Interview with an urban artist: Meet Alex Senna
Brazilian artist Alex Senna, born in Orlândia, cultivates his relationship with art since childhood and the desire to draw inspired by his family, mother and brother, as he told us during the interview.
Alex brings in his work reflections, mostly black and white, on human relationships and feelings, seeking to create a dialogue and awaken sensations in those who pass in front of his murals and urban interventions. The message he conveys is clear and simple, always coming from the heart and full of emotions.
We recently launched the Squadafum x Alex Senna collab and we took the opportunity to exchange ideas with Alex about life, travel, his first drawings and many other things. Check out this chat here in full.
Squadafum : We wanted you to talk a little bit about yourself, you sent us a biography in which you tell us about the essence of your art and murals in more than 25 countries.
Alex Senna : My name is Alex, but people know me as Alex Senna and I started painting in 2009, when it really became part of my lifestyle. I'm in the same sequence, in the same beat, painting. The lifestyle of those who paint non-stop, you stay in it forever.
Squadafum : Tell us how it was to develop your first drawings?
Alex Senna : I started drawing very young already, like, my brother drew a lot, my mother drew a lot, so there was this incentive. Man, I think my first drawings must have been Monica's gang, Mickey, that copycat kind of thing, Alex Kid. You keep copying the things you like, my first drawings were already a little more mature, it was another phase in which you have to invent what will be there. When doing this, you end up exposing yourself in a way, so there's kind of a fear and stuff.
Squadafum : Would you say that there is a certain insecurity going on?
Alex Senna : Yeah! Yes yes! It's crazy, it's just the first drawings, but you're already worried about what people are going to say “oh my God”, when you don't even need it.
Squadafum : And do you think that comes more from the fear of being compared with other artists or the exhibition?
Alex Senna : I think that the exposure itself, I don't know about other people, but sometimes for you to draw a parade or try to pass on a message, things are often very personal, so you expose yourself, right, and it's not a very favorable situation you know [laughs], full of things in the head. But that's the only way you can really say what you want, right?
Squadafum : Why did you choose black and white and what does it bring to you in your art today?
Alex Senna : Both my brother and I are colorblind, so working with color has never been easy for me.
Squadafum : Tell us a little bit about your sketchbooks.
Alex Senna : I made the drawings on the computer and then I printed everything and pasted it in my notebook, to have it when I went to build a wall, I don't know, I already have a thousand options, some signs, several possibilities. Ideas I had and didn't want to lose, I pasted everything here. Just crazy.
Squadafum : And whenever you travel, do you take the notebooks or leave them right here?
Alex Senna : I take the youngest one, which would be the current one.
Squadafum : It's really crazy for you to travel the world doing what you like, right?
Alex Senna : That's really cool, but the real thing is the adventure of being alone, you know? Going through the language barrier and having to pay for it too, because it's not like you're in Brazil and the guys say “hey, I'm taking a while, it's Alex”. No, you're there and the guys are like, "do you do that stuff there?" A monster thing you've never done, you know? That you've never been close to that, but you say "I do, I do". And there you go, you kind of start. Not that it's like that, but the situation you end up putting yourself in always has something like that, you know, I can't explain it.
Squadafum : And there's also that thing about meeting a lot of people and then there comes a time when you meet a lot of people, right?
Alex Senna : You live another life for a short period of time, right? You're there with people who don't know you, don't know anything and you can show your best if you want, you start from scratch. But I think the trip is more about overcoming difficulties, you know? Because it's just bullshit.
Squadafum : How was it when you started traveling? Was it a lot of bullshit?
Alex Senna : No, I went on vacation. I already lived at a friend's house, then I had resigned from a job and lived at this friend's house paying rent for a room, so I had some money to stay there for a while and then this invitation came from a friend of mine, Anselmo, where I went to his house and stayed there. I was like on “vacation” and I thought “I wasn’t working anymore, if I paint a wall it’s fine.” That was in 2013, in London, but man I got there really excited, on the first day I already met the Skull in a spray shop and it was summer, the day lasted a long time, we were just painting, like it was a lot of dough, like it was here in Brazil, you go there and make a spot, a little space and it was already good. At the end, this much work that we did there, it made a difference, people noticed us, right. And then from that ride on, someone called me to another peak and then I was turning around. And several I went on my own and in one of these I'm far away and I'm already late, I find a way to stay a little longer. The job takes you there, but in the end it's more the adventure of having to manage like this
Mural for Straat Museum in Amsterdam // 2022
Pictures by Tim Stet
Mural for Sprayseemo Mural Festival, in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
Picture by Stuart Heidmann
Ostend / Belgium
Mural for “The Crystal Ship Festival” in Ostend, Belgium. 2022
Pictures by Jules Cesure
Squadafum : There you are for you, right?
Alex Senna: Exactly! And here in Brazil, here in São Paulo, the approach is different, every day someone is painting. Mano here is the most competitive role, it's this peak here. There I found the crowd, not less competitive because I can't speak for the guys who do the graffiti even by train and stuff, but I thought that if you get there with gas it's not hard to call, to get attention, here they are years right. São Paulo is a very big city, there's no point in doing one, you have to do a lot, you have to keep doing it, painting on the street is the cruelest thing there is, because if you don't paint for a year or two you disappear. So, like, I think it gives a shell like that, you know? And then we are like “paint, paint, paint”, that when you go to a more adverse situation you also have that in your favor. You're already more calloused, you're more willing, you accept what's not perfect, you know? Because sometimes you're there and for the guys who live there that's the worst wall or the worst structure and for you it's great, you know? So I took advantage of the opportunities that appeared.
Squadafum : And would you say that you do more authorized or unauthorized jobs?
Alex Senna : That depends. It depends on where you want to paint, because I'm a little slower now in the street sense anyway, the footprint, I'm all the time in the appetite and such, but depending on there aren't those. I don't know, I think it's a little different, each place needs a stop, if you want to paint under an overpass, you don't have authorization, you have to go there and do it. Authorized is yet another vibe.
Mooca - What can a creature, if not among creatures, love?
“Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Part of the “DeCoração” project created by Shock Maravilha
Images taken in the Alcantara Machado Occupation by Rodrigo Erib
Squadafum : What is the story of this mural here on your wall?
Alex Senna: The story of this mural for me was really cool at the time. It was at the time of the pandemic and the guys called me to participate in a kind of “paint in your house”, it was like do a job at your house and stuff… And then I was here and it was right at the time when everyone was confined and I entered some and said “Wow, what am I going to do?”, you know? I got so heavy into what I was going to do, I took it seriously, I suffered from going “aaaaah”. Then I remember that I had a sequence of insights, which was really cool, I said “it's a pandemic, I'm going to do some guys going to war, on top of a horse”, then I said no, that's ridiculous. Then I remembered that painting that is a horse grazing and a dead guy, it's a painting that is a dead guy on the ground and a horse eating next to it, then I said “no, I'm not going to put a dead guy in my house, I'm going to put just the horse grazing with the saddle and all”, and then I thought “no, I won't put a saddle on the animal”, so I took the saddle off and did it. [ laughs ] Finally I got this result, it was great!
Squadafum : We wanted to know a little about the history of the birds present in your works.
Alex Senna : The bird is like the talking cricket, you know? He's the character's conscience, so there's always one because that's more or less the idea, you know? It wasn't like that when I created it, obviously, but over time it gains this body.
Making of my mural in Heerlen, Netherlands
Production: Street Art Heerlen
Squadafum : And would you say that over time a lot has changed for you, both in your life and in the way you express yourself through art?
Alex Senna : Absolutely! I think that in the past I was a different person, today I am a different person, so there's no way around it, the work changes too. I think the essence remains, you know? But we are a kind of mutated being, right, so I think the job goes along with it. And it's good that it changes, because that's what it is, evolution and progress. I think these businesses come out on the job.