Time Out Rio de Janeiro

5 Minutes with... graffiti artist Onio

São Paulo-based artist Onio reveals his latest collection to Rio in a free show at Homegrown streetwear store this month, entitled Tropicaos

We rather like the name 'Tropicaos'. Where does it come from, is it a relfection on Rio?
Tropicaos was the title of a painting that I did in 2010 for the Transfer exhibition in São Paulo. I've had the name in my mind ever since, and it definitely references the city of Rio de Janeiro as well as the chaotic compositions in my artwork.

This is your first show in Rio, how are the respective scenes here, in São Paulo, and Brasília where you were born?

We have good artists in Brasília, but the scene is smaller and still finding its way. In São Paulo there is a consistently strong urban art scene, with a lot of internationally renowned artists, not to mention a lot of spaces for our kind of work which in turn feeds the whole movement. In the last two years the São Paulo market has grown a lot and people are again looking at what's going on in the city. I don't really want to make comparisons, though. Rio has some great artists and the movement here is always growing here too.

Who are your influences and reference points, old and new?
My influences are mainly international, whether old or new, like (French comic artist) Moebius, (American illustrator) Robert Crumb, Horphee and Sickboy. From Brazil I really like Roberto Magalhães, but lots of graffiti artists also inspire me, as much in their style as their attitude to street art.

Do you prefer painting in the street to the studio, or are there completely different emotions involved? 
It's different in the street, where things can get a little risky since i'm an illegal artist, and even though it's never my intention to vandalise these places, there is an adrenalin involved. In the studio, time is on my side, I can do as I please. I don't do what I do in my studio in the street, nor vice versa, but they do complement eachother.

You're given a wall anywhere in the world to paint, where would it be?
It would be a huge mural in my city Brasília.

What's next for Graffiti? Will it carry on as an illegal form or move increasingly into mainstream galleries and dedicated public spaces?

I believe true graffiti is made illegally in the streets, and always will be. That's why it exists, how it operates. Once it enters the gallery, the technical style could have originated in the street but it is no longer graffiti, it's a work of art, a painting. It's hard to explain but I always differentiate one from the other. Graffiti was always my 'school', but when I put work into a gallery it's no longer graffiti. I could never bring to a gallery what I do in the streets, but plenty of artists start out there, become known to galleries and leave the street but are still considered 'graf artists'. I think i'll always develop more on the street, learn more. It is a kind of devotion for me. 


Words by Time Out Rio de Janeiro editors
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