Painting the Berlin Wall in the 1980s

Tell us about your art: What do you do? What inspired you to start?
I started to paint the Berlin wall in April 1984 and painted every day until the end in 1989. It was really special to paint on a deadly border. The wall was built 5 meters behind the real East-West line, so by painting the wall I was in East Berlin officially.  I never try to give any “message to the world”. I let everybody interpret what they see in my paintings for themselves. It is funny when some people recognise an uncle or a cousin when they see my paintings! I never say to them that they are wrong.


Red Dope on Rabbits.  Dedicated to the wild rabbits that lived on the Death Strip

What is innovative about what you do?
Each person is a one-way street. This is the advice of Andy Warhol. Do not imitate anybody or you will end up against a wall at the end of the street. The wall was technically transformed into a big canvas and me a clandestine painter. Because of the East German sentinels armed with machine guns it was necessary to paint fast. The sentinels guarded the wall night and day, standing inside watchtowers placed all around West-Berlin. Instinctively I chose simple figures, fast of execution.
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1984 Wall painting

What were your most successful projects/exhibitions so far or what projects did you enjoy the most so far?
What was called graffiti in the eighties is now called Street Art. The street art makers of today consider me a ‘master’. The illegal art of the past is now everywhere around the world, even inside museums. My painted pieces of the Berlin Wall are in museums now: Wende Museum in Los Angeles, Newseum in Washington D.C., Allied Museum in Berlin, National Museum of the USAF, in Dayton, Ohio.
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A Noir Wall piece in Mexico

Tell us a bit more about your current project?
I like to paint on the streets. This is why I am in Shoreditch for three weeks. When you paint on the street you change the city where the citizens live. So you make politics. Politics is the art or science of influencing people on a civic or individual level, when there are more than 2 people involved. At the same time I like to paint on canvases some ideas I have whilst painting on the streets. I am also making an exhibition at Howard Griffin Gallery on Shoreditch High Street  in April.
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Painting on the other side of the Wall in 1989

How would you describe the art scene in Shoreditch/East London? Why is it unique?
Shoreditch remains for me like West Berlin in 1982. Everybody is an artist. That’s how I started my way as an artist. I came to West Berlin in January 1982 inspired by the music of this city. All the artists I liked at that time were in Berlin: David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Nina Hagen and all the new wave movement. Somebody asked me “Are you an artist too?” and I said: “Yes”.
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Painting on Great Eastern Street (February 2013)

Who/what are your favorite Artists/Businesses in the area?
I like very much all of the great artists of Shoreditch: John Dolan, BRK, RUN, Christiaan Nagel, Zomby, Citizen Kane, Stik, Dscreet, Liqen, NUNCA, Phlegm, Conor Harrington, Pablo Delgado, Reka, Steve ESPO Powers, Kid Acne, Malabroccca, Mad C, ROA, Ben Wilson, Ben Eine, Broken Fingaz Crew, Zezao, Malarky and The Rolling People.
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Noir painting at Dereham Place, in Shoreditch (March 2014)

What are your favorite places in Shoreditch?
I liked the sandwich bar called Barone at the corner of Holywell Lane and Shoreditch High Street. I remember this was the place where we had many discussions and drew a lot of sketches, me, Stik, Griff, Christian Nagel and John Dolan, before we painted the big mural on the Village Underground in February 2013. I also like Strongroom Bar on Curtain Road, Tramshed and Franco’s Take Away on Rivington Street.

What are your future plans?
Freedom is the main theme in my work. I am happy to live my life without anybody telling me what to do. This is why I became an artist.