Graphic design student Refur has been exploring the creative potential of the streets of Athens for the past two years. In fact, she is one of the few Athenian artists strategically using the medium of the sticker. She also paints larger pieces, often in collaboration with other artists such as Mapet, EX!T, and Yiakou. Furthermore she edits a fanzine and blog devoted to the poetics of the city. During our interview we talked about our shared fascination for Athens, her creative processes, and respecting and involving city space in artworks.
So how long have you been painting in the streets?
It’s been about a year, the first one was a little fox in a little corner, somewhere in Metaxourgio. I really enjoyed the process and the fact that we were out doing something really nice and it was a fun experience.
Did you go alone or with somebody else?
I went with two friends of mine. One of my friends was the one that actually first got me to it. He has been painting a lot before me and he is really good at it.
We started painting together. We do very different things but some are alike somehow. I haven’t done much of my own artwork, I prefer making stickers.
You do kind of a conceptual thing. There is a project from 2012 and a project from 2013, one says pourquoi tu pleures and the other pourquoi tu m’aime.
When I created it, I wasn’t much thinking about any concept behind it. I don’t consider them political at all. But I guess they have a social message. it’s about people from different backgrounds and they have this blue ink running down their face and it looks like they’re crying. I don’t know if they do. And the little quotation says pourquoi tu pleures which means why are you crying. I guess someone could take it and relate to it but I wasn’t aiming for a particular reason why they are crying.
So how did you get from why are you crying to why do you love me?
Pourquoi tu pleures lasted for a year. And I wanted to do something similar because I really like the running ink. So when I walk around town and I see all these dead rats, or how drivers crush animals with their cars and it really makes me very upset. So I just did something similar with different colors. The red ink looks like blood, but it’s not necessarily that.
So, why do you use French writing?
I like french but I never got to learn a lot. I like the way it sounds mostly, but not as words but the sound of it. And it kind of fitted with what I made.
Can you tell me about the fanzine you publish?
It is about the city actually, it has photos and greek text. Most of the texts come from a friend of mine who lives in Holland, in Rotterdam. He’s from cyprus but he mostly lives in Greece. he’s a musician and composer and because he lives outside Athens and he misses it he really gets the feeling that I want to project through my fanzine. Most people who live in Athens think it’s a shitty town, that it is dirty and they want to leave and so on. I try to look at it from another point of view, where you can find the good qualities. Like you can find the shitty corners but you can also find beautiful buildings and beautiful narrow streets. So I try to look at it that way. Maybe not too many people who live here can see it but this friend of mine misses all that, because being abroad he sees what Greece is like right now from an outside point of view so he writes about it in a positive way. And through all this crisis I think we all actually should feel lucky—in quotation marks—because it makes us more creative. I was talking with Lathos yesterday exactly about that: we are creative now because if we were in a period where everything is calm and nothing really happens we wouldn’t have the motivation to express ourselves. It’s not a good situation to be in, I’m not saying that, but I think it makes you creative.
If you paint in the streets do you have an idea about the artwork and where you want to do it or do you just figure it out as you go?
Well, if you paint using a brush, you have to find a smooth surface. When you spray paint it doesn’t matter. What I love to do is to really respect the environment and the wall. For example, I wouldn’t just paint anything anywhere. See, here there’s a square shape, so I would put something that combines with that square. It’s not just a wall for me, it’s a wall with a square and lines. So if my sticker was a certain way I would probably put it so that it fits with the environment and the surface. Like if you have a wall with a little brick hole here I would want to try and play upon that. I really like that. I think this is how you respect what you make and I’m kind of trying to do things that can actually fit in with the city and the walls.
So do you think you might ever want to try out spay paint?
I have once, but it was a disaster. But maybe if I had someone to show me…
This interview was conducted in person on April 9, 2013.
Questions by Julia Tulke.