Unlike the controversial graffiti artist Banksy who is so secretive about his appearance that he refused to attend this year’s Oscars undisguised, Chris de Souza Jensen is not protective of his identity despite the questionable legality of his work.
Dressed in nondescript jeans, a denim jacket, black hoodie anda beanie, the lanky artist casually picks up a microphone and proudly walks the viewer through hismassive creation.
The Danish artist is happy to reveal the location of the massive graffiti, which he claims is in a grey area of legality. He has been doing graffiti in Malta ever since he settled on the island a year ago.
Titled The Preoccupied Horsemen, the vibrant mural reaches around 4.10 metres in height and stretches across a tapering wall 19 metres long. He spent €300 on sprays for the piece, carrying 45 kilos in a bag along with a ladder every morning for three weeks.
Mr de Souza Jensen, 30, explains how this is “an illustrated time-lapsed story told on a big wall about the happenings of four horsemen of the apocalypse in 2011”. The tongue-in-cheek graffiti is based on the horsemen who feature in St John’s Book of Revelation, whose horses represent famine, conquest, war and death. In this interpretation, they appear in the fictionalised, menacing world of Hellywood.
An illustrator by profession, Mr de Souza Jensen says his inspiration came at a time when he was angry and felt he needed “something huge to do” – something that would make him feel happy and accomplished. What is striking is the detail of Mr de Souza Jensen’s work. Eye-catchers include the arrow-stabbed Santa, Famine’s horse being served aMartini, Conquest’s Satan tattoo and War flipping the bird.
Asked why he chose graffiti as his means of expression, the artist says he sees the medium simply as a form of illustration.
“It doesn’t really matter how you do it; you could do it digitally or as a big mural.”
He chose spray paint because it’s quicker, spreads easily and forced him to work on a big scale.
Mr de Souza Jensen, nicknamed Sea Puppy, is careful where he sprays his graffiti: it is in derelict areas or on walls whose owner has given his consent.
“I’m never in a position of potentially getting caught, because I never put myself in that position. I look for a place where I am left alone or am allowed to use a wall,” he says.
Although there are no penalties for graffiti itself, wilful damage to property is a crime and the fine would amount to the cost of repairing the damaged wall, lawyer Veronique Dalli said.
Despite this, Mr de Souza Jensen makes sure his work gets as much exposure as possible by documenting his creations via video and then uploading them.He started dabbling with graffiti when he was 15 as an alternative activity done randomly during late nights and early mornings. He only took the art form seriously when a friend started importing better quality paint.
Mr de Souza Jensen’s favourite type of graffiti is when it is done to “cheer people up or provoke thought about social, political or environmental issues”.
“Graffiti is meant to go against the grain,” he says.
“There is something romantic in knowing that anonymous people are decorating the streets at night. I consider them at times unsung folk heroes.”
For his next project Mr de Souza Jensen plans to work in communities and will be joining forces with artist James MicallefGrimaud.
Watch Chris de Souza Jensen create his graffiti on www.timesofmalta.com.
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