An interview with the mysterious graffiti artist from Berlin, known for his characters mostly seen in the underground. He shares his personal story , views and experiences around chrome graffiti.

When and where did you start writing?

I grew up in a village and a little town next to Berlin. I think it started around 2001/02 with the age of 14/15 when I first recognised some rooftop pieces in the city and wondered what that is and how people did that. Later a friend who partly lived in an other town introduced me to the world of graffiti and I was immediately hooked. I think back then I chose the name "Panik" and we mostly hit the villages bus stops and random walls with our tags. It doesn't took too long for most of the inhabitants to know who the vandals were because we always were the ones who did all the "stupid" stuff around. So we often were punished with the task to clean the tagged walls. But did it stop me from doing it even 18 years later,...hell no!

Is there a story behind the creatures you are painting?

They mostly come spontaneously but sometimes, when I find a really good spot, I think about a few days what I want to paint there. It's a mixture between current ideas/inspirations/influences, my personal mood and the atmosphere of the spot. I think theres not a real story behind them except you create one in your head. Maybe there is some kind of trademark to them with all of the creatures having relatively strong facial expression. It's my personal goal that they transportate some kind of emotion by the way they look at you. I try to develop a big variety in their facial expression and for that I'm always practicing. They often end up looking tired or kind of skeptical and I think that's because a big part of me is often tired or skeptical about our modern unequal society. Sometimes when I paint more creatures next to an other or one with more faces I paint a very happy looking face right next to a sad one maybe to express a certain degree of bipolarity in my or everyones personalities.

Photo credit @byy_lauraa

Did you had any influences?

I always loved comics and cartoons and when I was in elementary school I used to draw Dragonball characters a lot. My older half brother also did graffiti and characters and when he heard that I was into it he showed me all of his works in his black-book. I think in the beginning he was a major influence. When I started practicing styles on paper I always wanted to put a nice looking character next to the style and in these early years I focused on doing characters like Can2. Many years I was only doing letter-styles but the interest in characters never faded and grew bigger with the years. The biggest influences that are coming from my first years in Berlin are Kripoe (and everything from CBS crew), Börek (1UP), Grafro (1UP) and Bimer. I was so amazed by the way they executed their artworks at the most impossible spots I could imagine. Furthermore their characters evoked a distinct feeling in me and I all-though it's cheesy to say but I would say they really touched my heart. Maybe Börek's characters had the strongest influence because something in his grim, evil, and sad looking characters touched me emotionally in a way nothing ever did before.

Around 2010 I met the founder of OSK crew Riot1394 and he was and still is a big inspiration. My good friend and also crew-mate HOWTOKILLAGRAFFITI is also one of my favourite artists. His combinations of abstract/figurative art and graffiti is some of the most avant-garde stuff you can see on Berlin halls of fame and I want my legal works to go in that direction.Nowadays I got inspired by nearly everything like plants or objects. I have a strong desire to understand how to draw human anatomy and I got all the love in the world for almost every kind of art especially large scale paintings. I am also fascinated by things like the work of Studio Ghibli, graphic novels, artistically ambitious video games or animated shows like Rick and Morty.

Why do you use chrome?

Because theres nothing that covers a dirty concrete wall better and faster than chrome. I used to paint a lot with coating colour and a super-long telescopic rod but for now I stopped doing this because it was way to stressful and risky carrying heavy paint buckets and tons of other stuff to the spot and paint with a 6 meter telescopic rod with a super heavy pint-soaked paint roller. It was always a matter of luck if it went out well or not. I should've taken this on film because it must have been the funniest thing to watch a guy manoeuvre a heavy telescopic rod with a paint-roller which is 6 meters away from his hands to a paint-bucket which is also 6 meters away. And all that in a pitch-black night so everything is barely visible. When everything went well the results were very effective but for now I'm totally in love with the possibilities a backpack with chrome and black is giving me.

What makes a good spot for you?

1st: The spot and piece should be visible to a lot of people.

2nd: The spot combined with my work make a great photo.

3rd: The wall looks like it hasn't been buffed for a while and isn't going to get buffed in the next months.

Actually this isn't a list in order of priorities but the best spot would be one with all the points combined. Most of my active years my highest priority was that people can see the work so I painted directly next to sidewalks. Because in Berlin good spots are very rare, I had to start thinking a little outside the box and started to paint with the telescopic rod which gave me a good amount of new possibilities. Nowadays I'm extremely fascinated by the tunnels and the pieces inside. It was difficult to start painting there because all the years I was on my own painting illegally and it was impossible to me to get there without someone who got the knowledge and the motivation to bring someone new into this. Fortunately a well known graffiti artist from Berlin who was also into my work was willing to take me with him. That was one of the most thrilling times ever in this city and I learned enough to do these spots by myself now. And until now they are still my favourite spots although very few people will see it but the result on a photograph is always something very special. Painting right below this chaotic city where you only hear the noise of rats, your own breathing and sometimes a train is pure magic. The fact that the tunnels never going to get buffed is just the tip of the iceberg.

Photo credit @bojan.lacman

What was your craziest experience while painting?

I don't know if it was the craziest experience but I certainly will never ever forget it. It was with the dude who helped me to get into the tunnels. He was a fan of the works I did with the telescopic rod so he had the idea to paint with this in an abandoned shell construction work of a never completed subway station. I was super excited and had absolutely no clue what's ahead of me. We met in the evening at the dudes place with an other friend of his. Everyone brought all the leftovers of coating colour, paint-rollers and telescopic rods we could find in our basements. The atmosphere was super chilled. We smoked a little and watched some footage that my friend took of his actions. As the time progressed we all got a little tired and I wondered why we didn't speak more about the upcoming action. And when I asked some questions they wouldn't be as specific as I wished they would be about what is going to happen. We got to know each other only a few weeks before so I decided to stop asking and just go with the flow. Around 1 am my friend decided to slowly pack our stuff and I felt a certain change in everybody's mood. Suddenly there was some kind of weird tension in the air and then the other guy mentioned something like he really don't want to do that "terrible crawl with all the stuff". That was the moment they told me that we have to crawl through a cable duct until we find a little hole in the ground to which a rope is attached which is leading a few meters further down to our goal. My mood also changed! I won't lie, I got scared! Mostly because of the other dude whose mood changed from really talkative to super quiet. We had two huge bags with two buckets of paint each, one bag full of paint rollers, two little rods and my heavy super long telescopic rod which is already 2,50 meters long when it's not extended. Even in the Berlin subway at 1:30 am we looked by far like the most suspicious characters around. As we reached the destination I was told an other fun fact. I was told to really be careful in the cable duct because the ceiling is basically nothing but sharp screws. We waited for the departure of the last subway and headed into the tunnel then made a u-turn and unloaded all of the stuff in front of the cable duct. As I took my first view ever in a subway cable duct and then looked back to the stuff we wanted to carry through I was getting a little sick for a moment. The two guys began to crawl into the thing and I pushed some of the stuff afterwards. I couldn't see the end of the duct and realised that it would take too long to crawl on feet and hands pushing the stuff through there. So we had to walk stooped and carry the stuff. Imagine to walk stooped with your lower legs and thighs in a 90 degrees angle through a 3 feet high and 30 degrees warm cable duct whose ceiling consists of sharp screws next to a subway railway carrying heavy paint-buckets and tons of other stuff. The guy in front of me made the mistake to straighten up a few centimeters while walking and got a huge scratch all over his back plus his shirt destroyed because of the screws. I don't know the exact length of the duct but it felt like 200 meters or so. We needed to do 3 or 4 breaks because our thighs burned like hellfire and we were completely sweaty. As we reached the hole I couldn't believe my eyes how fucking tiny and dark it was. I think I had to laugh out loud because it seemed so ridiculous getting everything through there. The smaller dude climbed down the rope first and we attached all the stuff to the rope and let it down. We realised that we couldn't take the big telescopic rod with us. After all the stuff has arrived and my buddy in front of me climbed down it was my turn. It was almost pitch-black dark until my feet reached the ground and I could have a look at the beautiful almost untouched walls of this huge never completed subway station construction work. It really felt like a modern cathedral or something. The whole thing was filled with bright lights and there was a movable scaffolding. There was only a few graffiti done by my friend and his crew. When we were finished gazing at everything we turned some music on, prepared our stuff and began to paint. Thanks to the scaffolding I could still paint really high. My friend did a full colour piece with lots of coating paint and I did 2 huge characters onto the left and right site of his piece. Unfortunately I got more and more tired and had to stop painting before I was finished. I told him to finish it an other time. As we packed our stuff together I realised I got extremely tired. I mean tired in a way like having problems with keeping the eyes open tired. And suddenly I became even more scared than the first time thinking about the way back. I really panicked for a second and was thinking about to sleep there but i decided that I want to sleep in my cozy bed and so we slowly moved to the hole that we came in. I looked up with my eyes following the rope and barely could see the end of it. Every part of my body was so exhausted that I had to hit myself in face with the flat of my hand to feel awake for at least a few seconds and after that I started to climb up back home...

Until the present day the piece down there remains still unfinished and I never thought about to go back there again to finish it.

Photo credit @byy_lauraa

What does graffiti mean to you?

Not so long ago I always thought It would be cool to earn money with my hobby but that changed. I've got a normal job that brings enough money to pay the bills and I'm so happy now that I can do graffiti and art stuff exclusively as my passion. I can do it whenever I want and nothing depends on it so I can do creative breaks for as long as I want. But what does it actually mean to me? I would describe it with the words of Gerhard Richter who said: "Sometimes I truly believe that art can change the world to a better place but then I start to realise that it's just pure idiocy." It is everything and nothing to me. Sometimes I find true meaning in it and I keep myself busy with it 24/7 and sometimes I don't and take a break for a few months. At the moment the meaningful attitude towards it is predominant. I think it's save to say that this is what I chose to do and will do for the rest of my life. What's interesting is that we choose it as kids by ourselves and it wasn't suggested by our parents or by the civil society. The fact that back then it was already like a subconscious resistance or rebellion against a pre-described pathway or the normative society remains until now. I truly want to create something and place my emphasis on rather "to be" than "to have" but I am deeply concerned about our modern unequal and exploitative society. I don't think that I can do something against it by going out and doing some illegal shit. Graffiti is not political per se even if it questions property. Maybe graffiti can stand as one big dirty "fuck you". But it's also nothing more or less than a "fuck you" because it has no agenda. Maybe the only way it truly changes a little is by keeping people inspired and interested in being creative instead of buying tons of useless shit. I think engaging in public relations like developing and supporting autonomous projects, taking part in a labor union and organising demonstrations or strikes is more "fuck the system" than a painted train.

Thanks to @sonne_im_schacht for the participation and contribution on this article.

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