Phomer – Shaken, Not Stirred
This is a story about a kid, born in the ’80s, who grew up like the rest of us, only turned out to be a transplant from a time when social rebellion was the norm and it was sort of okay to buy spray paint at the tender age of eight. This is a story about a lifetime work in progress, as he calls it – a study in abstract of a guy that sees what’s out there and then takes advantage of it because, well… it’s his right.
His ultimate goal is to achieve total coolness. And you know what? He has. Even if you don’t think so.
Phomer is what you might call a graffiti artist, although he’s pretty open about what he’s doing. But, instead of putting him in a box, we’ll call what he is unclassified – you can’t put a label on his type of creativity, he doesn’t fit into a special little cubby. Although, in a broad sense, he’s creating masterpieces. What we won’t do is to go so far as to call him the next Banksy. That sort of comparison feels cliche, and almost like it might be his ultimate undoing. But he does have a deviant streak that’s about a mile wide – his take on Gaga’s collab with Supreme is evident of that.
I haven’t met the guy in person, but after a brief chat through the magic of the interweb, I feel like we just smoked a jay, had one of those deep, meaningful conversations about life and now we’re best friends. You know what I’m talking about…
What goes on in the mind of the “socially irresponsible”? Read on to find out.
Where are you based?
These days you can find me somewhere on the sewer system thatÂ links Lisbon and London.
How did you get started as an artist?
I remember when I was a little kid, once my parents went to attend an international arts and crafts exhibit opening featuring all these different cultures and people. They left me at home, alone. I went to the local video store to rent the Airplane tape, but it was unavailable at the time, so, on my way back home, with the coins I had in my pocket, I bought me a spray can. I went home and ended up watching Simpsons VHS mix-tapes all day, and it turns out that my parents only went to the Sunday market â€“ but it was like, Latin culture day. They brought me nothing. I never used the spray until years after.
Was it a natural progression to street art?
In my case, I can’t distinguish a progression because I started like pretty much everyone else you like creating, you do your own drawings or whatever you are into, you do some kind of study and when you notice it, it’s supposed to be your job or life. In that process in that time street art has always been there naturally. I always used spray, stencil, markers, paper, glue. And I’ve always used the street to try out and do work, material and medium. That’s how I see it, so in that sense, I can’t talk about progression. It’s a natural thing from my upbringing, from my period of time.
I do think it’s an interesting question, but the debate on street art, graffiti, regression from street art to fine art, or vice versa, has a lot of nuances that are interesting to talk about and analyze. But it would be an article only about that, and we’re here to talk about me.
What’s the inspiration behind your work?
Almost as cliche as the question is the â€œfrom everyday life answer we both had to do it.
But I can give you a little insight. So the list goes… PHOTO magazines from ’76 with naked ladies I stole from my dad when I was a kid; needing money to burn; that sweet sweet old school poster art; peer pressure; growing up watching movies showing dirty urban spaces, mostly NY backgrounds; tons of comics and weird animation…
Now that I think of it, I realise that it comes from the fact that I was raised in the 1980′s and all the children’s/juvenile books, toons, and educational stuff had been created by the young people from the ’60s and ’70s – and we all know the deal with those freaks. So if we add that to the exposure that I’ve always had from older people to things which were not my age, that I’ve always tried to keep up with, that’s maybe the formula for the way I mix my everyday life inspiration cocktail. Shaken, not stirred.
What’s your message?
I honestly can’t say I transmit a specific message. I worry too much with bigger-than-life problems and too little with simple, every day ones. Sometimes vice versa. So it’s hard to stay focused. I try to send messages from my everyday life that relate to bigger issues or deeper thoughts. But the thing I would like to share, it’s the values of love and respect, because if we look deep, they are the base of every positive message. Maybe if people didn’t take themselves so seriously and care about the real things in life, it would be easier to me to have a message.
What’s the deal with Lady Gaga?
You’re asking about the “I Shit on Gag”a pieces… well, I really love Terry Richardson’s work. Lady Gaga I don’t know every well, and Supreme, it’s just a brand. Obviously they are all current pop-culture icons, so as a citizen, I was only using my right to humiliate public figures and treat them as if I personally know them.
Who was your favourite collaboration with?
I love the thing I did with Shepard Fairey. Later it was called a hoax, they said it wasn’t a collaboration, that I just had a Wrestle Mania bubble gum sticker of Andre the Giant on my school days sketchbook that I’ve scribbled on. But I guess everyone has the right to an opinion…
But another cool thing is to come soon is I’m doing a show with some of Portugal’s heavy weights the next few months, and we’re doing some stuff together that I think is going to be really awesome.
Why is street art important?
Itself actually, isn’t that important. There are much more things that are important, like science or politics. If you look at the world right now, with all the economical and social problems going on… It can be important, has a call to those problems, even if you don’t have a specific political, or any kind of direct message. The act itself of doing art on the public space – to the citizens by the citizens… Come on, I think that’s a very cool advertisement for democracy, right?