Interview with Oz Montanía

The walls of Buenos Aires are a channel for politics, activism, art and expression and play an important role as a means of communication within the city. The city’s reputation for art and expression has attracted artists from across the world to paint in Buenos Aires, who come to paint and collaborate with local artists. Oz Montanía recently visited Buenos Aires and created a spectacular new piece working together with the artist ICE.

Oz was born in Paraguay in 1985, and has been immersed in art and illustration since his childhood. He first began painting in the streets at the tender age of 12, and by the time he was 17 he had developed an immediately recognisable style. He has since spent the last 8 years travelling the world, painting in Toronto, Santiago de Chile, Johannesburg, Cartagena, Sao Paolo, Lima and Zurich among others.

graffitimundo caught up with Oz while he was in Buenos Aires and he shared a little of his vision with us.

GM: When was the first time you painted in Argentina?

OM: – I had visited Buenos Aires for a design conferences, but the first time I came to paint here was back in 2009, and I painted with Ice, a local artist I met. We were invited to paint in a show called Sinvergüenzas (no regrets) in the Spanish Cultural Centre, painting alongside local and international artists.

GM: I know the art scene has developed a lot in Paraguay over the years. What’s the situation with policing? Is street art and freedom of expression controlled?

Paraguay doesn’t really share the same 30 year history of vandalism and street art that Brazil, Chile and Argentina all share. But 35 years of living under a military dictatorship has definitely left people with a desire to get out in the streets and paint. Police don’t really view it as vandalism, even if it’s done in broad daylight. It’s pretty relaxed in that sense, you can paint beside the Congress, in front of police stations and nothing happens. Of course there is always an exception, and the occasional isolated incident, but it is not common. And in Asunción there are loads of places to paint… abandoned houses, parking lots, ruined buildings etc

GM: Many visiting artists have told us that the aspect they find most interesting about the street art scene in Argentina is the interaction and collaboration between artists. What do you think of this perspective, and how did you feel about working with Ice?

OM: Working with Ice really changed the way I paint. Before I met Ice I think the way I painted was pretty basic – basic forms, shadows, light, outlines – a very comic book style. Ice is obsessed with the details – he uses spray paint like he’s doing tae-kwon-do! He’s very technically gifted, and that really inspired me to try things I hadn’t done before. We got along really well and we worked very productively together. We have since set up workshops in Asunción and Montevideo, collective exhibitions and we are both participating in events in Chile, Brasil, Uruguay and Peru. We have also done a few commissions. We have a great working relationship.

GM: Did anything happen to you while you were painting in Argentina that made you think “this could only happen here…”?

OZ: In Latin America in general, the people you meet while you are painting are very engaging, but Argentina it is something else! If you paint in the street, you have to get used to talking to every single persons who walks past, you answer a million questions and end up meeting the whole neighbourhood! People are always offering you water, ladders, beer, cookies even pot… I’m sure this might not happen everywhere, but it’s seemed to happen all the time whenever I’ve painted here.

Together with Ice, Oz has created hundreds of works in various parts of the world, and their latest collaboration can be seen in Buenos Aires, in El Quetzal (Guatemala 4516) bar in Palermo. Entry is free and the wall can be seen from 7pm onwards Tuesdays to Sundays.

To find out more about Oz and his work, visit www.facebook.com/pyrotaurus

(Interview by Ana Laura Montenegro)

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