Athens-born street artist ‘The Krah’ has been painting the walls of London since he came to the UK around 8 years ago. His style is easy to recognise, unique and weird, which is one of the reasons I like him a lot! The Krah often works as an illustrator, which shows even in his larger murals. He often swaps between spraypaint and brushwork, adding an uncommon level of details to his street pieces.Written by Jester Jacques Gallery (see references for links).
Arts and Krahs
The Krah is a Greek word, which means the crash or collapse of a state government, usually from corruption or economical reasons. From a young age, I was fascinated with the way that ancient civilizations throughout history reached their peak and then collapsed. It’s a bit like what is happening to capitalism at the moment.
My parents say that I was drawing from before I could even walk, it was natural to me. Since I was a kid I always wanted to create worlds and used my illustration skills to do it. I trained myself to learn to draw, using a pencil and an eraser and would just keep erasing my mistakes till my drawing was perfect. Then I trained myself by using only felt tips so that I couldn’t erase, forcing myself to be more careful on what lines I did.
When I was a teenager I did a graphic design course in a college in Greece to learn all the design programs and then I studied fine-Art and illustration in a university here in the UK. Nowadays I don’t even do sketches any more I just freestyle it on the wall.
I started doing graphic novels but I couldn’t get them published; it was a difficult time in Greece back then and there were no opportunities for young artists. There was no chance to get a gallery show; our art wasn’t considered art, so we just did it without permission and made the streets our galleries.
I have been painting the streets for lots of years. I think I have painted all types of surfaces, but I prefer the old buildings that are run down with cracks, old wood, rusty metal, tags in the background, that kind of thing.I have painted all over Europe and in far away countries such as Thailand and Japan and I still think that Athens is every graffiti artist’s heaven. We are such a lawless country!
I remember in Thailand you would get a crowd looking at you and people asking you ‘why are you doing that?’ They just didn’t understand why you would do it for free. I would say to them that it’s my offering to your city and they really liked that.
I started tagging from a very young age but the first time I actually started doing characters and more creative things with spray paint on walls was back in Athens in 1997. At the time, in Greece, most of the graffiti writers were painting letters but I preferred to paint more figurative art and did characters. After that I joined one of the most famous Athenian graffiti crews, the SR Squad, and started painting subway trains in Athens and all over Europe.
It was a really cool time, full of adrenaline, going into train depots, in underground tunnels, alarmed, with CCTV, security guards. I even remember a time we got away from a police helicopter in a train yard. But it was a very dangerous game and sadly two of our friends died. I don’t paint trains any more.
My latest studio work is focusing on revisiting ancient myths and giving them a contemporary twist. I’m also being inspired by old masters such as: HieronymusBosch, William Holgarth and modern lowbrow artists such as Robert Williams, Todd Schorr, plus my favourite comic artists like Moebius and Geof Darrow.
My work is very detailed with hundreds of characters in each painting and all have socio-political message. A few of my latest ones are about the economical crisis in Greece. I get inspiration by visiting museums, searching in library books and I really like illustrated encyclopaedias. I watch lots of documentaries on-line and research images and vintage illustrations.
My work in the streets is experimental. I try not to do what everyone else does. I don’t do sketches before I paint a wall because it’s like doing the same thing twice and isn’t that fun. I prefer to free style it and then it has more flow. I usually do more biomechanical forms. I have had people say to me that they remind them of H.R. Giger on a happy colourful acid trip!
Today I do commercial illustration for clients in fashion, advertising, publishing and editorial for clients such as a billboard in oxford street tube station for Nokia, gig posters for the Arctic Monkeys. I did an advert to promote a new computer game by Marvel comics the Ultimate Alliance, lots of children’s books. I do lots of art shows in galleries here in London, around England and other countries around Europe and in America. My artwork are in lots of private collections and 3 of my screen prints are in the V&A museum’s collection and have been published in the latest book by the V&A called: 'STREET ART: Contemporary Prints'
I have self published a fanzine of a collection of my doodles and pics of my streetart that you can get from my website (see references). I also have my own clothing line run (see the Krah’s website in the references too).
As for the future, I am working on more installation based work for shows and commercial jobs and would like to do more 3D work like sculpting and making some vinyl toys.
- Krah’s fanzine: http://www.thekrah.yokaboo.com/category/limited-edition-fanzine/the-krah-sketchbook-fanzine