Singing praise for one of Greece’s finest
There are many schools of thought regarding the names, words, and letters used to create graffiti. Do they have a meaning, what do they symbolize, or do the letters look good in combination with each other? These are all questions that a graffiti writer will ask themselves at some point in time, and the viewers of their work will ask themselves from the beginning.
The Greek artist GOSPEL stirs up our thoughts as his whole graffiti identity has been built up on a word that itself conjures up a maze of possible interpretations. To add to the mystery of the use of the word GOSPEL as a tag, his artwork also lights our imaginations with the skilled delivery of pure forms, solid colors, and a noticeable influence of his native Greek culture in regard to his color palette and pictorial symbolism.
Pure forms, solid colors, and a noticeable influence of his native Greek culture
Born in Karditsa in 1990, GOSPEL is a multidisciplinary artist which particular strengths in graffiti, murals, and illustration. Residing in Athens, it is not just there that you can see his unforgettable works, however, it is undeniable the influence and presence Athens has within it. GOSPEL’s designs capture a healthy blend of Greek culture and graffiti culture references which find themselves captured in his unique use of solid color layers. Mostly in variations of white, black, red, and blue. All of these are thrown down with his favorite Montana GOLD and BLACK cans.
Any color as long as it’s white, black, red or blue
The graffiti scene in Athens, although receiving its deserved shine a little late in its development by the greater graffiti audience, offers many strong references for GOSPEL to play on. Bombed trains inside and out, masked identities, hooded writers in classic graffiti uniforms, Greek gods, and mythology. These references all find their way into his various interpretations. Adding to the mix the full array of graffiti elements such as informed letter structure, well-executed hand styles, arrows, and opaque fill-ins, GOSPEL has found a niche that is truly his own. A groove that he has taken ownership of with reoccurring practices like letters without outlines, and steering away from fades, and all done with the perfection of the spray can. Through our recent collaboration with GOSPEL in the creation of his Montana Cotton Bag designs, we thought it an appropriate time to ask those unanswered questions about who GOSPEL is and what GOSPEL stands for.
An interview with GOSPEL
MC- The word GOSPEL is often connected with the practice of singing songs of religious praise. And in a lot of cases in modern-day Christianity. But what does this word mean to you and how did you take ownership of it for the purpose of graffiti?
GOSPEL- Well. This is a question I have been asked by many people I have met so far during my artistic journey. The answer may seem a little funny or childish to you. It comes from my favorite hip-hop song “Ghetto Gospel”. Tupac was and still is my favorite rapper. This track came out around the time I was taking my first steps into the graffiti world. I can’t explain it exactly but for some reason, that’s why this particular word created a lot of emotions for me and I started to write it on the walls and my school desk. At that time my friends and I created our first graffiti crew. Very beautiful times that I often miss. As the years went by and I followed more career path in the field of art, I sometimes thought about changing my tag to something more mature, but in the end, I concluded that I had become attached to it and nothing else filled me as the word GOSPEL does. Just because it reminded me (and still reminds me) of where I started and with whom. This signature, therefore, encloses a beautiful part of my life and my artistic career up to this day.
MC- The colors black, white, blue, and red play a strong role in your work. What are the origins of this color choice?
G- I am a sea lover. I consider it to be one of the most important pieces of Greek culture. I spent all my childhood summers on a beautiful island in the northern Aegean called Limnos. This particular island is my mother’s birthplace. There I fell in love with the blue I could see on the fishermen’s boats and the windows of the houses on the island. I was also always struck by how beautifully this blue blended with the sunlight-white walls and red flowers of the island. As well as the red life jackets of the ships I traveled on. This combination of these colors from an early age created very beautiful feelings for me. Over the years, and after having tried many different techniques, around 2018 I ended up with this color palette adding the black color to give more contrast. Since then it has been my main color identity with small additions of blue, pink, and gray tones from time to time.
MC- Which colors in the Montana BLACK or GOLD range are you using for these 4 colors?
G- I use to paint with Montana BLACK. My favorite colors are “Lollipop’’ and ”Horizon”. They work perfectly with black and white.
MC- Your work often portrays masked figures, with tracksuits, sneakers, and baseball caps on. Is this the unwritten uniform for writers in Athens?
G- To a certain extent yes. Of course, I also add the element of fantasy to the way I portray my characters. I also borrow a lot of ideas from vintage clothing and old ’90s football team looks.
MC- Do you see your artwork as uniquely Greek? And how do you feel when its context changes due to its location? (i.e. Does a classic GOSPEL piece function equally as well in London or Sydney as it does in Athens in your opinion?)
G- I created this style thinking of combining the Greek element with the graffiti culture. But I don’t think that this particular style is only for my country. On the contrary, I borrow pieces of Greek culture to turn them into a global design language through my images, just like graffiti.
MC- What is the source for much of the symbolism you use in your work?
G- I paint mainly themes from the graffiti area as well as the urban environment. One of the main symbols of my work is the hidden faces of my characters. Apart from the fact that the hidden face is intertwined with the graffiti, it also gives the possibility, in my opinion, to the viewer to identify more easily with the character of the image, as well as to create his own story around him with his imagination. I believe that when you show your face people are more engaged with it. Whereas when you hide it, you transfer the power to your actions and create a myth and a mystery around them. For me, it’s not so much the faces that matter, but the ideas behind them. This is what I try to capture through my characters.
MC- Living in a city like Athens with all its history and heritage, what is your point of view on which buildings, walls, or surfaces you can or cannot paint on? Are there any rules you guys abide by that outsiders may not be aware of or is everything fair game?
G- Athens has always been a meeting center for many types of arts throughout the years. When it comes to the graffiti side there is a very strong core of talented people in both its illegal and legal forms. Over the years I have experienced both sides and respect them equally. In my opinion, Athens is an easy city to paint. I think this is the reason why more and more writers have been visiting it in recent years. For me, you can paint wherever you want except to destroy statues and monuments.
MC- Over your graffiti history, what role have graffiti tourists or visitors to Athens had on how your local scene has developed?
G- I think that the interaction with other countries in this piece played a very important role in our country and its evolution in graffiti. Apart from the tourists who come every month for holidays and to paint in our country, historical graffiti festivals have also taken place in Athens in the past with invited important writers from other countries. This to a large extent shaped the subsequent development of this culture in our country. In my opinion, one of the highlights was the festival in Thisio in 1998 with invited historical writers such as Seen, Ces, Cantwo, etc.
MC- If you could live and work in another city outside of Greece, which would it be and why?
G- I would choose Rome or Barcelona I think. I admire the Italian as well as the Spanish culture and I think it is very close to the Greek in terms of mentality and aesthetics.
MC- What is your favorite Montana Cans cap and can combination and why?
G- My favorite Montana Cans cap is the ‘’Level 1’’ cap. It is very convenient for me because it is very precise and helps me a lot in making very clean lines and details. Also, its other very basic advantage is that it is very soft and ideal for painting for long hours without straining my hand. My favorite Montana Cans Black color combination is ‘’LOLLIPOP-HORIZON-BABY BLUE-SNOW WHITE-BLACK’’
GOSPEL has well and truly shown that contemporary graffiti doesn’t have to look like the many generations of graffiti before it. And yet still have the same weight and substance in a different context. This however doesn’t give us any secrets as to which direction GOSPEL graffiti will go in the future. All the more reason to keep observing and following his work. You can do that here:@gospel.ath and gospelath.bigcartel.com