Also what is really cool is that other people start tagging your work, and your picture gets another life, a new context, and it starts to get destroyed and gradually disappears. All this made me totally forget the galleries, the streets are my gallery.
London based neo-photographer street artist Yola, visited San Francisco in August. We were unfortunately out of town so missed meeting her but did enjoy her show and all her work that popped up around the Mission district. We caught up with her to find out what it is like doing street art in different countries around the world.
Where are you located?
In Europe, generally speaking. I’m Polish, born and educated in Poland. I’d lived in Paris for 10 years, and now I live in London. I work all over Europe – Poland, Germany, UK and France.
We understand Yola is your street art name and you are actually two artists who collaborate. Can you tell us how that happened.
My first name is Jola, it’s a Polish name, and in Polish ” j ” is pronounced as ” y “. In my steet-art I spell my name with “y” so it’s pronounced the right way; At the beginning, in Paris, I was doing street art as Yola on my own; Then I started to do bigger projects and other people joined in; A couple of years ago I met Aga and now it’s the two of us working together. we’ve kept the name Yola – a bit like you’d keep the name of music band even when its members have changed I don’t really like to work on my own; working together inspires me and gives me energy. With Aga we complement each other with very different skills; I’m more into visual things, she is into meaning and words. I’m more of an introvert, locked in my own world, she is more open, sociable and organized so it’s a very good mix.
When did you start making street art? What was it that got you started?
I started by putting my images on the street for fun; I’ve always thought of myself as an artist and I wanted to approach one of the Parisian galleries so they’d represent me. But I’m too shy to simply walk in somewhere and say “this is my art”. It’s especially hard in France where people wouldn’t even talk to you if you haven’t been introduced by someone they know. So I had this idea of doing a “guerrilla” action and I put one of my images in the street right in front of the gallery. Of course they never responded, but I fell in love with street-art that day.
I love the fact the the city around is a frame for your picture or a continuation, and that you can do really big formats and show them in the street; that you have people’s immediate reaction. Also what is really cool is that other people start tagging your work, and your picture gets another life, a new context, and it starts to get destroyed and gradually disappears. All this made me totally forget the galleries, the streets are my gallery.
Do either of you have an art and design background? If so can you elaborate a bit?
I studied at an art school and a film school and Aga has a degree in literature.
What type of piece do you do? What types of tools do you use?
We do digital collages based of classical paintings. It’s a mix of photos we shoot especially for those pieces and of graphic design.
Where can your pieces be seen? Do you do walls, installation, trains, sidewalk pieces etc?
We do walls, but paste up is a very fragile and temporary medium; However in Warsaw /the Praga district/ there are still a few pieces on the walls that have been there for 2 years and survived 2 polish winters 😉 Our pieces are still on the walls in Buenos Aires /de boustamante/ and in Melbourne /Hossier Lane/, We also have a new piece in London commissioned by the Loughborough Junction Action Group, hopefully it’ll stay on the walls a bit longer. In big European cities street art usually doesn’t last long, there is a lot of competition and the pieces get destroyed very quickly. But we document most of our images and you can see them on our website www.yolart.net
Where do you get your inspiration?
Mostly in museums, art collections and a lot of internet reserch 😉
What do both of you do from day to day? Do your day jobs have anything to do with art?
I’m /Jola/ a motion designer / animation film director and compositing artist www.jolakudela.com and Aga is a creative producer and TV director so we both work with visual content in our professional as well as art lives.
You recently visited San Francisco. What was it like doing street art in San Francisco vs other cities? What did you think of the scene here versus in other places?
In SF we met Annice Jacoby who wrote the book Mission Muralismo and she guided us through the Mission world of street art. It was something totally new compared with all the street art we’ve seen in other places. There is a lot of Latino influences and we absolutely loved it.
We did our paste ups in 2 places: on (de)Appropriation Wall and in Clarion Alley. Both are cool street-art addresses. (de)Appropriation Wall on Valencia is more than just a street-art wall – pasting up there felt like playing a small part in the history of freedom of speech. Clarion Alley is a proper graffiti place, which was originally commissioned, but now it looks like the artists put their marks there under their own steam; by the way, one of our pieces there disappeared very quickly – freedom of speech has also its painful side ;-))
Does the street art in other cities influence your art?
I’m not looking for inspiration from other street-artists; I don’t want to copy them; inspiration comes from all other forms of art and human creativity; But some technical forms interest me more than others and for example I would like to do some stencils in the future. I’ve seen so much good art in that medium that I would like to try it myself.
What art/artist influenced you in formative years? Are there any now?
In my early age I was a big fan of Egon Schiele, Józef Gielniak, Aubrey Beardsley, I was at the the Art School at the time and I was drawing a lot and loved all the graphic stuff; My professors were very unhappy when I decided not to continue my art education and go to film school instead; for them it wasn’t a real school, it was a vanity fair. But at the vanity fair I got fascinated with Peter Greenaway, Ralph Bakshi, Terry Gilliam and David Lynch; Then I concentrated more on photography with artists like Sam Taylor Wood or Nadav Kander; Now there are thousands of artists who amaze me, for example Conor Harrington, Joram Roukes, David Foldvari and many others. Today the world is full of great pictures, and what’s really cool is that all that is accessible in every part of the earth where you can find a computer with an internet connection.
Is there a specific message you are trying to get across?
Yes, absolutely. That’s why I chose a very public form of expression. We are trying to go out to the people with a message, to say something; The images are not just a pretty wall paper. We are trying to speak about tolerance, racism, ageism, homophobia, fanaticism and freedom of choice.
Do you know how people react to your work?
They like it very much … or … they tear it off the wall immediately ;-)) It depends on the way they see the world.
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