Time Out Rio de Janeiro

5 minutes with... Toz

The Bahia-born artist who has been brightening up the streets of Rio with his technicolour characters for almost two decades prepares for his latest show 'O Vendedor de Alegria'

Toz, otherwise known as Tomaz Viana, is one of the most influential figures on the carioca street-art scene as we know it today. Among the first artists to come out of their bedroom and swap sketchbook for concrete wall at a time when gang and football-related tags dominated, he is now a member of the infamous Fleshbeck Crew and responsible for making Rio's bland walls as interesting and vibrant as the nature that they surround.

Through his signature characters Nina, her bleary-eyed baby boy sidekick and their ever-present entourage of ghosts, Toz's work is invariably personal and light-hearted, but at his gallery headquarters in Copacabana, Movimento, a more complex side appears. His latest exhibition opens on Friday 13 April as part of the Atlântica Contemporâneo event at the Cassino Atlântico mall, so Time Out fired a few questions his way...

What is the significance of the title of your exhibition 'O Vendedor de Alegria' (The Salesman of Happiness)?
It was inspired by the old men who walk along the beaches of Rio selling their brightly coloured balls.

Will the exhibition be all canvases, or will there be some surprises like your small collectible figures back in 2010?
It is canvases and an installation, where i've used almost 200 vinyl coloured balls.

And on the streets, where are your new works for 2012?

I've got new images in Lapa, Gávea and Jardim Botânico, but the one I like the most is my giant old baby on the wall of the Hípica (also Jardim Botânico).

Who is currently shaking things up in Rio's street art scene?
There are always new talents coming up but right now here in Rio I would say the (Zona Norte collective) Kovok Crew and the Muda guys.

Have you seen a change in the scene since the Choque de Ordem (city clean up policy) was introduced by Mayor Eduardo Paes? Is it harder to paint without the police getting involved?
The problem isn't actually with the police, but with COMLURB (the city's urban cleaning department), who together with the council are using anti-spray paints to make the graffitis disappear really fast!

Does your work reflect the changing times in Rio and Brazil or are they always personal?
As far as i'm concerned, politicians aren't worthy of my time - I want to spread positive messages to people and my work deals with love and personal relations and those kind of issues of ordinary people.

And after this show, what have you got on the horizon?
I've got a collective exhibition in Miami in May, and after that an art fair here in Rio.

Where would be your dream painting? The Great Wall of China? The Eiffel Tower?
For me, anywhere there is the side of a building calling me, i'll go!!

Finally, how would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it before?
New Tropical Naif Art! I think that's it.

Words by Time Out Rio de Janeiro editors
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