Hamburg’s tribute to Oz
Some weeks after our first tribute to Oz, the German graffiti artist passed away last September, we have decided to publish some new stuff, in order to share our surprise discovering the important amount of tributes that this artist received at his funeral and in the streets after his death. Elisabetta Orlacchio has kindly accepted our proposition to publish a selection of the photos she took last autumn at Oz's funeral and in the Hamburg underground. We’ve also been in touch with three of the most notorious Hamburg graffiti writers – Regie, Otis and Rage – as well as with the “Conceptual vandalism collective” (CVC). Thanks to them, we have collected materials, which allow to better understanding how Oz was perceived by the Hamburg’s urban art scene and the impact of his legacy on German graffiti writers and street artists.
Pietro: What do you think about OZ and his work?
OTIS - I can´t say anything about him as a person or about his character, because I didn’t know him personally, but, seen from outside, he seemed a tragic figure in life.
RAGE - Oz was a real maniac and an interesting character that will not appear in this universe anymore. I like a few of his pieces a lot, but most of his stuff does not meet my taste. For sure it’s art, anyway. His work is comparable to Keith Haring’s: some are better, some are worth, but the more important thing is the whole thing, the “mass” of what he did and the person behind the works.
REGIE - I think Oz's style is very unique and more into “art” than into graffiti. Markers and spray cans were his partners in crime. He often went by bike through the city realizing everything he could reach tags, murals and kringel (small circles).
OTIS - I like his work, especially his detailed character walls. It seemed like he was feeling really free while painting them, with all the different patterns, it looks like the pieces just grew from one point.
CVC - Oz is one of the few who started painting the streets very early. His works did not affect me much, but I was impressed by his way of acting: painting the spot he chose daytime. When he got busted, I heard, he said, “it’s just natural to paint outside“ and just continued when he was released. He painted all day and night long, as long as he had materials. In some way crazy, but on the other hand – why not? Where is the problem on tagging or drawing on a back of a street sign? It’s grey space and it should be allowed. He acted like people from the Stone Age, in a pure and naïve way, with no rules: you made a drawing in the caves, on the stones you found, on trees, everywhere you liked. There was no limit.
If you compare his works with those of other early street artists, his style is naive. Harald Naegeli composed his fast drawn characters with extremely simple, strong and lively lines. Oz’s bigger pieces were colorful and childish too, but you can find artists who do as well childish colorful works and get good money in the established art world too!
Pietro: Do you think he affected in any way the street art and graffiti world (since it started very long time ago and probably before many writers and street artists), especially in Hamburg and in Germany?
REGIE - The graffiti scene acted tolerant and tried not to cross his works, even if sometimes Oz painted dots in murals of other people. I don't know why...maybe it was his kind of communication.
OTIS - I think he didn’t have any impact. He was just an individual artist using the same tools and surfaces. Nevertheless, a lot of people were impressed by his output and energy.
RAGE - The reason why most people changed their mind about him is that they were limited in their mind. They couldn’t focus on the result of what he did. For them he was just a crazy old man who was doing "atypical” graffiti. Then, the hype, which was growing slowly, opened their eyes.
Pietro: His stuff was really different from the mainstream, but we've seen quite a few tributes after his death. Did a lot of people change their mind?
REGIE - I painted a panel for him when he was still alive. When he died, a lot of people sprayed "r.i.p. Oz" to honor him. I did not, because he could not see the homage himself anymore.
OTIS - A few years ago, I painted too an homage wholecar together with Bild; as a “thank you”, we both received a piece of candy from him.
RAGE - I’m really sad about his death, but I’m relieved he passed away in a period of his life when he had a lot of fans around. He’d never admit he enjoyed the hype about him, but I feel confident that he really loved it on a certain level. Everything was perfect; he reached his goal already, getting all the attention and recognition he was struggling for. And in some way, with all this love embracing him, he also fucked up all the cops, haters and guards who bullied him.
Surely he could become more and more famous: people wanting him to paint their houses, earning real money with his stuff. For many that would be a fulfilling life, but not for him I guess.
CVC - He was not connected with the graffiti writers’ scene from the beginning, but, in recent years, he was a lot recognized by graffiti writers who were impressed by his activity, because being active counts for them as much as style. Sometimes, the quality of the works is less important that their massive impact and Oz was definitely “all city”: you could find a sign of him in the darkest backyard, on the highest bridge or on the brightest street sign in Hamburg.