The art of Cranio

brasilobserver - Jun 17 2015
Cranio and his street art at Brick Lane (Photo: Guilherme Reis)

(Leia em Português)

From Sao Paulo to the walls of London: a conversation with Fabio Oliveira and his graffiti


By Guilherme Reis

Fabio Oliveira was born in 1982 in Sao Paulo. He began drawing at two years old and, at 16, began risking the first drawings on the walls of the largest city in Brazil. At school, being a good student brought the nickname by which he is still known today: Cranio, which roughly translating means brain. On the streets, his graffiti give a new look to a city known for its gray tone, and London as well.

From 1998 to 2008, he treated his art as a hobby – he had to work to pay the bills, after all. By the end of the last decade, however, which was a hobby became a profession. Last month, for the third time, Cranio was in London for business. And spoke to Brasil Observer.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


How did you get here?

Drawing… I’ve always loved to draw. But in 1998 I started drawing on the streets, doing graffiti. It was not art. It was something from kid to kid.


What was your first graffiti?

It was my name, with a different letter, painted in yellow and black. It was very ugly, but I liked it anyway. It was a wall inside an abandoned ground, so I thought I would have no problem.


And then…

And then I came to like the experience to leave home without knowing exactly where I was going to paint…


And how was this feeling?

It’s the same thing to be playing football and scoring a goal. But of course, several times, the ball hits the post: you are painting, and suddenly a police car arrives, for example.


Have you ever had any problem with the police?

Yes… I have been arrested because I was doing graffiti without permission. I had to pay a minimum wage for a charity.


Did you go mad?

Yes, because I didn’t finish my graffiti and lost my Sunday at the police station.


How was this thing of illegality?

In 1998, if you went with a spray can in hand in São Paulo, you were a ‘pichador’ (like a tagger). But the guys started painting everywhere, and here I speak of the old school guys, thus now it has the recognition of art. Today there is the recognition of the artist; at the time we had nothing. Today it’s seen as a job, not as something criminal. But that the street art, graffiti continues in the illegal scene.


What do you mean?

There is a big difference between the writer and the guy who makes street art, the muralist. Graffiti is something else, it has some rules…


What kind of rules?

Who does more, cries less; who respects is respected. The rules are clear. You respect, go and do your graffiti without covering anyone. Each one does work regardless of anything. It’s like you feel thirsty, being with a dry mouth and take that glass of water.


Changing the subject a little: here in London, who have you had the opportunity to meet and exchange experiences with?

I met a lot of people. Fanakapan… Stik, who is a very nice guy, very polite…


And what are their rules here?

It’s the same… do not paint on anyone’s work. And the graffiti: I’ll explain: graffiti is letter; it is writing on the train, it is writing on the walls. Sometimes it has a drawing, but the idea is to put a name.


So don’t you call yourself a graffiti artist?

Yes, because I also write. The graffiti was a school for me because I learned to manage the spray. Then I started to have my ideas, I started doing street art, some urban interventions that were drawing a character that interacted with its environment. So it’s not a word, it is an image.


But is it not graffiti?

In my view it’s not. Graffiti is one thing, is a movement. The street art is another movement that is merging with graffiti.


And what about ‘pichação’?

‘Pichação’ is graffiti with no colour. Why? Because it is a kind of illegal calligraphy born in that environment of São Paulo, with that city’s architecture, it is a fusion of things that you cannot find anywhere.


And what is your style?

I think the style of art that I’ve been doing is well represented by Brazilian graffiti. We do not make a street art similar to American or European. We have this thing to be more from rap music, to be happier. I have the impression that our creations are generally happier. It may even be a punch in the face of society, but has a touch of happiness, fulfilment, pleasure…


As your drawings… In a country that does not respect its indigenous population, you elect a blue indigenous character being dominated. But at the same time, the character is also an explorer…

Yes. The indigenous are being dominated actually. But the point of view of my work is not seeing the indigenous only as the one part of an Amazon tribe. It is a reflection of modern society and large cities, which are jungles of stone. So it’s a jungle that does not have the trees. Everyone in this environment is a kind of indigenous in my view. Everyone has to kill a lion a day, hunt to eat, make things happen.


And what do you like the most, your painting on the wall or in the gallery?

I like both. I like to expose my work indoor because I came from the opposite. My studio has always been the street, I never had a studio. Today I have, so I create internally and expose internally, from inside to inside. But all my life has always been from the inside out, to say “what the hell, I’ll go outside and paint wherever it is.”


What do you think your art represents?

It is a reflection of what is inside of me, but like it or not we have a collective voice, so I do not speak only for myself. I believe my work represents a nation, a reflection not only of Brazil but of an entire generation, one thing that we all live. Today we are in London, but we come from Sao Paulo. So it’s cool when someone sees my drawing here in London and feels represented in some way, feels part of it too.