We’ve been lucky enough to interview the spanish painter and street artist BTOY in Paris while she was working on a new mural in Paris 13. BTOY is a stencil artist from Barcelona. Her work is often about rejects, people of difficult adjustment to a stable society. Andrea’s work is characterized by intertextuality; Heavy load nostalgic portraits (such as past models of 20′s and 50′s Hollywood like Judy Garland playing Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz or Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra) swayed by forceful brushstrokes and colour. We hope you enjoy this as much as we have!
(ISSA) -What you choose to drink? Coffee, Tea, Beer, Soda or something else?
(BTOY) -« Cafe con leche » please
-Introduce yourself to us!
I am BTOY, from Barcelona, and I paint in the streets for over 10 years. My work is more focused on portraits, mainly women portraits.
– Where does your tag name come from?
When I started painting, and I didn’t started with graffiti, I just started with street art, people used to say that being bad at painting graffiti is to be a Toy. so I played with those established standards in this artistic scene and I chose “Be a Toy”…”BTOY”.
-How do you define yourself? Artist? Street artist? Anything else?
I paint, therefore I’m a painter. Say that I’m an Artist is a different story. I paint in my studio, I paint in the streets, I don’t know what my future will be, I just carry on painting, I’d might end up painting in a totally different environment, I don’t know. So I’m just a painter.
– How did it all start for you, and what is it nowadays?
As a painter? On day you find out that you are spending 24h a day painting, but it’s not a revelation, it’s a process. I started painting for fun, it’s a normal thing, a natural thing, like when you go to the swimming pool or have a drink with some friends (laughs). There is no special reason, I just started with my stencils in the streets, illegally, and I enjoyed it, so I carried on doing it.
-What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Cafe con leche” (laughs)
-Street art is mostly a visually stimulating form of art. To add one more sense to it, what music would you pick to accompany your art work?
Wahoo… I listen to a lot of all kinds of stuff, african music, experimental electronic music, it depends. I always work listening to music,it helps me to stay focus on my work, but it’s mainly electro and ethnic music, sometimes jazz as well.
I’m open to any kind of music, I just like it, I go to concerts quite often.
-In all forms of art, inspiration is crucial. What inspires you?
Everything around me, the walls in particular. When I started, I spent most of my time watching the walls, trying to adapt myself to the wall itself and to the surroundings. You have to adapt yourself to where you are, it’s fundamental.
My influences changes over time, the other day, for example, I went to see an expo about african masks, an I really liked the colors. But 5mn later I can see something else that will inspire me as well. There is nothing in particular that inspires me, a lot of things inspires me, at different moments of my life.
-Before going to paint, what is on your check list to take along?
If it’s an illegal work, or a in dangerous place, I’ll bring my stencils and posters, a brush and glue. If not, I’ll use my sprays. Again, you need to adapt yourself to the place, some places are quiet and you can paint easily, others are more tricky. Sometimes the neighbors, mainly in villages, not in the cities, offers you to paint their walls. I’ll soon go to Argentina, for a festival, and I expect everything to be more direct, to exchange with the local people and paint their walls.
-Do you have an artist you admire and why is it?
El Anatsui, he is a 70 years old african artist that I really like. He creates assemblages with discarded resources such as liquor bottle caps. He is amazing, transforming trash into Art, I like this contrast, and the message he brings about reuse, transformation.
-Which cities do you think are the most inspirational in Street Art?
It depends, it changes over time, It was Sao paulo long time ago, then Miami, Atlanta, Paris or Barcelona, it changes often. Urban Art is global.
-Do you have other passions apart from art?
Music, nature, go to the beach and rest in summer (laughs), I need to disconnect during the summer.
-What is your wildest project that you dream of achieving some day?
Wahoo (laughs), to paint an entire neighborhood.
-Does your art include symbolisms, messages or repeated patterns?
Yes repeated patterns, I often paint portraits of women from the past, women that tried to break the rules. We still need to break the rules, we still didn’t have a real gender equality, this is my message, not always very obvious, but often added in my work.
-What is your reaction when you realise someone has vandalised your creation?
Well… when I started, I was upset; but then I realized that a street is a public place, it doesn’t belong to anyone, so it’s part of the game. Sometimes it still hurts me, but what really drives me crazy is when municipal officers repaint everything in grey.
-What do you think people first think or feel when they see one of your works on the street?
I don t know, usually they like it, sometimes they don’t, but you shouldn’t take their opinion too seriously, it’s the only way to remain free.
– If you were a president what would you change in this world?
Poverty and social inequality. If we can feel it in our industrial world so imagine how it is in the third world countries. I don’t understand the winner-takes-all mentality, it’s all about money, it creates inequality and social assistance dependency.
– What kind of responsibility do you feel you have towards society as an artist?
None, I don’t think that an Artist has a specific responsibility towards society, in that case, we could imagine that a florist or a dentist have also a responsibility towards the society, it’s a job, it’s piece of our society like any other.
-Do you have any interesting creative plans for the future?
A festival in Argentina (Muropolis Mendoza), few murals planned for next year, and summer holidays (laughs), work and stay cool.
It’s been great to get to know more about the mind and person behind such talented and inspiring works. Thank you !
‘’I Support Street Art’’ team.
Check out his gallery page on ISSA