Hugging Letters

Interview with Adrian Falkner

Cool graffiti artist or renowned painter? Both! Adrian Falkner, who works and lives in Basel, is best known by his pseudonym ‘Smash137’ and is one of the most sought-after graffiti artists in Europe. As a ‘graffiti writer’, he no longer wants to communicate his work solely inside the graffiti scene, but hopes to reach all kinds of people with his art. 

He has accomplished this with his extensive work titled ‘Soundscape’, which he created for Motel One Basel, making it into a true art hotel. The installation’s huge, colourful speech and thought bubbles were created for a meeting place and therefore perfectly complement our One Lounge!


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10 questions for... Adrian Falkner

How did you discover graffiti?
I saw the cool kids standing around next to the bumper cars at the fairground with their colourful baseball and football jackets. Really, my brother and I just wanted to belong and wear the same kind of jackets, but they had to be imported from the USA and were really expensive. When we suspected that the tags we were seeing on the bus stops and in the underpasses were sprayed by the same guys, we immediately started doing it too.

Where does your artist name ‘Smash137’ come from? 
When I chose the name, I was 16 years old and didn’t really know what it meant. But the letter ‘S’ had always been my favourite letter and it was in there twice.

What distinguishes your works from conventional graffiti? 
At first glance, not a lot. But those who take a closer look at the subject will soon realise that this is a very conservative scene where only very few try to find new ways of doing things. That’s something I’ve always done. Maybe that’s the difference.

How would you describe your style?
Simple, striking and organic. Perhaps also friendly. While some of my colleagues add arrows and sharp edges to their letters, I often hear people saying they want to hug my lettering.

Style-writing graffiti focuses mainly on letters and numbers. How did you develop this style? 
A turning point for me was no longer seeing letters as architectural entities constructed as overlapping regular blocks, but rather as organic sculptures. Like a sculptor chiselling a work out of stone.

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To our making-of video

What materials do you usually work with? 
Spray cans and pen-like brushes, which I usually make myself, because I can’t get them in the usual art supplies stores.

How do you come up with your ideas?
If I really knew that, I wouldn’t have time to answer any more of your questions!

What influence does the city of Basel have on your art? 
It gives me security, but also drives me at the same time. And with its relaxed attitude, it leaves me enough time and space to concentrate on my own work.

What was the best compliment you’ve ever gotten for your work? 
That was after I had been working on the roller blind of a small shop in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona without permission one night. The owner of the shop bought the same spray paints to retouch my work over and over again after other sprayers had sprayed over it.

What is your greatest dream? 
To understand everything and anything.

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