ARGAN Square’s Creative Sfhir
Written by: UmJay M.
Photography: Kingdome Staff
Commissioned by ARGAN Square to paint the walls of their outdoor arena, internationally renowned graffiti artist, Sfhir, stood under Kuwait’s scorching winter-afternoon sun, as we talked a little about where it all started:
How old were you when you started drawing?
That’s a hard one, because as far back as I can remember, ever since I was a child, I was always sketching. Once, I was caught by one of my teachers in school, doing graffiti – he sent me to the School Director. They were going to expel me, but my Art teacher intervened and told the school; “give him to me,” and he told me that I would paint that wall, but in a different way. He asked me to go home and think about it, sketch it, prepare it, and then come back and paint it. I was 13. They caught me, but my Art teacher was able to guide me – that was very important for me in my life. He gave me a book about the art of New York’s early 1980s graffiti, and I was so impressed by it. A couple of decades later, I was painting in an art exhibition in Madrid, a pretty big exhibition, and one guy came up to me and said; “Do you know who I am?” I didn’t. He showed me the book! It was my Art teacher. He’d been following my work, as ‘SFHIR,’ and didn’t know I was that same kid. That’s a story that pretty much defines my career.
There is no definitive border between art and vandalism, but when I first started, I didn’t express my art like I do today. Back then I had no discretion, I’d be everywhere, even in the most difficult places, trying to go bigger and bigger. Now, my objective has changed. I need to have a dialogue with the space, I see the wall that I have to paint, and first of all, I need to talk to the wall – I can’t just paint whatever I want. It needs to add something.
I respect tagging. People are always getting angry with tags, but they’re not angry at, say, advertising, for example. Advertising is similar, except these are people constantly trying to sell you something, putting things in your mind. Tagging is just a game. An advertising game, but without money being involved.
Maybe that’s why they don’t like it? Because nobody gets paid for it?
He throws the conspiracy theorist in me a bone.
Did you go to Art School?
No. I studied computer programming, something completely different. Society makes it so that you have to have a “real job,” and Art is not a “real job.” It’s also a very difficult profession to take up. It’s not always easy catching good money, getting in customers, there’s no steady income – it’s not easy in the beginning. But life is just once, and you need to try it. For me, this is a dream because I work with my passion. If I have enough money to eat and pay my bills. I’m completely happy.
Did you work in Computer Programming at all?
Yes, for three or four years, but at the end I wasn’t happy. I made a lot of money, but it wasn’t the most important thing in life. One day I said, “I don’t want this life for me… I need to paint.”
But did your years of Computer Programming teach you anything, help you? Even with your art today?
Of course. Everything you go through in life teaches you something. In terms of my art, now, it helps me a lot because these days, art is mixed with technology. I know how to use the traditional tools, but today we have a lot of technology. Now, I’m very happy because I’m doing a laser performance where I’ll be painting with lasers over photo-luminescent pigments and I get to use a lot of technology – machines, projections and mapping. I’m good with that stuff.
Sfhir has been painting walls for 13 years, and says every year he has a new personal favorite piece.
It changes. More or less, you have a special piece of the year, and then next year you do another one and you’re in love with the new one.
Right now, he’s in love with his Portugal Snake.
Is it ever too late to follow your passion?
Never. Because, to be an athlete, your body has certain limitations – to be a professional athlete, you have to be relatively young and fit, but art is the complete opposite of that. With the years, you get better and better… like good wine.
What do you think about what ARGAN Square is trying to do with all this space?
These kinds of initiatives are great for the local community. They are the kinds of things that open the minds of people. It’s not just your typical gray wall – these are colors, images and messages. It has the potential to influence people’s perspectives.
I had about twenty other questions I wanted to ask him, but he had a ways to go in his wall. My daughter was getting bored and we all needed out from under the sun. Sfhir was only about a third of the way through with his piece when we met, but if you stop by ARGAN Square now, you’ll get to see the end result.
ARGAN Square is designed to bring the youth and creative minds together to a trendy lifestyle/community center. The outdoor square in the center is where all the activities and events of ARGAN Square take place.
ARGAN Square hosts many activities in relation to art, music, entrepreneurship and is open to many other lifestyle events. The project is aimed to provide students and Kuwait’s youth with a fun and mod-ish destination to study, work or just hang out.
Art is creativity and to unlock the young generation’s minds, ARGAN Square wanted to make sure that the visitors to the space have something beautiful and creative to enjoy such as the graffiti mural created by Sfhir and the graffiti wall painted by local artists.
Sfhir’s work resembles the youth culture and pop culture of Kuwait in a creative fun way. As Sfhir says, he always tries to make a positive impact with his art, and here in Kuwait he believes that his artwork will bring more life and fun to the young generations, who love and appreciate and respect music, nature, animals and other aspects of life in Kuwait.