Interview with Up and Coming German Street Artist Kef
My first meeting with Kef was at a party! Held at the Curious Duke Gallery, he was helping the gallery to celebrate its 2nd birthday with wine and cake. We spoke and he introduced himself as an artist called Kev! Finally, a street artist with a normal easy to remember name! It’s all I can do trying to keep up with all these tags and fancy street names so Kev sounded perfectly acceptable, I was actually relieved.
It didn’t last long, I had of course misheard and Kef soon corrected me but at least it was easy to remember. I’d seen his tags attached to art he’s created around East London before. Usually big and bright using dynamic splashes of colour he combines this with his unique line style of drawing in order to create his unique characters. Apparantely ‘Kef’ means scar in an as yet undetermined language. He told me that he thought the paint on the wall was like a scar, very difficult to get away so it seemed apt. It’s also a short name, handy as back in the day he used to tag a lot.
Originally from Germany, Kef came to England earlier this year as he saw a gap in the market “my style is very different from what I’d seen in London” he says. “I noticed that a lot of people paint people or faces and my line style is very unique. When I first came over last year, I painted near to Brick Lane and people were so amazed when they saw me painting, the reaction was really good.” That wall had been organised by Global Street Art as part of their walls project and the encouragement he received prompted him to return.
From a small town close to Aachen called Ubach-Palenberg it seemed a logical decision to try his art elsewhere “here in London with street art and graffiti it’s much bigger than in Berlin, there it’s more underground but I want a little more than underground.” The fact that people tend to pay a lot of attention to his art is important “you get a lot of support here, but in Berlin, not so much”.
Kef hesitantly describes his art as “abstract graffiti” but even then he finds descriptions difficult “people should be able to just take it for what it is and enjoy it” he says. For him the most important facet of his work is that people enjoy looking at it. He often talks about harmony and creating something “harmonical”. The art is certainly more about how the viewer feels when they look at it rather than searching it for some hidden meaning and that’s what he prefers, “People should always try to feel and not think about my stuff” says Kef.
Creating the art seems to come instinctively “I only paint what is inside” says Kef. He talks often about ‘a feeling’ but he can’t quite put his finger on it. He talks about being in flow! “I paint my lines in such a harmonical way, everything is in a flow. What I paint is more or less the mirror of my soul, this is the best way I can show my inner life and when I look at my canvas it gives me a calm feeling and when I see that I can feel the flow of the lines.”
Energy comes across time and again when speaking with Kef, the need to be in harmony, the importance of feeling and the release he feels when painting. He describes painting outside as creating a positive energy field for the public to enjoy “maybe there was a grey wall somewhere and when I paint the wall it gets a positive energy”. He sees his street art as giving something back “to me the world can be not that good and this is the only positive thing I can give to the world”.
Kef seriously started thinking more about his work in 2005 after receiving a book called ‘The Art of Rebellion’. Seeing some of the work in the book inspired him to take street art more seriously and move on from the likes of stickers and tags. His work has evolved over the years “I started very simple at the beginning. I created two characters, very simple characters, each with one eye and I tried to paint these everywhere with markers, spray can and so on. Then after time my style became a little more abstract but still using the characters and now it’s changed again.”
Certinaly from the work I saw the evolution is clear to see. A series of abstract canvases line the wall of his front room. No longer identifiable as any form of character they are a combination of abstract shapes using his line style. Other new work includes a series of drawings of birds and other animals. Some using colour but many just produced from ink. The feedback so far he says has been good.
Kef’s art is getting more and more noticed. His style is unique, abstract and intriguing. His online shop sells to customers within not only the UK and Germany but elsewhere in mainland Europe, America and Australia. Who knows what’s going to come next? Kef himself doesn’t seem sure “I only paint what is inside and it’s hard to describe because if I could describe then I wouldn’t paint and painting is the best way for me to express what I want to do and what I have to say.”
Kef was interviewed at his home in Homerton on Thursday 26th September 2013. He has been living in the UK now for five months and more details of his work can be found below:
For more Inspiring City posts relating to this article try:
Interview with Eleni Duke, Curator of the Curious Duke Gallery
Interview with Hannah Adamaszek prior to her first solo show at the Curious Duke Gallery
Whitecross Street Party 2013 – Rise of the Non-Conformists