#MeetAndGraff is a short interview series where we meet graffiti artists working on Leake Street and learn more about their style. Last month, we caught up with Gustavo Nénão who was in London for the Fraternity Without Borders exhibition at the Brazilian Embassy. In his downtime, he painted the stunning Stephen Hawking tribute on Leake Street.
What age did you get into graffiti?
I started in graffiti in 1994, 24 years ago.
Who is your favourite street artist?
How would you describe your style?
I use the shades of grey to make a parallel between the grey city and my art, as if it were concrete, like building something in the city. I apply the concept of fine art a lot and I have focused a lot on realistic portraits.
I like to think I could maybe considered a developer of a new graffiti style 😉
What do you want people to feel when they look at your work?
I like the reaction of people when they stop me, I think that the strength that we as artists have in communicating to people is something tremendously powerful. You can protest, honor or change the lives of people with your message with just a drawing, piece or tag. People on the street are exposed to artwork and they will be impacted. I come from a time where I got caught up by the police in Brazil because of painting and today I’m approached to give lectures and take pictures together. I am immensely happy that generally, people outside of the graffiti world understand and respect street art nowadays.
What do you think about London’s graffiti scene?
London itself breathes art. I really appreciate the underground scene and, despite this being my second time in London in 3 years, I’ve seen a lot change. For example, the spotlights in Leake Street tunnel to enhance the graffiti did not exist back then. You guys also have big names like Banksy, Robbo among others who are also known worldwide.
What do you think about legal walls such as Leake Street Tunnel?
I find initiatives like Leake Street Tunnel incredible because it is an artistic space amid the chaos of London.
You can relax in the middle of the traffic while you go to work, admiring the artworks and forgetting day to day problems. This space provides cultural exchange between artists, where you can learn more about other styles and techniques; it is very important. It also provides a reference for several generations of British and international artists, such as myself. I was in the city for an exhibition I was taking part in but have been able to enjoy this piece of paradise and leave my mark.