A mysterious street artist some are calling the Russian Banksy told RT about his mission and message.
Aerosol and a balaclava – to one man this is a potent arsenal. Pavel, also known as P183, is becoming increasingly known for his graffiti.
He has been called the next big thing on the street art scene, but shirking exposure, he views his art as a weapon.
“Like poets who put their thoughts and reflections onto paper, I want mine to be heard,” Pavel told RT. “With my work, I want to communicate certain ideas to people.”
Politically active, Pavel is unwilling to reveal anything more than a name. Still, he agreed to lead RT to his workshop – a scattering of abandoned warehouses on the snowy outskirts of Moscow, where he readies his craft before unleashing it to the wider world.
Pavel’s works have gained him notoriety – and led to comparisons with world-famous British artist Banksy. However, Pavel's work carries a distinctly Russian message, asking its audience to take stock of their surroundings.
With the capital’s streets as his workshop, Pavel has been busy in recent years. Last August, he set to work trying to revive Russians' memories of what it was like to fight for freedom – by painting riot police on a metro entrance, in a bid to relive the days of the 1991 attempted coup.
The artist mainly focuses his tools on civil activism, but just a day after December's State Duma elections – which were wrought with claims of electoral fraud – he ventured into politics.
"Put simply, I want to teach people in this country to tell lies from the truth and to tell bad from good,” he told RT. “This is what our people still cannot do.”
That meant drawing lines on Moscow’s roads – a play on a Russian metaphor for lies – where white stitches stand out against a dark canvas. Pavel also showed his political colors, offering support for the opposition movement by painting a protester on a Metro wagon.
“Expressing your opinion is a form of civil defense,” the artist said. “My mission was to encourage the opposition movement, to let people know they are not alone in this.”
In this stance, Pavel is by no means without help – and is now part of a growing movement that has its roots in revolutionary struggle.
“Artists were the first to start this process,” artist Oleg Kulik told RT. “They made their first appearances back in Soviet days. Street art is crisis art – it’s a creative form of dealing with the crisis, when a person doesn’t smash windows but stages actions. Today, there’s a rebirth of street art in Russia.”
While admired by some, Pavel’s graffiti is seen as a menace by others, with most pieces rarely lasting more than a few days before being removed. This is often long enough to make a lasting impact, and while he remains faceless to the public his persona is now in full view.