If you travel by rail between Berlin and Halle, Germany, and pay attention to the passing landscape, you will eventually set eyes on a 350-foot-long graffiti mural (obligatory football field metric: two and a third). It’s a series of detailed scenes: a laboratory overrun by rats, a shipping port under dark clouds, galleons fighting through rough waters and a giant octopus, and a cityscape at sunset. The graffiti name of the artist, MadC, is ubiquitous.
“It's a wall for all of us who paint 10+ years and who put all their energy and heart into it,” says Claudia Walde, MadC’s alter ego, who painted the wall over the course of several months last year. The scenes are an allegory to the creative process and the challenge of painting outdoors in public spaces, and ultimately graffiti’s place within the city.
A Look at MadC and the 700 Wall
Walde was born in Germany and spent several years in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as a child. “Overall it was one of the best experience in my life. I was very happy there. I'm still drawn to the African continent and it's amazing nature,” she says. She studied design communications at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design and later animation at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London “to learn about movement, dimensions and characters in more depth.”
Last January, Walde began sketching ideas on paper and imported the images into a computer in February. In April, she began painting, though inclement weather would prevent her working on the wall in earnest until September. She used 1,489 cans of spray paint (158 different colors), more than 600 caps, 100 liters of primer and 140 liters of exterior paint before finishing the wall in early December.
There hasn’t been much time for rest. She spent most of December in Norway, painting buses for Russ, the country’s graduation festival, in May. In March, her new book, “Street Fonts", comes out on Thames & Hudson. And she opens a solo exhibition at Pure Evil Gallery in London on April 14. To keep up with her many activities, check out her blog: delicious-styles.com.
Words With MadC
How did you find the wall and why that wall?
I was looking for a big wall that many people see, but that's still away from the hubbub of the city so that I am able to concentrate and work without interruption. I passed the wall when I took the train and asked the owner for permission.
Were you alone most of the time?
I had some people coming by from time to time but most of the time I spent there alone. I love being alone and enjoy painting alone very much. Only like this I can really come up with something good, I think. By being alone I can totally get lost in my world and completely concentrate on what I'm doing.
The wind blew me off the ladder and I was just able to hold on to the gutter.
Can you tell me about a couple of memorable days painting the wall?
That's a hard question since there were so many. I remember the feeling of making the first lines. That was crazy because the wall looked so extremely big, and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it. One day, I painted up on the ladder, and it was close to stormy weather. The wind blew me off the ladder and I was just able to hold on to the gutter. It took me some time to stop shaking and to pull myself back together and get back up the ladder again and go on painting.
A funny coincidence was when I painted the harbor and sea scene – it had been raining cats and dogs for days and the field in front of the wall was like an ocean. A couple of hundred seagulls decided to live there for about two weeks. And even though there's usually no water for miles, I had the sound of the sea behind me while painting the ocean.
What were some of the difficulties?
The weather was terrible last year and made it close to impossible to paint constantly until September. I finished more than half of the wall in September and October alone. Worst part was that I had no real scaffolding and no service lift and spent half the time climbing up and down ladders. Then the crazy weather caused the wall paint to come off in parts and I had to scratch down big parts of the wall and prepare them again before I was able to actually paint it. So all the little things you cannot plan and that interrupt your working process.
What was your immediate emotion after finishing?
“Hmmm, so that's it? I could do more.”
Would you embark on something of a similar scale (or bigger) again?
Actually, the original idea was to do one massive wall based on the style idea all by myself on each continent. I still didn't abandon the idea. Maybe I’ll find a way to do that still. I have to find the walls, the financial support, support by someone reliable on the ground and about four months of time to do it.
What were your early influences, graffiti and non-graffiti?
The early graffiti influences I got from the very few graffiti magazines back then. Dare, Swet, Amok and Seen influenced me most back then, I think. Non-graffiti influences were movies, the skateboarding culture and fine art – for example Van Gogh's color choice and energetic way of painting.
Can you talk about how “Street Fonts” came about?
Street Fonts is my second book. My first one was about stickers and posters in the street art scene. I always look for topics that haven't been covered yet, but that I myself am very interested in. Graffiti writers always challenged themselves by doing alphabets. So the idea in general isn't new but has never really been documented.
In the last years, the focus of published books and exhibitions was mainly on street art and heavily character-based. But for me graffiti is writing – so it's all about letters. I wanted to make a book that brings the focus back to that and also to give the general non-graffiti audience a key to those letters and a feeling for how big the whole thing actually is. Every day new fonts are created by designers and advertising people, but in the streets we design at least twice as many every day. People that are not writers themselves often have difficulties to decipher the letters in the pieces, so all looks the same to them and therefore they don't appreciate them much. Now in my book all artists work with the same letters. So finally it is possible to see the vast variety clearly. And it is simply amazing with what all the artists came up. They made this book what it is - a bible for letters.
Follow Richard S. Chang on Twitter: @r_s_c