Outside the Graffiti Circle

Eindhoven based artist, designer and illustrator Jeroen Heeman works under the name Erosie, which used to be his graffiti name. It is his pseudonym, but in a way it seems to be more like a project name. Erosie stands for what Jeroen is doing now, but there is also a connection to what he did in the past and this background is still resonating in the work that he is doing today.

Jeroen played an important role in the post graffiti movement. He is best known for his cycle tags, illustrative style and his perfect circle. Jeroen is always developing progressive ways of artistic expression.

Being well versed in different fields, his thought provoking artworks are the result of Jeroen’s perfect connection with these different worlds. Also he has a special relation to Berlin. So we invited him to team up with our printer Daniel, an old friend of him, for creating an art edition print.

"Thought-Circle" Mixed Media on canvas

Let’s talk about Berlin. You are here for a visit and you have a special relationship with the city.

I was in Berlin with my mother and brother when I was 13 and this was during the summer of 1989. So it was basically just a couple of months before the Wall fell. That was really special because I was already interested in graffiti and of course going to Berlin meant you would see a lot of graffiti on the wall.

We went to the Pergamon museum on the Museumsinsel, which was on the Eastern part of Berlin. Therefore we went through the wall, over the border by bus. Going through the wall changed my view on Berlin, but also on life. We went from a colorful to a very gray and dark world and everything changed.

There was this check at the border and to me it was strange to see that the East German police had this different attitude. They came with their dogs and took our passports. They had these mirrorcarts with wheels and they checked under the bus. It was not like people from East Berlin wanted to escape to the West, they thought, like, the Western people wanted to escape to the East.

“On the one side there was a hard reality and on the other side there were tourists.”

To me it was like a strange movie setting. Because on the one side there was nothing, and on the other side of this terrible wall it was all colorful and cheerful. On the one side there was a hard reality and on the other side there were tourists. 
Although I was very young, this experience had a huge impact on me and how I think about borders in general today. I am really interested in all kinds of borders and frames and how things are limited in a way and how people need borders and frames to recognize things or recognize themselves or have an identity. So, obviously being into graff really changed a lot in my life as well.

This is interesting. Let’s talk about your current works. What changed over the last decade and what are you struggling with today?

There is still a clear line running through my works from the past 10, 15 years and the work I do today. Many things changed with regard to what I do and how I do it. Anyway, there are still similarities. Coming from doing graffiti basically, I developed what was later called “street art”. That’s when my personal story starts. I see, there are kind of steps that really fine tune it further and further, there is a really clear line in time. I think that is part of my concept – developing a new thing through small steps.

Let me explain that to you in graffiti terms: When I go for a freestyle piece, and I continue with a second one, it changes a little bit but you can still see the similarity. The third piece changes even more but it’s still related to the first one. So five pieces further it’s a completely different piece that originates from the first freestyle piece I did. And if you compare the first and the fifth piece you clearly see a difference, but obviously there are steps in between.

Collage "Moscow"
"Untitled implosion"

That’s the base of how I still work. And this idea of graffiti always stayed with me, influencing how I work as an illustrator, designer or someone doing official art. Nowadays, I finally manage more and more to incorporate all these different fields altogether. And it feels much nicer in a way that I do not think in terms like it’s graffiti or not, art, or called street art anymore. — It simply doesn’t matter. It is all in there!

I think very visually and for me drawing means capturing a certain moment. It’s like, you think of the image and then you actualize the image. This is not so interesting to me any more, this used to be very useful being an illustrator, to visually make an idea understandable. To work on something where you cannot think of the result is what really thrills me today. The way to the final image is always unclear; the only thing I can influence is the direction, not the result.

"Pattern Formation Tempelhof" for DRAW A LINE

A few years ago you did this Perfect Circle. Tell me: what was this about?

It was a very simple idea, which in a way was related to the things that happened in the Renaissance in Italy, or art history in general, even Zen Buddhism. Most great masters, like Rembrandt, were aiming at the highest level of perfection. I saw a painting by Rembrandt in front of a wall and there were two circles on the wall. The circle represents perfection.


“If you just do the wrong move it isn’t a circle anymore, It's all in this one moment.”


It used to be a way of showing that you have certain skills in very different fields. This inspired me to do it with a spraycan. I thought, if you manage to do a perfect circle it’s like a power statement, which in a way is a big part of graffiti. I thought it was interesting to directly link art history to raw, spraycan graffiti.

I also liked the fact the circle is never perfect. The goal is the approach, not the end result.
 So, when I did the circle it was the end of my graffiti career really, because everything was in this circle. The challenge is that it represents a lot of fields and in the few seconds everything seems to be connected. If you just do the wrong move it isn’t a circle anymore, It's all in this one moment.
 This made me realize that I wanted to look for ways to work similar to this perfect circle approach, connecting method, mindset and moment instantly.

“I wanted to look for ways to work similar to this perfect circle approach, connecting method, mindset and moment instantly.”
Eroded City Cycles

You have a strong graffiti history, but your pieces do not look like typical graffiti anymore. Have you left the graffiti path?

To me graffiti is a discipline, it’s like a sport. There is a field with lines that set the rules. Each line is a rule for doing a tag, a piece or a throwup. Graffiti to me never was the end goal, it always was a way of experiencing personal growth. 
Of course you can play the game on a personal way but it is kind of clear and obvious what to care about and how to play. I always thought this was a big contradiction in the graffiti game; endless freedom in public space on one side, but very clear limitations, strict codes on the other side. Everybody knows when the ball is in or the ball is out.

Most players just want to do a tag, piece or a throwup and don’t want to think too much about it. By thinking differently through making a piece that is not readable or that looks a bit strange, a piece that people have to get to used to, I deliberately stepped outside the graffiti field. 
I guess, I found my way to create my own field with my own lines from different fields. And within that field everything is possible. It is not a team sport anymore, so it’s much more for a solo effort and it’s based on all the things I’ve done before. It was time to formulate my own set of rules and my own free way of working.

“Graffiti to me never was the end goal, it always was a way of experiencing personal growth.”
Erosie's favorite spot in Berlin "Tempelhof"