Hazul Luzah is an artist whose work predominates on the streets of Porto, Portugal’s second city after Lisbon. He’s a self-taught graffiti writer, who has developed a style blending classic lettering, transformed into undecipherable, decorative calligraphic forms – which this interviewer mistook for Arabic calligraphy! – often mixed with imagery from nature. He describes his work as a “step-by-step” process, always building on his last work.
The latest invitee to the famed public art space, Le M.U.R., reserved solely for those with credible backgrounds in the street, pictured above, we briefly interviewed him, as follows.
Hazul Luzah from Porto paints at the public art project Le M.U.R. in Oberkampf, Paris
What’s your artistic background?
I’m self-taught and began by making classic graffiti lettering. Over time, I practiced transforming the letters into abstract forms, and gradually created my own style.
How did you first start painting outdoors and what inspires you to paint in the street?
I started painting in Porto in 1997, where I became involved in the Hiphop scene. My interest in graffiti culture led to me create a crew with my friends – a normal process – just for fun. After that, I began to gain consciousness about the impact and the meaning of exposing work in the streets and that consciousness transformed my work. Now, I paint in the streets for social reasons, to communicate and to share.
How did the opportunity arise to paint Le MUR and what can you say about the work you left at the wall?
Being given the opportunity to paint Le M.U.R. (first image) has been super. I was invited after one of the organisers, Bob Jeudy, saw my work in Porto. It’s an honour to paint at such a well-known place, where a lot of good artists have worked. This painting has the typical elements that are in my current work : the feminine figure, the birds and a mix of water and wind movement. It’s like a résumé, to introduce my art to Paris.
What’s your process for producing artwork ? Who and/or what have been your main influences?
My process is progressive, always derived from the last effort, step-by-step. Normally, I leave an element and add a new one. I have a lot of different influences, but right now I’m fascinated by Modernism and Futurism.
What’s the significance of Arabic calligraphy in your work?
I look for inspiration in very different cultures, not just the Arab culture. My mother tongue, Portuguese, is quite feminine in its written form, with curves and spheres. This is perhaps what reminds you of an Arabic style.
How does the context of where you’re painting affect your art?
The energy of the place in which I’m painting helps me choose between creating a smooth or a strong style, and which colours I use as well. The environment is key to what I produce.
What’s it like making street art in Porto and how does it compare to other cities such as Lisbon and Paris?
In Porto, there are good artists working outdoors, but only a few. It has slowly started growing. Paris, on the other hand, has a long history in street art. There are lots of works and commercial galleries, but it’s also hard to find a good place to paint. In Porto, its just the opposite : the street art movement is just starting, but there are lots of good places to paint.
Hazul Luzah forced to paint over his own work by the Porto authorities.
In the past, you were forced by the Portuguese authorities to paint over your own art. It’s claimed that one of your illegally painted works had been causing people to feel insecure. What’s can you tell us about this claim, and in what way (if any) do you think unsanctioned street art should be controlled?
The majority of my outdoor work is made in abandoned houses, so I don’t think this causes insecurity. An art work in a space that will be destroyed and rebuilt in the future shouldn’t be a problem. It’s normal for the city to clean the streets but it’s illogical to remove art from an abandoned space.
Visit Hazul Luzah on Facebook, here.