Time Out Rio de Janeiro

Five minutes with... Marcelo Ment

Graffiti pioneer Marcelo Ment has spent the last fifteen years transforming the city's walls into colourful masterpieces. Time Out caught up with him to talk about his influences and inspirations ahead of his upcoming exhibition at Homegrown with Nike sneaker freak Mark Miner.

Even if you missed last year's exhibition Contrastes, you may be more familiar with Marcelo Ment's work than you realise. The face of his mysterious, big-haired female siren stares out from walls all over the city, and the riotous colours and distinctive lettering of his street art have become part of the fabric of Rio itself: vivid, irrepressible and individual. He talks to Time Out about the women that inspire him, his hometown, and the changing attitudes towards street art.

Do you think that urban art is more respected nowadays?
I believe so, yes. There’s a growing number of distinctive artists working on the streets, doing exhibitions in all types of galleries and museums, and developing and working on large projects.

How has your work been received in other countries, like Germany, Spain and France?
It has always been very well-received. I love travelling and I've always thought its very important to meet artists from other countries, states, cities and areas, to talk, paint together, exchange ideas, etc.

What inspires you?
In the day to day, I don’t have any specific inspiration but I simply live and let things happen. I study and try and develop my projects, but it’s almost always very intuitive, it just happens.

How can we see the influence of Rio de Janeiro in your work?
I think it’s very personal, everyone has a different way of interpreting my work. I always put some words into my work and Rio is always present. I believe that graffiti absorbs local characteristics, maybe the colours, although the influence of music and the carioca lifestyle is really strong in my work. It’s always in constant development, I’m always looking for new elements that I can identify with, that reinforce my identity.

Your muse – is it a real person? Will we ever find out who she is?
She isn’t really a “muse” in the sense of being a person who exists in real life. Since I was very young, I always found it difficult to draw women. About five years ago, I decided to face this challenge and paint women more often, and now I see it as a kind of tribute to my mother, my sisters and women in general.

What is your favourite neighbourhood in Rio?
Lapa, no doubt.

Which environment do you prefer for your art, the street or the gallery?
Life on the streets can’t be matched. I need it to carry on producing my art. Whenever I have time and ink, I’m on the streets painting.

Words by Beth McLoughlin

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