French urban artist, Thom Thom, has been taking Parisian billboards and transforming them into art since 2000. He is inspired by the French artist Jacque Villeglé, well known for his technique of décollage, the opposite of collage, whereby parts are ripped away from posters. Also by the Lettrists, an experimental movement established in Paris in the ’40’s, and the Situationists, a revolutionary group based on Marxist ideas.
Thom Thom, real name Thomas Schmitt, is a master of using a blade as his artistic tool. Geometrical forms are cut into posters, layer by layer, creating a mosaic of old consumerist images. Precise forms appear as if Thom Thom could be able to imagine what was in the background, from which he teases out textures and colours to create harmony in each piece.
Photo by Dorothée Smith
Last Saturday, Underground Paris joined Thom Thom at the vernissage of his second solo show, Archéologies, presented by the Mathgoth Gallery. His gallery works are created with the same hijacked ad posters used in his works displayed in the streets of Paris.
Archéologies presents a series of womens’ faces from fashion advertising posters, which he retrieved from billboards during last winter’s collection. As an ephemeral archaeology he carefully deconstructs these images and reveals a state of “discovery” from the frivolous publicity, transforming it into an eternal art.
His canvasses provoke an interaction with the viewer, whom try to understand how many layers each poster is made of, and the provenance of those layers that are revealed, assisted usually by the title of the work, for example, a piece with punchy blue and yellow sections, Morgane IKEA.
‘Morgane IKEA’ by Thom Thom
In addition to his street art and indoors artistic practice, Thom Thom is deeply involved with the street art scene in Paris as a kind of “ambassador”. In 2002, he was one of the artists that organised the project Une Nuit, where more than 60 artists pasted up to 60 art-works on billboards hijacked over one night, which has been documented and published in a book. Une Nuit, was the forerunner project to the founding of the association Le M.U.R., which since 2007, ironically, has brought two urban artists per month to make performances on a billboard that used to be a space for advertisements. Thom Thom is the co-founder and secretary of the wall.
We asked Thom Thom a few questions, which reveal an artist with a strong personality, who is knowledgeable on intellectual artistic movements, with a pinch of a sarcastic irony.
What got you involved with the Paris street art scene? What brought you to make your first intervention in the streets?
Since I was ten I considered urban art as the natural field of expression. Even if I studied cinema and audiovisual art, I feel free to enter the urban scene, not only as a artistic scene (I started by scratching through fascist stickers)
Can you give any insight into how you developed your technique?
It happened by chance while cutting some cardboard next to a billboard. I discovered the potential of if after having theorised it in what I call échantillonnisme (sampling) which is a lot about visual sampling.
What is the political or social message in your artwork? Are you connected with the culture jamming?
The question is to be answered by the audience. I try not to make any additional absurd propaganda. But I would feel sorry for someone not capable to see the politics of my aesthetics. I read Naomi Klein’s book in English before it was translated in french and she dedicated it to my “art in action” when she came to Paris
Tell me something funny about you.
I am capable of computing up to 1023 on my fingers using a binary system I invented. It does not help my career as a womaniser.
Archéologies exhibition by Thom Thom
103, rue Saint-Maur – 75011 Paris
6 April to 18 avril 2013
To visit Thom Thom’s facebook page, click here.