Meet Pyro - Grafitti Artist
Graffiti Artist and Member of Drifterz Crew
Article By Amy Benham
Translation By Lee Dong Hoon
It’s great to meet you! Tell us a bit about your background and how you became an artist.
Hello! I’m graffiti artist Pyro! I was born into a family that draws pictures, and throughout my life I continuously kept drawing pictures. About 25 years ago, I wanted to draw pictures that were related to hip-hop and because of that, I came to know a genre called graffiti and instantly fell in love with it.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Hongdae, but now I live in Suwon.
How old were you when you first tagged a wall?
8th August, 1996. It’s my birthday!
How did you get the name Pyro?
When I was younger I used to dance. At that time, there was a really famous dance team in Japan. The name of the dance team is Pyro. Pyro also means fire, and I like fire, because of that I got the name Pyro. I also really like using the color red in my drawings.
Wow, so you used to dance too?
Yes, a very very long time ago!
What are some of the main themes of your art? How could someone recognize your pieces on the street?
My name is my theme. Honestly, these days you can't see my art in the street in Korea. Ten years ago, maybe you could see it. Nowadays being a graffiti artist in Korea is quite hard as my art is usually displayed at festivals as collaborations with companies.
Are there any messages you hope to convey through your art?
Oh, tough question! For regular people graffiti looks kind of easy or shallow, it doesn’t look deep or meaningful but I’ve always thought graffiti looks amazing and deep. Maybe people don’t realize that it’s not just drawing red, layering, and finish. It’s actually really complex and deep. When I’m working on a piece I always think about what can I draw with the spray I have. I work for a long time, even two hours longer than the usual artist, to add more effects. I’m always trying to show my best through my graffiti. So, I don’t really have one message in my art I just want people to know that graffiti art isn’t what you think. It’s meaningful.
What is it like being a graffiti artist in Seoul? What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced?
It's really hard to have a job as an artist in Korea, it's hard to make a living. It’s hard to eat as an artist. There are so many restrictions from the Korean government. So, actually, I love to paint abroad as well as in Korea.
How has the street art scene changed since you first hit the streets?
When I first started doing graffiti in Korea it was really good, because there was no one else doing graffiti. There was really no one. Maybe about five artists! But it’s getting harder in Korea, it is still breaking the law in a lot of places which means people end up doing it illegally.
You’ve been making art since 1996 and have a long list of amazing collaborations, what were some of your most memorable pieces to work on?
I have a lot of memorable experiences collaborating with companies or brands, I’ve done work with some big companies and painted stages for concerts. But sometimes I’ve painted when I met people for the first time. When I went abroad the first time for graffiti it was to China. This experience was the most meaningful for me because the people I was painting with were people who I had met for the first time but we made art together. We didn’t speak the same language but we worked together and it was really special. We painted one whole building!
Who and what are your biggest influences (people, movements, styles etc)?
There is one artist who I really look to. His name is @askewone. He is an artist working in America but he is from New Zealand. He is from the biggest team in New Zealand, I really admire that team.
How long does it usually take to complete one mural?
For most artists it usually takes about one day. But for me it can be two or three days just for one piece.
What is the hardest part while working on a piece of art?
My health! Oh, and anxiety. Anxiety about if it is a stable job and if I can earn money. Usually for graffiti artists it isn’t their main job, they are doing other work and graffiti is their hobby, but I’ve done this consistently since I was really young so there’s nothing else I know how to do.
Can you talk us through the planning process of one of your pieces?
I just go to the place and start working. I used to sketch first but now I’ve been doing it for a long time so I just do it. As well as that, sometimes I can’t see the place I’m going to paint at first so I can’t do a sketch plan first. Especially if I’m going to China, I can't see the wall first because I’m in Korea!
Do you also display work in galleries?
No, I don’t. In Korea graffiti exhibitions don’t go so well. That's because in galleries they need to buy the art to display it right? But graffiti can’t be drawn on a canvas. Also, if I was to paint in a gallery people would need to pay to enter the gallery right? People in Korea won't pay to see it. Of course if it's free they will go but not if they have to pay. It’s just like a b-boy concert, people go here and watch because its free but if they charge a fee to watch then people won't go. But rap is a bit different, it’s really popular right now!
Where would be your dream destination to paint?
America- New York, or L.A. I’ve never been there so I don’t have a specific place. But there's a place which is famous for graffiti (Bushwick, Brooklyn), it would be great to paint there.
When you aren’t painting what are some of your other interests?
Travel and movies. Just like other people.
Where can our readers view your work (offline and online)?
On my Instagram and Facebook.
How does the future of the graffiti scene look for you?
Nowadays people overseas already know quite well about Korean graffiti artists and Korea was once the best place in Asia for urban art, but it has been declining. People aren’t really seeking out Korean artists now so I’m going overseas more to show Korean graffiti to the world.
Lastly, do you have any final words for our readers?
I’ve been improving as an artist and many Korean artists have been gaining popularity in the U.S. So I’m also hoping to go there one day!