Graffiti, as an art form, has come a long, long way in the past fifty years. One can argue that graffiti has proven to be a platform for many artists to use in order to elevate their own creative processes and to fuel the culture’s momentum forward. It’s these artists that have, in many ways, found a balance in the fusion of mainstream and graffiti like a delicious Korean-Taco truck in Los Angeles.
One of these artists is Paris native, Kanos. The man is a spray genius with some of the craziest can-control in the game. He’s found that perfect fusion of graffiti and graphic design (perhaps more like a warm crepe with Nutella than a Kimchi taco); of which, could possibly make him one of the world’s greatest underdogs in the graffiti culture. Read below to learn more about Kanos, his art and how Spray Planet was able to add some of its own fuel to ignite the designer/graffiti writer’s artistic platform.
KANOS Graffiti History:
SprayPlanet: Let’s begin with the very basics: What do you write, how did you come up with it, and how long have you been writing graffiti? Where do you call home? Also, where did your Instagram handle come from?
KANOS: I'm Alex Kanos, a French artist from Paris, France. My nickname in middle school was “Chikanos” cause I got Spanish roots. When I grow up and came in graffiti, I kept Kanos cause Chikanos was too long to write. My first graffiti on wall was in 1999 but I really begin to paint a lot in 2003, in north suburb of Paris, where I call home. My Instagram name, also my company name is 'iKanoGrafik', it’s a play of word with 'iconography' who comes from the Greek εἰκών ("image") and γράφειν ("to write" or to draw).
SprayPlanet: What crews are you a part of? Are crews viewed differently in France compared to the United States? How do you feel about internet crews or crews that primarily use the internet to recruit new members?
KANOS: I'm a crew member of ODV, my family from Paris, and CBS, my worldwide family originally from Los Angeles. I think that American crews got a different organization with a boss who gives directions and orderliness. In France, it could be more chaotic, no boss and people evolving in their own ways. There is no best way to make a crew, I prefer to meet people in reality and make walls but maybe it’s an old way, if people don’t need it nowadays, I can understand. I don't care to paint with a thousand-likes-writer, I prefer to meet good people and share happy moments and funny mood.
KANOS Creative Influences:
SprayPlanet: How did you begin your life as a graffiti writer? Can you recall that very first moment that sparked your interest in becoming a graffiti writer? What compelled you to continue in writing graff and did you ever think that you’d be where you are now? Please feel free to elaborate. What were they doing or what did they do that pushed you to explore lettering?
KANOS: I draw since my childhood and I remember to see graffiti on railway taking train to Paris. I was dreaming to make my draw in big on wall since a long time. And step by step it happens; I remember stealing two ugly cans at work and go by night with my best friend bombing streets-- at this point I know I would like to do that for real! It was good ol' days!
SprayPlanet: Different writers have different influences and, more directly, different individuals that may not necessarily be graffiti writers but have a significant persuasion in how they view and create art, is there anyone like this in your life? How did that individual influence your art or processes?
KANOS: After my first painting on wall, I go to fine art school to learn graphic design and make drawing my real job. At this time, graffiti was very [unappreciated] and people hate it. Anyway during my studies I discover some masters like Kandinsky and Malevitch who have very crazy theory about Art. I recommend the book "point and line to plane" by Kandinsky who really disturb my mind and make me create in a different way. Georges Mathieu influenced me about live painting and giving energy to my lines, using destruction to push the creation.
KANOS Style, Progression and What's Next
SprayPlanet: If you’re talking to a bystander or someone who doesn’t write graffiti, how would you explain your style to them? Do you call it anything specific? Can you explain your process and how you attack a wall? Give our readers a little look into the mind of KANOS.
KANOS: I try to mix organic and mechanic elements together cause it summarize graffiti movement. Cities and humans, concrete and guts, without it, graffiti could not exist.
So it’s an "Orga-Mecha" like style in about all my paints. Sometimes and try to add meaning with new series. For example I use signs to recompose city streets or I paint on character's eyes to symbolize their thoughts. I also talk about transhumanism in adding mechanics on my character, humanity merging with machine, etc... Each series gonna be digest and add new elements to my paints. I'm continually mixing and adding it. Sometimes I sketch, sometimes its only freehand improvisations, I don’t have pre-established rules.
SprayPlanet: Speaking of purpose in your art work, there’s a lot of design and illustrative elements in your paintings; for instance, your pieces from your first trip across the USA—each piece had something that related to the city you painted in. Can you explain to our readers how you like to use illustration in your burners?
KANOS: As I said I like to use signs, and last year, during my trip across USA I try to add interstate signs on each paints to significate my positions and to add something unique who witness where i am. I also try to talk about a cyberpunk-post-apocalyptic visions of wastelands and devastated USA! Sci-fi, steampunk and cyberpunk movement influences me a lot.
SprayPlanet: What’s your opinion about the use of social media as a platform solely on the reason to become “famous” for graffiti? Any suggestions as far as “do’s” and “don’t do’s” for younger writers?
KANOS: Become famous is only a consequence but it can't be a goal. That's the main mistake of a lot of people, not only in graffiti! We all have to repeat the question "why am i doing this?” Social media change the graffiti movement with good and bad sides, better to make connections but perfect to fake a knowledge of paint. Anyway social "Likes" doesn't add values to me cause my favorites artists have only a few amount of like...
Graffiti is more a marathon than a short race, and social media will still evolve... who remember Fotolog?!
So, I decided to not give too much attention and to more focus on my paint.
SprayPlanet: since we’re on the topic of younger writers, can we talk about your move to becoming a freelance artist and designer? How has working on your own affected your abilities to paint or progress? Do you find the satisfaction in doing freelance work in the way that you thought you would? Do you give yourself breaks from the daily grind? How does vacation work? Is working freelance all that glamorous?
KANOS: Oh no its not glamour! It's sometimes a bad idea to mix passion and work. If your graffiti is disconnected from your job, you are more free to express yourself. Sometimes you need to pay the rent and have to accept being a 'graphic mercenary' for some stupid customer.
So i do a real distinction between what 'I' decided and what 'they' decided to paint. But no complains I prefer to paint shitty stuff than work in an open space office!
So my way to have vacation is to paint MY graffiti in different countriesI can visit!
SprayPlanet: Recently, SPRAY PLANET sponsored the paint for a cross-country trip where you painted in several cities, can you fill-in our readers with some of the highlights of your trip? Who did you go with? What were some of your favorite moments? Did you have anything exciting happen; for example, the mid-west snow incident?
KANOS: With my bro Sloke, it’s the second time we make a cross-country trip called "The Road Warriors". We make about 8000 miles and paint in 12 cities in 20 days, it was a crazy adventure!
Thanks again to SprayPlanet for supporting us, providing our main tools and cans!
We paint as much as we can and connect a lot of good people; we also get stuck in Wyoming during a snowstorm and other crazy stuff, but what happened on the road...stay on the road! Each time I came in America i remember how this country is hard and wild. Hope to come back soon and make the sequel of the Road Warriors but never ever during winter.
SprayPlanet: Do you always film your walls? What’s your process for filming and how often do you publish your videos? Filming is an entire different form of documentation, do you ever film something without it ever being edited or revisited? In other words, do you ever just delete your footage? If so, why? Do you think that video is the way of the future?
KANOS: I would like to always film my walls but I couldn't. I try to make video only during travels
and when there is something outstanding. Each time I try to do it, as I can, I put my camera on the ground or other way to try to get by... I never have a professional result but it’s a way to conserve memories and to show people a little bit of the mood and context of a paint, more than a photo. To me video is already an old media; I’m looking towards new technology to show paint, like virtual or augmented reality.
SprayPlanet: In discussing the future, do you have a vision as to where you want your artwork to be in the next few years? Are there any future plans for art shows, gallery work, or major events that will showcase your work? How can our readers and your fans help to get your work out there even more and some dollars in your pocket? What’s the best way for other artists and collectors to get in contact with you? Also, where can our readers find your videos at? Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to put out there or plug?
KANOS: To be honest i have no idea of where am i going! I just want to continue painting walls and travelling, discovering new subjects i want to talk about etc... I never sell a lot of canvas but more live painting, one of my favorite ways to create. All my videos are on my Youtube and my Instagram profile. People can connect with me there.
I would like to thanks SprayPlanet to give me this interview, all my crew ODV & CBS, friends and family!
Kanos’ work can be found on:
FB: IKano Grafik
Interview by: Kasm (on Instagram: @kasm78)