Polish duo Etam Cru live large, spider-manning up the faces of buildings to make sky-scraping murals about sticky situations and unsung heroes who tell complex stories in just one power pose. Etam Cru’s BEZT and SAINER are currently beaming their endless, enormous energy into a gallery-sized show for Thinkspace that opens Saturday, December 12.

BEZT: The people I paint are from reality. Mostly, I look for faces on the Internet. Sometimes I take photos on the street, but even when I use an Internet photo, I change the face a little bit to work better for my idea. Depending on the subject, when I search for the people, I already have an idea of how they should look.

SAINER: My work is based on simple stories. I’m trying to focus on the formal aspects of the work I’m painting, but, at the same time, using figurative elements so everyone can find their own story. I’m focused on the composition, how it is placed on the canvas, and how it reacts with other elements and colors.

BEZT: I don’t do political or social paintings. I just do what I think is good enough to paint on a wall or canvas.

SAINER: On the lift, in front of a huge wall, there is only you, paint and the wall. You can create whatever you want. I like placing giant characters in the middle of the city; that’s why I like to leave the original background of buildings. Then I bring in elements that don’t exist in the location where I’m painting.

BEZT: I started around 1999-2000 as a typical graffiti painter, doing illegal walls, letters mostly. I think my beginning was the same as thousands of people at that time. Etam Cru was made in Turek, the city that I come from. In the beginning, it was my good friend, Bol, and me. After a few years, Bol decided to leave Poland, and I painted alone until I met SAINER at school.

We met each other in Academy of Art in Lodz, Poland. We were studying together, and as soon as we talked about graffiti, we did our first wall a couple days later. We were painting in totally different styles, but started finding a common language. It was a natural process based on friendship and passion.

"Icarus" Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2015


BEZT: I love the moment when I'm on the lift. I put my music on and I don't care about anything else. I do my job the best I can and I need to have 100% focus on it. That's somehow relaxing. I like the end of the day, too, when we’ve already packed everything and we’re going back to the hotel. I'm exhausted but I know that I did something today. I didn't watch TV all day; I worked hard.

Inspired by
BEZT: Rockwell, Leyendecker, Klimt, Mucha, Coll and many others. I think, like life, you never know what idea the next day will bring to you. Sometimes I change my painting in the middle of the process because I get inspired by something, and I start to look at a painting in a different way. I like to search for books about good artists. You can learn a lot by just watching how someone else works.

Power of two
BEZT: When you work by yourself, you are the boss of the work. You don’t have to answer to anybody; you choose the theme, colors and composition. I think that working together levels you up; you have to be better and better because your friend is getting better. It's not about what each of us does by ourselves but how we can work together, how we can mix our ideas and make consistent work.

SAINER: I think you can see the the differences with colors, motifs and composition when we paint separately, but when we are painting together, it’s hard to see differences because we are trying to create a piece that looks like it’s painted by one person.

Etam Cru’s new exhibition, Galimatias, is on view through January 2, 2015 at Thinkspace Art Gallery. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, December 12th from 6-9pm.


The above text is an excerpt from the January, 2016 issue of Juxtapoz, available here.