CRISP is an Australian Street artist based in Bogota, Colombia. He was born to artistic parents, and grew up in rural Australia. From a very young age he drew, painted, sculpted, pottered, carved, photographed and created anything he could as a form of personal expression. He speaks with Damo…
Damo: Talk us through your style?
Crisp: I tend to use a diverse range of techniques and materials which effect my style on the street. I’m currently using the stencil style for painting walls plus some freestyle components to link them. I also use many tribal designs inspired from a variety of indigenous cultures around the world to paint my 3D moulded masks. Some of my murals and stencils are quiet political and send messages but then others are purely aesthetic and just for visual pleasure.
Damo: How did you get into art, and why did you focus on stencil art?
Crisp: Both my parents were practising artists, my mother drawing and painting and my father ceramics and sculpture. So I was taught and did art from as far back as I remember. My mother also held art classes out side of school, so I learnt loads of techniques through her. Most of my earlier art work was drawings and sculptural pieces, it wasn’t until I moved to the UK and started to see a lot of street art especially Banksy’s pieces that I became very interested in street art and stencils. I’ve always loved the look, feel and cleanness of stencil pieces, plus they usually are a mix of socio-political, humour and art that makes for a great mix! There is a strong stencil movement in Bogota, Colombia where I’m now based, and I’ve been influenced a lot by local stencil artists such as DjLu, Toxicomano, Praxis, Senil, Vogel, and Lesivo.
Damo: You’re an Australian, living in Colombia. How did you end up in Colombia? What’s the scene like there?
Crisp: Yes I actually grew up in Tamworth of all places, studied and worked in Sydney for 6 years before heading overseas for 15 years now. I lived and worked in the UK for 10 years, traveling the world a lot. I first visited Colombia in 2001 while backpacking through South America. It was one of my favourite places I’d traveled and would eventually come back to live here from 2009 onwards. And who would have thought that the innocent meeting of a beautiful young Colombian girl on a bus all those years ago between Santa Marta and Cartagena would a decade later become my wife and mother to my daughter!
The urban art scene in Bogota is pretty unknown and underrated but completely world class in my opinion. So many people come to Bogota and are totally shocked about how prolific and good quality the graffiti and street art is here. Its a lot more grass roots and done off the backs of the artists, without the same amount of funding and commission pieces as other cities, so the amount and quality is even more impressive taking this into account. Local artists are doing these pieces out of pure passion and out of their own pockets.
There’s a unique situation and scene here do to a potent mix of several things. One it’s the only city in the world I know of that its not technically illegal but prohibited. Meaning its not a criminal offence to paint walls here, so can’t be arrested or prosecuted, and ultimately only can receive an on the spot fine. Saying this the police are renowned here for there corruption and brutality, a teenage grafitero was actually shot dead by the place several years ago for running away from them, which they then tried to cover up. So you still need to be careful of the police here despite the more liberal laws. So this gives a greater amount of freedom and a lot more available walls to get up with out fear of prosecution. Despite the odd fine or bribe here and there.
Secondly Colombia has many things to draw inspiration from, the longest running civil war in the world, corruption, injustices and huge inequalities, plus all the beautiful and spectacular terrains such as the Amazon, Andes, Pacific coast and Caribbean Coasts with all the flora, fauna and cultures that comes form these places. All these factors have made Bogota a boiling pot for talent, creativity and expression on the streets!
Damo: You recently traveled around Australia, visiting friends and family but also painting. How does the scene differ in Australia compared to Colombia?
Crisp: Well one of the most obvious differences is how much more prolific the scene is in Colombia compared to Australia. The cities in Australia definitely have a more sterile, buffed and controlled feel to them. And unless you get permission of owners of walls its a lot harder to get up big pieces without getting into some kind of trouble with the police, local community or law in Oz. So it feels a lot more riskier and subversive getting up illegally in Oz but this is kinda part of the fun too right. Lets face it urban art was born out of the idea of doing something you shouldn’t be doing. Also in cities in Australia it seems to be concentrated or more tolerated in a certain suburb or area of the city, whereas in Bogota its just everywhere you look. Also there seems to be a stronger stencil scene in Bogota compared to Sydney at least. I also see a greater respect between all artists here in Bogota…grafiteros, writers and street artists all tend to respect each others work more and not go over each others stuff for trivial reasons. This may draw from the fact there are so many places to paint here due to the lax legality and people don’t have to fight or compete for limited places like in Australia.
Damo: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
Crisp: Brain surgeon no doubt! Seriously though I’ve always loved science and medicine and I’m professionally a Physiotherapist, so something in health I imagine. I tend to like to do several different things at once to keep things fresh and different…..so currently I treat some patients, own my own tourism business and am a street artist!