by Eric Vogel
It was a strange place. Quiet like a cemetery, but in the middle of the city. A dead landscape of shrubbery, abandoned houses and freight trains, bathed in surreal orange light. The most surprising part was how easy it was to go there. No climbing fences or crawling through tiny passages like you hear in the stories. Maybe it was one of the „easy“ places.
These freight yards are strange environments. We never saw anyone there, only endless rows of train cars, but the threat to be discovered by the lonesome guard who sits high up in his watchtower was always present. While the others scouted ahead and kept telling us where to walk and which side of the trains to hug in order to escape his vision, I imagined how it must feel like to sit in this towers night after night, guarding the trains from an invisible threat that is in fact nothing more than a few guys with spray cans who want to paint pictures.
Once we came to the train, the quest to find a virgin train car began. Or at least one that was not completely full of other people’s work, for most of them were. How much time, how much manpower has been spent to create the single, incoherent artwork of this freight train, which is in part only a small sample of all the pieces out there. For what purpose? What is going on in the mind of the artist when he has chosen his spot, when he puts down the first line – be it on a virgin train car or on top of somebody else’s work.
The train yard is not a place for discussion or contemplation. It felt more like being part of a swat team on a special mission: be quiet, follow the leaders, don’t act crazy, do the the job (and do it as best as you can) and then get the fuck out. The cheeriness set in later, after leaving the yard, after the successful mission.
The train yard is a place of focus and concentration, but those manifest differently for every artist. Nobody talks more than necessary. You just do it. Follow your instincts and put your experience into practice, like a musician on the night of his big concert.
Some have their repertoire of characters and shapes which have to be applied and recombined on every occasion, forming a vast network of interconnected pieces wherever the artist goes. Others have developed a more intuitive approach that starts with observing closely the environment of the piece. By considering the nature immediately surrounding the spot, however wild and rough it may be, the artist connects it into his abstract shapes – like throwing down an anchor in a sea of trains.
Being a spectator is not the same a living the life, even if you take up the spray can and add your own, pityful scrawling next to pieces of people to whom painting on trains is like a second nature.
Why do they go out in the night like that, sneaking?
Why do they walk in the dark like that, hiding?
Why do they put their soul in in, painting?
Who will record their deeds?
Who will tell their tales?
Who will remember them when the world has changed?