Sitting on a wall at the end of the first of the three intense days at Manufactory Festival in Italy, we speak to the Belgian street artist Dzia. The festival was born as a project to add value to urban art in the Municipality of Comacchio, Ferrara. Dzia painted from 9am to 9pm and the paint is still visible on his hands. While waiting for the bus that should pick up the artists, we show him a selection of pictures depicting his work.
We would like to start our chat by showing you the picture of the fox we saw in the tube of Antwerp. That’s the city where your artistic path started, isn’t it?
«That’s right. I was born in Eastern Belgium and I lived for 17 years in Antwerp, where I attended the Royal Academy. At the beginning my production was more conceptual, later on I focused more on the artistic interventions in public spaces and in the cities.»
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
«For sure. I grew in a creative environment: my father paints, my mother works in the fashion industry, my uncle is a sculptor. Since his studio was attached to our garden, I spent a lot of time with him, mostly modeling clay with my hands. Artistic ability and sensitivity, together with my fondness for drawing – qualities that have been defining me – have soon been remarked by my family which has supported and helped me in following my desire to become what I am.»
Hard work always pays off, but have you ever thought about a B plan?
«I would have liked to be an architect. Anyway I am rather satisfied: instead of designing buildings now they call me to improve them with drawings!»
Let’s go back to Antwerp. We noticed that you left only a few marks in the city in comparison to other colleagues of yours born nearby, such as ROA and Bisser. We found more works made by them.
«That’s true, I made a lot of works on old factories’ walls or abandoned buildings but all nearby, like this squirrel you shot in Lochristi. I prefer spontaneous interventions, even little ones, and I think they have more value and a major impact when made in small towns instead of big cities.»
Do you remember the first wall that you painted?
«Sure, I was young! As many people did, I began my first graffiti after having seen an organized jam with artists, such as this Manufactory. I was just a little boy, only 14 and after having seen what you could do with some spray cans, full freedom of expression and different techniques I was just speechless.»
We wish we could read your mind just for a moment to understand what happens when you are in front of the wall that you are going to paint.
«It all happens in just 5 minutes: after having met the empty wall I already see how the animal could interact with it. Then I look for the best position in order to have a harmonic result. Before arriving on site, I study the animal chosen by looking at pictures of it and leafing through magazines about nature. After that, when I am finally in front of the wall, I assess sizes and the type of surface, but as I told you before it’s all decided on the go, in a very short time. I try to connect the animal that I’m going to paint with the environment around it; sometimes I can make it speak thanks to the special drawing of the gaze or the position it takes.»
Just like the rhinoceros you painted at the former Officine Reggiane in Reggio Emilia?
«I saw that wall while I was walking around the area and I immediately visualized the rhinoceros with its horn in the hole. It all happened in a moment and when it’s like that I need to start painting because it means it’s a good idea.»
We always see you traveling, hopping on and off the planes. Do you have time to visit the cities where you go to?
«It’s one of the most important things to do. In this moment it’s peak season and I have a lot of requests, that’s why I am always traveling. I believe, like in this occasion, that it’s paramount to spend a few hours going around freely and leaving spontaneous hidden works nearby, of which I don’t tell anyone so that it will be a bigger surprise for those passing by and seeing them. Moreover, I always spend some time visiting the city where I go to, to know the local culture.»
Could you give us any anticipation about next projects? Where are you flying to next?
«I’m going back home to arrange some things. After that I will go to Bristol, then Lithuania and Spain. Traveling all the time is very stressful but every time it’s an important chance to meet new artists and visit old friends, too. In November I will display at GCA Gallery in Paris; I think I will stay in my studio during all the month of October to prepare this exhibition in the best possible way.»