In the first part of this interview, I just want you to provide us with a self introduction.
Hello, my name is Mata and I am 32 years old. I was born and raised in a small Belgium city called Renaix which is a small city near the French border. As long as I can remember, I have always loved to draw. My earliest influences came from two major areas. The first, was TV. I loved shows shuch as: Dragonball Z, Ren and Stimpy, Ghostbusters, and Ninja Turtles. My other influences were video games like Mortal Combat, Streetfighter, and Killer Instinct. I think the part of me that helped me be an artist was I had my own fantasy world which caused me to live inside my own mind. I think sometimes I lived there too much. I had nothing as far as brothers and sisters when I was growing up, so living with my imagination was perfect for me. I have always liked studying my surroundings. I think the world is amazing and very interesting. I watch people, the interaction in between things, the way things are and how they became that way. All of that keeps me busy, and I need to stay that way or else I get bored.
I started painting a long time ago. The birth of my graffiti experience started way back in 1996. Actually, interestingly enough, I was 13 and I watched an episode of the Simpsons where Bart did some graffiti. I think if I combine that with the fact that the Fresh Prince came on right after the Simpsons, that would have created the foundation of my motivation to really do graffiti.
Ok, next, I want to know what truly made you love art and get started thinking about making it your career choice. So in short, what was the next stage of your motivation?
Well, later on, I watched the documentary, Style Wars and the movie Wild Style. From that moment, I knew this was where my heart was at and this is exactly what I needed to be doing. At that point in time, I was an addict. I started looking up, studying, and doing research about the local kings and crews like XONE, DEPS, CHOK, R.A.B, TV, and P50 crew. In the beginning it was all about tagging and a more raw way to canalize my frustrations. I had many issues back in my older times.
Since tagging is the basics of graffiti, it made me learn my hand style and many other countless lessons. After that it was the game, getting up as much as possible. In my city we only had 1 train line, which I completely destroyed. I took that train every day, and there was a time when I finally had painted everything worth painting on that train line, so I had no choice but to leave and hit up walls. I will miss my Belgian cherry train. After that I’ve gain much experience in many crews such as: RGF, SCW, TNM. I wrote with crews which were all small and local. I got arrested in 2002, then my dreams of being a famous vandal ended there.
After realizing I was risking my future, I laid low for 2 years. Then in 2004 I changed my name to Mata (maintain anarchy through art). I hooked up with CAZ (aka Mr. Magic), an oldschool Belgium writer. He had been writing since 86. Through him, I got many connections and he was a great teacher to me. He taught me how to do murals and big productions. From there that is all I have done until today.
I reach a lot of people through my murals. There are many deep meanings within my art. Yes it does carry a message, but I would not be able to show my talent today without having caused much damage through vandalism. Graffiti is just an application of a medium on a surface and I believe that a mural is only good within the taste of the beholder. There is no beauty without realizing the ugly, and that’s art.
What are your influences?
For my drawings, I like mainly European styles from the 90’s and 2000’s. Examples of my influences, DAIM, LOOMIT, CANTWO, BATES, KIAM, LOGAN, TOAST, WON, PEETA, MACLAIM. In addition I like American styles and characters from guys like SEEN, EWOK, BIO, SUB, CREOLA, etc. The way they do their art has really refined my taste and influence how my art is today.
Now I am writing for my crews C3P (paris), DIRTY(Brussels), CODEX (Amsterdam), and THIRTEEN CROWNS (Pataya R.I.P DNAONE). All of these artists have an outstanding level. I can easily say that every time I meet with them, I learn a lot. Sadly to say, we don’t meet enough anymore because we are all busy.
But for me, this graffiti scene is not just about the paint. I am directly influenced by musical artists such as the Beastie Boys, Lords of Brooklyn, Rage against the Machine, Run DMC, Bob Marley, Sizzla, Jeru and the Fugees. They have all truly influenced me. I am not sure why, but maybe it is because of the energy that they bring.
What is your medium? Is it only cans?
I mostly use cans when I work on a wall, but there are other materials that I use. I do mix paint and use other things. A lot of people think that when they hear the word graffiti they think only cans, but it truly is not way. Other than walls, I use cans on canvas combined with acrylic paint with an addition of markers. I truly like to be as creative as I can be to produce special effects.
When it comes to paper, I use the normal pencil and paper. I can spend lifetimes with my pencil and pen, the are like my best desk friends. I think in the future I should put my sketch work on the walls because they are totally different from my murals. The style is so different from what everyone would expect.
I feel that I love every aspect of art. From pencils to pens, to paint brushes and cans. I also do photography. Sometimes my paintings are influenced by the photos I take. I use Photoshop to help me with the images I produce on walls. But when it comes to the styles and other things, I just simply am creative when I am on the wall.
What gives you motivation?
Well, many things. I keep my motivation from the people who like my art, the photographers who follow it, the young kids who learn from it, the toys who are crossing it, and the police who are hating it. I am motivated because it gives me a platform to communicate with thousands of people while I spread my message across the world.
I love traveling. I love the smell of the cans. I love the sound when I shake it. I guess, in short, I love everything about the game. Maybe I would have to write a book to truly explain the heart of the artist and why we love it and what keeps us motivated.
What are your major accomplishments and future dreams?
Well as an artist, I am first proud to have painted in a lot of different places. Also, I have met a lot of interesting people. The places that first come to mind, would be Sadler’s Wells Theater in London. There I did a 3 story high indoor piece. I had the honor of painting at 5 points in New York before they demolished it.
Other than art, I am very happy to have a healthy 4 year old son and a loving and caring wife for over 15 years. I am happy that I can provide for them by coloring the world. I have lots of friends, but only a handful of them can I depend upon on the worst days. I feel that I am a very lucky person.
My future dreams are to go where no man has gone before. Paint mars, the moon, and other planets of course with non-toxic cans. I feel like Miss America right now, I also want world peace and all of the problems of the world to be fixed especially the ones with our energy.
I want to awaken the 4th dimension of art. I want everybody to be treated as an equal everywhere. I like anarchy when it comes to evil and the government. Destroy the monastery system. I want to be a famous magician, see the northern lights, write a book or two, and observe nature in a tropical forest at night. But overall, I want to spend as much time with my friends and family while I do more art. I am a big dreamer so I want as many experiences as possible.
Advise for new and upcoming artists?
I must say, in this game, look out for you hook up with. Always move in silence, be a ninja. And never be satisfied about the work that you do but be happy with it. Also, never listen to the haters. Those people just want to bring you down and make you suffer. Be interested in everything and never give up. Paint more and talk less. Spend time talking to many people while at the same time, agree to disagree so you can avoid arguments, so learn to be humble. If you want to learn, then talk to people with experience in that subject and pay attention and don’t fight them. Never lose your heart, your focus needs to be on your talent and don’t do this for the money or fame. Make friends and discuss ideas and always learn. Dream big but resist, revolt anything and everything that blocks your talent. So that will help you follow your heart. Be different when you follow your heart. Find that passion and be different. Take what you want and give all that you have to give and never quit, stop, or give up. This is my advice for all of you.
Okay, I know all street artists have a crazy story about the cops or something, tell me.
This one is a hard one because I have been in many situations with the cops. I have always had a problem with rules and forced control. I think that social control should be the only type of control. Who likes rules?
I have been in situations where I have been arrested with 20 fellow writers. We all ended up in the police station. That time we were painting, a big ugly, seemingly legal wall for 2 whole days and the Amsterdam police came to arrest us. Another time, I was in Cherbourg, France. There I was painting on a gypsy campsite. The police did a raid on the camp. The next day I went back to the sight to finish my painting. Then the gypsies burned the whole camp as a protest to the police. The cops arrested me again out of frustration. I spent 5 hours at the police station and then I was back on the streets again.
But the worst one. I was arrested in 2002 in my home town. Since the police knew I was a vandal, they played a dirty trick on me. They arrested me and took me to the station. During the interrogation, they got really rough. I would not admit to the painting because they had no proof. I was handcuffed to a chair and they first started slapping me in the face with a telephone book. You know those big ones? Like the Yellow Pages? I got pissed and started yelling at them, saying stuff like, “You can’t treat me like this.” They tried to calm me down by hitting me and then grabbing my hair and smashing my face into a wall. I calmed down because they almost put me into a coma. I don’t remember what happened next. My mother said when she went to the jail and found me on the floor covered in blood. They told her I was acting violent, but remember I was in handcuffs. The police officer was over 2m and 10 years older than me and I was only 175cm tall and 19 years old.
I went to jail for vandalism. At the same time they gave me a fine and I lost the ability to do art for a couple years. My lawyer had to deal with the judge. And they told me if I would not talk about the police violence, then they said I would not have to pay my fine. Instead, my punishment was that I could not get in trouble or posses and graffiti materials or I had to go to jail. I confessed and recognized my fault and took the punishment.
In the end I got paid because I got hit by the cop. That was the quickest money I have ever made. He actually never got punished. Funny how I couldn’t paint right? Still today, I actually still see him patrolling the streets. And I am still painting the walls in this city. After that was over, someone told me if I had a better lawyer, we would have burned them in court. All of that happened to me when I was 19. Now days, a lot more graffiti is being done by young kids. So they keep they cops busy. The kids are more sharp nowdays. I still continue to do illegals while I enjoy pushing this movement across the world.
Like I said, I am a very lucky guy