that’s happened in my life; good and bad things, love and disappointments.
Let’s talk about some fundamentals. How important do you think colours are? Do you think style is formed by the way a writer uses colours? Or do you think colours are a bonus, something that should only be used to accentuate a style?
Colours are definitely a bonus. I think a good style lives without colours.
A black/white style is like a naked human, we are all the same, human = style. If we fill colours in we can hide our mistakes behind the colours. If you do only your outlines, you show who you really are… but then we all LOVE colours.
I’m continually surprised how writers find original and inventive new approaches to graffiti. For the most part, a lot of graffiti seems to mirror something thats been popularised somewhere else on the planet. How important do you think having originality is?
It’s very important. You want to be distinct and standout from the others. You will find similar effects from other artists in every piece, but that’s why graffiti grows. I evolve things while I’m painting, I do it in my way… in my style! That’s part of developing your style, both in graffiti and in yourself.
I couldn’t agree with you more. I think there’s a universal feeling from a lot of older and developed writers that kids don’t seem to have a grasp on how much work is actually required to become ‘good’ at graffiti. What are your thoughts on this?
The scene has changed a lot. There have emerged new possibilities, because of different brands and the level of technology. When I started you had to discover everything for yourself, which can you could use for what purpose. Now you go into a store and there’s six or seven different brands in one store! You have all these different caps, powerful colours and all these high quality magazines. To work all that out for yourself, to put your heart blood into it, that was for me the reason to stay strong to the scene and to go on. I saw so many people coming and going, maybe because they´re bored?! They start writing… and then stop because they find out it needs some time to get better and better. One step to the next!
Well aside from hard work, list three points that a younger or aspiring writer should focus on?
Respect (not only for other artists). Honesty. Morality.
Got any big plans for the future? World domination, or are you happy to sit by humbly and hone your skills?
No, everything will continue as it is. I´m very happy how my life has gone so far. If I can be with my girl, can still paint, can be free, doing my thing, then this will be perfect.
Now I know we share a love for good quality beats. What’s your favourite flavour?
I love dubstep. Perfect beats for doing the first outlines.
Ha, that definitely explains the swing in those letters! So do you have any plans to visit down under?
Hopefully in December. I would love to come mate… “time will tell!”
Well we’d certainly be happy to have you SEMOR. Any last words or shoutouts?
Thank you Jimmi… you’re still on top!!! Big up to the Artillery team, thank you guys! Love to my baby and thank you for being on my side. Big thanks to my mum and my sister… I love you! Thanks to Ironlak. Thanks to the inventor of cement and spray cans. Big up to: STORM, KAK, GASTON, BABAK and ARASH and DER AZUBI (Dedicated Store Cologne), MAZE, DE BANANENSPRAYER, KKADE, JEMO, THER, Mr. WOODLAND, PESK, HOMBRE, KID CROW, PLAQUE, JUPITER, DVICE, DESA and JONES, SIRAS, POUT, AROE, GARY, SEN 2, MERES, HOER, ESKO, BEAD, NEW 2, OGRE, SOBEK, KCIS, NYCHOS, VIBES, WERT 159, SETER, MERLYN, ICOLE, BEAT, BUMS, SMUG, CEON, PIXLJUICE, NASK, RIFLE, SERMON, SEIM and all the guys I forgot.
Thanks to all the people I met. ‘Thank you’ may only be a phrase to some, but not for me. It’s for showing respect, love and honesty to the good guys! Peace!
Ha ha, nice work mate. All the best, we hope to see you soon!
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