kens a signature, a story, a graffiti artist
WRITTEN BY: LORENA SIERRA
It's 4:00 am and Vicky the mother is studying in the room, she has to perform anatomy at 8 in the morning, while Junior opens the door of his house and comes out dressed in black. In his hands he carries a shopping-style cardboard bag. There he kept a couple of aerosol cans and a thick-tipped marker; all ready to make some bombs and tags around the neighborhood and its surroundings.
After leaving home, Junior or as he calls himself with his signature "KENS" crosses the bridge Saavedra and walks always looking both ways, noticing the noises and lights of the cars that pass through the area.
When crossing the bridge and with the autumn breeze in the face, it begins to surround the Sarmiento Park, after this, he crosses some little trafficked streets and arrives at a small square near the Luis María Saavedra train station. In the square he walks through the wet grass and visually identifies his objective.
Solitude and breeze the combination of a common autumn night at 4:30 am, there our only companions are a couple of large trees that will be witnesses and even accomplices of the minutes we will spend in the place.
Junior gets as close as he can to the metal surface to start with the strokes, gives a couple of looks around to make sure he is not seen and when he is in confidence ... he squeezes the soft mouthpiece and constantly, starts to slide down the side of the bus that apparently is abandoned, retouches some black lines and changes the color black to chrome to finish filling everything in the shortest possible time.
The few cars or groups that circulate go unnoticed, the idea is to finish filling a bomb that began a few nights ago, make your signature and a couple of other names including a dedication. All in less than 10 minutes. It's already past 5 and it seems like half an hour ...
Junior is from Lima, he is 26 years old, he is short, he has black short hair, and his eyes are slightly slanted, he likes the good look, (dressing well) the first time I saw him he was painting a graffiti of a face at an event in the south of Greater Buenos Aires in 2016, in those days he painted with a crew called Sudaka family in which he was for a short time.
Normally in the events he is seen making characters (cartoons of faces or characters) but when he goes out to paint occasionally, his signature always remains on trains, walls or buses.
Junior started making graffiti when he was 12 years old in Lima, the city where he was born. There he lived with his grandparents, his father and his younger brother. His mother decided to leave the country after separating from her father with the intention of starting a new life in Buenos Aires.
Meanwhile, he lived with his grandparents and his father who was not very present due to his problems with alcohol, that's why he preferred to be on the street, living what happens in the neighborhood, learning from the combos, from the fights, and of graffiti.
In countries like the United States, hip-hop graffiti was born to mark territories between those who sought to be visible, marginalized people, discriminated against or groups from different neighborhoods that were recognized by their initials.
In Peru and other Latin American countries there was also this influence of graffiti on different groups that wanted to warn that they had passed by - mark the territory-
"When I was a kid, I saw the guys who threw stones or who hit each other, who passed by their houses leaving their signatures, put: loyal, good or holigans"
Junior sometimes helped the neighborhood kids when they had to paint their own combos brands. It was something he saw and did almost daily, for this reason, one day he decided to paint without belonging to any of the combos.
"For me it was exciting because when I went out to paint alone it was like something new and over time I began to meet people like that on the street who also painted, who were also graffiti artists who were not from the neighborhood bars"
"By luck of fate I crossed them one night painting and that's where everything was born"
His name or graffiti tag arose thanks to one of his first girlfriends, with whom he had his first love story. It was Kelly, a 13-year-old girl who was about to have a baby with Junior when he was 15.
They escaped from their parents when they learned that she was pregnant, until Kelly's parents took her to the north of Peru. After that trip the pregnancy did not exist anymore and the relationship remained in the memory of both forever. Kens or Keny as he signs every time he paints, is a name in honor of that baby that only existed in their minds and that today recalls with nostalgia but with the tranquility of accepting that maybe it was not the time to be a father.
When he arrived in Buenos Aires in 2012 to live with his mother in Munro, Kens started looking for people to paint, he was already used to doing it and had a group of friends or crew in which he felt recognized, as well as having a firm that it differentiated him from others. In those years everything was painted in the city of Buenos Aires: subway trains, public spaces. It was as many say "the golden years of graffiti"
The law No. 1,472 of the Contravencional Code had not yet been declared, which currently rigorously sanctions graffiti in different public spaces, regardless of the type of graffiti.
¨ I remember that I did not know anything, for those days I was presented on the internet by a little guy named Piruso who was from the old school here, he painted many years ago, a crazy guy who painted a tons of trains. I had been recommended to him from Peru. what's going on? I failed him one time and the madman did not want to know anything about me "
Kens failed Piruso because they were found in a place at a certain time to go together to paint. He never came to the meeting, because he had been in the city for a few days. He did not know where to buy sprays at a good price and his mother with whom he had lived a little did not understand his mood to go out that night without knowing anything or anyone
Back and through the streets of the neighborhood he begins to make some bombs, pulls out its thick marker with which it makes a signature in 4 or 5 seconds and in larger walls takes out its spray color chrome and makes a bomb in which it takes less than 5 minutes "it's something easy and fast, so later you'll make your own bomb, I'll show you how it's done." He says
Before approaching any closed shutter in a room that is not already painted by another graffiti artist, Junior turns his face to both sides, to make sure they do not see it and begins to outline, it looks so simple but the adrenaline of doing the wrong thing is the constant of the night returns, perhaps for them it also becomes a ritual. Meet, drink something, see sketches and drawings and then go out to face the adrenaline of the night and vandal graffiti.
"Actually I always liked illegal graffiti, it's like all graffiti starts with the tag, with the bombs. I saw a documentary that said that graffiti was always on the street so I always had that concept, although nowadays it has changed, I see it differently because you have to paint good things to attract the attention of people who can give you a job. Then nothing, touches evolve too, continue, if you want to live on this.¨Affirm as we walk the streets of his neighborhood
It's 5:30 am and a few blocks before we get home and finish the tour Junior makes a bomb that says Lore and gives me the can of chrome paint and says -now fill it up ... In Buenos Aires, Junior began to paint everything: trains, subways, bombing in public spaces, walls, blinds or buses that were parked. He did not paint daily but since he started he liked to try different spaces.
The first time he painted a train in 2013 was in the province of Buenos Aires, Cañuelas. A province 58 kilometers from federal capital. It was with a friend who lived near the area that when he was there, he explained how to move.
"He took me and it was like we looked for it, we had to duck quietly without making noise and in those moments of being there and having to walk slowly without anyone seeing you stealthily, it's like your nerves get full" he mentions with a smile on his face
Each graffiti artist has his ways of taking care of himself when painting, his schedules, his clothes, the things he wears and the multiple options to escape or leave without being seen after having painted
¨The idea is always to walk in dark clothes so they do not see you, and carry everything in disposable bags
To throw everything in the trash.
"I remember that in the beginning I was like a traditional graffiti artist with my backpack, with the marquer, with my clothes in my backpack, so you looked under? like a very old graffiti artist, that the police grabs and says this .. jmm! .. do you know how many magazines they have took from me?
"Because before there was no Instagram, there were not so many networks and then how did people divide up and show what they did? Well people came and showed you pictures or brought you magazines that were very expensive.
"Now you see that and it's nothing compared to what graffiti artists do today. Before you could see it in photos, but I had to show you another graffiti artist. "
¨ Almost everything was with cameras to roll. Then came the social networks, Hi5 and Fotolog all for graffiti artists and there they put their photos or recordings in vgh cameras, those old cameras.
Junior likes to go out and paint at night, it does not matter if he has to go to work in the day. He has been caught on different occasions but the time he was most shocked was a rainy night in 2016 where he was beaten strongly in the Temperley station. After the heavy blows he had that night, he promised his mother that he would not paint trains again.
It's 6:00 am and we go back to Junior's house. We enter and at the end of a long corridor with several closed doors that correspond to other small apartments, finally his. It is a cozy space: a kitchen and a dining table; on the table a basket with fruit, a bag with bread and a container with cookies, on the wall a picture of a dolphin with the name Vicky written in graffiti letters on the bottom. In the next door the bathroom and in the background a room with a three-story bed in which the two sleep.
There is Vicky, her mother, without having slept at all in the whole night sitting on a bench with short legs while in the lowest bed she has a collection of photocopies, books and pencils.
¨Today in the morning I have to take an anatomy exam and I still have a lot to study, after that I have to work, these days I have many things to do, sometimes it is very complicated to study for so much times; but hey, today I stayed up late studying ¿did you see? ¨
And what do you think about your child painting graffiti?
"It's very nice everything he does, he's an artist, my boy, I really do not think he's doing anything wrong. That's why I accompany him, because he paints very nice, I think they should even pay him because he's making the place or the wall look nice. .. did you see the one in the kitchen? That's what he did, plus I know he is good at what he does and believes in his dreams¨
"Later you have to work junior," she says.
"I want him to do well, I ask God to help me to get ahead, because we are both here and alone and we have to help us, right?"
-My old lady is a person very open mind with the theme of graffiti. She knew that I was painting from a very young age, until she even has my drawings. At that time, she kind of saw them and did not give them much importance but when I came back in 2012 she began to take importance and she told me- "on, its true" In fact, she apologized. He told me: "I've always seen you paint and I've always overlooked it but now I see that you really like to paint and I'm going to support you in everything." What's more, nowadays my old woman is going to buy me the cans and all. I tell her what a Montana is and she goes to the graffiti shops and buys it.
-When I told her I was going to go out to paint illegally, she always told me that how could I do that? be careful. And she starts to remember me saying: "Son, look at that, that's dangerous." Even tho she always illuminates me with God when i leave she makes me a prayer, because she is very religious.
Two years have passed, Junior has gone through various jobs, painting. He was part of a foundation that uses art as a means of social transformation in young people, he was paid to paint murals and thanks to this he met other young artists who encouraged him to paint in a planned manner and with permission.
Anyway, he is going out to paint at night but not with the same frequency as before, is something he says he can not leave.
A couple of months ago Kens tried to paint near the obelisk, he was celebrating the classification of Peru at the 2018 World Cup and how every good graffiti artist hasd a can to paint something that came out at night. The only thing that came out was a legal sanction since tonight he did carry his documents. They did not hit him but they warned him that due to the new immigration policies, his permanent stay in the country could be affected by this type of behavior.
"I'm painting more calmly," he says.
In addition he has just begun to study visual arts thanks to the help of his mother, so he is also interested in doing as he would say - things more sailed - in which they can recognize him, hire him or even undertake something of his own
After all he still goes out to paint, sometimes he meets with friends and asks for a wall, other times he goes to a friend's house at night and they go out to paint some bombs. Graffiti becomes a plan, a way to get together. Or, on the other hand, a way of not getting bored when carrying a spray can or a thick marker in your backpack to leave your signature anywhere.
Kens is in the thin line of graffiti that aims at art as a way of life becoming an urban artist.