Sewer artist Zezão: "My work is a complaint against the failing authorities"

March 2008 -

If you want to see the work created by Brazilian graffiti artist Zezão, you will need to descend into the São Paulo sewage system with a nose plug and a torch. Because that is where he sprays his increasingly famous flops on the walls. "I used to be a motorcycle courier: a dangerous and poorly paid job in São Paulo's chaotic traffic. It felt like I was increasingly closed out of society and I wanted to react to the discrimination and oppression I experienced every day," he explains. The escapes Zezão (36) used were his skateboard and a cross-country bike, but after a serious accident those hobbies were no longer possible. Graffiti became his new passion. He started working on walls, kerbs, viaducts, abandoned plants and trains, and ultimately rediscovered the sewers he had explored once as a teenager.


photo (c)

Zezão is driven by the anger caused by the oppression in Brazil's society. "My work is an expression of solidarity with the many, many poor here who have no beauty whatsoever in their living environment. But it is also a complaint against the failing authorities. Each year the poor areas of São Paulo flood because the sewer system is plugged by garbage and even furniture and mattresses. The negligence of the public services and the total lack of environmental awareness among the city's inhabitants are what cause this."

He now earns his living with the rather psychedelically-coloured work that he makes by invitation of art galleries and cultural institutions. "It is a happy consequence of my original work. I was recently in New York and Brighton, for example. People there view my art entirely different than the people in Brazil. Here many regular people see my art. In other countries, the viewers are primarily art connoisseurs. They like what the see, but they do not know the extreme social and political conditions upon which my work is based. I think I need to do a lot more travelling if I am to be known and understood."

Zezao's work is on display in the Kunsthalle Dominikanerkirche in Osnabrück.