by Kevin Vaughn
Before chatting with Tec I felt like I already knew the guy. Tec is one of many of the city’s unsung heroes that have transformed the streets into an art lovers playground, turning unloved walls into part of a semi-permanent collection of street art. It was Cucho of Hollywood in Cambodia that hooked us up and when I opened up his website there was this big “ah-ha” moment when I realized that I was already an enormous fan. For a long time his iconic white headless whales that hover over small plazas and along bridges have stopped me in my tracks.
Unfortunately we couldn’t meet face to face. Tec currently lives in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and although he will be showing in Córdoba at the recognized art gallery Kósovo tomorrow there won’t be any extended layover in Buenos Aires. My skype wasn’t working very well so we decided to both crack open a bottle of wine from the comfort of our respective desk tops while I watched him marinate over his answers in a google document I shared with him. As bizarre as this totally inhuman interview may sound, Tec was such a cool guy that I’m seriously considering booking a trip to Sao Paolo to get the full tour.
I want to start with the basics, and I’ll admit that everyone probably asks you the same thing, but where does the name Tec come from?
Tec was born during a time where I was really into tagging. I spent a lot of time designing tags while looking through this book about trains in New York. I was fascinated by those criss-crossed letters, that were sort of a comic or wild style. I would try to all these combinations to see what letter went well with another, a completely graphic exercise, and Tec came out and kind of stuck. When I decided not to use my real name I chose it because it was short, and because it didn’t actually mean anything. I didn’t want my name to say a lot about what I thought of my future because honestly in that moment I had no idea where I was headed.
Where and what was your first street painting?
Since I was about 15 I would tag the name of my rock band with aerosol paint. One day I was with my friend Macario and we decided to go out and draw. He was a really talented friend and when I showed him the book with all the trains he was really into it, he started throwing out all sorts of ideas and sketches, he scared me a little bit, he wanted to paint the neighbors house, the police station. Later on he did that. One afternoon we went out with some sketches and 4 Kuwait aerosol cans: yellow, green, red and gray. We want to do something kind of Rastafarian, but what came out was this thing that looked like a tadpole smoking a cigar. I was a kind of hidden wall near the Rivadavia station on the Mitre line. It was there for years. I painted the gray cigar smoke.
You’ve painted in a lot of places. Is there a city you prefer to paint in?
You always feel more comfortable painting in places that you know. Hostile environments are really hard to work with. It’s good to speak the language and understand the rules. Anyone could potentially give you trouble, a neighbor, a cop or some bum looking for change. Out of the three the worst is the neighbor because if he says something to you it’s because he likes pushing buttons. The bum is probably drunk and looking for his next bottle, and the cop is doing his job. But the moral neighbor that says, ‘why don’t you paint that in front of your house?’ is the one that really breaks your balls. They are the same people that think that homosexuality is an illness, that we were better off with the military and that his daughter has never given a blow job. It’s hard to argue with those kinds of people.
What’s it like painting in your hometown Córdoba?
In Córdoba there is a spot really far away from those kinds of people on the bank of the Suquía River. Along its bank is this creative raping thought up by some bored city politician that thought it would be a good idea to enclose the river with a wall that runs along it’s sides. The entire central part of the city is divided by murals. There are kilometers of walls that make no sense. Painting there is a total pleasure. You wash your brushes in the river, the sun is out, pack a cooler with a few sandwiches and a coke and you’re set.
Somewhere you would really like to visit and paint in?
I would really like to go paint in Mexico for its mural tradition, for its masters. When I hear ‘Mexico’ I think of color, of heat, of dog fights, of resistance. That’s just my imagination.
I saw a video about a project you did called “Proyeto Osasco” where you reproduced drawings made by a group of children. How did that project come together?
I was in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where urban art, graffiti and pixo (a graffiti style particular to Sao Paolo) take over the city. There is a lot of high quality work, you don’t even want to paint alongside them. In Sao Paolo, compared to Buenos Aires, covering a mural isn’t looked at very highly. The walls have become like this archeological museum, and after years of this it’s finding free space isn’t so easy, and covering up someone else’s work could be a fatal error. So I started to look around the suburbs, and that’s how I got to know Osasco. It’s a more industrial city, very gray, a little bit of color wouldn’t hurt it at all. I proposed the project to a public art school and the director said to me, ‘So what do you charge?’ I told him, ‘Nothing teach, but get me some good walls because otherwise the kids are going to start taking them.’ He was down with it and even paid for some of the paint. I spent a week listening to a bunch of crazy old ladies, I talked about Messi and drew with the kids. The result was a stack of papers filled with genius. The next week I went out with the drawings and painted them all over the neighborhood. It was great. There was definitely no absence of little artists coming to complain that it I missed some detail.
Is childhood something you want to transmit in your work?
The relationship between my style and children’s drawings is based around this idea of showing the largest amount of people possible that drawing isn’t just for the Da Vinci’s and the Dali’s. It’s a pleasure that can reach anybody. Anyone can paint. The kids get that and so do I. If someone sees a drawing and thinks, ‘but that’s something I can do,’ that’s awesome. That’s what it’s about.
You did another project where you traveled around Route 9 from Buenos Aires to Córdoba stopping every once and a while to paint walls. How long was that trip? What inspired you to do it?
Route 9 means a lot to me. I was born in Córdoba and half-way through my adolescence my parents decided to move to Buenos Aires. I was still a minor so I had to go too. At first I didn’t like Buenos Aires. The men greeted each other with a kiss and the humor seemed to be all about laughing at the other guy. So every weekend I would take the Gral. Urquiza train and spent my weekends in the Docta (nickname for Córdoba). I probably made that trip 100 times and I always thought the same thing, ‘I want to paint here. Look at that wall! That one’s dope!’ but I never did it. One day I was on my way to Córdoba with my friend Nathan, a Brit with the soul of a quartet singer, and I told him about it. His answer was dogmatic, ´take a month and do it, what’s a month?’ I thought it over and the next month I was on the route and had no idea what the hell I was doing. I felt a lot of pressure after so many years of marinating over that idea. After a few days it got into a groove and it turned into one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
Can you explain your thought process in choosing specific walls to paint? Did you already know or was it more instinctive? It looks like every wall and it’s space influences you differently.
The inhospitable, the route, the abandoned places, it’s inevitably that you will be greatly influenced by them. There were moments when I felt like I was painting a canvas because I felt like no one was ever going to see it. That’s a lot different from painting in a city. It took me a while to understand that. After being in those towns for 15 days I felt like the owner of the land. Time and isolation makes you feel some sort of ownership. The places were thought out because I filmed everything. The light was really important to me, I had to try to calculate when the wall needed to be finished so the shot would look good. There were a few times I stayed in a place extra to get up in the morning and hope for better lighting.
Do you prefer to paint alone like that or collaborate within a group?
That changes over time and based on the place. As the years go by I like painting alone more. At first the idea was to have fun and experiment so working with a group was good for that. Now I prefer painting alone.
You are going to be showing in Kosovo in Córdoba. Are you sharing the show with any other artists?
In Córdoba I’ll be showing alongside Defi and Chu. We are like brothers. We’ve known one another since the beginning of college and have been working together for years, from painting murals to producing events.
What is the show about?
It’s a collective show. Each person will be showing their most recent works. In the last few years everyone has gone their own way experimenting with what it means to be a professional artist. We had to consider a lot of new things: our trajectory, what every era of our work means, our identities. Learning what it means to "show”, we ended up in places we never imagined like in galleries and museums. Your work begins to be compared to all the geniuses that you copied when you were a kid who without realizing it formed your visual identity. Now the challenge is creating a deeper personal style and that’s what the works at Kosovo are about: the result of a long aesthetic and technical search.
Are they murals? Works on canvas?
Each of us will be showing our most recent stuff. Defi will bring his 3D models. They are representations of instants full of irony and humor. Chu will be presenting some canvases painted with aerosol and acrylics, which has a lot to do with his work in the streets. He will also be bringing some wall objects that contain a lot of the iconic and graphic language that he developed with his art collective Doma. I will be presenting painted canvases. They are kind of elaborate works, canvases within other canvases. I paint and cover, paint and cover. That’s what I’ve seen happening in Buenos Aires in all the years I’ve painted there, layers and layers of paint. The walls in Buenos Aires are like a sauce that has been cooking for hours. The ingredients are simple and the flavor comes from all the hours of work.
What is the difference between painting a canvas and painting a wall? Does one excite you more?
I am always more interested in painting in the street. I think it’s obvious that the difference is enormous. The logistics, the weather, everything I’ve told you, they all make each outing magical, unique, unexpected. Painting in the street is like making love, painting a canvas is like masturbating.