ITI | Premiere Interview
Romanian artist ITI accepted our invitation to share his story in his first time interview. Find out exclusive insights about his artistic approach, recent projects and latest exhibitions.
It has been more than one year since you’ve been active as an artist. How did it all begin?
Well, it was an unexpected start for me that opened many new possibilities. So, you can say I never planned to be an artist – I am a self-taught new comer in the field.
It may seem a little ironic, but a few years ago, while I was wandering on the streets of Bucharest or when attending different urban events, I used to collect stickers. Then, one day, my mother, who is a teacher, had a project at school and bought sticker paper. That was the first time I decided to try, I took a pen and let my imagination free. After that, I received some crayons as present, and at that time I felt like a child, a free spirit, stuck in a world of adults who forgot what is really important in life. I decided to remind them. When I finished my first 150 stickers, I selected a few and started sticking them on the streets.
One of the first stickers by ITI
You tend to approach very powerful messages – you focus mostly on social themes. Can you tell us a bit about the essence of your works and how the current social system influences you?
I am really upset with today’s systems (social, political, economical, you name it). And I express what I feel about the problems that I and other people face nowadays through art. When approaching different subjects, I prefer acting as an outside observer (as an extra-terrestrial presence), trying to understand the cause and effects of these problems. I came to the conclusion that we lack equilibrium and responsibility in our actions, that we care less, love less or not in a spiritual way, that we cherish our selfish ego and thus we have no time for others.
So I represent these problems, show them in public space hoping that people who are not aware of them or usually try to run away when encountering different situations stop and think. At least for one minute. And not only understand the cause of their worries and sadness, but also remember, if only for a moment, what really makes them happy.
Your artwork consists mainly of hand-drawn stickers. Why did you choose this technique? Also, why are colors so important in your stickers?
Considering the themes I approach, hand-drawing is a more sincere way of initiating a dialogue with the viewer. This doesn’t mean I do not like digital art or illustration, but, as I said, hand-drawing goes perfectly with my subjects.
Color is a way to attract people. Think of advertising. So colorful and nice at a first sight. Then, when you get closer, you actually realize that it was all a trick of getting you to buy. I also try to get people’s attention but not to trick or sell them something, but to deliver my message, to interact with them.
When you see one of my stickers, they may look childish due to colors and shapes. Indeed, even a child can become aware of what is happening in the world today. Our problems are quite obvious when your eyes are open and your mind is clear.
Another reason why I use colors (markers, wax and pastel crayons especially) is that I live in a big grey city, where people wear dark clothes and often forget to smile. I try to add some background color to the big picture, but also catch attention to details that we often ignore.
We found your stickers in Bucharest, Braşov and Ploieşti. You also started some interesting projects on the streets: the Dumpster Notes series, the Colour Us project, the Free Drugs series. Tell us more about them.
One of the things that I noticed lately is that more and more people search dumpsters for food, clothing and other things. It’s a sad reality and we all contribute to this current situation. So I launched the Dumpster Notes series thinking that dumpsters, if they were live urban characters, are most aware of the causes of many problems we face and also know us very well, as we feed them with our junk, but also with our thoughts and feelings.
I gathered these notes in a – let’s say – diary of the urban dumpster, which I update on my Facebook page and blog. In this diary, there are two types of messages: (1) the dumpster tells people what great things/ feelings they throw away – compassion, faith, even their brain and so on; (2) the dumpster points out to the cause of misery – government, corporations, economy etc.
Colour Us is an interactive sticker series that I launched in October 2013, inviting people in Bucharest to color the stickers. I left parts of the stickers uncolored, usually those representations of different problems, especially inner problems. I believe that you truly understand an experience in your life when you live it yourself. Likewise, inviting people to spend a few minutes coloring their fears, their past or the depiction of their own self can make them more conscious about what they’ve been missing.
Finally, the Free Drugs series is at its start and is inspired by wordplays specific to Romanian language (for instance “iarbă” means both “grass” and “marijuana”). It is a project that tries to shed light on the fact that drugs are not for everyone and that we are too easily encouraged to try them, thus serving the interests of some.
You’ve also been part of different exhibitions in Romania (including the exhibition at Ciclop in June 2013, Bucharest), but also in Bulgaria and Italy, and we know you’re now working on new stickers for exhibitions abroad. What can you share with us about these experiences?
The Episode 3 exhibition, at Ciclop, was a great experience for me, and my first participation in a major exhibition with a large interactive sticker artwork, and also an opportunity to meet local visual and street artists.
Following this event, I was invited at In Wall We Trust international street art exhibition in Italy and since then I started searching for similar events where I could apply with my stickers.
This year started with my participation in the Mixed Up #2 exhibition in Burgas, Bulgaria and I just finished my submission for the Sticker Nerds #3 US exhibition.
When applying for such events, I always think of personalized stickers, inspired by the local context and history, by the theme of the event and so on. I received very good feedback so far and also have other exhibitions on my list. More info coming soon on my Facebook page and blog.
What other artistic fields are you interested in?
Although my focus remains sticker artwork, I already had some experiments with painting, animation, and in the near future I want to try spray painting and I even have some video projects in mind.
What’s next for 2014?
I’m applying for exhibitions in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Serbia, and am also am looking forward to local and international street art festivals and events. I’m also preparing new street art projects and I am having some clothing/ object design ideas. So keep in touch, there’s more to come!
All images © ITI & The re:art