Last updated on 17/07/2017
Onyx is a repentant street artist telling his long experience. At the age of 10, he was on a school trip when he saw, by the train's window, a fascinating and interesting landscape, made up of graffitis, sometimes huge and colorful, sometimes sober and silver. All those pictures captivated him, floating in his mind and will never leave it.
One day, he will mark the concrete too, but before that he started practicing in his exercise books... On a fine night, when he was 13, he decided to found a collective: the C.O. aka Criminels Organisés with some of his friends. Okay, at this time, they all were broke kids but they were so enthusiast: 'if there wasn't street art, we would have started surfing'. All their pocket money was dedicated to street art, the local Brico was their paint sprays seller and the kids were up all night... Onyx started in the the early 2000's. In 1998 Brussels municipality gave a rough ride to the street artists: lot of arrests. Onyx: 'Authorities had cleaned the city and many graffitis had been rubbed out. It was a time for new stuff!'. There were two main directions is street art: people who were looking for lawful projects and real 'bad boys' who stole the public space. Onxys was part of the second group but he tried his hand in places where graffitis were 'tolerated', such as the disused buildings like the Arsenal in Etterbeek, which has been destroyed now. He put his graffiti all over Belgium's walls and his motto was the pursuit of risks: 'this is a small world, the most important is to get the recognition from the elder, the street artists who were there before you and what you think doesn't matter. You had to do something new, something other street artists like, something they've never seen before, something they wouldn't try'.
At this time, street artists were adrenaline junkies: always looking for difficulty. It may sound like a spying movie: some places were sometimes checked out a long time before being used. Onyx went into dangerous and under close surveillance places such as Brussels underground. Which doesn't mean that the artistic side was neglected: each new big piece is drawn on paper before being painted, colors are considered, nothing could happen by chance. A whole car (repainting an entire train's wagon while it is at the depot) was his biggest collective work, Four guys, a ladder and twenty minutes. A paint spray in each hand: 'Do it the way you wash windows'. Onyx also took part in 'backjump', when train stayf for 10 minutes in a station for example. Sometimes, street artists live subconsciously on the edge, Onyx talked about mission on freeway signs, soundproof walls, some security guys violence... and justified by saying: 'running is part of the street art'.
When we ask him what he thinks about artists exposing in galleries and we categorize their art in 'graffiti's inspiration', his answer is clear: 'Painting with paint sprays doesn't mean doing graffiti'. And here comes his explanation: 'Minds have changed today, people were their sign on their backpacking and go buy their paint sprays with mum and dad'. The street artists are no longer the only ones searching for claiming, everyone does it!'. Today Onyx has stepped aside, because he had too many work and couldn't find the time to spend all of his nights outside. With hindsight and experience, he admits: 'If you want to work in street art as I did, you have to start as a teenager'. This is a time when you are foolhardy, because when you are at 10m from the ground, risk are big indeed'. Even if he has now suspended all his outlaw activities, he admits to make it one quickly from time to time. This is an essential need for him, he concludes: 'Anyway, if I had to rewind, I'll do the same, with no hesitation!'. Kriss Gutierrez Cuervo