Influenced by the graphic style from the 50s and Sci-Fi movies, at the age of 13 Smitheone began to paint graffiti just for fun and as a hobby.
Autodidactic and evolutionary, attracted by fine arts, Smithe has constantly reinvented his own style and over the past years has tried out many themes with his work such as Existentialism, Individuality of the human being and the machine within.
The defragmentation, a common symbol on his work, is used as a vehicle to show the inside elements that power his characters and is often manifested as a surrealistic machine. He is commonly known for his graffiti but he´s also involved in other areas such as illustration, design, sculpture and music.
He has exhibited in Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Spain, USA and Mexico.
Find his walls at:
646 N 7th St.
104 S. Colonial Ave
RVA Mag: How did you get involved with the Richmond mural project?
Smitheone: This guy, I met him in New York and he told me something about this festival. And I think Nico might work(ed) with Shane and you know whether it happens. I saw some pictures about (these) murals in Richmond, but I did not realize they were in Richmond so its actually a funny fact because this is, you know, they have a lot of things here.
So what’s your impression of Richmond? Or how has Richmond been to you?
For me, Richmond is… I don’t spend too much days in all the city that much. I really love the place you know. For me, the first thing in my mind when I stay here is it’s a very quiet place, you know. It’s a very quiet one. All the people are so nice people. it’s like a warm people. I love them.
You’ve done other murals in America, right?
I just painted in New York and this is my second time here in U.S. Yeah, it’s a very different ways. New York is a kind of jungle and here you can see a real people.
You’re from/living in Mexico city. Is there, I’ve seen some festivals down there, is there what you do like this, is it big down in Mexico city? Are you a part of a group of muralists down there? Or are there not many?
Yeah, they have a lot of things happening right now. I think some artists are so open up so fast in Mexico and the thing is because, for this kind of graphics, but actually you know the real are beginning in Mexico you know cicados and you know all these people.
But right now, this kind of muralists are doing in other ways. Not political ones, just aesthetic ones. Only colors, and in some parts, this is a good thing but I think we need to be doing something much better with a message. We need to put a message in those murals. In Mexico, we are doing a lot of things to push more of a message.
You said you were in a rougher part of Mexico City. How was your work received in your neighborhood?
Smitheone: Always it’s a pleasure in my city because you can recognize all of the people when they are so grateful. It’s like a… what is the word? Like an offering. They give me food and water and is like ‘thank you so much.’ It’s like a kind of favor for them.
Looking well, just one house, is like a kind of connection with people you know. They are all talking about this wall and the kids, when they go to the school, they see that you know. It starts something in kids little minds you know. It’s always a pleasure painting so.
Is that important for you to be a positive influence on kids in the community?
Of course, of course. I grew up in that way. You know, I’m growing up in a city that I think is most dangerous haha in Mexico and the neighborhood is the most dangerous city they are in, in Mexico. So I grow with this thing on the walls you know. I saw bombs and attacks and that in some way those things started something in my mind you know. I always loving growing out things and when I see these pieces on the wall it’s like okay I can do something more so I think that want to, I hope that I start these things in the young kids you know like if I can do all the work and do it. It’s a good idea.
You had mentioned that you thought your work was “creepy,” – I don’t think your work’s creepy, but do you think how you grew up and what you see in the rough part of the city has influenced your perspective, your work?
Yeah, of course. In some ways because you know the respect in the walls in Mexico have a kind of balance. You have the old-school graffiti guys and this new wave of it’s not graffiti, it’s another kind of thing. And those guys are always a little grumpy with us. It’s like ahh this is not graffiti and I have some issues with that because when I paint something, those guys always bug me. It’s a little….
It’s the new versus the old?
Yeah, yeah. It’s like that, but I’m not competition you know. I’m just doing my thing and those guys are a little grumpy about that. But who cares? I just only do it for fun and that’s all.
Well, were you a graffiti kid at all? Were you doing walls before, then you started putting your art on walls or was it like studio work that you put on your walls?
No, I always started off with graffiti. My first wall I do is thirteen years, so I just grabbed some cans with my friends and put some shit on the walls. I never expected nothing of this. I just do it for fun and I’m still doing it for fun but in some way, I need to receive something.
It’s like a kind of job for me. I think that I always do it in this way like graffiti you know. Always, like, let’s go paint and spend some time with friends and some day watch some football and after all these years, I really lucky. I’m a really lucky guy because I do all the things I like, I do all my best for this and I like it and it’s a kind of job. I’m a really lucky guy.
You mentioned football, have you been watching world cup? That was a great match, eh? Mexico?
Yeah, I follow some stuff. I don’t like too much, you know, it’s the Mexican culture. And now I saw some things about in the matches. When the other team is approaching the ball, they are screaming (some foreign word-I’m not quite sure) And this word means like ‘fag.’ So Fifa is like trying to catch him in this thing and it’s funny, you know, because it’s only a word.
You mentioned last night that you were saying that once Mexico gets behind somebody that’s doing positive work whether it’s football or art, they are like a 100%. So they’ve been very supportive of your work like seeing you get out Mexico and doing work like that? It’s really interesting, right?
Yeah, it’s like you get a voice for everybody. It’s like ‘okay you are representing Mexico in karate or a chess game.’ It’s like ‘oh it’s Mexico, ah it’s Mexico.’ So the Mexicans are like this, it’s always support of the people. Good or not but they are always supporting all Mexicans. If they are seeing some flag or something in a Mexican way, it’s like they are so happy about it.
It’s been an honor to have you in Richmond. What projects do you have for the rest of the year that you are excited about?
Smitheone: Well yeah, tomorrow, early, I go back to home. Monday, I fly to UK. I paint something there. I’ll get back and have an exhibition in New York and in September, I go to Hamburg. It’s kind of busy. Busy, busy, busy year. But it’s lovely. You know, it’s always lovely. I only started this as fun. I didn’t expect nothing of this. I’m very grateful for this.
When did people outside of Mexico start being interested in your work? Do you remember a moment? Or has it been like an evolution?
All the Mexicans. I think it begins when I involve all my work, when I put all my work in illustration way. When I turn that ship, something more happens. Maybe in that moment, it’s like Mexicans are like ‘look at that guy, he’s doing something different.’ Maybe in that time, I don’t remember when.
So it kind of just happened? I think that when we saw your work and when we saw you coming out of Mexico City, immediately from an American standpoint – like Frida Kahlo, Diego – there’s some new ideas coming out of Mexico. And we were really excited to have you, so I just want to thank you for coming and blessing us with a couple walls and maybe come back in a few years, huh?
Yeah of course, of course. I really appreciate that. Thanks so much!