Sarah Corona: Hi Nosm, nice to meet you and thank you for your availability. To start, just some quick questions, you can chose one of them or give me your own choice:
Do you prefer:
( ) to split or (x) to combine?
(x) Whisky or ( ) Champagne?
(x) Picasso or ( ) Malevic?
(x) Sea side or ( ) Mountains?
(x) Rio de Janeiro or ( ) Istanbul?
SC: Looking to your paintings there are often the same objects and icons: mechanical objects, robots, birds, diamonds, hearts, hands coming down from the sky picking something or someone, umbrellas…
It seems that they have a specific meaning. Can you tell me more about this?
H&N: Well it depends, actually there are no specific meanings. Sometimes the icons have meaning, sometimes they are only aesthetic. It depends mostly on the context and in every artwork, it varies. I would have look at each painting and explain the narrative to determine this. The icons and characters never stand alone. Together, the paintings are layers of different contemporary tales and stories.
In our latest show, “Late Confessions” at Jonathan Levine, we did an installation with black umbrellas, hung upside down. We used this idea last year in an installation in Prague and we wanted to use them again to utilize the space and make it more interesting, but also because they represent an idea of protection. Umbrellas are used as protection from the rain, but also, in an abstract manner, from bad memories and experiences. Protection also from the unforeseen in the future.
SC: And then you use only three colors (red, white and black). You explained that you reduced your color folio to only three colors to save money and to avoid too much weight when travelling. Do you miss other colors?
H&N: No. We can always use other colors, but it has become our signature. It also depends on the scale of the painting. If it’s very large, we also use shadows of black (greys) and red (pinks) in order to make the painting more interesting, more three dimensional and deeper. There is no obligation to use only red, white and black.
SC: We can see often sad characters, love is a theme, the atmosphere is sometimes dark and kind of apocalyptic … Someone said the huge murals are kind of Guernican. On behalf of this, I have a specific question: Did you ever read Dante’s Inferno (the first book of the Divina Commedia)?
H&N: I know the book, but I have never read it. Our paintings are always about serious situations in life and every day situations. There is also a strong autobiographical component. Our life wasn’t so easy and we experienced a lot of uncomfortable situations, so sometimes we express them in our murals. It’s easier to talk through art than to tell to somebody. The stories we’re telling communicate that not everything in life is fun. I’m not talking about depression or that we’re depressed, or that everything is troubling, but I think it’s important to remember how colorful life can be, truthfully.
SC: So is that how you experience daily life and society?
H&N: Well, as I mentioned earlier, some topics are autobiographical, some are more social. Sure we have a particular view on life and I think it’s important to talk about war, freedom, injustice, love, hate, and so on. Murals can be viewed by a lot of people, it’s almost social media. But in the end, we just like to make art. Art is everything – painting the entire day, hanging out at night and begin painting again the next day.
SC: I saw you working during the installation for the This Side of Paradise Show in the Andrew Morgan Freedman Home, Bronx (2012). You really melt together when you work on a piece; the perfect representation of being twins. Do you realize also individual pieces?
H&N: Obviously we paint together and also individually, but that’s usually the case with smaller works. Working on big pieces, we always work together. One starts a section that will be finished by the other and so on. It’s also a way of splitting work. In smaller pieces, you can have total control, in big murals it’s more difficult. Actually we also really have the same style. There are only a few people who can recognize who did which artwork and also, it just so happens that we forget who did what. Sometimes I find an older work and I don’t remember who did it. (laughing)
SC: So what about street culture?
Recently the 80ies, and now also the 90ies are becoming hip again. Skateboards, 80ies fashion, everybody wants to have a Polaroid Camera, it’s cool living in abandoned areas, painting by night, etc. In a way, underground and dirt is cool. Actually what your lifestyle is since your teenager age. Doesn’t this take off the excitement of your work? Don’t you feel bored by this? I mean you anticipated, lived and live what now is becoming of large consumism. What do you think about the future of Street Art?
H&N: Well, its part of the history, Sometime the 70ies are “In”, sometimes the 90ies. People do know what is real and what is faked, even in behavior. If you look to our stuff, style has changed, but we have a stylistic history. We raised up on the street so for us it is not really a topic of streetculture or else. We did only this and actually we’re only interested in doing this and what is in our interest. We don’t care what people think about.
With all this advertisement and the discovery and imitation of graffiti artists, there is a lot of shit around. Some companies use them for advertisement, but then they want to have their brand on it. Its just commercial and they will then even get tired of it. When the most controversial areas became hip and people accepted graffiti’s a lot of companies asked for creating tags or brand logos, but this is really boring. Young hipsters just play with Photoshop and other graphic programs, but what comes out is often shit. The artistic background isn’t important anymore.
A lot of companies put a lot of money in advertisement, and that means also the possibility for us to earn money, which is not bad at all, but then you have so many restrictions that it’s not Art anymore. As in everything, it’s a question of finding a balance, in terms of money, but also in terms of recognition. The artist should receive as much attention as the company. We had a collaboration with Red Bull in Rio de Janeiro and there the balance was perfect, we did a short video clip and had the correct recognition, Red Bull too. That was a perfect collaboration.
And of course, there are also a lot of artists who do work commercially, but this is not we’re looking for. We just want to do our art
H&N: Well, it’s part of history, Sometime the seventies are “In” and sometimes the nineties are. People do not always know what is original and what is copied , trend wise and behaviourally.
If you look at our stuff, the style has changed, but we have evolved stylistically.
We grew up living in the streets, so for us, it is not really a topic of street culture. We only did this and we were only interested in doing this. It’s what interested us. We don’t really care what people think about it.
With all the advertisements and the discovery and imitation of graffiti artists, there is a lot of shit out there. Some companies use graffiti for advertisement, but then they want their brand on it. It’s just commercial and they will eventually grow tired of it. When the most controversial areas became hip and people accepted graffiti, a lot of companies began asking graffiti writers to create tags or branding logos, but this was and still is really boring. Hipsters play around with Photoshop and other graphic programs to mimic original graffiti, but what comes out is often shit. An artistic background isn’t important anymore.
A lot of companies put tons of money into advertisement and that also means the possibility for us to earn money, which is not a bad thing, but then you have so many restrictions that it isn’t art anymore. As with everything else, it’s a question of finding a balance in terms of money but also in terms of recognition. The artist should receive as much attention as the company. We had a collaboration with Red Bull and the balance was perfect. We did a short video clip and had the appropriate recognition and Red Bull did too. It was a perfect collaboration.
Of course, there are also a lot of artists who mainly work commercially, but this is not what we’re looking for. We just want to make our art.
SC: Now you’re in San Francisco, is that for a commissioned work? What ? Where?
H&N: Yes, we just landed in Los Angeles and we’ll drive tomorrow to San Francisco where we will work on a huge building. It isn’t commissioned, just a personal project. About 90% of our works are not commissioned, we just do it because we love doing art.
SC: Should writing be legal? Would it change the way of how work writers?
H&N: No, if it’s on others’ property, if you damage others’ property you should be punished.
SC: Is there something you dream of to paint?
H&N: We have done everything really: walls, buildings, objects, even a plane, but it would be fun to paint a submarine and to take underwater pictures.
SC: Last but not least, what’s the artwork you look at when you wake up in the morning? Which artist? (Is there any artwork in your bedroom?)
H&N: The only artwork I have in my home is my son’s. I don’t have paintings in my house or on the walls. I have several paintings and works in the basement, but I never hang them. My brother always jokes around with me, saying “Hey, why are your walls still white?!
This interview is published also on Arte Fuse.