In the Studio with N5BRA

Studio visits don’t always include four walls; in this segment of our In the Studio series, we took to the streets of Jersey City with N5BRA to get a glimpse into the life of a graffiti artist. Hailing from South Korea, N5BRA came to the East Coast to see where it all began. Inspired by the idea of a contemporary “American Dream,” he felt welcomed by the openness of the art community in New York. After being commissioned to paint a few walls in Jersey, he visited The States for the second time and expressed his desire to spend more time growing his artistic eye. Stay tuned for N5BRA’s upcoming solo exhibition in Seoul this fall!
Is this your first time in America? What has it been like so far?
This is my second time here. I love American culture. It influenced me a lot. So I had no problem adapting my self here; except that I struggled with jetlag. I’m so excited just to be here. I especially love that the people here gave a lot of interest in my work.
What inspires you and your work?
I know it’s cliché to answer “everything,”, but it is true. I don’t have a special source of inspiration. I just express what I see and feel in real life.
Do you have a signature or a tag?
Yes, it’s n5bra. It is the name of responsibility for the freedom that I have been taking.
It represents the responsibility of the freedom that I have been taking.
What has been the most significant thing about doing your work here (New York) versus back home in Korea?
I loved the passerby’s talking to me about the work. They told how they like the work and also thanked me for doing it in their street. In Korea, people don’t really give interest while I’m doing my work.
How did you make it to NY? How did this commission come about?
I had no special occasion. I always wanted to go to NewYork and paint the walls with my local friends.
What is it like being able to do your work on such a large scale? Is this how you would prefer people to see your work?
Actually the scale doesn’t matter. I’ve done my work on bigger scales and much smaller scales too. We face grey walls in the street. We look at it every day but no one cares. I questioned this situation. I wanted to send messages through this empty grey walls. I like showing my work in everyday life with no matters of scale.
How did you get into this kind of art?
In high school, I didn’t take academic education on art. I liked to paint here and there. With my interest in the subculture, I naturally fell into graffiti.
Since I started graffiti in high school, I met tons of various artists. It is meaningless to divide artists into different fields. Graffiti writer, mural artist, gallery artist, museum artist. It doesn’t make sense. I just make visual works and share them with people.
Since graffiti can technically be done anywhere, how do you put yourself in the zone of creating wherever you are?
There is a family-like culture in the graffiti scene. Thanks to the Internet I could make friends all over the world who do graffiti. It gave me opportunities to show my work everywhere.
What mode do you prefer to work in? Paints? Spray paint?
The material doesn’t matter. I like to use both. I choose the right material in the right place.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’re really excited about?
I have my second solo exhibition upcoming in September in Seoul. Hope I meet you guys there!
You talked about fulfilling the American Dream by coming to New York. The definition of the American Dream is constantly changing, so what does it mean for you?
I had a curiosity and dreams about America since I was a little boy. I always thought, “Everything would be special in America and there would be so much more!” There are many differences of course, but it wasn’t a completely different place like in my dreams. I think it means I wasn’t that tied up in Korean culture. Now I don’t mind the physical location where I work and live. I’m going pass over the boundary of locality that I made my self.
DIRECTOR/DP: Jordan Shelwood
Stay tuned to Milk for more studio visits. 

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