Reverse Graffiti Meets Paste-up – Who is seiLeise?

Text by Corinna Heumann

SeiLeise is a street artist from Cologne. He came into contact with graffiti as a teenager. Later he finds – meanwhile trained as a graphic artist – in the art of the street the central source of inspiration for his artistic development. Today, he plays on the streets of this world. You can find his art work in Lisbon, Hamburg or London. Nevertheless, he has remained faithful to his hometown of Cologne and continues to furnish it with wonderfully surprising street art. 

He is driven by his will to help shape public space, to not accept the established gray of the city. He wants to make art and intellect accessible. He does not want to leave the content and colorful design of urban space to advertising alone. If I then manage to have people enjoy my art on their way and their smiles reach me, I feel confirmed in what I do.

The allure of transience – vita brevis, ars longa

In the world of Western art production, a paradigm shift has been taking place for decades. For centuries, people chiseled in marble, cast in bronze, painted the thick walls of churches and palaces to give the transience of human existence godlike eternal character. Contemporary artists are now playing with the more recent realization that nothing remains, except perhaps NOTHING in the face of the immense human potential for destruction. They counter the disenchantment of past paradise-like illusions with a new poetic-visual intellectuality.

Transformation processes becoming alive

The meanwhile inflationary use of the term transformation processes often also conveys an interpretative authority in the vague with considerable intimidating potential. In contrast, the undisguised affectionate worldliness of the artist seiLeise creates, whether in urban space or in his works on paper, the lively atmosphere of emotional closeness and tolerance even in complicated socio-political subject areas. His works contrast the creative processing with the human feeling of being at the mercy of others. Wind and weather in the city, crowds, political dynamics and climate change lose their direct emotional threat potential. Instead of lapsing into paralysis or even accusation, his art inspires casual viewers and gallery visitors to cope with them in a peacefully constructive way, bringing smiles to their faces.

Reverse Graffiti meets Paste-up

seiLeise gained primary notoriety for his reverse graffiti. This is a technique that only a few artists take on. After all, it requires quite a bit of technical know-how and equipment. Instead of adding paint to the wall, as is usually the case, reverse graffiti requires the exact opposite: the wall is cleaned of paint, dirt and other environmental influences. Instead of spray cans or brushes, compressed air bottles and sandblasters are part of the tools of the trade, and new images emerge. The differentiation in different visual techniques, seiLeise understands in ever new possibilities of combinatorics as a great opportunity.

I’ve actually been doing graphics for many years. But with them I was always trapped at the computer, they didn’t come out of there. And at some point I tried to combine that: So not necessarily having to go out at night anymore, like I did in my youth doing graffiti, but still making art and using my graphics – that was the intention behind it. He prepares multilayer stencils and paste-ups in his studio. Only then does he paste them up in the urban space. These are multi-colored motifs sprayed onto paper. Public space is more than a mere canvas for his works; it is the linchpin of his work and the point of reference for what defines and legitimizes him as a street artist.

With his art, seiLeise wants to set impulses. He wants to inspire his audience to open up individual interpretive fields, to formulate their own thoughts and interpretations. Nothing is as refreshing as a courageous step across borders, Keith Haring already stated in New York in the 80s of the last century.

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