GRAFFITI IS A subject that sparks debate in the art world. Either people are for graffiti art, citing it as colourful investment our city should take advantage of, or they’re against it, likening it to vandalism. For Venise One, graffiti is more than just a heated discussion—it’s his profession. The graffiti artist, whose work has been commissioned in Detroit, Montreal, and Toronto, recently sat down with the Fulcrum to speak about what he does and why he considers street art important.
The Fulcrum: How did you get into graffiti art?
Venise One: Well, you kind of see [the art] around you, kind of wonder how [graffiti artists] do all that stuff … How does it happen? So you kind of get interested in it and you start drawing letters. It’s always fun.
What do you mean by letters?
[It’s] manipulating letters, design, or even people. It’s just basic art that becomes bigger than its original level.
Where do you paint in Ottawa?
There’s a wall under a bridge on Bronson. You can go there and paint. I mean, you try and not go over something that’s nicer than what you can do, just out of respect for someone. You won’t just go and paint over a Picasso, you know. There’s one [at] Slater and Bronson … It’s called the Tech Wall. That’s like the hall of fame of graffiti in Ottawa, like you really got to have a lot of respect in the city to be able to paint there.
Is there a big community of graffiti artists in Ottawa?
There’s quite a bit of people, but it’s not as big as other cities … It’s harder in this city compared to Montreal or Toronto. [In those cities], it’s a lot more accepted to do it and in Ottawa it’s really strict and harder. [In] Montreal, they’re really laid back about it. You can do a commission on any wall in the city if you ask the owner. In Ottawa, we [have] got to go through official this, official that, and I would say, “Forget it.” You don’t want to have to deal with that every time you want to do a commission.
Since you don’t use a conventional canvas, is it hard to have to paint over your work?
Yea, it’s really hard, especially if you’ve done something in a dark corner in town where nobody cares about and for some reason they erase it because apparently it’s important.
In that case, why do graffiti art?
I think the fact that it’s on a wall, it’s a lot stronger and if you want to do something big, a canvas is expensive. If you want to paint … something big [and] you paint it on an abandoned building, it sends a strong image. If you paint it on a canvas, it’s really about what you paint and not the environment.
What do you say to the people who say graffiti is just vandalism?
Graffiti is really easy to get into. It’s straight in your face and that’s why people get so frustrated [over it], I think. It’s too much for people to handle. I don’t know why [there’s] such a big controversy over this. I think there [are] a lot more things in the world to focus on and worry [about] than paint on a wall. Poverty is everywhere. Why don’t they clean that up instead? But when it comes to graffiti, it’s the end of the world.