I’ll be watching you: cult artist’s little figures thrills Poznań by keeping an eye on its streets

The Watcher doing what it does best. AEN press materials

A cult Poznań-based street artist has thrilled both social media and the mainstream press after going 3D and rolling-out his latest project, a set of periscope-style figures strategically positioned around the city.

Created by an artist only known as Noriaki, the figures mark the latest development of his signature character, The Watcher (a.k.a. Pan Peryskop), and have rapidly gone viral. Made using a combination of 3D printing and resin-casting, 11 have debuted across the city, and yet more are in the pipeline.

The figure is made by using a combination of 3D printing and resin-casting.AEN press materials

“When I first came up with The Watcher I always knew that a 3D character would eventually happen but it was only during the first lockdown that I had time to develop the idea further,” Noriaki tells TFN.

“It’s something new for me,” continues Noriaki, “but as someone who collects old robots and ‘art toys’, this felt like a natural progression.”

Made in cahoots with a 3D printing firm, the figures reach 22-centimetres in height and can withstand high temperatures. Perched high above street-level, news of their appearance was broken by a drone video posted online.

Eleven of the little figures are now scattered around Poznań.AEN press materials

“I wanted people to work out where they were for themselves, which is why we made the video,” says Noriaki. “The reaction has been amazing so far and for sure I’ll be adding more in the future.”

The Watcher’s latest outing has been a natural continuation of a project first coined around nine-years ago.

“I’m a graffiti artist, but there came a time when I was starting to get bored of what I had been doing up until then,” says Noriaki. “I spent two months in London and it gave me a new perspective on my art and so from there inspiration was born for this character.”

Some compare The Watcher as an edgy, cool alternative to Wrocław’s epidemic of gnomes.Noriaki/Facebook

The rest, says Noriaki, came naturally.

“I always wanted to keep it simple,” he says. “I wanted my character to be easily identifiable. The shape I settled on had lots of possibilities and everything just kind of happened naturally. First I developed the shape, then added an eye – then changed that a little. I can’t tell you how or where it all clicked because it felt like such an organic process.”

First sighted in Poznań, Noriaki’s character soon captivated the public and has since become so endemic on the local landscape that some have been moved to compare The Watcher as an edgy, cool alternative to Wrocław’s epidemic of gnomes.

People in Watcher costumes during a parade in Poznań.Noriaki/Facebook

And despite the illegal status of Noriaki’s work, it’s importance has not been lost on City Hall which have often been quick to share his work and post it online.

“First things first, I’m doing this for myself,” he says, “but the feedback has been incredible. It really has energized me. Also, I really appreciate the response from City Hall, who I think realize that this is a form of artistic expression rather than vandalism.”

Even so, Noriaki is keen to maintain his anonymity. “I’d say 90 percent of people like my work, but there is that minority who don’t, so it makes sense to keep my identity secret,” he says. “Most importantly though, The Watcher is about the character, not me.”

“I wanted my character to be easily identifiable,” says Noriaki.AEN press materials

For the artist himself, however, the surging popularity of his work has opened several new doors, not least last year when he was invited to collaborate on Noizz x CCC’s Sneaker Art project to customize Reebok trainers with his graphics.

Despite that, it is his associations with The Watcher that ring the loudest, with the character’s social impact surprisingly deep.

Appearing in numerous cities around Poland, as well as more far-flung destinations such as Berlin, Barcelona and London, the public appetite for The Watcher has been such that the character has become increasingly in demand in the country’s tattoo parlours. Further, neither has it become uncommon to view packs of people dressed as the enigmatic figure at various marches and parades.

Noriaki in Lisbon. The artist is keen to maintain his anonymity.Noriaki/Facebook

But for all that, just what does The Watcher represent?

On this, Noriaki is tight-lipped.

“No comment,” he laughs. “Street art shouldn’t have a set interpretation. At the same time, I don’t think people should think it’s there just for the sake of it – I want people to build their own story around it.”

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