Sten & Lex: Street-Stencil(ologists)

by Fabio Fazone SOURCE Lancia Trendvisions / Vimeo

Pioneers of "stencil graffiti" in Italy and self-taught street artists. All the work of Italians Sten & Lex results from an individual path that developed far from art academies and design institutes.

Excerpts from Sten & Lex's interview for Lenzia Transvisions & a VIDEO gallery below

Their activity starts in Rome in 2001. They were the first artists in the world to introduce the half shade technique that they have nicknamed "Hole School" in stencil. In their last book, Sten & Lex: Stencil Poster (Drago, 2010) they describe the evolution of their style and their new technique, the "Stencil poster," that they illustrate in detail in this interview.

Sten&Lex,  LTVs
Stencil poster Nuart Festival (Stavanger, Norway, 2010)

How did you meet?
We met through some mutual friends and, in particular, thanks to a girl who created stencils. From that moment, we started to reproduce portraits of U.S. B-movie and thriller characters using the stencil technique, that we strived to increasingly study and improve. 

When you started, did Italy already have a 'stencil graffiti' culture?

No, it did not. But, above all, when we started we did not know exactly what we were up to. It was only later on that we discovered we were among the first people who brought the stencil graffiti in Italy.
Stencil poster, via Reggio Emilia (Rome, Italy, 2010)

Your most characteristic technique is called “the hole school”. Could you describe it to us?
We named it "the hole school" because of the funny assonance with "the old school." In 2003, we created a new way to cut the stencils, borrowing the half shades from the world of graphic design. At present, many stencil artists use lines and dots in their work. It is an effect that can be understood only from a distance. If you look at it from a close distance, you will only see lines and dots, but as you back up the eye creates the in-between shades.
Stencil poster strike, via Partini (Rome, Italy, 2010)

What effect do you intend to achieve?

The underlying idea is to catch the observer off guard, but only at a first glance. At the Garbatella (Rome), we created a 26x12 m poster on the entire front of a building. The people who looked at it from a close distance could not see the image, but the people who were approaching from a distance, could recognize it.
Stencil poster on wood, Co2 Gallery (Rome, Italy, 2010)

Lex&Sten, LTVs
Poster, hand painted, via Caffaro (Rome, Italy, 2010)

Where do you find your images?
Often in Internet or in the street markets. Our images are taken from the newspapers following a purely aesthetic criterion: usually we choose portraits of people who caught our attention, where the subject does not look in the camera, as it would typically happen in the 60s and the 70s. Our last book points out how, from the 60s people have been looking more and more in the camera and smile.
Lex&Sten, LTVs
Poster, hand painted, via delle Conce (Rome, Italy, 2009)

Lex&Sten,  LTVs
Stencil, hand cutted, via Partini (Rome, Italy, 2010)

In your opinion, is conveying social messages through art only a fashionable trend?
Almost all the street artists send a social message; therefore, it is normal to ask oneself if they do it because it is fashionable or out of a real necessity. 
Lex&Sten, LTVs
Painted wall, Pop Up Festival (Ancona, Italy, 2008)

Lex&Sten, LTVs
Painted wall in Barile (Basilicata, Italy, 2008)

Lex&Sten, LTVs
Painted wall, Infart Festival (Bassano del Grappa, Italy, 2008)

How does the public respond to your street works?
Better than one would imagine. In such neighbourhoods as S. Lorenzo, people have a hard time with the writers, whereas the posters, which are removable, do not bother them. In Pigneto, we painted two young men hugging each other. It lasted for two years and people really appreciated it.

What is the work that launched you on the international scene?
The “Saint” we exhibited at the London Can’s Festival next to the “Buddha” by Bansky. When Bansky invited us, we did not know he was going to present his "Buddha." On that occasion, our stencil did not reach the top of the wall, so we decided to add a halo to it. Stencil artists from all over the world were invited to the event; the only Italians beside us were, Lucamaleonte from Rome and Ortica Noodles from Milan. Another (constant) encouragement comes from the website, a reference point for street art that, since 2003, has always published our works.
Lex&Sten, LTVs
Stencil, hand cutted, piazza Magione (Palermo, Italy, 2009)

Lex&Sten, LTVs
Stencil, hand cutted, Cans Festival, (London, England, 2008)

Video gallery

Photo credit: Sten & Lex