When you think about consistency and sheer numbers in graffiti the writer Smash 137 is one of the artists that comes to mind. The Swiss born Smash 137 travels the world painting and has gained world recognition as one of the best in the game. Some of Smash’s graffiti has recently developed a much looser more abstract style. Well know for his great foundation of traditional letters his new direction of deconstruction seems natural. A minimalist approach at times, shapes, flows, flares and space create some of the most interesting graffiti being painted. On top of his great wall work, he has also transitioned some of these same concepts into galleries and his recent paintings. We have always tried to showcase some of the more visionary graffiti artists as they walk the line between graffiti and Art. This artist feature and conversation with Smash gives us a glimpse into some of the ideas that drive the artist, and his work.


GF: I’ll leave out the intro and history your name speaks for itself. Looking over the images you sent me, and watching your style evolve and become more loose recently, one thing that that stands out is you ability to still be able to keep the structure of the letter intact. When did you start to experiment a bit more with your style.

Smash 137: I guess the major change came in 2007 when I started with the “Cracking” technique. This new way of using the spray can helped me to get rid of a lot of the unwritten and old fashioned rules of graffiti and at the same time it gave me an idea of how much more there is to explore in writing.

GF: When i first saw your and Risk’s wall in Miami I was envious of how fun it looked. I really liked how painterly graffiti can look, yet still maintain its letter based structure with this this cracking technique. As an artist when you start to get into new areas of painting and new techniques that are coming about, do you ever think about what other people might say about your work. Do you worry about were, or how it might change your direction.

Smash 137 Yes, cracking is as much fun as it looks like and if it comes to critics in terms of my work I’m absolutely not worried about it anymore. I spend most of my time painting and if I’m not painting I’m reflecting on my work and picturing how I think it should look for the next time. Don’t get me wrong I question myself a lot but at the same time I know myself best and this gives me enough confidence to just trust in my own opinion. I do remember one time when I listened to a good friend’s opinion thinking he must know better than me but I quickly realized it was a mistake. He had told me that nobody could understand what was going on in my head from looking at my work and that they wouldn’t understand my new paintings. Back then it worried me so much that i took three big steps backwards in my work, just to see one year later what I was trying to do before had become the new hot shit. Today if people tell me that they don’t understand what I’m doing I’ll take it as a big and honest complement.

GF: I can relate to that 100%. Many artists forget what it feels like to not be sure of something, only because it is new or fresh. This is what excites me about our current state of graffiti our culture being over 40 years old, yet artists like yourself are still inventing and creating new ideas. Whats your take on where we might be headed in this next decade?

Smash 137: Luckily I have no idea what the new up to date pieces will look like then, but like you said yourself we’re working on it.

GF: There are plenty of great graffiti artists that do beautiful pieces in the street yet when they transition into a gallery its as if they are 2 completely different people. Looking at your work i feel you definitely are one of the artists that are able to push new boundaries in your street work, as well as your gallery work. How do you approach painting in a gallery vs the street.

Smash 137: Actually I have a sketch book full of conceptual ideas for paintings that look quite different from the work you are talking about. But every time I start to try out one of these ideas on canvas it doesn’t feel right, and the few that I have finished never left my studio. Today I can say that I don’t enjoy working in this way because it makes me feel like I did when I was working as a graphic designer for advertising companies. There was always a clear message you had to communicate which didn’t leave any room for your own imagination and beliefs. The paintings which do leave my studio get the same treatment as the stuff I paint outdoors. Before starting I pick the colors and the format I want to work on and once I get started I just stop thinking, let go, and trust in myself. This way of painting never disappoints me and I come up with combination’s of elements that I could never have planned ahead or sketched out beforehand.

GF: That’s an interesting point that graphic design can be a box of sorts creatively. Do you think Graffiti and its strict traditional use of Letters might also at times be a box that hinders progression and imagination? Do you think there could be a way to create style, without letters?

Smash 137: Traditions in all aspects of life can be a gift and a curse at the same time. I try my best to keep a balance in my work between the things that I’ve had handed down to me from generations of writers before and my own ideas that I want to add to all of that that. The time seems to be right to push letters into new fields after we can see that the history of writing is getting repeated more than ever before. A few months ago my answer to this question would have been a clear “NO!” but right now i don’t want to close this door, especially since I’m working on putting my name on canvas even more these days. I want people to read more into my paintings than just the word that’s written it.

GF: Well thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Any last words or comments?

Smash 137: As long as I can remember writers have always been criticizing the current state of graffiti. It’s almost as if good graffiti only ever existed in the past. But this shows me even more that only the best pieces can be timeless and the rest seems to get forgotten, which makes sense. What bothers me a bit these days is that fame used to be the only pay back for a writer’s sweat and tears. Nowadays that often comes sooner to those who know how to put themselves in the spotlight using new media rather than to the ones who deserve it the most. This is why I recommend everybody to travel if they get the chance to and see and experience pieces for themselves so they understand where they were created and what their context is. For me this is the only real way to understand the works and their history.

Smash 137 Website