Obie Platon | Interview

Visual artist Obie Platon was a recent guest at Walk&Talk Azores Festival. He shared some insights on his recent mural and talked about his activity, in an exclusive interview for The re:art.

Obie Platon

Mural for Walk&Talk Azores Festival

Work in progress

‘Platonic Forms Story’, Walk&Talk Azores Festival, 2014

You were a recent guest of Walk&Talk Azores Festival. How was the experience for you? What did you like most? Share some thoughts about your stay in the Island of São Miguel.

Besides the fact that I was in the middle of the Atlantic, where nature is at home, with outstanding landscapes to explore, so in an environment that offers the comfort to create, I had the opportunity to meet extraordinary people and interact with the guests, artists from different countries – Portugal, Spain, Greece, Germany, US. I met many people who are currently active in other fields, come with their own cultural background, yet they share the same beliefs, and I experienced a powerful connection there. I was very impressed not only by the variety of murals on the island, but also by the openness of people to art and the way they understand and interact with art.

Mural for Walk&Talk Azores Festival

Mural for Walk&Talk Azores Festival

I had the opportunity to talk about the evolution and current situation of Romanian art, and I am happy that my artistic intervention seems to have impressed those present at the festival. I am also happy to learn about the efforts of ICR (Romanian Cultural Institute) to promote Romanian art abroad and to see that they also focus on street art, raising the visibility of local artists on the international scene.

Your mural for Walk&Talk Azores Festival is entitled “Platonic Forms Story”. We know that in the past 14 years, since you are active as an artist, you have created five different characters, each corresponding to a platonic form and to a specific element and concept – Allan Dalla (cube/ earth / built out of contrasts and exploring human polarity), Pop Prince (octahedron/ air / the symbol of freestyle, expressing all that is commercial, naive, aggressive and ironic), Lost Letter (tetrahedron / fire / bringing traditional myths and stories into the urban landscape), Madame Mezzanine (dodecahedron / universe / symbol of femininity),  Qrip Tic (icosahedron / water / a celebration of the ego, more focused on graffiti). You usually represent these characters separately. Why did you bring them together at Walk&Talk and what else inspired you for this mural?

Indeed, I felt that it was time for my characters to interact on the same wall. Usually, each mural represents a character equivalent to a certain style. This time I wanted to combine the styles in order to experiment and harmonize the experience gained over the years. So let’s say that if until now I mainly focused on shaping the characters, this is the beginning of a story where my characters will interact and be part of it together.

The context also inspired me to bring the characters together – on the island with 4 seasons in one day, where there is fire, water, earth, air, elements that my characters are based on.

Madame Mezzanine

Madame Mezzanine character / Bucharest, 2012

Pop Prince character / Bucharest, Romania, 2013 / with Irlo

Pop Prince character / Bucharest, Romania, 2013 / with Irlo @ Ironlak BBQ Burners

You were creative and interested in art since childhood. But what do you consider was the most decisive moment in your evolution as an artist? What actually determined you to start the Platonic Forms story and what chapter have you reached so far?

It all began and evolved naturally, instinctively, without knowing where the story will take me. Each character actually corresponds to a certain period in my life, and they are a reflection of my interests and passions – architecture, graffiti, breakdance.

Studying architecture was very important for me to understand volume, proportions, geometry, the mathematics of drawing.  For me, a wall is like paper. And in architecture the concept – the essence – is crucial. If you ignore this, you might end up building a seriously unstable house.

Allan Dalla character

Obie Platon

Allan Dalla character / Germany, 2013

My passion for choreography (b-boying) later helped me to create certain forms. I do not work with sketches, everything just comes natural, as if dancing.

Also, when I was a teenager, I was very interested in urban culture and art. I created an ONG – the URBAN ART Association – and began organizing events, with skaters, graffiti artists, MCs and so on. In a time when nothing used to happen, me and my friends would gather all sorts of people from various fields to help build not only a community, but a phenomenon, a movement. Remember that back then there was no internet, so we did not have the means that are available today. Yet we felt very special because instead of playing soccer like other kids, we were doing something special.

Obie Platon - Allan Dalla character, with Kero

Allan Dalla character / Bacău, 2012 / with Kero

Lost Letter character / Bucharest, 2013

Lost Letter character / Bucharest, 2013

It was this strong feeling of freedom and the easiness you could interact with people and share your art with others that I loved about the movement. Time and space are also important. You need to consider the context where you display your art, relate with people and use symbols that they can recognize and identify with, based on the essence of that space, not on your ego. So instead of saying ‘I want to do this’ and paint the same wall in China and US, I do my research, learn more about the place.

Finally, experimenting is probably the most important part of my work. And I do not refer to exercise (‘I saw that, I like it and I practice to draw/ paint etc. in that style’). Experiment is about discovering new techniques and styles coming from within, without any limitation to a specific technique.

COSMOCUBE / Interactive installation, COSMONOTRIPS show, 2011

COSMOCUBE / Interactive installation, COSMONOTRIPS show, 2011 / Collaboration with Dragoș Epure

Infinity Matryoshka / Sculpture, 2014

‘Infinity Matryoshka’, 2014

Constantly discovering what has now become my style, based on experiments and experience, I started to move the story of my characters forward, and the evolution and outcome of my work in the past 14 years will be featured in a film that will show how each artist creates his fictional characters and identities, bringing into discussion the meaning of graffiti and street art. More info will soon be available.

This year you revealed yourself as the creator of Platonic Forms, of the characters. Until now, your characters were mostly perceived as independent from one another, and even as real artists, so far from being considered fictional. Now that the mystery is gradually fading, what do you have in plan to spice up the story? And why now? Why did the creator show himself at this moment? Was Allan Dalla getting too much attention?

I felt it was time for me to get closer to people and communicate with them. When people do not understand the work of the artist, it is also the artist’s fault. After many years of silence, I decided to talk about my experience behind multiple identities and projects, works that people cannot understand until I intervene with a little “instruction manual”.

Allan Dalla Kero

Allan Dalla character / Bucharest, Romania, 2013 / with Kero

Allan Dalla had a greater impact because it is inspired from all that happens here and now in Romania, from architecture to the social, political and individual situations. Many find themselves in this character, precisely because it is representative for Romania’s current state. So, from a conceptual perspective, my character achieved its goal.

However, Allan Dalla remains a character, and I am the artist. But people rarely make the difference between who is the character and who is its creator. It’s like seeing Rowan Atkinson on the street, for example, and calling him Mr. Bean. Indeed, in graffiti, there is the tag and you create other identities, but it is tricky as some become so powerful, like a brand cannibalizing your true identity and what defines you.

Marin Sorescu Tribute / Craiova, 2014

Marin Sorescu Tribute / Craiova, 2014

With this big reveal, you’ve also shown other works. If until now we were familiar with your murals and paintings, we were not very aware of your interest in sculpture and installation. What’s different here compared to your street art activity? Do you plan to create outdoor installations as well or are you more interested in gallery shows right now?

Being an artist does not mean you express yourself only with paint on a flat surface. I had the idea of escaping the painting stereotype at an early age, when I realized that I used to reproduce what others did a long time ago.

We are in the year 2014 and I do not believe in categories. If you are a painter you can also be an architect, a sculptor and a photographer, as long as you understand space, have knowledge, notions of perspective, proportions, and realize how everything around you is formed. Then, the final result is a matter of details.

Visual expression and the manner are relevant when you want to convey a message. Sometimes, a sculpture is more relevant for your idea than a drawing, or vice versa – a sculpture says less than a painting or a mural. And when you have objects that you can manipulate to fit your concept, why reproduce what already exists? I only express myself through painting when what I want does not manifest in this reality. And hopefully, technology helps us to be more relevant for future generations.

Brain Locked / Sculpture, 2014

‘Brain Locked’, 2014

Digital Connection / Sculpture, 2014

‘Digital Connection’, 2014

We noticed some recurring symbols and motifs in your works. Most are inspired by Romanian culture, but we often spot the Facebook logo there etc. Tell us more about the themes that interest you lately.

As mentioned earlier, time and space are important. If I work in Africa, I will use other symbols than for a mural in Romania, although there may be similarities.

The geometric shapes are the basis, then I add the essence through message, depending where I am and what I want to communicate. Symbols help people understand, make them ask questions and they can find answers that they never thought about before. It is very important for them to make the connections, so my art is about the questions, it does not offer answers. We find the answers when meditating, when exploring in knowledge.

With the homogenization of my characters, I try to communicate a universal message, reflecting our present and future. That is why I include elements that are part of our present times – Facebook, TV, and so on – and that will surely affect our future and evolution.

Pop Prince character

Pop Prince character / Bacău, Romania, 2013

Golden Frame

Obie Platon / Golden Frame 030202, 2013

What kind of project would you find appealing right now? We saw you’ve started travelling lately. What would you like to do next? Are there any upcoming events on your agenda?

I want to continue what I am doing now, continue experimenting and to discover new ways of visually expressing my ideas.

This month I will be in Budapest where I will paint a mural in the center of the city, and at the end of the year I will be involved in several projects in Bucharest, Brussels and Shanghai. I will post all updates on my Facebook page and on my other social networks.

Thank you!

• •

Images © Obie Platon

Find out more on his website, Facebook and Instagram.