Simon Silaidis is a designer, a thinker, a vision-er, a pioneer… You can call him what you want. Talented he remains. And he applied his life’s love of calligraphy in the rural, urban and suburban surroundings of Asia and Europe. Which only means it was about time we met him in person. For an unusual interview. Outside the box. Almost on a wall…
Simon SilaidisYou will spot his work in abandoned places or through mysterious studio ways. And you will know it is him, because you know that he uses ink and bamboo pens in that specific way, a mix of Western, Asian and Arabian calligraphy really. What you don't know is that his vision of a new world of calligraphy is based in tranquility and symmetry, dominating our surroundings. And so, it is the inner change that he dares to propose to the world.
Admittedly, Simon Silaidis’ twelve year successful experience as designer is only the start to what is ahead. But what exactly is there ahead? And what is on Simon’s mind really?
How did you get started in the street art scene?
I started back in 1998 after visiting a graffiti festival in Athens. After that and until 2001 I was experimenting with a variety of graffiti styles. I stopped for at least 6 years in between, because graphic design came into my life at the end of 2001 (and changed it for ever). I travelled a lot as a designer and in 2007 I finally came back to Greece and got involved again. Now I am the one behind the Urban Calligraphy Movement.
When describing your work, what would you say are the main themes?
Hmm, abcdefg… Letters are the main theme, applied in the rural, urban and suburban surroundings.
How has your style developed throughout the years?
I always try to evolve my style. Not because I am afraid to remain the same, but because I try to test and see my limits and ideas. Development comes through new challenges, which I always keep in the back of my mind. Sometimes I feel like I won’t succeed, but I never let this fear take over me and in the end I try my best. But it has also developed through various collaborations with other artists and mix of styles.
What are your favorite materials/colors to work with?
I work with a variety of brushes, and bamboo pens plus other materials that can play the role of a pen. My favorite color is black, because it remains a neutral expression to the viewer, while maintaining a strict character.
What has been your most challenging and/or rewarding piece of work thus far?
I think the “next one”. I always feel like I have to give more than I already did to a previous work, because each project has its own facts. So, rewarding pieces are the ones that help me meet new people and connect to create something unique.
How long does it usually take you to finish a mural?
It depends, actually. I try to keep all my works as sharp as possible. This means that it can take quite some time, before I see the result I want. Of course you have to be very careful and very balanced while using those brushes, because it’s damn easy to make mistakes. I also prefer to work on the natural environment of a wall, because I firmly believe that “time” is the best background for every piece. That way it blends 100% and creates a better physical appearance. Of course, if you make one mistake…you have to kiss that wall goodbye and search for a new one
How do you choose a street/environment to work on? What intrigues you the most?
Usually, I go with the flow, that feeling that the place is choosing me and not the other way around. What I mean is that I try to find unexpected places that no person would ever think of as appropriate to show off art. I always liked the idea of exploring and I spend most of my free time on mountains, trying to track down hidden jewels of places. The older the place I choose to “decorate”, the crazier I get, while on it.
Urban Calligraphy, as the term suggests, is calligraphy under rural, urban and suburban surroundings. Unique calligraphy that escapes from the ink used on paper as well as the boring surroundings of a calligraphy lab and exposes itself in public places, such as abandoned buildings, streets and all sorts of surfaces, using materials nobody would ever think of using. In one word: ESCAPE!
Why “Skyfall”? Why not a different name that wouldn’t associate you with a secret agent, who has dedicated his life in order to serve this very system you are opposed to? What is it about this song that intrigued you to use it for your video?
“SKYFALL” reflects the way calligraphy approached me in my life. It was very much like a sky fall. The title is certainly also ironic, because when we went on reperage to check the exact spots to start filming, there was the thickest fog ever around the mountains. We were amazed by the mystic scenery, although we were indeed not ready to film under such weather circumstances. But we couldn’t miss the opportunity to do it.
On the other hand, Adele’s song is really a piece of tremendous work. She is a magnificent artist that I truly admire. Believe it or not, I am a fan of emotional songs. I am also directing many graffiti videos for my team DESIGNWARS, so I always pay attention to the song in the background. If it doesn’t “speak” to me, I cannot work with it.
If you put all problems we faced during the filming (because of the bad weather, the fog and the rain) aside, we do have footage from “SKYFALL” that never got published. Due to the strict film duration. So, expect something special to come out in the near future
Is this scene an outsider’s art? Or is street work more authentic than gallery work?
For me street work is more authentic. Because I have to scout the places I want to work on. Gallery work I can do on any given studio, on any given day of the 365. Street work has limits, problems dangers and etc… Makes you try harder, think faster.
What do you do when you’re not creating art?
I can’t think of even one minute that I am not actually creating art, in some way. If you put Calligraphy aside, I still remain a professional designer and I have had my very own creative studio for 14 years. What makes me unhappy sometimes, is the fact that I no longer have as much time as I would actually want to spend otherwise. With friends, trying out extreme sports… But if I look back and think of all the things I have gained throughout all these years, memories, new friends, achievements, then this is a reward. And feels like it.
Let’s just say you were hosting a dinner for 2, during next weekend. And these 2 could be anyone you’d choose. Dead or alive. Whom would you invite?
(laughing out loud) I am a huge fan of food. So I would invite two others who would respect and appreciate it. That would be Dan, my brother that never says no to food – or to meetings.
And my second guest would then be Mr.DHEO, my Portuguese brother. I admire both his art as well as his stomach’s unlimited storage. Both of them are part of the YAPAME crew. And the mission of the crew is to satisfy every tough stomach around
We’ve read somewhere about an exhibition in Japan that you are participating to. Is this true? When is it due and what is it about?
From 10th until the 20th of August my work will be presented at a Solo Exhibition of Urban Calligraphy right in the Center of Tokyo – presented by Montana Colors JP at Kojimachi Gallery. I will be showing off some of my studio works as well as a special new project of calligraphy. But do note that I will be staying around for quite some time, so there will be new Murals coming up there, Tokyo and Hiroshima.
Japan is a place that has honoured me with many beautiful memories in the past. I have lived there for quite a long time. And loved every minute of it.
Do you have any special plans for the future? Something to look forward to perhaps?
Many new things are coming up. Always to surprise my followers. A new film is on the way, but do pay attention this coming October for something real special.