MOSCOW (AP) — Pasha P183, a prominent Russian graffiti artist who hid his identity and has been compared to Britain's Banksy, has died. He was 29.
The Teatralnoye Delo theatrical production company, which recently commissioned Pasha P183 to create scenery for the musical "Todd," said the artist died Monday in Moscow. It wouldn't elaborate.
Teatralnoye Delo's spokeswoman Regina Vartsan, who knew the artist personally, described him Wednesday as a "sincere and open person of remarkable talent and unique vision."
Like Banksy, and late U.S. artist Keith Haring, Pasha P183 started out painting graffiti in the dead of night, and recalled being detained numerous times by Moscow police.
One of his most famous works was painted on the ground in a snow-covered yard and features a huge pair of glasses, with a lamppost serving as one arm. Another piece showed chocolate bars painted on a panel of concrete, an image he said reflected his abhorrence of the commercialization of art and life.
"I wanted that work to carry the most important message ... that a person mustn't sell himself," he said in a rare interview posted on adme.ru last year. "I made a chocolate bar that can't be bought, using a giant panel of concrete."
He said the work provided a more optimistic ending for a film he made — the original one had the hero jumping out of the window to his death, while the alternative had him landing safely in front of the chocolate bar.
Little was known about the artist, who carefully protected his identity. In the same interview, he described himself as an "anarchist" and spoke with contempt about the "constant run for money" in Moscow.
Many of his street works had political undertones and carried an apparent reference to a recent wave of massive street protests in Moscow against President Vladimir Putin's rule. One showed a protester lighting a flare and another work had shield-carrying riot police on a subway station's glass doors.
"Put simply, I want to teach people in this country to tell lies from the truth and to tell bad from good," he said in an interview with Russia Today television, wearing a black ski mask that covered most of his face. "This is what our people still cannot do."
Despite all that, he said he didn't consider himself a political artist and hated politics just as much as he hated advertising.
The artist has claimed to have had many professions since graduating from a university, working as a computer expert, photographer, cameraman, film director and even child psychiatrist. He scoffed at comparisons to Banksy, saying they belittled his own style.
The rock musical "Todd" is currently showing in Moscow.
"It was a colossal work," Pasha P183 wrote on his Facebook page of the production of the scenery. "If I die tomorrow, I can at least feel that I have left something real behind."
Pasha P183's personal web site: http://www.183art.ru
His blog: http://183.livejournal.com