"I will never stop being a street artist; the street is the place where I feel myself." Interview with Tvboy

Rosalía, Messi, Joe Biden or Alexia Putellas are some of the people featured in the works of Tvboy. Provocative, irreverent, his works are an acid reflection of what is happening around the world. He is now taking his particular brand of urban art to the Disseny Hub in an exhibition that can be visited for free until 11 September. In this new interview, we spoke to him about this exhibition and his work.

Tvboy is the name of a brand, of an artist, of a team... But who is Tvboy in reality?

I believe that Tvboy is simply my alter ego. It all started as a tag: being an urban artist I didn't want to sign using my real name, and later it became an icon and a symbol of my generation, which grew up watching a lot of television. We were the TV guys, now they're the mobile guys. But it's really a pseudonym and an alter ego that has transformed into everything it is now: a brand.

You have published a book with the title, “La calle es mi museo” (The Street is My Museum). What meaning does exhibiting in a museum bring to your works, which were painted in the street?

I will never stop being a street artist; the street is the place where I feel myself. But I started to feel the need to leave some kind of legacy and show my works in the same place. In addition, I also wanted to preserve them from destruction in some way, since everything that is done in the street has a very short life; urban art is ephemeral. It was at the start of the pandemic that I began working on canvas and collecting and organising photos of my works so I could document everything. After the pandemic, I had my first exhibition in Milan and now it's in Barcelona, my home.

How did you conceive the exhibition of "The Invasion" at the Disseny Hub Barcelona?

We have thought of it as an invasion because urban art is, in some way, invasive. It occupies spaces and, in this case, my works will occupy, invade, a museum. We have tried to transform this concept aesthetically into an ordinary exhibition, divided into different categories: love, heroes, war, refugees, empowerment, art history, etc.

In your works you invite reflection, provocation and sarcasm, especially linked to the inequalities of society, but instead you draw inspiration from the great artists of the past, such as Leonardo, Botticelli and Michelangelo. How is your creative process? When you choose a street, are you also looking for an artistic purpose?

I started falling in love with graffiti when I was 16 years old and then I got to know artists like Basquiat. Then I thought: if I'm Italian, why do I have to look at North American artists? In this way, I returned to study the great Italian classical artists. The Renaissance offers something incredible; I fell in love with Caravaggio and the art of the Baroque period. I take these references as my cultural baggage, transforming them, seeing them with today's eyes. Each work speaks of the moment in which it was created and I wanted to see how these classical works would look today. For example, in "The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo, Adam is distracted looking at his mobile phone and ignoring his father; in "The Last Supper" by Leonardo, Jesus and the apostles are at McDonalds... these are cultural short circuits.

Some of your drawings feature totally antagonistic and rival characters who would be unable to be friends. Could you be friends with people who are very opposite to you?

Of course, yes, it's just a reflection on this topic. I can feel affinity with a person because they have the same political ideals or concerns as me, but this doesn't mean I have to separate myself from someone who thinks differently from me. In fact, my friends are totally opposite to me, we complement each other. The basic idea of the works of featuring kissing between antagonistic characters is that love can do everything. We see each other as being very different, but maybe we’re not so much.

You were born in Palermo, but you live in Barcelona. Why did you settle here? What attracts you to here, to this city? What influence does it have on your work?

I was born in Palermo but when I was very young I moved to Milan and it was there where I studied, went to university and graduated in industrial design. It was also there where I met my wife, who is from Barcelona, and I followed her here in 2005. I fell in love with the city because it is very inspiring, many things happen, it is very modern and open; you feel free and not judged. Like all cities, it has its problems, but it is a really inspiring place for an artist. This is my base and my studio; I'm not moving from here.

What role does urban art play today? Do you feel threatened by a certain type of censorship?

The issue of censorship is a real one, especially in the beginning because some of my works were censored in Rome and Barcelona. Later, I understood that this was my strength. Being censored amplifies the message; people support you more and the work has more impact in the media. As long as they censor my work, they are doing me a favour.

What projects do you have for the future?

I have a very important project: we are recording a documentary. We started it in Ukraine and then in England. We will be following the tracks of a very famous artist. Another somewhat top secret project is crossing the pond and taking my exhibition to the United States. I can't tell you any more!

Ajuntament de Barcelona