When you imagine graffiti you probably think a of flat image painted on a wall. If this is the case, then Italian artist Peeta’s work will defy your expectations. With formal training in industrial design and a love for sculpture, Peeta, also known as Manuel di Rita, has developed a unique 3D style of graffiti writing that, thanks to subtle color shifts, shading, and a lack of strong outlines, seems to curve out from the wall in sculptural angles.
Born outside of Venice, Peeta started writing graffiti in 1993 and since then his art has developed through a constant exploration of his urban environment. As his career has progressed this exploration has expanded to include the streets, walls and galleries of New York, Amsterdam, London, Vancouver, Paris and, most recently, Basel. Since Peeta’s work often spells out his own name in abstracted form, he is essentially leaving his signature across the world as part of a practice where the development of artistic style and the elaboration of individual identity intersect.
You’re a member of the FX and RWK (Robots Will Kill) crews out of New York. What role have graffiti crews played in your life as an artist and the development of your style?
My first crew was EAD from Padua (Italy) and its members had a great role in the improvement of my style. A lot of them were older than me and were already developing an interesting 3D style, so I got really good teaching and tips from them to acquire a new style and find my way with it. Moreover, I often had the opportunity to collaborate with them pragmatically which meant a continuous comparison between us and the growth of our personal styles.
As for FX, I haven’t had the chance to paint with them very often, but I was lucky to collaborate side by side with some amazing artists in some very interesting situations and that was an important incentive to improve my way of painting while observing the way they work.
Finally, the members of RWK all do different things, choose different subjects and different techniques so it’s always a pleasure to paint with them. However, when we got together each of us had already reached their personal style, so there hasn’t been a real incentive to integrate our works in an homogeneous way. Instead, we have kept on being an heterogenous group and, since there is something “for all tastes” in our shows and the wall we’ve done together, I think it’s a plus.
You’ve gone from writing on walls in a little city outside of Padova to having your work featured around the world. What do you think are the challenges or advantages facing Italian graffiti writers and/or artists as they enter the international scene?
Italy and Europe in general can boast an ancient and hugely important tradition in art. It is difficult to enter the scene if you do something new, especially if it doesn’t belong to your traditional culture. I was lucky to travel very soon at the beginning of my career, so I was able to reach relative notoriety overseas (especially in America and Canada). There, people are of course more used to graffiti and more interested in discovering and appreciating it. My work improved greatly thanks to the foreign market. The audience was more openminded and I have been able to create a stronger artistic identity thanks to them. Nowadays I am working a lot in Europe and I am starting to have interesting clients in Italy also. It’s a bit difficult, in Italy, to find places to showcase graffiti art, but I can perceive a growing attention to the movement and initiatives that promote a harmonic mix of urban architecture and wall painting.
Does it bother you when a piece eventually gets buffed or have you become used to it?
It depends. When I paint big walls I put so much effort into it that I hope they are going to last for a very long time, especially if they are commissioned works or works I was permitted to paint in the center of towns or on specific buildings.
When I paint in halls of fame or in similar situations I know perfectly well how it works and I serenely accept that they could be covered in few hours. I always take pictures to document my work so even if they are going to be covered, they are “recorded.”
To be honest, especially over the last few years, it doesn’t happen very often!
You have described your work as self-portraiture and your approach to art seems to be deeply spiritual. How does your commissioned work for companies such as Casamania fit in with this point of view?
I am very free with commissions. I can often choose my style and contents, so I am not very pressured by the client to agree to a compromise. This way I can adapt my traditional creative process to more commercial works as well. By the way, I generally try to avoid a spiritual approach for commercial works and I consider them more as stylistic and graphic exercises than an attempt to portray myself.
Do you prefer one of the media you work in over the other? Is there any medium you haven’t worked in that you would like to try?
I will always love to paint on walls and my favourite medium is still spray paint. Concerning canvas and sculpture, as I say very often, they are indispensable the one for the other. I study sculptures to create volumes and shades on canvas and I study canvases to design my sculptures’ shapes, so all of the three media are equally important in the end.
I don’t really feel like I need to look for other media. I am mostly interested in keeping on improving what I have studied and researched for years, that is to say painting and sculpture. At the moment I am really interested in video mapping and 3D animation and I am developing interesting collaborations and projects in the field but I still do not deal personally with the video side of the work.
Aside from your own work, what do you have hanging your walls at home?
I’m a bit too much of a wanderer at the moment to invest in a collection for my house. I have changed so many places (and cities) during last years that I have never had the time and chance to properly decorate my houses. My older houses were also my studios so they were full of my works … nowadays I keep few pieces at home, the ones I am most attached to.