Graffiti artist turned painter, Anderson Brasileiro’s cosmically tagged creations levitate off canvas and breathe life into the inanimate and imaginative with the most organic motivation.
photographs by joshua galloway / interview by ciara bird
Where are you from and where are you currently based? My journey started in Manhattan, New York. And after many moves around the country, I now lay my head in the Queen City, Charlotte.
Do you remember your first encounter with art? What was it like? When I was maybe three years old watching my father paint a landscape on a canvas in our living room. He loved landscapes. I guess you can say he was my own personal Bob Ross without the afro. I was seven years old when I probably had the most personal eye opening experience with art. My mother and I were on the Metro. Once we got into the outskirts of the city, I remember being fixated on the city’s rooftops because they were covered in graffiti. The colors and word fonts that I noticed spellbound me. I still remember those rooftops vividly today.
i’m the man you think you are… if you want to know what i’ll do, figure out what you’ll do. i’ll do the same thing — only more of it.” -malcolm x
Going back to the beginning, how did you originally get into graffiti? I was introduced to an individual named Ryan Gandara through a very close friend of mine, Ian Candelaria, at the age of 13 in Durham, NC. Ryan moved from New Jersey and taught me everything there was about graffiti, to the point where he ended up giving me my first tag name “Sign”. After a lot of sketchbook practice, I managed to get ahold of some spray paint and started to roam the surrounding areas aiming to spread my name.
How did you make the transition from street art to working on canvas (and other materials)? It started when I was taking art classes at my high school. My teacher used to give us these art freestyle assignments where she allowed us total artistic freedom to finish a piece by the end of class. And since I was fond of graffiti, I utilized her supplies to my style. This probably helped me transition into traditional art, but I think the biggest push was when I got caught spray-painting a wall by the neighborhood security guard. I think the biggest difference between street and canvas art is the fact that you don’t need to rush or keep eyes on the back of your head while painting. I know many graffiti artists can vouch – one of the biggest thrills of graffiti is having the courage and opportunity to slap “The Man” in his face.
You recently traveled to Brazil, tell us about that experience and the impact it had on you as an artist. I went to Brazil because I needed to escape the torment I had from not having enough time to work creatively. I needed a vacation from my 3-11pm job, and I was in desperate search for new inspiration. Although I barely got any painting done in the time I was there, I gained a strong Brazilian influence from the daily culture. Towards the end of my visit, I met an elderly local artist named Cicero Matos. I immediately fell in love with his abstract approach to Brazilian culture. He showed me how powerful it is to be true to who you are and what you do, when everyone else up until that point doubted my intentions of becoming a serious artist. The fire I gained from that trip still burns inside me.
Talk about your creative process. I never know what I’m going to paint as soon as I apply that first brush stroke. It’s not until I analyze and understand the painting at the end that I give it a name. I follow my gut with every movement on the canvas, from the colors down to the words. I like to think it’s not me that’s painting the canvas, but a certain spiritual intervention.
Who/What are the subjects in your paintings? I gravitate towards painting people, some real but mostly figments of my imagination. I like to think of myself as a soul trapped inside of a physical being, so I try to paint the unseen, the spirit. I’m fascinated by the scientific theory that we were created from stardust, that we have this unexplainable connection to the universe, so I incorporate lots of astronomical and astrological symbolism. And of course, since I’m a Brazilian-American, I tend to incorporate a cultural blend of the two in my pieces.
Do you connect yourself with the images that you create? Definitely. After finishing paintings, I find myself connecting the messages and symbolism within my paintings to the experiences I live through, past, present, or future. Painting to me is another form of dreaming. People can understand themselves by realizing the meanings of dreams they are having; painting does the same for me.
What do you want to communicate with your work? I think every one of my pieces has a fairly different voice, but I think the similarity they all share is to dig deep into the human psyche, find the force that drives it and let it take the wheel in whatever you do creatively.
Who are the other artists that have had an influence on you throughout your creative life? I believe everyone on this earth is an artist, but if I had to name some important figures, I’d have to bring up my best friend and slam poet George Yamazawa. He’s dripping with passion. When it comes to painting, of course I’ve got to say Leonardo da Vinci for teaching me the importance of studying the human body; Picasso for introducing me to the abstract; and Basquiat for giving me confidence in my style.
I’m also loving the Hip-Hop movement here in Charlotte: FFC, Senior, NevaMind, Elevator Jay, Say’Hu, and Deniro Farrar to name a few. They remind me how important it is to represent the city. And I can’t forget about the guys at Black Sheep Skate Shop! They are so rad, plus their fashion sense helps me stay immaculate from head to toe.
Do you do commissioned assignments? Sharing art is very important! I’m always painting something for someone. Back in 2012, I used to walk around and ask people what their favorite animals were. Then I’d go home, paint it on canvas, and give ‘em out for free. Just for fun. It eventually changed into large painting commissions.
Are you listening to music while creating a piece and does it have any influence on your work or is it simply background noise? My work is evident of a man that blares Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”, then skips to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”, followed by A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?”— it’s all a harmonic mess.
You are still very young in (in age and) your career; can you imagine yourself doing anything else? I love all types of art so there is a strong chance that I’ll practice something else just as diligently as I do with painting. I own a couple of guitars, and I’ve recently begun to practice again. I also love fashion, hopefully I’ll be given an opportunity to design clothing some day. But as far as I know, I’ll be painting till I’m an old man.
If you could repeat something in your life, what would it be? 1997. My dad and I were flooring it home in his Honda CRX, bumping “Too Close” by Next, after he bought me a brand new Nintendo 64. I had my sunglasses on. I felt too cool.
Where do you see yourself in five years? I’m aiming to own a large studio space here in Charlotte and produce very large amounts of art, embracing the art community as a whole. Love you mom!
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This interview was conducted early 2014.