Tell us a bit about your background and how you became a street artist.
I live in Bogotá since 1985 when my parents returned to Colombia after their passage through Mexico. Since I could do it I started to walk back and forth the city without a fixed course, especially in the center and its surroundings. I found all kinds of people, places and images. I think all that did that years later I would not only scratch the walls of my house but the ones in the street as well. I joined a couple of close people with common interests and willingness to paint what happened to us on the street, without asking permission and using what we had on hand.
Where and when did you create your first piece?
I remember the first stencils I made were between 2000 and 2001, but the first well elaborated piece, made in the street in more than one place was this:
This was in 2003 here in Bogotá. Is the image of John F. Kennedy Jr. doing the military salute to the corpse of his father, John F. Kennedy, during the funeral cortege after his murder. I remember that day I went out alone during the day and painted it about 20 times until I was stopped a policeman. I had to tell him it was a job for the university for him to let me go.
What’s the story behind the name Stinkfish?
Since I was 16 or 17 I started writing “Stink” over and over in my notebooks in school desks, bathrooms, a couple of years later I decided to add the “Fish”. There isn’t a great story behind it, I think everything comes from that era of youthful discontent and some punk music although I am still maverick and listening to punk. I also use other names such as Hate, Quetzal, Qkul, Gukumatz or Knits.
A lot of your pieces are portraits of people’s faces. How do you choose your subjects?
I always carry a photographic camera with me. I like taking pictures of people that catch my attention, most often without them realizing it, without speaking directly with them. From there come out the pictures which I then turn into stencils and took to the streets. I find interesting to make these images travel, images of people I know through the camera and might never see again.
Another way is the photographs that I find lying on the street while walking, broken, bent, missing. I have a large collection of these photographs, some I find interesting for bring to a wall, for example these two:
Tell us a little about your recent pieces on San Andres Island off the coast of Colombia.
In March of this year I had the opportunity to be four weeks on the island, working on a visual archaeology project with the group Mangle Rojo, walking much, taking lots of pictures and thinking of several issues that go by in that place. Alongside this work I could make several pieces in different abandoned places, from a hospital in ruins until a boat. It was an incredible experience to be able to access these spaces and make pieces in a place where there is practically no graffiti or street art.
Tell us about your work with Bastardilla on the project Memoria Canalla in Bogota. What is it all about and where did the idea come from?
I know Bastardilla since 2005 and between 2006 and 2007 we created “HOGAR” a group of research and documentation of the different expressions and actions that occur freely on the streets of Bogota, graffiti and street art punctually. In 2009 we did the project “Memory Canalla” in which we documented and exhibited some of the history of graffiti on Bogotá, showing their value and social and political power.
For this exhibition we also make a documentary with the participation of people involved in the graffiti movement from the sixties to the present.
Another important component of the project was the presence of international and national guests at different times during the 4-month long exhibition. They came to Bogota to do direct interventions in the streets and to talk a little about their work. Some of them were: Martha Cooper, Blu, Vexta, Nazza Stencil, Onesto, Tristan Manco, among others.
What influences the choice of walls and contexts that you work with?
From the beginning I liked places that have high visibility, high traffic streets at any time of day. It also influences the type of wall, texture and condition. I prefer the old walls, with accidents, cracks, moisture, walls that have an interesting visual history.
Nowadays I prefer to paint on neighborhoods where there is not much advertising, no shopping malls or places like that, I prefer to get to real neighborhoods with street life, places where people live the street by choice and necessity, not a mere transit space to get home after work or study.
Why do you think that street art is important?
I believe that the relationships and actions that happen in the streets in a free way, regardless of their name, provide a balance to the prefabricated world in which most of us are born. They are a sincere option to participate and build a city, no matter the technique or size, or who does it, there are no brands, prices or deals.
Which other cities in the world would you like to paint in?
Any place I can go to walk and paint is good.
Who are the other street artists that you currently most admire?
There are many people intervening the streets today in an interesting way, some names that I can point out are: El Mac, Roid, Bastardilla, Nunca, Insa, Katsu, Faile, Nazza Stencil … and many more.
Any big plans for 2011?
Paint as much as possible is always the grand plan, to travel and a couple of pending collaborations.
Geo: Thanks Stinkfish.