Still experimenting, Ezra is an experienced Swiss graffiti artist working across a variety of different media. His portfolio of skills includes all manner of walls, illustrations and canvases, and some very fresh customized objects (including sneakers). Furthermore, Ezra also works with acrylic paints on branded and cut wood. We catch up with Ezra to find out more.
Art from Birth
I have been drawing and painting all my life. My father is an artist, so I grew up with it. In the 90s, the Hip Hop scene was pretty big here; everyone was active somehow. That’s when I got in touch with graffiti which was around 1996. I had already been drawing a lot and knew well how to work with light and shadows and how to paint characters. So the spray can was another tool. It’s a lot of fun because I can paint so much bigger than on a canvas, wood or paper.
Ezra is my real name. I was doing illegal graffiti for a while. But back then I used a different name of course. Pretty early I did some first art jobs and used my real name for that. The letters are good to work with and it’s a rare name in Switzerland, so it worked well as my artist name too.
My influences and inspirations come from things happening around me: nature, comic books, movies, surrealistic art and graffiti art in general. My father always influenced me too, of course. I like to work with different medias. The older I get the more I like that. I know how to paint with a spray can in a lot of ways after all those years painting with it, so it is interesting to me mixing it with other techniques and other materials more and more.
Painting letters is not what I do a lot anymore now, characters and big wall productions are more the direction I go. My letters do have the same attributes like my characters do.
I work with layers a lot and background and foreground, things which fall apart or are cut into pieces, or things you can look through or light sources coming from the inside or outside of what I paint. Also, working with colours, reflections and mirroring in many different ways is big part of my work.
As much as possible I try to use every effect in a way that I create an expression with it. Colours have meanings behind them, light and shadow does too, and when you use them specifically, you can support the meaning of the painting a lot. Symbols work very well too. This part became much more important to me in the past years. I prefer paintings with a message compared to those that are just nicely painted without saying anything.
I didn’t study fine art; I passed the exam for the art school in 1996, but decided to do another education because painting was the only thing you could do at this school back then. It was important for me to get more general knowledge next to painting as well.
My art is getting more and more complex. During every year I paint and during every creative break I take, I realise how I connect a lot of ideas I have with what I did before that. This is really interesting to me because I can see how I grow with every step I do.
Back in 2005, I really started painting canvases more because of art shows I could participate in. It was kind of hard in the beginning because canvases are not the same as walls to paint on with spray paint. It made me get a lot more precise painting with a spray can, and I learned a lot during that period. After a while I used brushes as well and painted with acrylics or oil paint too.
It’s a whole different thing than walls and I like to switch from walls to canvas or wood because each media has its qualities to work with. When it comes to wood I have to say that I did not look for it – wood kind of found me. I looked at a piece of wood in a store and started seeing things inside of the grains. So this motivated me to work with it. It’s like a mix between me and nature in one piece.
My main goal is to be able to connect all that I do and try through all the years into one. It’s a challenge, and I like challenges. I try not to get repetitive but still have clear attributes which stand for my style.
In Switzerland, the graffiti/street art scene is pretty big for such a small country, and the standard art is quite high as well. There is a lot of exchange between artists here. But in the 90s people were more getting together at jams than nowadays.
I can say that the public and most artists respond in a good way to my work. Of course some like it more and some less, but when I paint walls outside I always have a lot of interested people coming up to me and talking to me about what I do. This is actually one thing I really appreciate as an urban artist working in public; you get in touch with people, which does not happen when you stay in a studio all the time. Because I do not really paint illegally anymore, I don’t get bad responses from the police. When they come around to check, they usually like the walls as well.
I’ve painted in the USA and Mexico a lot, mainly in California and New York. I love painting there and people are really open-minded towards urban art. In Cali, some people connect it with gangs and have some prejudice sometimes, but most people are very interested and like when people come around from Europe to paint. In Mexico it’s even more open-minded. People offer you walls all the time to paint on. I liked how colourful the walls look everywhere in Mexico. Normal houses, even without any art on them, have red, blue, green, yellow etc. walls; sometimes I wish it was like that in Switzerland as well. I made a lot of good friends in these countries and look forward to my return.
I am planning to do more big and complex productions when it comes to walls. I want to go deeper with my canvas and wood work and do some installations. My goal for exhibitions is not to have as many as possible. I’d rather have a few with more ideas in them than just hang up some paintings like you see everywhere nowadays. So thinking outside of the box is what is interesting to me.
I’ve also done more body painting recently and want to connect this with other medias more as well. Thank you for the interview and greetings to my friends in Switzerland, the USA and Mexico. Greetings to Mate, Libre, Pose from SD, View, Note, Ces, the HEM crew and everyone I forgot. One love.
View More of Ezra’s Work Here