Bilos and the neighborhoods of Sofia
In May, BILOS transformed 70 sq.m. in Nadezhda 5 district, Sofia with his mural "When was the last time you looked at the clouds?". The abstract work is part of the series GRAFFOPOST: Neighborhoods, which VISIONARY initiated in 2022 as a continuation of the GRAFFOPOST project and a step toward creating more open-access art in the peripheral parts of the capital.
BILOS, in addition to having a solid experience in graffiti, also has several independent projects on substations, mostly in Nadezhda quarter, where he lives with his family. The main focus of his work is the creation of imaginary forms, objects, and still life compositions, with which he provokes the viewer to interpret the figurative "narrative" himself. Although quite abstract, they can carry more than one interpretation, and for this approach BILOS shares:
“I don't expect or hope that people will necessarily see my original ideas. It would be great if people saw different things than I do; they are free to agree or disagree with each other on interpretation. The opportunity for curiosity, play, and dialogue are more of a priority for me than simply creating a mural that would leave people indifferent.”
Here's what else we talked to BILOS about neighborhoods and art in public space:
Street art is art close to people. Why is it important to have art outside of museums and galleries, freely accessible? What is its value in remote neighborhoods like Nadezhda?
I believe that art in the public sphere is vital, to begin with. It doesn't matter if it is decorative, functional, or with a message or not. Street art by definition is "out there" for everyone to see and experience. Museums and galleries do a great job of preserving, curating, archiving, etc. many artworks. Street art is inherently by the people and for the people, and anyone can be a part of it. Whether he is an artist or just a spectator.
Art in remote neighborhoods like Nadezhda is vital. Street art doesn't have to be in the form of a mural. Any kind of art would enliven any public space. Music, performance, visual arts, and the list goes on. I believe that people should have the right to touch art in every neighborhood. Especially in neighborhoods where nothing seems to be happening, changing, or improving.
How do you reflect a certain subject on your "canvas" - whether it's a wall or a real canvas?
I try to study a topic first and understand every assignment given to me (if any). I then sketch and transfer the ideas to paper (or screen) and aim for a composition that best expresses my reaction. The last step is the selection of colors and giving the vibe or mood, if you will, to this composition through the color combination.
You have been involved in graffiti since you were a teenager and you have developed to the level of a professional and recognizable artist in Europe. What is your approach to developing and building your style?
It all started with the traditional style of graffiti writing and over the years it has evolved into what it is now. In the last five years, I have been focusing more and more on creating unique shapes and combinations of shapes and have a more abstract approach to my works in terms of results. This happens through research, limiting the color palette, and a more specific selection of the mediums I use to create my works. Sketching also helps a lot - on paper or digitally.
You live in the Nadezhda neighborhood and there are many of your murals, especially those on the substations. Can one find inspiration in the neighborhoods among the gray panels? Do you personally find special inspiration in the neighborhoods of Sofia?
Yes, absolutely. There is so much to discover around every neighborhood outside of the city center. For me, it is non-stop. I guess because there are a lot of blank concrete and gray walls and it fires my imagination. When I see blank walls, I see them as a blank canvas and imagine how they would look painted. Whereas in the city center, graffiti and murals are almost everywhere and this creates a saturated environment. Sure, it's great to see so many murals and artworks, but it doesn't tickle my imagination in the same way.
Abstract forms in a very specific environment and on even more specific objects, such as substations; create a contrast that cannot be missed. How do the abstract colorful shapes sit side by side next to the panel blocks - do they complement or contrast with the landscape?
I think they contrast with the huge, gray, imposing buildings. And that's the reason I created something more organic and refreshing in such an environment.
What is the purpose of these contrasts and how do they change the environment?
I see them as a way to improve people's sense of their neighborhood. A mural that offers such contrast can make a passer-by stop and think, spark a child's imagination, and make someone happier and more positive.
BILOS is a Greek illustrator and mural artist who currently lives and works in Sofia. He has serious and long-standing experience in graffiti, and his work explores the boundaries of illustration, ceramics, and abstraction.
During his creative journey, BILOS participated in many international exhibitions and projects in France, England, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, South Africa, Bulgaria, and Greece.
His last large-scale work was for the National Gallery "Kvadrat 500", where BILOS created "Multiple". He is the first international artist invited to participate in the National Gallery's program called The Wall, which opened in 2020. The program gives contemporary artists with a focus on graffiti and murals the opportunity to create projects at the invitation of the curatorial team. The work is painted on a decorative panel measuring 2.40 x 26 m in the center of the Museum's permanent exhibition in the sculpture garden.
More information about the artist and his work is here: https://www.bilosmantho.com
The project is part of "Visionary - one-year program 2022", which is implemented with the financial support of the National Culture Fund. GRAFFOPOST:: Quarters in 2022 partners are 0511 Designs and NBQ Spraypaint.
Photos: Mihaela Draganova