Ricardo D.Santander aka Rikis, is a Chilean graffiti artist who loves painting murals of wild animals and marine life.
I met him for the first time at Street of Styles in Brazil in 2017, where Zake became the first Indian graffiti artist to be invited for the prestigious graffiti festival. In 2018, he visited us for a 3 month graffiti and street art tour in India, where we covered 5 cities.
Here is an exclusive interview of Rikis, talking about his experience in India.
1. Where do you belong to? What do you do there?
I come from Chile, South America. The city where I live is Coquimbo, close to the Pacific Ocean.
In Coquimbo, I work on graffiti art projects. I work as an illustrator too, so all the time I work with my clients in different kind of styles. For example, sometimes I have to work with a client who wants my style and sometimes the client wants it in his way. So I try to mix my style. I’m sketching all the time. I have one idea but I always keep changing it.
Currently, I’m working in a football stadium in Coquimbo. It’s a big project where I need to paint the entire stadium. I’m now painting the final part, which is the office of the soccer team, Coquimbo Unido
Sometimes, I also have to make illustrations for books and clothing and sometimes I have to travel a lot to participate in a graffiti festival in Chile or somewhere in South America. So it’s like I’m painting all the time, discovering new ideas and learning about myself wherever I go.
2. How long have you been painting, what has your journey been like?
I started to paint 20 years ago in Chile. When I started I was 11 years old, now I’m 31. In the beginning it was very difficult to find spray cans since everything comes from Santiago, which is the capital of Chile.
The first time I had a graffiti magazine in my hands thanks to my friends and I started to copy it.I started to do tags, bombing in the streets and I tried to discover myself between the art and who I am. All the time I tried to make new stuff.
In school when I was younger, I had to discover what do I really want to do. So I painted all the time and now I have the opportunity to work 24×7 in graffiti, illustration and design.
If I hadn’t discovered graffiti I don’t know what I would be doing. It is everything for me since I have learnt everything in the streets by painting. Now I’m living my own life and it is like a dream.
3. How would you describe your style? What do you like to paint?
When I was young I used to paint only what I wanted. But now that I’m older , I discover new places I learn about the wall and its surroundings. I think I can paint this wall and maybe tomorrow I won’t be here.
So it’s like a little present for the people. I try to give my art to the people since the street is like a gallery for the people. Rich people, poor people, everyone.
I’m very disciplined. I try to travel to all the places and take some time to learn about what I want to paint and I discover the inspiration behind the places wherever I go. Try mix media and new techniques with the local artists.
I am also very fascinated by wild animals. I think they should be seen in the wild and we should try to respect them as they are.
It is the same with the Pacific ocean. I live so close to it. I love painting animals and the ocean. So mostly, if you ask to define my style Ocean is my first inspiration. I’d call it ocean style I think.
4. What brought you to India? How and Why?
I think the beginning was 2017 in Brazil in the Street of Styles. We shared a wall. After the festival it was like a beautiful relationship. Wicked Broz were like friends from many years ago.
They called me here to India so I organized my stuff and I worked a lot because the ticket is very expensive.
When you really want to do something, it happens.
5. Where all did you paint on your trip to India? How would you describe the experience?
My travel in India was amazing. For me to come from so far away, it took 2 days to fly to India. Everyday when you crossed the street it was too much information. Poof.
For me it was like a new world. I loved to discover India. I had heard about India, it’s places, people and it’s gods so much but the best way to explore it is to be there and so I tried to discover it with my art.
I landed in Mumbai and I only slept for 5 hours, and since then I was painting.
I was painting in Jabalpur at the ISBT for the Jabalpur Street Art festival. People liked it so much. Then I painted in the Paint My City campaign in Allahabad for Kumbh Mela. I had an opportunity to paint with the guys from New Zealand. It was close to the Ganga river so it was very nice since I’ve heard so much about Ganga river.
Then I went to Mirzapur which was a small place for escape for a day.
After that I come back to Mumbai to paint at the Techfest 2018 at IIT Bombay. I painted it with Amaro from Brazil, Mooz, NME, Dexter, Fe.One and Lobster. It was a beautiful because it a place where I could mix my style with lot of machine inspired art.
Once I got back home, the information took some time to be processed. Hehe. This country is very beautiful.
6. What is your greatest learning about art that you want to share with Indian graffiti artists?
I’m learning all the time so I try to give all my techniques and art to people. If they ask me for some techniques, I can give them the basic idea. I think everything that I have in my head and in my hands, everything I am willing to share.
7. What did you take back home for friends and family from India?
I think there was too much information to give to my friends. Haha. When I went back, I made a little presentation and gave what is the word…umm…workshop at many schools.
I spoke about history of India and speak about all these things. The food, the travel.
I hope it serves as a big bridge between artists in Latin America and India.
8. Is there any place where your work got featured? Where can people follow your art?
My work is featured wherever I paint. Haha.
Rikis is a character unto himself. A rare breed of artist who never drinks nor smokes. He is always smiling. Always painting positive, playful things with an ounce of wickedness.
And yeah, in case you came here hoping to know the elephant story. Well, we were in Jodhpur. We had just got down from the train and decided to take an autorikshaw. Master Rikis spotted an elephant for the first time right outside the station and jumped off the vehicle and started clicking pictures. He was wild with joy and didn’t notice when he had stepped too close to the beast. The elephant must have thought him to be a disturbance of sorts and almost half lifted him off his feet with its trunk when Rikis just caught his step and rushed back. Close encounter. Phew!
I’m hoping this was only his first of many trips to India. This country needs to learn a lot more from Rikis and see a lot more of his street art on our walls.