Know Hope: Meet Israel's answer to Banksy
The elusive Tel Aviv street artist Know Hope is known to his admirers as Israel’s answer to Banksy. The artist, who is in the UK to paint a mural for students at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, creates cardboard cut-out figures and painted scenes on street corners, lampposts and pavements of Tel Aviv. He talks to Jessica Elgot about art on the streets of Israel, avoiding politics, and the new trend for graffiti in the Holy Land.
You’re known for being one of Tel Aviv’s most prominent and productive street artists. How did you start out putting your art on the streets?
I’ve been making art my whole life, but I only started on the street four or five years ago. It makes me so much more productive.
The work on the street is so fleeting, it has such a temporary nature that I have to produce a lot more. It has a shelf life, unlike in a gallery. And I also think that affects how people see it, they know it hasn’t been very long since it was created. Although in the past couple of years I have done exhibitions and been able to produce more permanent things.
What kind of subject does your work centre around and does the environment of the art inspire the different pieces that you create?
My work is like a narrative, not a linear narrative, but it does tell a story. It relates to the one character, which people will recognise. It’s a dialogue between the work and the environment it’s created in.
I’m in total awe of the city, that’s why I create my work outside. It becomes part of the emotion of the city. The city humbles the pieces, and integrates into them, connected with them. This permanent work I’m doing at Farnham will be another episode in the story.
A lot of Israeli art and film is intrinsically political. Do you have specific political issues that you want to address through your work?
I’m not addressing political issues directly, though in such torn country and city it’s difficult not to reflect that.
I’m interested more in individual human issues. It’s all about real life, and collective human struggle. It mirrors what I see around me in the heartbroken world I live in. I think all of my art is both optimistic and pessimistic, and I think people familiar with it will see that.
The art happens in devastating circumstances, sure, but there are always moments of connections and hope, even after disasters.
I think people will take that from the name as well, Know Hope, it has the same double meaning as what you see in the art. I use a lot of reoccurring features in my work, power lines, electricity pylons and tree stumps. They have the same sort of meanings.
How big is the graffiti scene in Israel, and how is it developing?
I think the Israeli street art scene is growing, although it’s new and it’s still very small. But it’s definitely emerging and developing and becoming more consistent. I hope it keeps growing and gets more accepted.
When you come to Britain, you draw obvious comparisons with the famous street artist Banksy, who also started out on the street and now commands exhibitions. What do you think of the comparison between your works?
I think he’s a very talented artist and he’s brought a lot of attention to the scene. He’s brought this kind of work into the main stream a little, it’s like he’s almost become a spokesperson. He’s an interesting phenomenon.
I don’t like to be compared to him but then I don’t care too much for comparisons with anyone at all. Other than our medium, I don’t think we have too much in common.