Os Gêmeos are graffiti artist identical twin brothers from São Paulo, Brazil. They started painting graffiti in 1987 and gradually became a main influence in the local scene. Their work often features yellow-skinned characters – taken from the yellow tinge both of the twins have in their dreams – but is otherwise diverse and ranges from tags to complicated murals. Subjects range from family portraits to commentary on São Paulo’s social and political circumstances, as well as Brazilian folklore. Their graffiti style was influenced by both traditional hip hop style and the Brazilian graffiti movement. ILG caught up with the twins, read what they have to say about legal wholetrains, how it all started for them, and many more.
ILG: What is Os Gemeos about? What does the name stand for and what does it mean except two brothers?
OG: It means “Twin brothers”. Family, partners, friends, complement, same world, same dreams…”One world, one voice”
ILG: We would like to hear the story about how it all started for you, you are always together, did you also start painting at the same time?
OG: Yes, we started at the same time. In our childhood we were always together, we created our on way to play. In the 80’s we got more and more into the hip hop culture. We did this breakdance thing, some rap music and of course graffiti. Brazil was a difficult place do run such a life in that time around 1986. We have to mention that everything was difficult, it was hard times. We were broke, no cash for cans, we never had that many colors to paint with. So we used latex paint and rollers for our fillins and we did outlines with an very limited amount of spraypaint, thats what we had to deal with. The cheap way to do graffiti in the streets of Brazil.
ILG: Who was up in that time, anyone you looked up to?
OG: Yes, it was the time of artists such as John Howard, Tupi Nao Da, Alex Valauri, stencil artists and some who did that typical freestyle stuff.
ILG: These artists were into classic graffiti writing or?
OG: No, we and other writers started the so called hip hop graffiti with lettering and b-boy characters. We had a very nice place to chill at, our writers bench “Metro Sao Bento”, the place where all the writers, b-boys, rappers and DJs met in that time.
ILG: Looking back in that time, was it a great part of your life?
OG: Oh man yes, it was a magic time, many big names have started in the late eighties, we remember Thaide Dj, Hum, Racionais and many, many more.
ILG: What was your main media or source to get information about graffiti, any magazines printed back in the days?
OG: Well, it was very difficult to receive information about the hip hop culture. In 1988 we saw the books Subway Art and Spraycan Art for the very first time. The next important thing we can remember is in 1994, back then we met Barry McGee aka Twist. Barry showed us a lot of things. Good tags, fatcaps, amazing throwups and he told us about Style Wars, the movie. So information arrived a bit late to us, but we received them well and from some really good people. Its always good to share and discover things in the right way and learn from it, together.
ILG: How did things go down in the 90’s? Did you ever imagined that it would take a life of its own?
OG: No, never. Until 1994 and 1995 we did different jobs together to make some money. In a food factory, restaurants, a bank, some bars. We did a lot of jobs actually. In that time we lived at our moms place. Mainly to help her.
ILG: And when did your lives change?
OG: It all changed in 1995, back in that time we already tried to invent our own style and strategy in our own world. To find a reason behind the whole thing and why we do this. Again Barry was a big inspiration to us. He lived from his art in that time already. We felt that something have to be changed in our life. We did a lot of little paint jobs already, illustrations or some store decorations and of course a lot of murals in Sao Paulo. But at the same time we did a lot of streetpieces. We learned to use the walls of the city.
ILG: Is Os Gemeos a 2 man army or you got some helping hands sometimes when you do huge productions?
OG: We developed everything, created and executed most things by ourselves. When we do gallery shows we do have some helping hands, some people to help us, to fillin and do some stencils, things like that. But most of the work we do ourselves yes.
ILG: You prefer yellow right? Why?
OG: Yellow and dark red, these are our favourite colors. In Sao Paulo many writers have their own color identification. We start that a long, long time ago, its like identification, like some people do black and white, there is the mystical part too, we believe that we born in the “orange time”, 1974.
ILG: So you prefer latex or spraypaint?
OG: Lets say: both!
ILG: How did you connect yourself to the European graffiti scene?
OG: In the late 90’s we went to Argentina to paint some trains. In the same time we have heard that Loomit from Germany was staying in Sao Paulo, so we decided to go back to meet him. Loomit is such a great, original and professional artist. We did some big wall productions and learned a lot from him, funny times. This was also the beginning of a good friendship. Later then he invited us to Germany, to Munich. We didn’t know that much about Germany and Loomit’s hometowns history. Only some photos and a book called Munich Graffiti from 1989 gave us a little impression of what was going on there and what to expect.
ILG: So how was Munich?
OG: Haha, well Loomit took us straight from the airport to the Oktoberfest and like you know, thats a good way to learn about German culture. Apart from this Loomit and also Peter was very good to us, nice guides, again we learned a lot from them. During our stay we were invited to paint at the ISART festival with great artists such as Mode2, Espo, Reas, Neon, Codeak, Daim, Toast, some people from the Faerberei, just to name a few. It was such a great experience for us to see and meet the people we always looked up to. We knew Mode2, Pride and Bando just from the books. To see the people in real life made us think that we all work in the same boat, but in different rivers that cross each other sometimes. We exchanged styles, opinions, views, photos, a big nice international writers corner. It was a great opportunity.
ILG: After that you travelled the whole world, what did you like more: New York or Berlin?
OG: Both, we love both! Berlin is such a nice city and got very good writers and amazing styles! And New York is where everything have started..a very special city with a loot of history, a loot to discover there, very good graffiti writers and that city always change, always something new to see.
ILG: How do you feel today about the Urban Discipline exhibitions in the early 2000’s in Hamburg? Here in Germany it was a big experience for many graffiti artists and we would call it a milestone, do you agree?
OG: Yes. It was a very important show for us. One of the biggest opportunities. We met amazing writers from Germany and all over Europe. Everyone brought their own history to Urban Discipline. It was such a great thing to bring a little piece of Os Gemeos from Brazil and show what we believe in and how we live down here. We remember that some people didn’t understand what we did there in this exhibition, some of them even didn’t know that graffiti had become a big thing in Brazil too. The organizers Daim, Tasek, Daddy Cool, Stohead and the others, we remember how hard they worked on that show and we know how hard it was to make it happen. The whole process was a good thing, everyone helped each other, no competition, all harmony gathered in one place. We still got a lot of love and respect for thit great project. We think it was one of the first exhibitions combining graffiti from the streets and bringing it to a gallery space, with style and professional presentation. This show was one of the biggest shows in Europe and many artists did some first important steps there, Daniel Man, Daim, Banksy and so many more.
ILG: And now after so many years of exhibitions, art shows, books, movies, what is graffiti art in 2010 to you?
OG: Art in consequence
ILG: More general, what is art?
OG: We don’t know, we are 36 years old and do not know yet what art is about! Sorry, the only thing we know is that we love what we do, because we are free to do what we like! Its a great thing that there is no one to tell you how, when and where to do it. There is no critic, gallerist or art collector trying to change what we believe in. I have to do it for and with my brother and he have to make it for me that’s it. Some people call things we do “art”, maybe art is what is not art! Who knows…?
ILG: Your lettering and also your characters are very easy to recognize. It’s pretty rare these days to see artists with such a unique style. Would you say your style is a typical style from Brazil or something you would not connect to where it came from? I mean, many people say you have influenced many artists and graffiti writers right? What is the difference between biting and inspiration, in your opinion?
OG: Our first inspiration is the life and the dreams we have every day. But Brazil is a very cultural country, very rich in improvisation, in folk culture, in different aspects. We grew up in Sao Paulo, we learned things from the street, we lived the spirit of the streets for a long time, everything we know down here was because we discovered it. Graffiti opened the doors… and after we opened them we received influences from other cultures, so we started to use different elements and cultures. Sometimes we represent simple moments in life, “crazy life”, sometimes we like to question, to scream! Like a voice of the people that can not say nothing. The streets can be use very well to communicate with the people, we feel at home outside! The games, the way to “play in this show” you learn with time, time to time, and you have to be strong to defend yourself. One thing we learn in the streets is: “You can not be fake”. Because if you are fake one time your “mask” come on. Then you have to be transparent, and defend what you belive, the walls and trains say how you are, not the people! The walls explain how you are! Not the media, the walls communicate and send you the right message, no the envy people, its strange to see how the globalizations and fast communication make the people crazy! Make the people misunderstand and confuse them, that is the point you have to know what you do for yourself, what you write and what you paint in the streets, because every thing you do communicate with the people, in right or wrong way. And this come back to you in the future. Our letters change a lot! We started with the traditional wildstyle, we think that we mix a lot of influences, we think that’s the best for the letters. There is more expression in the letter “e”, more balance, the letter “s” its more happy, and some times when have to be aggressive, its very aggressive! Letters for us have to talk to you, some times its like camouflage, you do not understand but there is a guy behind looking in your eyes. You do not see hem, but they see you! The characters come from our dreams, from the life, from Tritez (our particular world), its too complex to explain.
ILG: But is there an difference between biting and inspiration?
Yes there is. We did some bitings ourself 15 years ago, From the movies and books. We copied to learn about the flow etc. But not for long, very soon we worked more and more on our own style. Inspiration is very different to Biting. Biting is an non-creative thing, Inspiration is very helpful to create nice things.
About inspiration everything has been said already.
ILG: How do you feel about the classic stylewriting, is this still a fascinating thing to you or has it ever been at least?
OG: We love good handstyles, style is very important! Not just quantity, but the style! Creating the lines, the connections, the style construction, its so fascinating! We love to bomb, doing tags and throwups! We love that, and we love to do it simple, not much colors, not much background. Just the letter designs! We love that!
ILG: If you have to choose between a train, a huge wall or a canvas, whats your decision and why?
OG: This depend on many things, what day, how you are waking up. There is no decision between canvas or train, 2 different worlds. Galleries and museums is not graffiti for us. The things that made us become bigger and bigger in the art scene was the characters, background design, stories, concepts, sculptures and installations. The lettering we do, the “graffiti names” never been the reason for us to show up in the galleries. For us the place of our lettering is the street, we can not take that into the museums. Some artists show their skills in lettering at art shows, but its not our intention to do so. We think the reason of our success was the characters and everything around it.
ILG: You seem to have a lot of projects on the horizon. Could you talk about what you’re working on now? Are you more interested in narrowing your focus to just writing or at least characters?
OG: We do more exhibitions and in our free time some graffiti. Its sad that we can not only do graffiti, because we have to survive. You have to know the world is very far from what we call graffiti, they don’t understand what we do. Everyone who say that graffiti went to the galleries is not right, that’s bullshit. It’s a very different atmosphere, impossible to compare. That’s why we try to find other possibilities to come up with and show our artworks. We like to create things in the galleries, to build a complete world that you can go deep in side of our own thoughts. We create sculptures, installations and some paintings. But we always keep the freedom inside those spaces, to create whatever we want to. While we are doing this, we never forget where we come from.
ILG: We have seen a lot of photos of these legal wholecars a few years back, please share your story about it. Who invented the project and how did you get permission to paint these cars?
OG: Oh this is a very long story and it took a lot of time to make it happen. Ok, lets start: Brazil is very crazy, funny, happy, violent, we got very beautiful women here, great food, its paradise and hell. So with all these difference in our country’s culture, why not try to convince the train company in Sao Paulo to paint their trains legally with nice artworks? So we went there with our friend Ise and told them about plans and the project. We told them the benefit to their passengers and what the project can do for them in an positive way. Lots of blablabla. They agreed with the exception of not painting the windows. That wasn’t that tuff, so we decided to ask another train company. The Porto Alegre subway. It took us a lot of meetings, talks, arguments and positive vibes to convince them. After all they agreed, but there was still the problem with the windows. The Porto Alegre subway did run for two days only and after everybody complained because we did both sides of the train, it was all gone by the buff. This is how the project kicked off, cause we had to go to another city and do it there before they all change their mind. Then another city and so on. We did more than 14 wholetrains and more than 25 endtoends. We did that in different citys here in Brazil.
ILG: Sounds amazing! Where we can see more of these trains?
OG: There is a movie in the making, “The Wholetrain Project”, and also the book is nearly done.
ILG: We have seen almost everything a graffiti writer can do in his life from Os Gemeos, from trains to big murals to big succesful exhibitions. You got a specific vision or dream for the future?
OG: The future belong to God, we do our best, we enjoy our life and put all love in a simple painting or character. We do not deserve anything, we just started and everything happened the way we planned, the only thing we are worried about is having a particular “style” one day. The last 15 years been crazy, it took a long time to show our work to the world. Time is the best answer for everything, time makes people know who you are. To know the truth, and everything that takes time is special. These days everything is so fast, funny to see, we remember that time when we traded photos by mail, only time can do the correct job! You have to have a passion and do your best, always. Walk in the line and do not lose time with bullshits! Too many loose their time to get easy and fast fame.
ILG: You ever been to Russia or Eastern Europe, if so where and what’s your opinion on that part of the world?
OG: We love! We been to Lithuania 2 years ago and we loved it, by the way our family come from there. So much to learn there! So much influence! So many things to discover and to enjoy! It was great! We always love to go there! We never been to Russia, but love to go! Seems there is a great big graffiti scene, good styles, beautiful women, great food and culture! Yes, we have to go! But also Finland and Sweden got alot of good writers and good styles! We love to see what they do there!
ILG: We have seen some nice collaboration with Alex Fakso for the Patricia Armocida Gallery in Milan. You have taken one of Alex Fakso’s greatest photos from his book and made it your own with a superb painting. How did that come about?
OG: It was funny, we like the result, it came out good! We got a lot of respect for Alex! He is a great photographer! He do the moneyshots, on the real, right scenario and the right people. Apart from Alex and that nice collabo, we have many great friends in Italy.
ILG: Are you into photography?
OG: We do photos sometimes, trying to catch some interesting situations, situations that surround the paintings in the streets, to show things like they are happening. We like natural photos, but we are not photographers. We just like to do it sometimes.
ILG: What´s up in Brazil today?
There are many good graffiti artists over here, in the 4 side of the city zona sul, norte,leste and oeste. We did some workshops lately, in some favelas and periferia, and see a loot of new guys, that draw very very good.. a lot of great talents coming up these days! Its very nice when we meet or see new people with good talent! and keep graff alife .. Brazil got a lot of good graffiti writers!
ILG: What is the main difference between you two brothers?
OG: One like cheese, the other doesn’t. One cut his hair, the other doesn’t. One plays the piano, the other plays the violin.
ILG: Bytheway, what music do the brothers listen to today?
OG: Aloooooot! Everything! Hip hop, reggae, dub, dubstep, electronic, experimental, rocknroll, punk rock, folk, electrofunk 80’s….
ILG: Thanks for the interview, anything to add?
OG: thank you guys, you do a good job and many people from brazil check your website regulary, ilovegraffiti!