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Image for 'Paint but don't run': Greek graffiti artist Dreyk the pirate on Athens (12 images)

'Paint but don't run': Greek graffiti artist Dreyk the pirate on Athens (12 images)

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Between the established scenes of Barcelona and Berlin or the upcoming scene in Bucharest, the street art scene in Athens is still evolving as it accompanies its residents and their dreams, hopes and fears. The graphic designer, who has tagged the streets of the Greek capital since 1999, provides his personal insight

Once upon a fish in 2002...

Athenian streets are replete with graffiti, especially between the districts of Psiri, Monastiraki and Gazi. 'It all started between 2002-2003, when Hastiz was painting fish and fishbones on the streets,' says the Greek graffiti artist Dreyk the pirate (Image: ©super toy/ Flickr)

Big Bang

'2004 was the big bang; B. and Zoe Zillion were drawing their black, white and yellow characters. The press and people were so excited with this new kind of thing. It was a good period because everyone was so active. Everyday you could see new stuff.' Pictured, the walls of the Exarchia alternative district, with artwork by none other than Vasmoulakis. His works are easily recognisable amidst thousands of others (Image: ©Emmanuel Haddad)

Paint, don't run

'Graffiti is a forbidden activity of course, because you paint without permission. My friends and I never run whenever we paint and police come or a resident shouts at us' (Image: ©Dreyk the pirate/ Flickr)

Cold blood

'We just stay there and try to explain what we do' (Image: ©Dreyk the pirate/ Flickr)


Sidron's illustrated gas masks on Athenian walls evoke an urban guerilla-like ambiance. 'Along with the Jnor, Kapone and Nda crews, artists like Sidron have been around for a long time. They've always been underground. I've never met them' (Image: ©Elina Makri)


'It's all about their messages and not the skills on their stuff.' An art historian from the university of Barcelona elaborates the theme in his blog art and breath: 'The gas mask has been incorporated into the popular iconography as a symbol of danger, war and pollution. As such, it is being used in street art, usually as an image that protests against these conditions' (Image: ©Emmanuel Haddad)

Resistance or visual pollution?

Another blogger, Matt Barrett from, reminds us that graffiti was a method of resistance during the nazi occupation and a means of expression during the civil war and the colonel's junta in Greece (1967-1974). However, the blogger laments the visual pollution caused by the tags; they're so omnipresent and often not of good quality, and this takes away from other more artistic graffiti sharing the same space. Pictured, walls from the university of Athens (Image: ©Emmanuel Haddad)


The 2010 Athenians walls propose a mix of humour, derision and subversion (Image: ©Elina Makri)

Art boosts memory

Since the death of fifteen-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, who was killed by a policeman on 6 December 2008 in Exarchia, Athenian walls are splitting with images of an omnipresent, armed and violent police force. Street art uses the current news to offer passersby a direct route to their rawest memories (Image: ©Emmanuel Haddad)

Athens and street art in Europe

'Athens is one of the few cities you can paint so easy in the streets. The people are warm - apart from the fact that if they see you spraying, they call the cops! I think it's psychological. It is incomparable, believe me' (Image: ©Dreyk the pirate/ Flickr)

Watery freedom

'I've been active in the graffiti scene since 1999 but I've been drawing pirates, squids, mermaids and sea-themed imagery since 2004.' One example is this shot from Bucharest, the Romanian capital, in 2007 (Image: ©Dreyk the pirate/ Flickr)

'The streets are out there for me, waiting'

'I have a day job as a graphic designer at a magazine and I am also a freelance illustrator. But the streets are out there for me, whenever I want, whether I am in a good or bad mood, just waiting. Galleries are good, but not as good as streets' (Image: ©Dreyk the pirate/ Flickr)

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Translated from Art de rue à Athènes : visite guidée avec Dreyk the pirate (12 photos)