“#YardRomance” – First SOLO Exhibition in the United States at ThinkSpace in Los Angeles, CA. October 17th – Nov. 7th, 2020 (portrait image – Nika Kramer)

Nuno Viegas

“My work speaks about the graffiti culture and with it I constantly evoque elements from this scene. Graffiti is the main inspiration for the body of work I have been developing for the last 5 years, which started with my journey through Rotterdam between 2014 and 2019.

I don’t have a specific ritual or routine for my creative process. My way of working is pretty much the “go with the flow” kind of way. I tend to be open minded and aware of things around me. ANYTHING can trigger an idea, a random conversation, a random event that I’m simply observing, anything! ”

Nuno Viegas was born in Faro, in 1985, and raised in Quarteira. He came from a middle-class family. On his mother’s side a fisherman’s family and on his father’s side, a farmer’s family. Nuno was blessed to be brought up in a stable environment away from major struggles and surrounded by good moral values.  As a teenager, he started to carve his personality as an artist and in 1999 he discovered graffiti. This was a turning point in his life and initiated the events that unfolded and influenced Nuno. It was during this time that being a rebel was at its peak and he began hitting the streets with his friends, meeting new people, and connecting with more people who shared the same creative interests.

In the Early 2000’s – Hip Hop was booming in his city and artists were bounded by specific disciplines, graffiti writing, rapping, breakdancing, and Djing. “Some of us enrolled in multiple disciplines but we all knew we were part of the same school and all of us were eager to learn more about it and develop more and more our individual styles. With the late arrival of Hip Hop culture in the south of Portugal, information rolled out much slower, and compared to the USA we were about 30 years behind, especially outside the social housing projects – it was there already since the ’80s but wouldn’t come out sadly due to some kind of social stigma and oppression towards the people living in these projects – mainly African people who were brought to Portugal to evade war in their countries which were Portuguese Colonies.” – Nuno Viegas

Hip hop culture had a lot of influence on your artwork. Can you tell us about some additional supporting factors that had an impact on your career?

While experiencing my teenage freedom and exploring this amazing new world, I always kept in mind that I should pursue school studies. I was never a top-class student, I was average plus one point haha. In high school, I studied Information Technology. After high school, I studied Computer Engineering at the University which I quit after 4 years. During this period I had completed 35 classes out of about 40 possible. I was going through hard times and had to quit giving me a huge feeling of relief.

In the year, 2009, I attended university again and started studying visual arts for the first time in my life. After I took a post-graduation and earned my master’s degree. In a total of 5 years studying arts, I never developed painting, I was more focused on installation art, photography, and video. In 2014 I Emigrated to Rotterdam and here I had an internship with Tymon de Laat and that’s where the whole painting thing was born. Until then my only serious connection to painting was graffiti writing – letters. I learn a lot from Tymon and also Robert Rost (This guy knows sooo much about painting materials!) I also learn a lot by trial and error, especially when it comes to technique. 
I quickly started to use acrylic paint on canvas to portray my roots in graffiti and all of a sudden I found myself with a solid concept in my hands.

One day I attended a Telmo Miel’s exhibition in Rotterdam at Sober Gallery, in this show I met Peter Ernest Coolen, a guy from Amsterdam. He asked if I was also an artist, I said yes and showed him my work. After scrolling through my phone Peter said “I’m putting up a street art museum in Amsterdam, would you like to do a piece for it?”  I remember this so clearly… It was incredible, this guy just invited me to join a museum! I was painting for about a year and I now have the chance to do a museum piece! This guy changed my life – Thank you so much, brother!

This was the kick-off for my career as an independent artist. Working with Peter triggered the attention of  Yasha Young and then one day I received a message on Instagram from Yasha reacting to my piece for Peter’s museum saying – “I love this! I’m building a museum – Urban Nation Berlin, would you like to join?” I couldn’t believe what was happening to me! Yasha took a major role in my career, launched me to the spotlight and kept supporting me throughout all these years.

After working with Urban Nation I met Giancarlo from Graffiti Prints. We started working together on editions and he came in as the one who changed my financial game. I remember the day we were at GP’s Headquarters and Giancarlo said  “In 5 years time you will be doing major street art festivals like pow wow, you will be doing collabs with great artists, you will be working with great galleries like Thinkspace…” – We had this conversation less than 3 years ago. I have done collabs with artists I look up to like Fanakapan and the GOAT Akut from Maclaim Crew. I have painted for Pow Wow’s first European edition, in Rotterdam and this year, damn, I’m having a solo show in Los Angeles with Thinkspace! I am truly grateful for all these amazing people and light in my life and make sure I do my very best everyday with this opportunity!

While living in Rotterdam I met a local artist, Kaili Smith, a super focused and determined guy! When I met him I was on my internship at Tymon and Robert’s gallery and Kaili basically just walks in, shows his work and says – Can I do a show here?  Balls! And he did it.  Since then we kept in touch and later he invited me to collaborate for his solo show in Amsterdam in 2016. Kaili will be showing solo in the main room of Thinkspace at the same time I have my solo show in another section of the gallery. From Rotterdam to LA, feels magic! Thank you Brother! Wish you the Best!

#YardRomance – This is NOT Graffiti

What does the Title “Yard Romance”  represent?
 What was your inspiration behind the exhibit?

My work speaks about the graffiti culture and with it, I constantly evoke elements from this scene. Graffiti is the main inspiration for the body of work I have been developing for the last 5 years, which started with my journey through Rotterdam between 2014 and 2019. I started painting graffiti in 1999 when I was 14 years old and in the beginning it was all about writing my name, about lettering, getting up as a writer, spreading my name and my crew’s name all over the place. After finishing my master’s degree in 2014 I then moved to Rotterdam seeking a better life and better conditions to develop myself personally and professionally. Without any big plans and only a huge will to thrive, things started to gain shape once I got an internship with a local painter – Tymon de Laat. It was him who triggered my interest in figurative painting for the first time in my life and taught me the first steps into acrylic painting. As the internship was unfolding I quickly started to insert elements from my graffiti roots in my paintings and realized that I had some skills that were unknown to myself. It’s like all of a sudden I actually knew how to paint and I had a solid concept in hand ready to develop. Some people consider themselves fortunate when they win the lottery – Achieving this was my winning lottery ticket!

For my master’s, I was developing a thesis about how surveillance societies affect artistic production and how artists react to it. The same way the industrial revolution had a huge impact in art’s history I was researching a parallel between the times we were (and still are) living. While doing research I looked up for info and comparisons and of course I digged into graffiti’s reaction to surveillance. In this part of my research, I started getting intrigued by reading articles one after the other mentioning street art as if it was the same as graffiti. A huge question was raised in my mind – How can people distort graffiti’s definition/history so badly? It is such a recent event for mankind, quite easy to backtrack and still people manage to mess it up? And this got stuck in the back of my mind. For me graffiti is what it is since the beginning, all about getting your name up and to do so you will go through a whole life experience that sets what graffiti is in its essence. This is the main reason I keep evoking elements from the graffiti scene in my paintings and constantly state – THIS IS NOT GRAFFITI, it is a representation of it. 
Living in an Instagram era #YardRomance (Yard Romance) is one of the most loyal hashtags which I find that better represents what graffiti is all about. have a look at it and you will find a straightforward connection to my paintings. My work is a constant tribute to all the writers who live graffiti to the fullest, keep it real and its essence alive.

This being your first solo exhibition in Los Angeles is an amazing accomplishment.  Two of your paintings are “Shirt Mask x LA” and “Gloves x LA” which focus on the culture and symbolism of LA.  Can you talk to us more about these two specific pieces in your exhibit?

Having the chance to exhibit in LA is a huge honor for me. I consider LA a very important core for a street culture that has influence and direct impact worldwide. When I was a teenager and got to know more and more about Hip Hop culture, LA always stood out as one of the main references. While listening to Xzibit, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, Alchemist, Snoop Dog among others back in the days I could never imagine I would ever have the chance to represent my work in the biggest city of California. At the time all these were like superhero names as if they weren’t real. They were just the names associated with the voices that came out of my walkman or stereo system. To exhibit in Los Angeles just makes it real and makes me realize how we are all connected. With my career, I had the chance to meet some of my heroes and this has been an amazing realization that we are all the same, contrary to my teenage thoughts, no one is a god or a superhero with superpowers, we are all humans only with different gifts. The LA lettering logo and the finger gesture were always very representative symbols for LA, associated with a strong American street scene. Having this vibe regarding these symbols I adapted them very quickly as concepts for this specific show. These were in fact the first two concepts I came up with for the exhibition.

FUN FACT about Nuno Viegas

I used to RAP! In the early 2000’s Hip Hop was booming in the south of Portugal and I got attracted to it super quick! First through graffiti writing and then RAP. I was actively involved in the music scene for about 10 years and then I choose to quit and focus on one thing only and visual arts was it.

What qualities or adjectives best describe you as an individual?

It’s hard to describe myself so I just asked my great friends Emma and Menau who were in the studio when I was answering this interview. Assuming there were not just being nice to me here is their response – Honesty, down to earth, hardworking, thoughtful, easy going, funny, humble, focused, friendly and extremely irritating haha.

What actions or life events bring out the qualities or adjectives chosen above?

I can’t precise a moment that defines one or another specific thing. One thing I’m sure of is that I always aim to be real and honest in every single action I take. Now, more than ever, I think a lot about my attitudes and actions, in what I’m about to do and things I have done or said in the past. I want to live in peace and for that it is primordial for me to have my conscience clear. I kind of believe in Karma and in that sense I rather have way too many positive scores then one single negative. I know Karma is a complex concept and you can point out a lot of mankind events that will smash any attempt to justify it. Whether it is real or not, personally I feel blessed to be able to believe and live accordingly to it.

What elements in art or everyday life inspire your techniques and creative process. 
Do you engage in any specific routines?

I don’t have a specific ritual or routine for my creative process. My way of working is pretty much the “go with the flow” kind of way. I tend to be open minded and aware of things around me. ANYTHING can trigger an idea, a random conversation, a random event that I’m simply observing, anything! Since I started painting towards hyperrealism, I noticed that I am observing and experiencing the world in a different way.

For example I can be at a bar having a drink with my friends and all of the sudden I’m totally away, looking at the a glass and mind tripping on how the light is hitting the glass, the reflections, the shadows, how can I translate this amazing image to a painting, would it be simple? Which techniques would I use and then I end up going through the whole process in my mind. Through observation sometimes great ideas come up or I find ways to improve my technique just through mental exercise. I always thought that artists were somehow crazy people but then again I always considered myself quite a normal person. Now when I look at myself I’m like – maybe I was always right.

Moving forward what do you wish to accomplish in your career as well as personal growth within yourself.

As long as I am physically and mentally healthy, have love and loved ones in my life and I’m out of financial struggle I’m in a good way – Happy! 
Having all this, if I manage to conquer financial freedom  (an ideal utopia)  then I’ll be even better. I’m fortunate to be able to rule the pace of my work as an artist. It is my profession and all my revenue comes from art production so it is very important for me that money doesn’t overrule my creativity. By having financial freedom I believe my work would be 100% free. In a way I face life as a game, we are all players whether we like it or not. There are rules and rules to bend the rules. We just need to learn how to play the game, stay real to ourselves and become good players.
I once told Tymon “I can never pay back for what you have done for me” for which he replied “pay it forward buddy!”. And that is the mission. I always help others when I have the chance and I find it is the right thing to do. I hope one day I’ll run a foundation or some kind of platform that supports creative people developing their skills and enhances their chances of doing what they love for a living.

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