Who are some little known grafitti pioneers?

Street art - Encounter with the Leipzig graffiti artist Snow

A few emails have been exchanged in the past few weeks. Since the last one, the request for a meeting and an interview has been in the room. But there has been radio silence for a week. Did the last email penetrate too deeply into Snow's carefully guarded anonymity? If you ask people who is behind the pseudonym, you usually never get the same answer. Various newspapers have already reported on him. Sometimes he was young, sometimes old, sometimes in prison. A sprayer friend who has been active for many years knows a lot of rumors, but even he has never met Snow. Snow is safe because nobody really knows him. Maybe he wants to keep that and is not interested in a meeting?

But then the phone rings, a suppressed number, of course. Harry answers and we make an appointment for the interview. Big surprise, at the end he says: “We'll all be there!”.

On the occasion of a book project about Snow, he agreed to answer a few questions - questions about the artist Snow. Sure, graffiti is damage to property, but it's also an art form that is almost half a century old. And snow? He happens to be one of the pioneers of the German graffiti scene.

Friday evening - the meeting point is one of these hip bars on Eisenbahnstraße. Harry is already waiting and navigating us to the table. There are a handful of people sitting there. During the first conversations it becomes immediately clear: The gentleman in the cap on the right is something like the head of the gang. In the course of the evening he has the highest proportion of speaking. To my great surprise, he informed me right at the beginning that the interview would only take place by email. Today they just wanted to make sure that the police would show up instead of a journalist. After an hour, you assure each other of mutual sympathy and good cooperation, and you say goodbye. Conclusion of the evening: Snow is a group.

None of the active Snows are older than 35

A lot of emails will go back and forth in the coming weeks. Many of them come from the pen of my sprayer buddy (many thanks at this point), who simply knows better about the subject. We write about the beginnings of graffiti culture. Snow himself has visited the strongholds of the art form: "In the mecca of graffiti, New York City, as well as in important cities for European graffiti such as Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin, we have of course left our mark." It is certainly exciting to visit the birthplace of your own Culture to make a pilgrimage and see the first graffiti. But Leipzig also has a bit of history to offer.

As a veteran of the Leipzig scene, Snow knows places where graffiti of the first generations can be found: “There are still some to be found on old bridges on the S-Bahn line. It probably doesn't bother anyone. On the S-1 line between Gohlis S-Bahn station and Coppiplatz there are some from the 90s. ”Okay, Snow has been there since the beginning, but hand on heart. At the meeting, it was impossible to avoid the fact that none of the active Snows were older than 35 years. When asked whether Snow still consists of the same members as at the beginning or whether there has been a generation change, the answer is kept open: “People come, people go. Some things change, some things stay ".

But if you think about it more closely, the answer is not as meaningless as it seems: At that time in the pub, the genuinely personable gentleman with a cap told in a different context that youthful recklessness was necessary for spraying. As soon as you are older, have family obligations, want to keep your job and are no longer physically fit, it is time for most sprayers to retire. The risk of being caught is then too great. Lifestyle is no longer compatible with life, just like climbing scaffolding and fences all night.

Most dangerous project in Moscow

Obviously, this kind of art goes hand in hand with adrenaline, the thrill of leaving the “illegal canvas” undamaged in good time. Does the amount of property damage actually play a role? Snow skilfully wriggles out of the loop when he replies: “Damaging something is not in our interest. We're changing one thing. Changes in the matter fit better. ”So-called“ Wholetrains ”are the supreme discipline in the scene. In a short time, all the wagons of a train are decorated with a large picture. That is why Snow describes the “Wholetrain”, which he manufactured in the Moscow Metro, as his most dangerous and costly project.

One or the other reader will now shake their head and dismiss graffiti as pure vandalism. But one thing is certain: art is not only beautiful and on canvas. Art appears in many different guises. If you look at places where a lot of graffiti can be found, creative people are often concentrated there. What would New York be without this art, which was and is an expression of a youth culture? Graffiti turns demolition houses into colorful fantasy castles, into imposing open-air museums.

Snow has made it his business to make his own signature as the basis of his art. Anyone who has always wondered what the name stands for: “We always wanted to paint as much as possible and in all directions of our surroundings. An acronym from the cardinal points results in SNOW and since the snow that has fallen covers everything, this in turn fits the first thought. "

Different artists, different styles

Snow has developed further in his art form. If you know from the past the fiber-sized "bombings" in chrome and black and the small signatures or "tags" quickly written on with a felt pen, there are many different styles today. Rainbow-colored ornate works that are reminiscent of the so-called “wild style” can now be found just as much as “blockbusters” and thick, round “bubble” writings. But that only covers a small part of the range of Snows in the meantime. You can also call your art old school.

Logistically, the abundance of graffiti that he produces is certainly difficult to manage. Snow explains that quantity is possible because there are different artists behind the different styles. Nevertheless, there has always been a stylistic red thread at Snow. It is based on the classics of style writing. One can make a clear boundary with more modern types of art. No Banksy templates and political slogans have crept into his pieces. “Strictly the dirty street level!” Snow defines his own style, no ski-ski, street-ready pieces should stay that way. At the same time, Snow has high standards for himself: "For us, tension, stability and design are important."

But where does the fascination for decorating letters come from? Isn't it more challenging to create pictures than to spray the same word over and over again? Snow doesn't see a big difference: “It's the same thing. Those who paint representational pictures also sign them. So the author is known, which seems to be important to him. Anyone who associates their work with their name is a narcissist. We don't take it easy. ”In addition, in his opinion, the power of writing should not be despised:“ It defines us human beings. What is written takes on a greater meaning and remains in consciousness longer. "

Everyone can be Snow

In this context he also writes of faith. At first it sounds very spiritual for a sprayer gang 'straight from the street', until you notice the big “Religion called Snow” pieces in some parts of the city. Does Snow see himself as a graffiti missionary? Might be. When asked in one of the last emails how one actually becomes a member of the Snow team and whether it is related to the above train of thought, Snow replies: “We don't want to give too much away, but everyone can / should do as he / she likes I would like to. ”Answers to these and other questions may be provided by the book about Snow, which is currently in progress. After all, we now know: Everyone can be a Snow!

What exactly is the book about? Snow summarized it for us: “The focus of the book is on the work of the last four years in Leipzig. The working title is 'all city', an adapted term from the graffiti forefathers of New York, which stands for being present throughout the city. In relation to Leipzig as the main creative area, there will therefore be a SNOW in every district, a kind of total work of art. In addition to illustrations, there will be extensive texts and the phenomenon will be illuminated a little more clearly. The book is aimed at all interested readers, lovers and haters. It is time for another announcement! "


By Pauline Szyltowski