Ever since our first encounter with the art of Berlin’s resident street artist SOPE in 2013 we’ve been longing to know more about the artist behind the mushroom – so when the chance came to meet with and interview them, we jumped at it.
Our First Encounter With SOPE
Back in 2013 when we were happily pet and housesitting for two of our best friends in Berlin we’d take occasional walks through the city in the hopes of discovering and learning more about a city that has long become one of the hottest cultural hubs of mainland Europe. We’d walk through the back streets of the city hoping to discover something off-the-path and entirely wonderful, and on more than one occasion we’d find something exceptional.
During one such expedition of street art discovery we first came across the pasted works of the street artist SOPE, but no matter how much we searched online about them there didn’t ever seem to be any further background story or biography about them. Much like so many anonymous street artists, they were more than happy to live in the shadows.
Wanting to showcase what I consider to be a fantastic running theme of pasted mushrooms across the city, I created a post for our now on hiatus Weekend Photo Theme series simply entitled SOPE, but without the background information that I always like to share to help other people fall in love with something new, just like I had.
All I could do was leave a question at the end of the post asking people who were reading for more information if they had it and keep my fingers crossed.
One day, someone got in touch.
Our Second Encounter With SOPE
A friend of the SOPE got in touch with us and told us a little about the artist and that they’d seen the piece. We were both amazed. We never expected to hear from someone so connected with the artist themselves.
Given contact details with the artist we sent both our article and appreciation to SOPE and left it at that, but when they got back in touch and said they’d be up for meeting up on our next visit to Berlin.
When we returned to Berlin in the summer of 2014 we put meeting up with SOPE on the top of our agenda, and having a few weeks housesitting there made that all the more possible.
When the day came for us to meet up with SOPE I was really excited. We were doing something I never thought I’d have the chance to do; to meet, question, and give praise to a street artist. It was fantastic. I found myself a little lost for words at times and perhaps in some way starstruck, but the few questions I did manage to remember to ask I was pleased to hear the response to.
Following our short time spent walking and talking with the artist we got back in touch online and put together a few of the questions that I was eager to know the answers to at the time. I hope you enjoy them.
Interview with the street artist SOPE
When did your life as Sope begin? When did your first piece of street art marked a wall in Berlin?
– I first started putting up stickers in Berlin in early 2013.
What first interested you in the art and street artists?
– Mostly being part of Berlin’s culture. Street art has been part of my daily life since there is so much of it in Berlin and you can not really avoid it, so I just thought: “Why not take part in it.”
Once you start putting up your work, you can not stop doing so. It is really addicting.
Why did you pick mushrooms? Is there a hidden message behind them?
– They are unique. They do not grow in cities, so I thought they would be easy to recognize and remember. I’ve never picked mushrooms though.
Recently someone was fined for leaving their “mark” on the Colosseum in Rome; what would you say is the difference between street art and vandalism?
– It is only vandalism if you get caught. Putting up your “mark” on a well known sight as the Colosseum is just something you should not do as a street artist.
Would you like one day to make your art your profession?
– No not really. I would like to keep it as an hobby.
How do you feel about the commercialisation of street art? Would you approve of people selling your work?
– I do not think that street art is being commercialized that badly. If I ever decide to sell my work, I would want to do that myself.
Do your parents know you’re a street artist? If so, how do they feel?
– Yeah they do, actually. They are really supportive of it as well.
How much of your time is dedicated to your art?
– I try to spend as much free time on it as possible. Sometimes even nights.
Why do you use the streets of Berlin, why not a gallery instead?
– Streets are visited by everyone. The whole city is a gallery.
How do you pick which streets to post your art?
– I put up art pretty intuitively. However I try to put up paste-ups on spots where they are hard to reach so they can stay there a long time and do not get ripped down by other people.
Do you find yourself influenced by different countries or cultures?
– No not really.
What (or who) has been your most recent inspiration for your work?
– I try to reflect everyday-life in my street art. I am my own inspiration.
Do you ever collaborate with other street artists in Berlin or elsewhere in the world?
– I do tours with other street artists (Jones & Soon). However we do not collaborate.
How do you see your work evolving in the future? Is there another subject or method you’d like to try?
– I would really like to print my art on things, sadly I do not have the equipment to do so … yet.
Are you ever trying to communicate a message with your street art?
– Spread the love. There are always small hidden messages in my work. I would like to make people smile when they see my art on the street.
Why do you think that Berlin is such a hotspot for street art and street artists?
– There are a lot of tourists here in Berlin and a very large amount of cultures clash in the city.
What role do you feel street artists have in society?
– I do not think that street art has that huge of an impact on society itself. It makes wandering around the town an interesting pastime activity though.
Have you ever felt unsafe or threatened whilst putting up your street art?
Why do you prefer not to reveal your identity?
– We should not forget that it still is illegal to put up street art, so it makes sense to remain anonymous.
And lastly, what does the future hold for Sope?
– Definitely more art to put up in the streets of Berlin and hopefully other towns as well.
Inside The Mind of a Street Artist
Meeting with SOPE was more fascinating than I could have imagined. I really enjoyed their explaining their thoughts and ideas for the future. With new projects in the making and new prints about to go live somewhere tonight in Berlin, I’m really excited to see where else around the world we’re going to see the work of the street artist SOPE.
Have you ever seen SOPE’s work outside of Berlin before?