Interview: The street artist Fomaby Anna Kopito | 24.07.14
When people see street art and speculate about the artist behind the work, they usually assume it is a young, talented man who wants to rebel against everything around him.
This assumption is wrong most of the times
Foma, 30, is one of the busiest artists in Tel Aviv. She works with various mediums such as drawing, painting, photography, street art and site-specific installations. I met her the first time in May 2012, when I was curating the Homophilia exhibition at the Tachana Compound in Tel Aviv, and feel in love with her drawings immediately. There was something so raw and honest about them that I had to have them in the exhibition. Since then, I am following her around town and on social media – and I am always amazed by the amount of art she is creating.
I got the chance to speak to Foma and ask her a few questions about her art.
How would you define you art?
Foma: My work is often seen as political/feminist, but for me it is very personal and even sentimental. Usually it is about things that I am processing during that period of time. I guess my perception of gender and social standards are obvious, even when I don’t intend it to be.
When I first started painting on the street, I was mostly doing self-portraits, reflecting how I felt the same day or people I saw on the street. The goal was to create something that people could connect to emotionally, in a somewhat hostile environment as the streets of south Tel Aviv. It got political when I created a series of self-portraits (photographs) wearing a white mask with text about sexual harassment. For me it was a direct reaction to what I experienced. Only when I put a few of them on the street I realized what an impact they had and decided to turn it into a small campaign against that phenomenon. I got responses from women saying it made them feel safer on the street – and that it was saying what they were thinking but couldn’t put into words. At that point I realized the power of street art.
Can you tell me more about the creative process of your work?
Foma: Sometimes I look around me and feel like nothing makes sense. Then I start questioning and making research about it. The artwork doesn’t answer to my questions, but shows the research behind it.
What and who inspires you?
Foma: There are many great painters, but I would say that music and films are the main sources of inspiration; ideas and sentences that get stuck in my head. I try to give these ideas a visual form, like the way we use the term space in relationships or how we say that people fall apart.
I need to be in a certain mode when I am drawing and usually it has to do with music.
My favourite director is Lars Von Trier. I relate to the way he portrays human behaviour. His films get to me on a subconscious level.
I am really attracted to anything that is off the grid; to people refusing to act as expected, for better or worse.
Can you specify you preferred techniques?
Foma: I work mostly with black pens and paper, and with extremely deluded acrylic and watercolor. I like the way different paper reacts to water, it absorbs some but then it starts leaking and deforming; I think its beautiful. Also I like the tension between the graphic ink line and the mess of watercolors.
What is the meaning of street art for you?
Foma: I guess what is special about street art, and the difference between it and more traditional art in galleries, is that people don’t come especially to see it. It is not a thing they do, it is just part of their everyday life and that’s what makes it so interesting. People come prepared to museums and galleries, they expect some kind of experience. But street art has the element of surprise; it can suddenly change your mode and your day. I think that is why people like it so much.
If you could present your work anywhere you wanted to, where would it be?
I would love to do a huge project and replace all advertisement in a city, even only for a day.