Mr. Dheo is one of Portugal’s best know graffiti writers, hailing from Portugal’s second city, Porto. A self-taught artist since his early childhood, Dheo has focused on developing both styles and techniques, not only outside on the streets but inside also. We caught up with Dheo to see what was behind his drive…
From Junior to Mister
I’ve been painting for 12 years now – I started after I saw graffiti for the first time in a rap video! I used to draw a lot when I was a kid but I was never interested in oils, acrylics or other traditional painting mediums (I just used regular pens). When I saw it though, everything in graffiti was different and new to me: it was on the street, it was big and colourful and I liked the messages. I knew right then that if I wanted to take what I did to a different level graffiti would be my path! I’ve kept evolving since then and never stopped!
I had a more common name before Mr. Dheo; my biggest goal was to find 4 letters that I was unlikely to see repeated anywhere. I started to test letters I enjoyed writing and came with the name “Dheo”. Some friends started to call me “Mister” and I attached it to “Dheo”. I also kept the Mister because when I started my website “dheo” dot com was already taken and “mrdheo.com" was not! Old school!
I have always tried to be as complete as possible in graffiti (bombing, painting in halls of fame, characters, styles, backgrounds, etc.). When we talk about murals (my main focus) or canvases I only use spray paint.
I made a decision not to have a formal art education. Even though it has restrained me in many ways I don’t regret it. It’s true that I could be a better artist today and I know it. If you go to art schools you can learn from experienced people, study great techniques and that also saves you time you lose when you try to learn by yourself. But learning by myself, through my own effort, is actually what I’ve enjoyed through all these years. I like the challenge of solving each problem I find when I create new stuff. I think it’s the difficulties I find that keep me going!
I’ve been through different phases with my characters. Until 2005 I did my own, which were more personal and graphic. In 2005 I was getting tired of them so I decided to try something that was much more challenging and harder to do: photorealism.
For the last 7 years I’ve kept doing photorealism because it’s still something I find difficult. I’ll move out of this phase when I feel it’s at the right level, in order to take the next step and do something new. I guess now I’m mixing everything I did previously into my art so I’m preparing new stuff and I hope I do well at it!
I don’t do much gallery work; I’ve only had 3 solo exhibitions and a few collective ones in the past 12 years. It’s just not something that makes me that happy to be honest. Painting on the streets is the best thing; I mean, it’s where I really feel free. This is maybe the biggest lesson I took from growing up painting outside: I saw people in my own exhibition, invited by the gallery with a glass of wine in one hand and a Louis Vuitton bag in the other, talking about the best things about my artwork and saying that I was a real artist. After a little chat, they said where they lived and I said that I did a big mural in their street two years ago; they’d never noticed it.
In my opinion one of the things that most influences your success is your context. Coming from small countries where the scene is not really known outside makes it harder for you. I come from a beautiful city, with beautiful people that live by the rules of shitty governments and authorities. You see huge cultural talent here, in graffiti, in sculpture, in music and in each cultural area. But we are not supported at all. Graffiti in Porto is still criminal, even if you try to do it in a good way. The city mayor is a dumbass and he doesn’t realize the role graffiti has in most countries nowadays. He’s already made public statements against graffiti in general. So you don’t have one single wall to paint here. Every mural I did in the city was illegal.
Other places are the total opposite. São Paulo breathes street art on every corner, it’s amazing. Artists are recognized and respected for what they do there. Almost every other place I’ve painted (Brazil, France, Spain, Greece, Holland and the UK) people act the same way: there’s always a place to express myself and I’m always treated very well by everyone.
About my recent ‘Layers’ exhibition: I accepted the gallery’s invitation mainly because it was in Porto city center. It was an excellent opportunity to bring graffiti to the mayor’s face, where he could do nothing about it! That’s why I made a 2.5m x 1.5m stencil of him holding a spraycan that was outside the gallery, in a street where thousands of people passed every day.
I was more interested in bringing graffiti itself to a place like this than to actually showcasing my own artwork. That was honestly secondary. So I mixed some old stuff I had with new stuff, trying to make them work together by bringing to the gallery the reality that I, and the other local writers, live here. I wanted people to understand that we have talent, that we have been invited to paint in many countries and that we are successful and most people don’t realize it. I wanted to make a statement about graffiti instead of showing only skills or techniques. I wouldn’t have accept the gallery’s invitation if I hadn’t had the freedom to do this.
Right now I’m trying to live in the moment because the Portuguese situation (with the financial / economic crisis) simply doesn’t allow me to make plans for the future. I just don’t know what will happen here in a few weeks, months or years. To be honest I’m looking more outside Portugal. I’ve been very lucky this year because I’ve been invited to a lot of events around the World. At least I have fun, I paint, I meet great people and I see beautiful places. In a few weeks I’ll be at Kosmopolite in Paris and I have more events scheduled for the next months, but I’ll keep them a secret for now! :)
Thanks to Global Street Art for interviewing me and by following my work. It’s great to have that feedback and I hope you keep promoting graffiti and street art like you’ve done until now.