The Road To Harmony
Interview and Portrait by Sasha Bogojev
It’s not often that a young graffiti writer from a place like Poland gets a chance to travel and paint multi-story facades in some of the biggest cities around the world. Sainer, the talented artist from Etam Cru, acknowledges that he was “in the right place at the right time,” but his decade-long journey filled with game-changing murals, outstanding canvases, and drawings suggests that it was more than just coincidence. Graffiti culture has proven to be both a powerful filter and incubator for discovering and nurturing some of the biggest talents in the contemporary urban art movement. The story of Sainer and Bezt, two high school friends best known as Etam Cru, serves as a prime example of graffiti’s incredible breadth. After leaving their large-scale marks on urban landscapes from Hawaii to Australia, Dubai to Bosnia, and all over Europe and the US, this dynamic duo has now shifted their focus to developing their individual visions as they explore new interests. We had the chance to catch up with Sainer shortly after his inclusion in the superstar lineup of the Scale Project in Munich, while he was in the midst of finishing his groundbreaking new work for an upcoming solo show in Paris. With an artistic oeuvre that is versatile in different styles and techniques, Sainer’s compositions and color schemes continue to challenge the conception of modern street art or “muralism,” as he prefers to call it. Let’s delve deeper into the world of Sainer and his journey towards artistic harmony.
From Sain to Sainer
Exploring the Evolution of an Artistic Identity
We sat down with Sainer to discuss his artistic journey, starting from his early days of graffiti and the evolution of his artistic identity. He explained that before embracing the name Sainer, he was known for his graffiti letters as Sain. However, friends found it easier to pronounce Sainer, and the name stuck. As he transitioned from letter-based graffiti to more character-focused artwork during his art studies, he decided to embrace the name his friends had given him. This transition occurred around 2007-2008, marking an important milestone in his artistic journey.
Etam Cru: Birth of a Collaboration
A Unique Journey of Friendship and Artistic Exploration
One of the most remarkable aspects of Sainer’s career is his collaboration with Bezt, which eventually led to the formation of the renowned duo, Etam Cru. Although Bezt had already been using the name Etam before they met, it was during their first wall project together that they realized the power of their collaboration. Initially, they were painting letters and quickly discovered the promising potential of their joint work. With Bezt already spraying Etam with another inactive friend, they decided to adopt the name for their own crew. The simplicity of the name and its easy pronunciation outside Poland greatly appealed to them. Etam, which roughly translates to “Whatever” or “Forget about it” in Polish, perfectly captured their nonchalant and carefree approach to art creation.
The Pros and Cons of Collaborative Art
Collaboration has always been an integral part of Sainer’s artistic journey. Coming from a background of playing football in a team setting for nearly a decade, he found comfort in working with others. Contrary to the individualistic nature often seen in the classic art world, graffiti culture encouraged and embraced collaboration. Through collaboration, Sainer learned the art of compromise, understanding the importance of considering another artist’s perspective and reaching agreements. When painting together, they would divide the work, with each artist taking responsibility for a different part. Collaborating involved making compromises, sometimes necessitating the sacrifice of personal ideas, but ultimately leading to invaluable learning experiences. This approach allowed them to create a unified piece in which it was difficult to distinguish who had painted which part, blurring the lines between their individual styles.
Finding Individuality While Embracing Collaboration
While Etam Cru started by painting in distinct styles, they eventually began to merge their artistic approaches. As individual studio artists, they explored similar techniques and styles, making it difficult for viewers to discern each artist’s contribution. However, Sainer believes that it would be incredibly fulfilling to rediscover their distinct individual styles and bring them back into their collaborative work. Combining different elements and experimenting with diverse approaches has always been a source of excitement and joy for the duo.
Exploring New Horizons
Diversifying Collaborations Beyond Etam Cru
Allowing his artistic journey to take unexpected turns, Sainer recently began collaborating with other artists outside of the Etam Cru realm. Serendipity played a role in one of these collaborations when artist Sebas Velasco reached out to Sainer during a visit to Gdynia, Poland. Originally planning to paint together, they decided to experiment with canvas art instead. Following this unique experience, Sainer continued working with other artists such as Velvet and Zoer. He intends to continue these collaborations in the future, appreciating the process and the opportunity to witness another artist’s creative journey. For him, these collaborations provide fresh perspectives and unexpected outcomes, even if the final piece does not meet his initial expectations.
A Shift in Focus: The Transition to Studio Work
Astute observers may note that Sainer has been doing fewer murals in recent times. This shift is not accidental but a conscious decision to take a step back and allow new ideas to flourish. The constant travel associated with creating murals left him with limited time for personal artistic development. Consequently, he now prioritizes the quality of the walls he chooses to paint, favoring those with ideal surfaces, locations, and visibility. Rather than painting repetitive imagery to occupy every available space, Sainer prefers to be selective, focusing on walls that truly inspire and allow him to explore new artistic directions and techniques.
The Evolution of Sainer’s Artistic Style
The transition from Sainer’s early graffiti days to his large-scale, figurative murals was a natural progression. At the beginning, they painted smaller walls and relied on their personal connections to secure suitable canvases. However, as the graffiti culture continued to evolve, so did the opportunities for mural creation. The growing number of mural festivals opening doors for artists around the world coincided perfectly with Sainer and Bezt’s career trajectory. What started as small graffiti jams gradually transformed into global mural events, allowing them to expand their artistic horizons and push boundaries on an international scale. The experience of meeting and collaborating with well-established artists they admired along the way was a dream come true, surpassing any initial expectations they had. Immersed in a culture that often belittles its own achievements due to historical and cultural factors, Sainer reflects on their journey with a sense of wonder and gratitude.
The Thrill of International Exposure and Travel
Sainer vividly recalls the excitement and joy of those early days, as they began merging their art with travel on an international scale. Meeting influential artists they had idolized from afar was a surreal experience for the duo. Born and raised during the era of communism, Sainer acknowledges the subconscious feeling of being lesser in value due to the historical and cultural context. The influence of Western culture, particularly American culture, was a dominating force during their formative years. Even within the graffiti scene, they felt they were constantly playing catch-up, believing that they could never achieve the same level as their Western European or American counterparts. These limiting beliefs were deeply rooted in societal mentality, beginning from primary school and continuing throughout their art education. However, Sainer recognizes that this topic warrants an entirely separate discussion. Nonetheless, they persisted, breaking free from self-imposed limitations and proving their artistic prowess on a global stage.
The Current State of the Street Art Scene
Discussing the current state of the street art scene, Sainer voices concerns about its exponential growth and the potential lack of quality control. While some may have envisioned a fully painted city as the ultimate dream, the reality is that too much of a good thing can overwhelm and diminish the impact of art. Sainer attributes part of this phenomenon to the rise of social media, which allows artists to promote themselves without the need for galleries or agents. Unfortunately, not all artists possess the necessary artistic quality and depth to match their self-promotion efforts. This phenomenon extends beyond street art to other creative fields, underscoring the need for a level of discernment and critical evaluation. Sainer prefers to refer to his work as muralism rather than street art, as it more accurately captures the nature of his large-scale compositions. While he acknowledges the benefits of this growing trend, which facilitates connections, travel opportunities, and independent expression, he remains focused on his personal artistic journey as a painter and muralist.
The Artistic Vision of Sainer: The Chaotic Harmony
Exploring the Creative Process and Focusing on Individual Works
Presently, Sainer is preparing for his solo show at Galerie Openspace in Paris, scheduled to open in December. The exhibition will take advantage of the gallery’s layout, with each room showcasing a different type of work. While some of the pieces may resemble his past creations, Sainer is constantly exploring new elements and techniques, especially in his landscape-based paintings. These landscapes serve as inspiration for his recent work, demonstrating a clear transition towards abstraction and a departure from intricate and detailed motifs. During a recent excursion to the Polish mountains, Sainer devoted two weeks to immersing himself in nature and painting landscapes. This reconnection with the raw beauty of natural surroundings revitalized his artistic approach, enabling him to capture the essence of a place using fewer colors and a more minimalist style.
The Intriguing World of Sports Figures in Sainer’s Work
Sports have always held a special place in Sainer’s heart, and they have become a recurring motif in his art. After completing his first sports-themed piece, a mural featuring a golfer in Gdynia, Sainer discovered an inherent synergy between sports figures and his preferred compositional style. The dynamic movements of athletes, coupled with the intricate details of sports equipment like hats, sticks, and balls, present a perfect combination of elements for Sainer to explore. Subsequently, he began incorporating baseball players into his sketches, captivated by their visual appeal and compositional potential.
The Power of Composition, Form, and Color
While some of Sainer’s murals possess basic narratives, his primary focus lies in the abstract composition of elements. Before adding characters or visual elements, he meticulously plans the composition and color scheme. Over time, he realized that symbols and images carry different meanings depending on the context and cultural references of the viewers. Rather than imposing his interpretation on the audience, he prefers to allow room for multiple perspectives and personal connections. By prioritizing the composition, Sainer enables viewers to form their own narratives and appreciate the work on their own terms. For him, if storytelling were the primary objective, he would have chosen to write a book instead.
Reflections on the Contemporary Street Art Scene
In Sainer’s opinion, the current street art scene suffers from oversaturation. With numerous artists vying for attention through self-promotion, quality control often takes a backseat. This trend is not unique to street art; it permeates various creative domains, including music and cinematography. Simultaneously, Sainer believes that the label “street art” itself fails to capture the true essence of this expansive art movement. With its origins rooted in small interventions, stencils, and stickers, Sainer prefers the term “muralism” to describe his art. While he appreciates the opportunities and connections facilitated by this movement, he remains firmly grounded as a painter and muralist, committed to creating meaningful and impactful works within the ever-evolving art scene.
The Chaotic Harmony: An Insight into Sainer’s New Solo Show
Titled “The Chaotic Harmony,” Sainer’s upcoming solo show at Galerie Openspace in Paris embodies his perception of the world surrounding us. Exploring the juxtaposition of chaos and harmony, he believes that the two concepts are deeply intertwined and define our existence. Sainer chose this theme to emphasize the importance of finding harmony within chaos. His artwork aims to represent abstract compositions, relationships between forms, and colors. Straying away from explicit narratives and predefined meanings, he intentionally leaves room for the viewers to interpret the works on their own terms. He explores the chaos inherent in the artistic process, making unexpected moves or decisions that bring forth new solutions and themes. Sainer’s works often diverge from his initial ideas, embracing the beauty of spontaneity and the search for harmony within each canvas or wall. The path from concept to final result becomes its own narrative, fostering appreciation for the artistic process itself.
Sainer’s artistic evolution exemplifies the power of collaboration, adaptability, and the constant quest for personal growth. From humble beginnings as a graffiti writer in Poland, he emerged onto the global stage, leaving a lasting impact on the contemporary urban art movement. With countless international collaborations, travel experiences, and a growing body of individual work, Sainer continues to push artistic boundaries. His upcoming solo show, “The Chaotic Harmony,” promises to be a captivating exploration of abstract compositions, color relationships, and the enigmatic interplay between chaos and harmony.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How did Sainer become interested in graffiti art?
Sainer’s interest in graffiti art began during his high school years when he discovered the vibrant and rebellious nature of street art. Inspired by the hip hop culture and driven by a desire for self-expression, he started experimenting with graffiti letters and developed his skills over time.
2. What led Sainer to transition from graffiti letters to figurative murals?
As Sainer and his collaborator Bezt, collectively known as Etam Cru, delved deeper into the world of graffiti, they realized the power of figurative murals. They began evolving their artistic style and exploring larger-scale works, ultimately becoming renowned for their ability to create captivating narratives through massive murals.
3. How has social media influenced the street art scene?
Social media has revolutionized the street art scene, allowing artists to reach a wide audience without relying on traditional galleries or agents. Artists can now directly promote their work and connect with fellow artists and enthusiasts, reducing barriers to entry and facilitating the rapid growth of the art form.
4. What inspires Sainer’s unique art style?
Sainer draws inspiration from various sources, including classic painters, both Polish and international, contemporary urban and street artists, and music. He often finds himself scrolling through Instagram, discovering new talents and immersing himself in their creations. Additionally, his love for jazz, influenced by his musical background, has shaped his artistic sensibilities.
5. How does Sainer approach composition and color in his artwork?
Composition and color play crucial roles in Sainer’s creative process. He starts by meticulously planning the composition and color scheme, allowing them to guide the narrative and emotional impact of his works. Each element is carefully considered to create a harmonious relationship on the canvas or wall, capturing the essence of the subject matter and engaging the viewer’s senses.