Russian graffiti heavyweight Trun, the founder of the legendary TAD crew, tells us about his upcoming participation at Urban Vibes vol. 3 in Moldova, about the events he organised so far, graffiti as a tool for self-knowledge, how a crew helps a writer to grow, about sketching, fast-timing pieces and his other passions. Enjoy a new Un-hidden Bucharest interview from Russia, with love.
f: Hello, Trun, you are the founder of the famed Russian graffiti crew TAD (Top And Dope) and have been actively involved in the graffiti movement both locally and internationally since 1999. How has this two-decade ride been so far for you and your fellow crew members and artist friends? Is there something you miss from the old days? What are you looking forward to in the following period?
Trun: Hello from cold Russia!
These 20 years were just crazy! I always wanted to show the world that there is graffiti in Russia. Also, this graffiti is at a very high level! With the advent of the TAD crew, we managed to do it. Now we talk less often with each other, nothing lasts forever, but there are still activists in the crew who paint 24/7.
As for the past, there were a lot of cool and not very cool moments. I love this team, no matter what happens.
f: Besides being a renowned graffiti writer, you’ve contributed to the scene by organising festivals and events such as Meeting of Styles, Year of Germany in Russia, Street Fire, Street Summit, Montana Jam and others. You’ve also participated in major international graffiti festivals – Roskilde, Step in the Arena. You were in the Artmossphere line-up, the only Russian biennale that introduces the general public to the most prominent street artists from all over the world and boosts the development of the local street art scene.
Tell us about your experience as an organiser and how it helped you in your personal growth, and also share some of the best memories from the festivals where you were invited. If you’d make a list of the top local and worldwide events of graffiti and street art, which would you recommend to our readers?
Trun: The first thing I realised when I started my graffiti journey was that our city lacked graffiti events where everyone could communicate and paint together. It’s how the idea of local festivals such as Montana Jam and Street Summit was born. They had a huge success!
After a while, we started to organise bigger events, such as Meeting of Styles and Street Fire. These events already had good budgets, which allowed us to bring graffiti and hip-hop stars such as Boogie, Sofles and others. Method Man was also our guest.
There is one thing about the experience: its level is constantly growing! I can’t say I’m a very experienced organiser, but I keep learning.
There are many street art festivals in the world, but the coolest and most atmospheric for me are Street Fire, Roskilde, Step in the Arena.
f: Speaking of festivals, this May, graffiti lovers will have the chance to see you at Urban Vibes vol.3 in Chișinău, Moldova. Have you thought about the piece you’ll be painting at the event? Any message for festival participants you’d like to share?
Trun: I really want to go back to this place!
I usually improvise when I paint, but this time I want to prepare perfectly!
As for the message, I would like people to come for the sake of communication. Sitting around, drawing sketches, maybe drinking whiskey. This is the atmosphere! This is what will always remain in your memory.
Logo design by Trun
f: You travelled a lot in Europe – Portugal, Germany, and others – and even China. Was there a city that impressed you with its graffiti culture or different/innovative approach?
Since you’ll be close by at Urban Vibes in Moldova, is there a chance to visit Romania anytime soon? Have you connected with Romanian graffiti writers or street artists by now? We’ve included some of their interventions in the public space in the Un-hidden Bucharest map.
Trun: I love Berlin most of all. This city still has the spirit of classic graffiti style writing.
I like the level of graffiti in China. ABS crew – kings of graffiti there!
I may have talked to the Romanian guys a couple of years ago in Milan at the Meeting of Styles, but I can’t say for sure. Anyway, I’ve never been to Romania, but I’d love to come here! I’m just sure there’s a lot of interesting graffiti movements. I’d love to see the new world!
f: In a previous interview you said that “graffiti is not for the masses.” Do you think that public taste, people’s definitions of what is “beautiful” and the need to understand this art form have generated the transition from graffiti to street art, from the focus on lettering to characters? Illustrators, painters now turn to walls and use them as their canvas, and although it is interesting how it grows and turns out, it has less to do with the graffiti knowledge you were referring to in the respective interview and with the connection to hip hop, bboying and other fields that were initially connected to and part of the phenomenon. In your view, how can we preserve this knowledge and pass it on to upcoming generations of writers? What’s your opinion – as graffiti writer and city dweller – of how public space should be used?
There are still parts of the world where graffiti is thriving, Moldova included. What about Russia? Take us through the main moments in the evolution and history of the graffiti street art scene there.
Dialogue with society is important for an artist; that’s why many writers are moving away from graffiti to more socially understandable experiments. Graffiti itself is doomed to be isolated, as the form of letters is difficult to convey meanings.
Young street artists, on the other hand, develop only by their understandable vectors. Sometimes it seems that they cannot even understand themselves.
Graffiti is a very powerful tool for self-knowledge.
However, you have to understand that not everyone wants to paint murals, portraits and other social stuff. We have many followers who appreciate working with letters. Plus, we must not forget that a graffiti artist can draw anything, at his discretion.
We are not against dialogue with society; it’s just that we don’t really need it…
Graffiti is everywhere where the economy is more or less developed.
f: You once asked your Instagram followers why they like or dislike graffiti. Were there any answers that impressed you? You then said that for you it’s about serenity, stability, expanding horizons and also for the thrill of it. Does it always feel the same?
Since we brought social media into the discussion, it’s fair to say that it has contributed to spreading the information about graffiti and street art and making them popular. People from all over the world have the chance to keep up-to-date with your work without needing to travel to where you painted. Some of your pieces – for instance, on abandoned buildings and areas difficult to access – would have had fewer chances to be seen if it wasn’t for the internet. You can interact directly with fans, share ideas, receive feedback almost instantly, check the work of other artists, find new inspiration. So what do you think are the main advantages social media brings to the development of graffiti? What about the disadvantages?
Trun: To tell you the truth, I don’t remember. There was much discussion about the fact that graffiti is out of order…
I’ve been curious all my life about graffiti. It’s the most important factor of creativity for me.
The Internet has definitely turned the game upside down. Now graffiti artists can become superstars. It is a huge plus! The drawbacks are more likely to affect the newcomers because, in such a vast ocean of information, it is difficult for them to sift out unnecessary information. However, I’m sure they’ll come up with something.
f: You were noticing that “now the main thing in the world is the individual Person. You do not need to be in a crew anymore to become famous.” People also know you nowadays as an individual artist, not only as crew founder and member. Share some thoughts on why it’s important to experience being part of a crew.
Self-promotion is essential! But if we look at most of today’s graffiti stars, we will see that they became famous in the teams and only after they continued their personal development. A crew can give you a good basis! It is easier to work in the crew, especially if you have common goals.
I love to paint with my boys, but I also paint alone, meditate so to speak…
I’m sure I couldn’t have had that success if I wasn’t part of the TAD crew.
f: You still paint on abandoned buildings, bomb trains, tag – even wall-size tags. Your creative mark has been visible on trucks, cars, rooftops. And you’re a quick writer too – we were impressed, for instance, by this 4-min intervention. Your style is based on lines, and the making of some of your works shows the master level of your technique. To complete the list, sketching is another aspect you’re passionate about.
Let’s discuss how you defined and developed your style, how you pick the spots and about bombing experiences and memories, where you’d love to experiment next and about embedding both traditional and new aspects of graffiti in your work. Are you usually spontaneous when painting a wall/train etc. or prepare a sketch first? What’s the record of the fastest piece you did?
On the other hand, what do you like about working on canvas and exhibiting in galleries and art fairs?
Trun: Thank you!
I draw many sketches, sometimes up to 100 a day. The first thing that influences style is sketching.
As far as aerosol painting is concerned, practice is also essential here. For example, in 2007 I did almost 300 full works on the street.
Looking at the speed of drawing, I will say this: it will take me 2-3 minutes to make a full piece.
I can’t say that I’m looking for walls for my work. I just come across interesting places sometimes, which I just can’t pass!
For the last few years, I have been trying to improvise. Regardless of whether it’s a train or a wall at a festival, I don’t prepare sketches in advance. It’s much more interesting to paint like this because you don’t know what you will get in the end.
Graffiti on canvases looks very cool! Especially if this canvas weighs in a modern interior! Plus, the sale of canvases allows you not to deny yourself anything. 😊
f: You’ve collaborated with brands active in related fields and also with major corporations such as Adidas. What’s your relationship with brands? How do you select whom you work with and set the terms and conditions to still maintain your style and freedom of expression despite client desires?
Trun: That’s a pretty complicated question!
The thing is, from the very beginning I got the principle: either I draw what I want, or I don’t draw at all! After a while, this began to bear fruit, and I started to get calls from people who needed something authorial, not just usual painters.
I don’t listen well to the recommendations and wishes, but all my commercial work has been successful.
f: Finally, let’s introduce our readers to what you do beyond graffiti. You have an impressive portfolio on Flickr and participate in photography contests, you write music and shoot videos, and play basketball. Tell us about these passions and anything else we should know about you.
Trun: Now I spend most of my time with graffiti, family and music. I had to quit basketball after a complicated leg fracture.
I have a pretty big family – 3 children, a wife and a cat – so I’m not bored!
For the last 5-6 years, I’ve been playing music under the same nickname – Trunskee. During this time I managed to release officially 5 EPs and one album, which are available on almost all the world’s music venues. At the moment I’m finalising a new album. In general, life is boiling!
You can follow Trun on Instagram, Facebook and Flickr.
This article is part of the Un-hidden Bucharest series of interviews with street art and graffiti artists, published weekly on feeder.ro. Together we will enter their artistic universe and learn how the city can be regenerated through artistic interventions in the public space.
Keep your eyes on feeder.ro, we’ll publish new interviews soon with iZZY iZVNE, Maria Bălan, John Dot S, Livi Po, J.Ace, Robert Obert, KSELEQOQYNQYSHY, Primitiv Print, Livia Fălcaru, Skinny Bunny, Obie Platon, Alina Marinescu, Maria Duda, Irina Marinescu, Kero Zen, Lost.Optics, Serebe, CAGE, ILUC, Nicolae Comănescu, Meguru Yamaguchi, Nicolás Alfalfa, Boeme1, SUNSHINERS, Daia – Diana Grigore, Pisica Pătrată, Alexander Blot, and more.
Interview by Emilia Cazan
Images © Trun
Un-hidden Bucharest is an urban regeneration programme conceived as a series of artistic interventions designed for the public space, co-created with the community, aiming at humanizing Bucharest and promoting its understanding and exploration through art.
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