Street legends: an interview with Tawa 16K

We had a chat with Tawa, one of the legend of the Italian scene who since 30 years contributes to the evolution of the noble art of Graffiti…

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Why the name Tawa? What made you start painting and when?

Tawa is nothing more than my first name… In ‘88/’89 I started going with some friends to the “Muretto” (Literally “The little wall”), a famous historical hip-hop hub of Milan of those years. In the garage below, I saw the first graffiti and I was literally struck! It was there where I decided that that would have been my way!

What is your first memory of writing?

The first memory is definitely my first graffiti behind the wall of a school in Via Cadore in 1990. I still remember the effort in pulling the straight lines and trying not to let the color drip… it was not easy at all, given to the pressure of the spray cans and undoubtedly ‘cause of the little experience. The wall came out well and today, I still have a good memory.

Tell us about how the evolution of your style over the years…

I started with the classic European style of that time and when the first Fanzine came over, I could also discover the New York style. Then I felt the need to distinguish from others creating something of my own. I invented letters with organic shapes and bone structure arranged in symmetric way rising my unique and innovative style: The Anatomic Style.

You’re part of the “16K”crew. When and how was it founded? Tell us a bit about this crew…

The 16k was formed in 1992. Our crew was based on uniqueness and style, keeping friendship on top of everything.

Tell us about the scene of those years. Was totally different from today or anything is left?

At that time, I can remember that everything was based on “Style Wars”. When I saw a painted train or a wall that was off the hook, I thought “my next graffiti had to kick ass”. That step made me grow up and evolve. Maybe today there is no longer the healthy competition that I found at that time.

What do you think about the new school? Do you know any emerging young promises?

I’m not well informed about the new writers on the scene but I see good technical level around, even if honestly the study of letters is a bit missing.

In addition to the “walls” you have also experimented different techniques on various kind of supports?

Yes, I painted on canvas as well as on walls. Studio works are totally different but just as stimulating and full of challenges. My partner Dada also paints in studio with me… where her geishas come to life, she refines techniques perfecting her style to identify herself in a unique way. She started using spray three years ago, where she emerges with lettering using her name DADA in a simple and clean way.

Tawa + Dada

Tell us about your artistic career in the broadest sense…

My artistic career ranges from graffiti on walls to Gallery Exhibition. My search for gesture is the sign… it is the evolution of the letter.

What drives your artistic expression? Do you think about a further evolution?

I am driven by the desire of creating something that didn’t exist before. In particular, my canvas are based on the study of letters and materials used to paint. Therefore, I think I will never see the end of  painting. 

What advice would you give to a guy approaching sprays?

The first advice is the one I gave to myself: to expertise more on paper before going to the streets.

What life lesson did you get from the Graffiti Culture?

Definitely respect and friendship.

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