No dame: interview with Argentine graffiti artist Damian Morales

Ice describes him as ‘the best graffiti artist in Argentina’. And when you see the incredible artworks by Dame it’s easy to understand why so many of his peers hold him in such high regard.

dame graffiti buenos aires street art © buenosairesstreetart.com

Amazing artwork by Dame and Cabe

The name Dame (pronounced: dah-may in Spanish) is short for Damián and he’s no shrinking violet as the name in English might suggest. Dame comes from Merlo, a working class neighbourhood in the Province of Buenos Aires. He started to draw at the age of eight before spending his teenage years skateboarding and spraying walls.

Dame Damian Morales artista buenos aires graffiti tour © BA Street Art buenosairesstreetart.com

Dame: A cut above

“I’ve been drawing ever since I was a kid and then I fell in love with graffiti,” recalls Dame who painted in the street for the first time in 1998. “It wasn’t something I learnt at school, I taught myself. When I was 16, I was always out on my skateboard with friends and soon I discovered that walls gave me another way to express my art.” He added: “I’ve always painted both letters and characters. With friends, we would also go out and tag and bomb trains but it was a long time ago. I got into graffiti simply because I love to draw. When I started out there was no internet and there were very few guys painting in the street in Argentina so I was one of the first.”
graffiti buenos aires street art dame © buenosairesstreetart.com

Great Dame

Dame insists his wild days are now behind him and he’s more responsible. “I had some problems with the police and after that I didn’t want any more trouble.  Now I have a bit more consideration for the zone where I live and I focus more on painting murals.”

urban art tour buenos aires graffiti © buenosairesstreetart.com

Ice and Nerf

Dame mentions Lumit from Germany as one of the international artists whose style he admires the most; and in Argentina, he likes the works of Teko and Dano. He often paints with the B2 crew, Nerf, Ice, and his childhood friend Cabe who runs the Power Line shop in Ituzaingó selling aerosol spray cans distributed by Montana Colours. “I always use aerosol, everything is spray, this for me is ‘more the street’,” says Dame. “I don’t have a crew but I get together with lots of different guys, the good and the bad, I’ll paint with anyone.”
buenos aires graffiti tour dame argentina and street art © buenosairesstreetart.com

Collaboration with Caos and Cabe

Dame’s talents have seen him invited to paint murals at the Centro Cultural Recoleta but you’ll find more of his works in the Province of Buenos Aires than in the Capital Federal.
centro cultural recoleta graffiti dame buenos aires street art © buenosairesstreetart.com

Artwork at Centro Cultural Recoleta

While BA’s reputation continues to grow as one of the street art capitals of the world and its artists continue to receive more fame and recognition, ironically with the skills Dame has at his disposal, it’s not something that he appears to be that interested in. He seems to be more at home painting a mural in a local boxing club in Morón or in an activities centre in a poor neighbourhood such as Mataderos.
dame graff graffiti zona oeste damian morales buenos aires street art

Nursery school in Morón

“Street art art now has become more ‘posh’ (cheto) due to popular culture and clothing brands and people consider it to be cool,” says Dame. “For me, the real graffiti is here (in the Province of Buenos Aires) and in some of the poorest places in the country. The people in these places look at graffiti in another way, they are not born into families with wealthy parents and don’t go to university, they are from a different social class. If they weren’t painting graffitis they might be robbing supermarkets.”

Dame city: giant mural in Castelar

Dame makes an interesting point about how times have changed. Not long ago graffiti was an ugly word often associated with criminal behaviour and gang culture. Now what’s commonly referred to as urban art has become the latest zeitgeist with celebrities like Brad Pitt buying artworks by Banksy for small fortunes and the British Prime Minister David Cameron even posing for photo shoots in front of murals.
urban art buenos aires graffiti dame damian morales argentina © buenosairesstreetart.com

Dame & Cabe

With more street artists from Argentina receiving notoriety abroad, Dame says there are no sour grapes it’s simply that he has a different perspective. “I come from a humble family and it’s a question of my personality and I’m not like that,” says Dame. “It (the art world) is all about money, of course money is useful but there’s more to life.”
buenos aires graffiti tour urban art © buenosairesstreetart.com BA Street Art

Birdman in Parque Avellaneda

Also living in la Provincia, Dame says there are different codes as far as painting in the street is concerned. Being well known in the county and having friends in one of BA’s most notorious crews helps. “Nobody paints over my work,” says Dame. “There’s a code, a respect if you like. Those people who don’t know me, they know how I work and when they come across my artworks they don’t touch them, nobody touches them.”
urban art buenos aires graffiti dame damian morales argentina © buenosairesstreetart.com

Painting with the B2 crew

He adds: “I never paint over someone else’s piece. It’s mostly kids we’re talking about but if someone paints a toy over my piece, I’m not going to do the same. There are people who will be watching and will know who painted over it.”
castelar merlo buenos aires graffiti dame graff castelar arte urbano buenosairesstreetart.com

Respect

Whilst chatting in the local barber’s shop, Dame’s friend explains: “I imagine that a person who sees Dame’s artwork and paints over it, doesn’t care about art. If he does understand what art is he’s not going to do it.” So is there a fear about what will happen if someone paints over his artworks? “Maybe (Dame laughs) but I’m not going to do anything!”
graffiti buenos aires caracteres letras dame graff damian morales merlo

Seeking perfection

There’s an incredible professionalism and dedication that goes into Dame’s creations. Many of his larger pieces take several days to complete and if he’s not happy with what he’s done, he’ll erase it and start again. “What I do is distinct, I’m a perfectionist and like to do things properly,” he says. “If there’s a wall I really want to paint, I paint it from top to bottom. Some artists like to paint a piece, then they take a photo, and that’s it. It might take me longer and I might use up more paint but I like doing something more complete, cooler if you like.”
dame graff graffiti tour buenos aires arte urbano grafiti argentina © buenosairesstreetart.com

Rabbit-like character in Villa Luro

Dame’s designs often feature plays within the image and explore themes such as fear, temptation, religion and death. Cheeky cherubs, mischievous characters, angels and demonic creatures that are a cross between dogs, rabbits, rats, crocodiles, birds and humans appear in pieces you can find in Morón and neighbourhoods such as Villa Luro and Liniers. “I don’t know how many walls I’ve painted, 100 maybe or 1,000, I’m not sure,” he says.
buenos aires graffiti tour street art damian morales © buenosairesstreetart.com

Firestarter

And frequently there is a touch of evil in his art. “There are people who paint flowers and about love,” says Dame. “To me life isn’t like that, my murals are a bit more aggressive.”
damian morales graffiti artist urban art tours buenos aires © buenosairesstreetart.com

Touch of Evil

“I always try to do something different and not do the same piece all the time,” he explains. What about the inspirations behind his art? “They come from the street, a madness, from music that I listen to, I like heavy metal a lot. I try to do something with every image so that when people see it, they walk away with a smile on their face.”
Check out more of Dame’s amazing creations at
flickr.com/photos/damegraffiti/
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