Not street art, usually, graffiti on Parisian trucks: a new middle area. Skeletons and skulls, graphic in the way of typo-graffiti, but carrying messages tied to death, love, twerking - too intellectual to be merely called ‘graff’.
Truck graffiti culture in Paris is the most sophisticated of its kind anywhere in the world, “base street graff’”, by the likes of Horfé and the Peace And Love (PAL) crew, for example, often done on trucks and vans as random acts of dissent and invasion of people’s private property, but generally there’s not much going on with it past the initial emotional and colourful thrust.
Due to its cartoonish presentation – and my own ignorance of turn of the nineteenth century Mexican political cartoons – only once I dug deeper into this cohesive body of new truck art, and unearthed the identity of its author, did my senses truly get brought to life as to the brilliance of Mygalo 2000.
Here’s an interview with him, as follows:
“A LOUER” [For rent] – Van Gogh’s chambre de bonne. Photo: Mygalo
(Top – first) “L’AMOUR NE MEURT jAMAiS SEUL” [LOVE NEVER DIES ALONE] – Paris truck graffiti art. Photo: Mygalo
(Top – second) Photo: Philipp Bolthausen
Mygalo and Boris street art collaboration. Photo: Mygalo
Mygalo 2000 skull art. Photo: Mygalo
Paris truck graffiti art similar to the social commentary of Mexican cartoonist, José Guadalupe Posada.
(Top) Photo: Mygalo
Tell us a little about your artistic background and how and why you got into street art…
I have no formal artistic training. I started painting graffiti in 1997 in Paris’ southern suburbs. It was my older brother who first introduced me to it. I was young and couldn’t go out in the night, so I was limited to watching others prepare their graffiti trip. I immediately became hooked, and home made a marker using Baranne shoe polish, with a sports sock added to make a bigger impression. To practice, I took the overground train, the RER, during the week to go to school – which added time to my usual route – to tag the insides of the ligne B. When I was able to start going out in the evening, I was able to get into more serious plans and I started doing chrome and black graffiti along the highways. The same year, I started painting trains and tunnels.
At that time, I was doing letters like everyone else, but stopped after a few years, but my passion is now back, in a different visual form, while still keeping the same tools and media. I love painting generally, but I also like the sport of graffiti, although, today I venture less often into dangerous places, where fitness is important. I like the contact with inaccessible places, such as roofs or very dark tunnels. Most of the people who notice my work now recognise me as a street artist. But, rather, I consider myself a painter, even if my practice is drawn from the legacy of classic graffiti. Sometimes, I’ll do a series of skulls or skeletons identical to the way one might tag, just to invade the neighbourhood a bit.
JR’s Inside Out Project receives Mygalo’s attention. Photo: Mygalo
“LOVE NEVER DIES, BUT WE DO”. Photo: Mygalo
“D’AiLLEURS C’EST TOUJOURS LES AUTRES QUI MEURENT” [ELSEWHERE, IT IS THE OTHERS WHO DIE] – deathly symbolism at an abandoned space. Photo: Philipp Bolthausen
What are the main themes and influences in your street work?
My painting is influenced directly by everyday life, reflections on love or on the meaning of life. I also like to nod to current affairs, and societal trends, or even advertisements in the form of parody or caricature. My interests tend to be separate to contemporary and street culture. I love the imagery and everything else relating to the 1930s, and 1980s science fiction.
I remember that when I was very young, my brother and I each had the chance to choose a subscription to a magazine of our choice. I chose the French cinema magazine, Mad Movies. It has certainly marked my retina a little. Additionally, like all kids of my generation, I was into the skateboard culture, newly arrived from the USA, and all the related drawings. It was a really cool period: Santa Cruz, Powell. You bled your mother in order to have one of the boards in Street Machine. Now, with age, these images remain, in addition to everything else running around in my life.
Gran calavera eléctrica (Grand electric skull) cartoon by Mexican printmaker, cartoon illustrator and lithographer, Jose Guadalupe Posada, created between 1900 and 1913. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Posada used the calavera (skull), to show that despite class differences, we all end up in the same place.
Similar to Mexican cartoonist and illustrator, and artist, José Guadalupe Posado, you use the skull and skeleton in your works to satirise subjects, such as, JR’s Inside Out Project. What part do you think social justice and political commentary should play in street art?
I don’t think that painting should necessarily be the bearer of a political or social message. In my case, I like to have fun and entertain people through my street work, while there is an inherent human dimension through showing everyday situations.
It is true that some street artists take pleasure in uniting people around social or political symbols, for my part, I prefer to ask questions, first to myself. I use these skeletons to represent humans in general. I also introduce other forms of life into my compositions, like animals or aliens. Their presence is significant: they raise the question of difference and openness to others. It also emphasises curiosity. Humans, impressed by their complexity, continue to analyse the animal world to discover the secret of their own existence.
Skulls can also be symbols of mortality or immortality, power, rebirth or spiritual death and rebirth. Tell us a bit about the themes are you trying to convey in your canvas paintings?
The works I make in my studio are very different to those realised in the street. To me, these are two separate disciplines. The use of black and white, in addition to my favoured graphic look, helps create tension. In my studio work, my frustrations are discarded, and I use a lot of colours. I love colours: especially those found in the animal or plant world, the largest paint manufacturer in the world. Nature is a giant pantonier, one that we try to imitate by improvising colour mixtures. The skulls I paint in my canvas portraits are intimate. The technique and the colours I use are a reflection of a life of surprises.
(Top) Mygalo 2000 x Boris Paris graffiti truck collaboration. Photo: The Grifters
Mygalo 2000 x Boris – Paris graffiti truck collaboration, initiated after a rendezvous on Paris’ famous ‘lovers’ bridge’, the Pont des Arts. Photo: The Grifters
Boris from Bulgaria – Ménilmontant, 20th Arrondissement. Photo: The Grifters
Tell us how your Twerkin’ Dead collaboration with Boris happened
How I met Boris is quite amusing, we crossed paths at the Pont des Arts and ended up discussing painting over a long afternoon. His passion for writing naturally joined with my painting and we imagined working together. Boris wanted to do something on this fashion of the ‘twerk’. He had seen some of my trucks and was curious to do it on a medium that moves. The idea of “Twerkin ‘Dead” arrived, as usual, just minutes before its realisation. Boris is an amazingly creative and energetic character.
“AVANT JE BOSSAiS CHEZ BANKSY” [BEFORE, I WORKED WITH BANKSY]. Photo: Théo David
Painted shop shutters in Bastille. Photo: Mygalo
Tell us who are some of your favourite artists?
There are many artists I like, among them most are not so much painters but musicians, comedians or theatre people. In terms of painting, I love German Expressionism: the loss of spatial cues and “false perspectives”, found in the inter-war paintings, say a lot about people’s psychological state at that time. Sociologically, Otto Dix and Murakami show the same anxieties through their works, as a bulwark against a fear of the world around them, one by frightful chaos, and the other by an excess of colour.
What are your plans for 2014?
I am writing a book, which I hope will come out in late 2014, with a teaser available early this year. For the rest of the year, I hope to continue to enjoy painting and to discover new ways to continue my thoughts through painting.
Mygalo 2000 at his Paris art studio. Photo: Mygalo