I think Zagreb residents are the luckiest because they all get to share a city with the seriously talented Slaven Kosanovic
more commonly known as Lunar
whose work delights me to no end. I caught up with Lunar
to discover more about his life and work. I believe you will find this interview to be intelligent, informative and nothing but inspiring so get reading, there is a lot of solid information to take in.
Honey: Hi Slaven, how's it going? For our readers, can you tell us a bit about your background? Tell us what you do.
What's up Honey, it's all good :) My 9-5 work is graphic designer. I work at an advertising agency where I create visual part of campaigns for various clients. It's team work including interactions with the clients, and I barely put results into my portfolio. This is a place where I'm focused on visually good execution in first place. After work I'm getting to a more open field which allows me to create freely.
Honey: Where did the name Lunar come from?
As a kid in primary school I was playing a game Jetpac on my old computer ZX Spectrum and I loved it. Once I went to my neighbour Mario who had same computer and another game from this series of 2, called Jetman, with small Lunar written above it, to announce where the scenario was happening. It was nearly the same game with a bit different mission and I saw it only once but fell in love with the name so I adopted it instantly. Even if it was probably subliminal then, I think if you choose life of a graffiti writer, you should have a short recognizable name which sounds good and is easy to remember. In the field where I work my daily job it's known as branding. Beside developing a good style I think a good and original name, with some meaning if possible, is crucial if you want to achieve graffiti fame. And if you decided to write your own name in a variety of shapes and colors you definitely look out for a fame, no matter what some people might say.
Honey: What is it like being a graphic designer by day and graffiti artist by night, do these two worlds collide?
Earlier I thought that these worlds are so much more like each other.. When I stepped into graphic design seriously I was horrified that it doesn't mean nothing if you're good at one and expecting to maintain same level in another. It doesn't have much in common, not at all. Positive thing about design is that it's logical, clean and well organized. Positive thing about graffiti is that it's spontaneous and natural, elements are playful and relaxing and it keeps you fit, you're walking, climbing, carring stuff, always physically active. Negative things about graphic design is that it's cold, conservative and hurts your eyes + makes your body inactive and graffiti again could be not well thought, dirty, unorganized and harmful for your health. Both could be driven by enormous amount of egoism. So there must be much thinking and working to overcome these.. Mixing good stuff from each is good sometimes, enriches it.
Honey: What's good about the art and graff scene in Croatia?
I'm not very familiar with art scene here. I love the work of old masters like for example Vlaho Bukovac, Josip Racic or Celestin Medovic and from living authors Mirko Ilic is one of the names whose work amaze, even though he is a graphic designer and illustrator and not painter, his works could hardly be compared to any other artist of recent times coming from my area. Among painters the late Edo Murtic is my favorite in recent times. Art and graffiti in Croatia doesn't have much in common. I don't even know art scene so well, only few people so far. I'm not very much fan of circles of people who gather around same interest. I prefer Intelligent and good-hearted individuals who have their own opinion with solid basis, no matter if they are heavy metal musicians, sportsmen or doctors. About graffiti scene here, after almost 20 years I'm pretty sure who's men and who's mice now so I'm trying to deal with good people only.
Honey: How would you describe your work?
Maybe the most recognizable stuff I do are simple black and white characters painted on red background. Non-colors give them shape and the red background is the one who gives them life. Besides that I do illustrations, graphic design and paint classical graffiti pieces. Graffiti is my first love and will remain so.
Honey: You had a show at the Galerija Vladimir Nazor recently.. how did everything go? I would have really loved to have seen that.
It would be nice if you have been here! On two walls of 56 square meters I put 9 canvases 1x1.2 meters and then applied the sketch and worked out the entire picture. Cats and birds shown both depict humans, predators and prey. You see that not all the prey is looking really as prey and not all predators are looking as they should, considering their nature, but same as humans, everyone has its own scale within, which shows amount of good/bad. And for the opening, a lot of people attended, atmosphere was good and DJ-ane Iva Starkova did great job playin' some good electro tunes. When I'm here in Zagreb, I see my exhibitions as private parties at my crib and I want to make people feel comfortable and have fun while they look at the stuff I did.
Honey: In terms of influences, is there anyone or anything that inspires your art?
My work is inspired by simple things which surround us. Landscapes, buildings, human behaviour, nature, music, people like Nikola Tesla... It also depends on the mood who or what is going to inspire me. If I'm down it's rather Depeche Mode, Massive Attack or Rammstein, criminal, war or negative things in politics, if I'm up it could be Duran Duran, Faithless, wife, family, friends, belief in better tomorrow above all.. These moods may vary from very deep negative feelings, being convinced world is definitely going to hell soon and the population deserved it big time and on the other hand, I see all those who do no harm, who work hard to ensure their kids better prosperity for future... Than again, their kids might grow up and in the whirlpool of circumstances become football hooligans or drug dealers and their parents spent their life for nothing. Life is a gift and a curse at the same time so I guess one should not try to play God but live and let live.
Honey: Who was the most influential person in your life? Who is your mentor?
Probably most influential people in my life are my parents. Being intelligent, well-educated and modest, who put their egos aside and completely devoted their life to their three kids. In art I never actually had a mentor, I was hard-headed.
Honey: What are you trying to express through your work or what is the main message you are trying to send the people who see your art?
My personified animal characters are humans actually. I put them in context of doing regular things that humans do. I just simply put them in position to show as much with very little drawn. Some are lazy, some are crooks, some are just regular Harry, Dick and Tom with their own little satisfactions which will cost them life one day, like smoking or drinking. For some we feel sympathy, some are getting on our nerves, some are ugly, some are nicer, some we'd like to hug, some to kick their butt.. Graffiti are thing I naturally do since I was a kid. I always loved to play with letters. Since most people cannot read them I find it a play among the writers, like a video game with collecting points. As you evolve and grow, you find more efficient ways to put your name up. The writing which I sometimes put next to my pieces shows the way I felt at that time.. Sometimes might be some harsh sentence from a rap song, sometimes a thought from Russian literature which I might have liked.
Honey: How long have you been painting/writing? What keeps you interested?
First time when I grabbed spray was in 1989. At that time I was finishing my elementary school. My loving grandfather died. His stories were a huge fuel for my soul, when I was kid seeking for an adventure. Life wasn't pampering him but he remained cool and friendly, life-loving person who kept on being that way until cancer caught him. It was my first horrible experience, to see a strong person like him, losing the struggle of his life. At the same time I met my best friend Kreso Buden, later knows as 2Fast. War was about to start in ex-Yugoslavia, it was getting obvious what was going to happen from the media. In this atmosphere Kreso and myself were just kids who were trying to find a place under the sun. He was already attending art-school and sketching first graffiti, I was just doodling on papers, making some ugly comics+photo comics and video-sketches with several friends from school. Graffiti sketches occupied my attention big time and since I had too much energy and too little experience it didn't need much couraging to start painting in the streets. In the first time a flavor of adventure mixed with inner urge to express myself visually was what made me do it. What I love the most about graffiti nowadays is the medium which allows me to transfer small sketch to big wall and develop it there. Same as on paper or canvas but on bigger space and ability to cover all the imperfections on the wall with a layer of paint and make it disappear. Letters again give you unlimited opportunities to change their shape and remain readable, add elements or cut them out, enrich the painting with adding new medias to it, I guess the only limit might lay within one's head.
Honey: How have you handled the business side of being an artist? I know that not too long ago, you and some of your colleagues were featured on Forbes magazine. Can you also talk about that a bit for us?
I always felt that serious graffiti should be treated with respect, not only from other writers but from regular people. Maybe to somebody graffiti could be just a weekend fun for several years until finding a regular job, up to anybody to decide for him or herself. I witnessed so many times that people are considering graffiti kiddish fun, done by those who doesn't have nothing smarter to do in life. I don't know what they thought was smarter, perhaps watching a soccer game at home and drinking beer, moving things in garage from place a to place b or playing cards? I think that's a complete waste of time. How to fight against such people's opinion? By enjoying your life and getting paid of course. I just kept doing what I loved and never cared what people said, just being honest to myself. I was doing public projects, organizing graffiti jams, doing exhibitions, supporting entire Croatian scene at the beginning and later only the ones who I thought deserved it. Media started recognizing what I was doing and slowly they started asking about it. I kept on answering those questions, getting into serious conversations with some, explaining my points of view and time showed it raised some interest among media and clients as well. That's one of the reasons I kept on working freelance all the time since mid-90's and from early 00's I decided to get a full time job as well, cause I wanted to have money at the end of each month for sure, to pay the bills and cover my costs and I don't have to accept any projects (which I had to do when doing only freelance) but chose the ones I liked and do them the way I wanted to. It gave me freedom in creativity but also cut my free time in half from one side and give more opportunities and connections at studios where I was working on the other hand. Forbes magazine contacted me after our last group exhibition, initiated and organized by Darko Bekic, Croatian ambassador in Morocco, who loved graffiti and wanted to have a collection for himself and promote it properly. He wanted to make a 10th anniversary of first official graffiti exposition in a gallery in Zagreb and brought together same artists who exhibited in 1998 and some fresh blood along. Forbes was making a theme issue called 'Croatian dream', about people who run their private businesses and some known creatives like us and they contacted me to ask me whether I'd be interested in giving an interview to them about what I do, illustrating their cover and recommending several other important graffiti artists who successfully transferred their graffiti energy into new fields. Session was done quite professionally, editor, art director, journalist and photographer showed up and done a good job but we didn't really know our faces will be on the cover on the magazine so it was quite a nice surprise to see it. I guess it's pushing a boundaries of graffiti a bit forward.
Honey: What do you hope to get into as your career progress?
I hope to become fully independent artist someday. I also hope to have a constant intake of interesting project, in Croatia and internationally. I'd like to live comfortably from my own intellectual property and therefore have absolute freedom in what I do. Some clients sometimes make you really feel irritated, I'd absolutely like to skip that part in future and work with people who know why they chose my work and not someone else.
Honey: What is your definition of success?
Living a happy life, being fulfilled, living in peace. Sharing with your loved ones. Material possession means nothing unless you share it with someone. If you're the one who exclusively enjoy what you have, you could talk about your good experience with your mirror. It will be the only one listening to you carefully.
Honey: What other artists do you most admire?
Mode 2 or Os Gemeos to name a few with graffiti roots. Picasso or Edo Murtic to name few painters.
Honey: Any favorite childhood memory?
Thanks to my family I had a childhood which anyone could wish to have. To neutralize the shock of growing up and having to deal with real life and sharks somehow I refused to grow so I still find all I do just a play. Many memories from the earlier childhood, it would be hard to pick up one which is better than others.
Honey: What else besides art do you like to do?
Reading books is my soul food. It takes a time nowadays to read the book due to insuficience of time but I use every free moment to relax by reading. Also regular stuff that people enjoy; sex, music, travel, theatre, cinema, interesting social communication, good and diverse food and good relations within my family are my main fuels.
Honey: Top 3 websites we would find in your favorites bookmarks bar.
Wooster Collective, Sweet Station and Style is king
Honey: Can you fill us in your upcoming shows and/or projects you are looking forward this year?
Now parallel with 'Bird watching
' in Zagreb, there is an exhibition 'Spray 1387' in Tehran where I participate with two paintings. Next project is a part of Hope Box activities (the humanitarian international project by Rienke Enghardt, based in Amsterdam) and it should take place in March and May in Zagreb, with some of international friends participating. New good festival is taking part in Split/Croatia in May, so after 11 years from last big one there it will be pleasure to attend again along with the rest of my crew. In April, Nina and myself we plan a small tour around Holland and Belgium and for first part of 2009 that would be quite enough, the rest of the year is still far away :)
Honey: Finish this sentence.. " Life is short, so remember to .... ".
...walk with your senses open but keep your ratio included. Keep the balance.
Honey: Alright Slaven, thanks for taking time out to take part in this interview and good luck with everything. Any final words?
Thank you for the opportunity to show my stuff and I wish you all the best. God gave us two ears and one mouth, twice more to listen than to speak. I didn't see that many people noticed this :)