Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10

Columns

Graffiti artist throws you into your own imagination

For most people, the word "graffiti" is synonymous with vandalism, street gangs, young punks and hoodlums lurking in alleyways. This presents barely a fraction of what graffiti encompasses. For Dawson College graduate Peru Dyer, graffiti art is his career, his passion and his way of life.

Peru was born in Lima, Peru, where he spent his first 16 years. As a boy, the graffiti he saw in his hometown left deep impressions, and prompted him to began exploring and researching other graffiti artists. When asked what it was about it that attracted him, he says, "The movement and colour combination in graffiti was only the hook for what was to be a lifelong journey into the exploration of shape and form."

He describes graffiti artists as a close-knit community. Through his craft, Peru met people from all around the world who not only shared his passion for it, but shared values and moral understanding on numerous issues. He recalls staying with strangers who took him to their secret spots to paint, decorating abandoned factories and forgotten train tunnels. It is not lost on this community that their work is often seen as little more than defacement of other people's property. "Most people see graffiti as the media has portrayed it — an eyesore and waste of tax dollars," he says, and not as it can and should be: "as a protest against endless advertisements no one asked to have thrown at us... [or] as a statement to call attention to a growing class division."

Peru has exhibited his work in galleries throughout Europe and has created a career in muralism, but confesses that even though he can get paid to paint a mural, he still enjoys going out at night to illegally beautify an alleyway. "Some feel safer walking through that alley. Some stop and get something beyond our understanding from it," he says. Becoming a respectable gallery artist is often frowned upon by graffiti artists, seen as "selling out". "But it's a good way to pay the fines when we get caught!" he says.

To wrap up our interview I asked Peru what kind of message he's trying to convey through his art. "After ten years I've learned that today's youth need guidance from the people they look up to. I am doing my part by devoting my expression to spiritual matters and to social injustice. If I can take you away from your daily routine and throw you into your own imagination, even for a second, then I can die a happy man."

To view Peru's graffiti art, visit celphexploitedart.com

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