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Jérôme Mesnager paints artwork for Franprix

Jérôme Mesnager Franprix 60 ans anniversaire Saint Ouen street art paris live painting graffiti

Happy birthday Franprix! Working in association with the French supermarket chain, veteran first generation Parisian street artist, Jérôme Mesnager, plants his latest work outside one of its shops in Saint-Ouen in the department of Saint-Seine-Denis, in the northern outskirts of Paris. Mesnager’s painting celebrates the 60-year anniversary of the company’s founding, depicting two of Mesnager’s hommes en blancs characters, who hold hands and seem to frolic into the distance, surrounded by birds. Franprix is part of the Casino group of grocery outlets, which holds an 11.6% share of the French market, and owns chains across the world, from Brazil to the Indian Ocean. Many people love to praise the democratising power of street art. Without the stuffiness and nepotism of the art gallery, street artists make art more accessible, using it as a voice for the disenfranchised. Therefore, Mesnager’s promotion of one of France’s biggest supermarket chains jars a little.

Jérôme Mesnager Franprix 60 ans anniversaire Saint Ouen street art paris live painting graffiti

Several years ago, Franprix, formerly known for stocking a wide selection of budget items, undertook a massive refit of its portfolio of shops, while simultaneously hiking up its prices on many everyday products. It is far from a small community institution to be cherished and celebrated, rather a symbol of the growing levels of income inequality in France and across the world.

Jérôme Mesnager Franprix 60 ans anniversaire Saint Ouen street art paris live painting graffiti

Not only do big supermarket monopolies exploit their workers, their control of the market also allows them to manipulate and reduce the choice of consumers. As supermarket groups continue to grow and snap up local chains, food producers are forced to merge and grow to keep up with bulk orders, disfavouring smaller producers. Supermarkets also use insidious market tactics to try and influence the buying habits of their customers, which they are able to track through loyalty cards. For example, unhealthy treats such as sugary cereal are often placed at children’s eye-level to try and increase sales.

Jérôme Mesnager Franprix 60 ans anniversaire Saint Ouen street art paris live painting graffiti

Jérôme Mesnager Franprix 60 ans anniversaire Saint Ouen street art paris live painting graffitiMany people love to praise the democratising power of street art. Without the stuffiness and nepotism of the art gallery, street artists make art more accessible, using it as a voice of for the disenfranchised. Therefore, Mesnager’s promotion of one of France’s biggest supermarket chains jars a little.

Let’s take the Walton family, for instance. Owners of an even bigger supermarket chain, Walmart, they are the wealthiest family in the United States of America with an estimated fortune of perhaps $175,000,000,000 ($175 billion) divided across seven individuals. While Walmart employees struggle on social security assistance to complement their barely $10 per hour Walmart wage, the seven family members hold more wealth than the entire bottom 40% of Americans. Moreover, a 2014 report revealed that around $6,200,000,000 ($6.2 billion) of tax revenue was spent on public assistance for Walmart employees on an unfair wage. Happy birthday Franprix!

Jérôme Mesnager Franprix 60 ans anniversaire Saint Ouen street art paris live painting graffiti

Jérôme Mesnager Franprix 60 ans anniversaire Saint Ouen street art paris live painting graffiti

Just as chains like Franprix will only display the most perfectly shaped bananas to their customers, Jérôme Mesnager presents us with his frolicking hommes en blanc, representations of the Greek ideal of the perfect male body. However, we should not celebrate the false perfection that stores like these attempt to convey to us. The wealth and power that supermarket chains have accumulated, is something to be scorned and mistrusted.

Jérôme Mesnager Franprix 60 ans anniversaire Saint Ouen street art paris live painting graffiti

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Website of Jérôme Mesnager, here

Instagram of Jérôme Mesnager, here.

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Interview with Jerry Batista

Jerry Batista painting - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris IMG_2102 Jerry freehands a character onto the wall, with beading dividing the wall into two tones, for his ZAT residency installation.

Jerry Batista comes from Grajaú in São Paulo’s Zona Sul district and co-runs the A7MA gallery in the city’s Vila Madalena neighbourhood with a group of artists and screen printers whom he has grown up alongside in the city’s graffiti-street art and music scenes. Here is an interview with Jerry made in Grajaú, accompanied by images of a mural he has painted here in Paris’ main mural district, the 13th arrondissement at Nationale Metro station, in front of the first ever mural in Paris made by Shepard Fairey.

Jerry Batista classroom installation ZAT artist residency - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris IMG_2446

Jerry Batista mural fresque paris mairie 13th arrondissement by street art paris Jerry Batista adds the base layer for his mural in Paris’ 13th arrondissement.

interview Jerry Batista in Grajau, Sao Paulo, Brazil, street art graffiti by street art parisThe artist takes us on a tour and explains the local Grajaú street art scene.

I’m thinking about… how did you learn… how do you see the difference between you when you were younger and you painted, and this new generation, is there a change of theme? How do you see this horizon which rises?

So…what is a bit different, it starts with the fact that we had teachers, yes but they were not graffiti teachers really, they were not teachers of this urban art… but we had great teachers, this new generation had the chance to have teachers, to speak a little about the experiences…

What I see different… The Grajaú itself has always been known as a figurative painting place but this new generation, they are still doing figurative painting but a bit more abstract, the language is no more that clear as it was in my time, there are more subliminal things, some messages that are not that clear, I think it’s good this happening cause it shows that if art is the fruit of a period, this new generation can’t paint the same things that I have painted, they are going to paint new things which belong to their time… there are the words that they use a lot…

Jerry Batista mural fresque paris mairie 13th arrondissement by street art paris

Is the use of words more common today?

They use more the words yes… singular words have always existed which express sometimes some moments, something, poetry is striking today among this new generation of painters, this thing also more… more vectorial, something which belongs to the modern language, of the internet. I think it’s good too.

And (—) sometimes it’s songs, sometimes it’s existential things, they do quite a lot these things sometimes subliminal, a bit abstract, and others times a bit more… but not that clear but more with some words that give a direction.

Jerry Batista classroom installation ZAT artist residency - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris IMG_2447Installation by Jerry Batista for artistic residency ZAT in São Paulo organised by Tinho aka Walter Nomura.

Jerry Batista mural fresque paris mairie 13th arrondissement by street art paris

Jerry Batista painting - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris cpt Juliana Maria CerquiaroDetail of an oil painting made onto an original Brazilian school desk for Jerry’s ZAT installation in São Paulo.

Jerry Batista oil painting sao paulo artist by street art paris Oil painting onto a rusted school locker panel.

Existential words such as?

They have several friends who do mistakes, losing people, this process of change, so these things affect them too, so they put these essential things, things from the internet. This is what is different, they represent a lot things from the internet but today they do quite a lot of messages, they use quite a lot this way of communication, so I think it’s important too.

How do they use internet?

They use their Instagram, Facebook to reach more people, not only people from the community. So they paint here but they are also preoccupied by the people from the Zona Norte, so it makes it spread more, they try also to have contacts with these people, through this way, so this is really good, they move from here too and go and paint in the centre of the city.

A thing I see which is striking is the latex thing, they use it quite a lot, because they have to, spray is very expensive and latex is a bit cheaper and you can fill big spaces, so most of the people in Grajaú always use latex with spray which is the old method of the graffiti school, exactly for this, because of a necessity, so it’s quite striking here in the city.

Jerry Batista eduardo srur - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris Jerry Batista, and friends, including Brazilian conceptual artist, Eduoardo Srur.

You spoke about horizon but I didn’t understand…

You see the people, how they use… how they use the information they have to transform in…what today is more large. I think the artist’s evolution is linked with this opening, so you keep collecting things and processing it.

How do you see these artists, not only from the new generation, how can they take advantage of this bigger horizon?

I really like this new process, of internet… I think it’s good too the way of oral communication, the pictures, today you post a photo and someone I don’t know in England comments it and give you the possibility to exchange with her, sometimes they don’t speak the same language but they are discussing, so I think it’s really cool like this, to see people who identify themselves, not only Brazilians but from all around the world and this web, these contacts that we are collecting I think it’s really important for the modern world, not to stay stocked in one place.

I think the risk today of being an artist and dying in his neighbourhood, if you use internet, it’s really low… you go with this people who are going to like what you like and who will want follow you, the process of your work, it’s a bit that.

He’s speaking about the possibility today of absorbing this information which is produced (–) but will be reinterpreted here, the techniques, themes, how do you see that?

How do you feel this interpretation, of the local reality, you see works of others artists and everything… it goes through you and you continue your work, how do you see that?

This thing of influences, of the modern world, it makes you also reach others artists and people…

Among our school here, we have always been worried about this fact of copying the others, of seeing… to such an extent that our old school, which is formed by Tinho [Walter Nomura], these people they faced this problem you know, and then stories happened, people were criticising, so people focused on finding their own style you know.

I think these things were important but understand that you’re unique is the secret to develop a good art you know. Once people asked, a woman asked a photographer, “Oh man there are so many photographers today…” the guy began to take photos, everybody was telling him to not continue cause there were so many people already doing it. “What do you think about that,” the guy said, if you have a unique vision, if your point of view is special, everybody will want to see it cause people want to see the individuality, what each person has to offer. So people were worried about this here, to have something special and unique to transmit, but it’s obvious that references, influences are not forgotten too.

But yes to absorb this and use it almost like in a Chinese proverb, you use a saying to… to use an experience for something else you know, so absorbing this and knowing how to use it, in a different way, not copying it, to have an influence, a context, this is very important and I think it happens a lot here in Grajaú, people succeed to translate it very well, when a guy does a song, a rap, there is always the context of a vision, they only want to transmit a message from inside to outside or it comes from outside to inside so I think this is it, they receive something from outside and then they think “cool I liked it and now look at what we have here inside for you to see,” so it’s like an exchange.

Jerry Batista classroom installation ZAT artist residency - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris IMG_2458Jerry Batista classroom installation ZAT artist residency - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris IMG_2448   Jerry Batista classroom installation ZAT artist residency - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris IMG_2513 Jerry Batista classroom installation ZAT artist residency - street art graffiti sao paulo brazil by street art paris IMG_3410

And about this context exactly, do you think this is what makes each one unique?

I think it’s the cohabitation of everyone, here the family is something very strong you know, it’s really important in everyone’s life, new generation don’t leave their parents like this, on the contrary.

Although, some don’t follow this you know, but I think this context, these difficulties, or this joy, which each family has, which each person has, it’s about transmitting something to the other, so I think this is very important, it’s almost like Brazilian Northeast literature, it’s a bit like this you know, people act like “Look in my street there is this, and this,” so people want to show “my family has this, and this” or “my family don’t have this, and this”. So this presence is very important, to want to transform, the young guy who wants to show a bit of his changes, his evolution, so I think it’s quite characteristic of each artist from this neighbourhood here.

Jerry Batista mural fresque paris mairie 13th arrondissement by street art paris

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Jerry Batista on Facebook, here.

Jerry Batista on Instagram, here.

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Interview with Mathieu Tremblin

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris dI4KLLTag Clouds “Rue Jules Ferry,” 2012, Arles

Originally from Le Mans, Mathieu Tremblin works in Strasbourg on multi-dimensional pieces that are sometimes subtly satirical and other times blatantly candid. With an approach to the city linked to sixties libertarian texts, Visual Studies, and French Theory, Mathieu Tremblin develops humorous and subtle artistic gestures, actions and interventions for an audience of passersby. In this interview Mathieu discusses the relationship between public ownership, the power of art and the urban context.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2015_globalcolorlocalmarket_marseille_mathieutremblin_img_0571Global Color, Local Market, 2015, Marseille

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2010_OUVERT24H24_TOULOUSE_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_1007632 copyOuvert 24H/24 (OPEN 24 HOURS A DAY), 2010, Toulouse

How did you begin making urban interventions?

When I arrived in Rennes to study in 1998, I met a poet, Stéphane Bernard, who soon became the big brother I never had, and we shared a lot of thoughts on the society that we lived in. At that time, he was a very dark person because of having grown up in an average French city during the 80s, the type of city where there is nothing to do when you’re a teenager. I found myself in him, having myself lived in a small town as a teenager in the 90s. He introduced me to the Cold Wave, No Wave and industrial, electronic and experimental music with iconic figures like Alan Vega and Genesis P-Orridge. He introduced me to a number of American authors, such as, Bret Easton Ellis, Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon, as well as different theorists who had spared a radical critique of consumer and communication society, such as Guy Debord and his book, The Society of Spectacle.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2013_VANILLAURBANFURNITURE_DOCUMENTATION_TOULOUSE_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_IMG_6459 copyVanilla Urban Furniture, 2013, Toulouse

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2016_streetartevaluation_documentation_lisboa_mathieutremblin_img_20160514_115029 Street Art Evaluation, “What is commissioned Street Art the name of?”, 2016, Lisbon

Debord’s approach is unique in that it does not summarize his criticism to a fight between classes, like other political philosophers have been doing before him, but he tackles economic relationships in the world it – what he calls Spectacle. Spectacle is a filter – representation – that keeps us away from ourselves and from others, that is taking us away from our experiences and our real desires and replacing those by the ones created by the consumer society that we can not access by proxy. From this analysis, he tried with his colleagues of the Lettrists then the Situationists in the sixties to implement methods that go beyond art, towards practices such as dérive or détournement that can permit you to live intensely and overcome the false relationship to the world that the society is building. These theories and operational concepts have greatly influenced my look at and my practice in the city, for example through the will that I share with other artists to produce forms that are already there, which are not recognizable as art . It’s a way to increase the life and transform our world, contributing to an urban imaginary that goes beyond appearances produced by consumer society.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 0-zpesHypertag “Cli,” 2012, Arles

When I was a teenager, I refused to join the ideal promoted by the mass media and the consumer society. I felt agressed and oppressed by the system and I was looking for other reading grids. The art class I was following in high school gave me some answers with an introduction to the artistic avant-gardes of the twentieth century as Dada and Fluxus to whom art was making life more interesting than art itself. In 1996, I stopped watching TV with the discovery of the Internet. My father had installed a modem at home using the connection of the university where he worked. I discovered a horizontal network with HTML homemade websites and discussions with strangers living in Europe on IRC; I had access to a knowledge of the world without the filter of the mass media and it definitely changed my view on the relationship between art, culture and society at the same time.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2013_DROITDEGLANAGE_DOCUMENTATION_ARLES_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_IMG_7719 copyMathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2013_DROITDEGLANAGE_DOCUMENTATION_ARLES_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_IMG_7728 copyDroit de Glanage, 2013, Arles

Then I met TETAR, JIEM and MOOTON, who were doing graffiti and who were in my class. I did urban exploration with them – the industrial heritage in ruins fascinated me – and at one point I saw the pleasure they felt in doing graffiti and I got into it. This corresponded to a parallel path with my readings including La théorie de la dérive by the Situationists. The text discusses the idea of going out of your daily routine and find a way to make your life adventurous. Writing graffiti and especially tagging seemed a way to live an adventurous experience in the city; doing graffiti brings you to search spots to paint, so to discover new places and explore urban environment in a playful way regarding its architecture. By changing scale of practice and apprehending the material of various surfaces with your tools, you are gaining pragmatic and experimental unexpected perception of how the city works.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2011_FRUITSSKEWER_DOCUMENTATION_NIJMEGEN_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_DSC_3049 copy

Fruits Skewer, 2011, Nijmegen

When JIEM came back from Berlin in 2003, graffiti he had seen and photographed completely changed his reading of the urban landscape; now he had to focus on the walls that Berlin writers were investing with acrylic jars, rollers and telescopic poles. So we started to invest the giant walls of wasteland and abandoned factories in Rennes with rolls, changing of name all the time, until no longer we weren’t doing name writing at all and just write words and slogans. In 2006, we acted under the pseudonym of Poetic Roller during a few months and painted a couple of poetic phrases by night in dialogue with the atmosphere of the places. Then David Renault and I  founded the duo Les Frères Ripoulain and we painted slogans at a body scale during the day for two years dressed as house painters – without asking permission. We realized it was easier to intervene without authorization while legitimizing our approach in the dialogue with passerby, than doing it by night where our activities would ultimately looked suspicious, and the only exchange that we could get would be with the police or private security services that were just committed to ensure that nothing happens in the places they were responsible of. Then after we had painted the places on which we wanted to spread typographic frescoes about underground history, we changed once again of medium and method and since then adopted existing forms according to the urban situation we wanted to interact with, or depending of the influence we wanted to produce on the urban imaginary.

How do you develop your interventions?

I make sure that my practice is a pretext to live a new experience and conversely that every experience or observation in the city could lead to a gesture. I watch the rhythm of the city, the way people and signs interact and produce a kind of aesthetics in a cycle of appearance and disappearance. These forms are related to what is present and what is happening in the street. Sometimes they also refer to the history of art. When I work independently, this gesture correspond to an exercise of freedom, a sign that has an existence by and for itself; when I’m commissioned, I ensure that my intervention is likely to attract the attention of passersby whom it is addressed. But I work mostly without permission even if I am not looking for provocation… or legality. I try to act with maximum transparency and horizontality to dissolve the authority including the one of the author regarding his own gesture. While I’m inspired by anonymous graffiti found in the city that I consider as forms of interest, who would I be to claim that my act of painting on a wall will be greater or more relevant than the one that a citizen would have done without artistic intent? This is a balance between your personal wishes, the expression of your fellow citizens facing public and private governance of the city.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2016_liberteegalitesoldes_documentation_strasbourg_mathieutremblin_img_1832 Liberté Égalité Soldes, 2016, Strasbourg

Can you tell us about your relation to public/private ownership regarding the fact of doing art in the city?

For two decades now, successive French governments scuttled utilities and gradually municipalities allowed private companies the operational management of the city. The logical consequence of this fact is that the governance of the city has mutated from a horizon that was the common interest, to the profitability. And unfortunately, we cannot blame private companies to manage things in an ownership oriented way. Public transport became overpriced, whole portions of streets are managed as shopping malls, private security services are granted a power that only the police had previously… The citizen is increasingly considered and reduced to a consumer in the sense that it becomes difficult to practice the city in a financially disinterested manner. Public places – supposedly reminiscent of the figure of the agora in democracy – are mineralized and the rare street furniture are conceived so that it is uncomfortable, even impossible to occupy the public square. This creates paradoxical situations, such as the SNCF (French railway company which is now mostly private), which opens spaces which it owns and do an open-call without any budget for motivated artists, while the same company ensures that those who already invest those places without permission for years (free parties organizers and graffiti among others) can no longer practice it. While the Internet has allowed for the emergence citizens tremendous collaborative initiatives, horizontal and open to free sharing online, technocrats currently governing are vassals of corporate lobbies and tend to turn the city, our common living ground, into an area of ​​control and surveillance.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2011_ATRAPFORKINGS_ARLES_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_1101203 copyA Trap for Kings, 2011, Arles

Private ownership has become the cornerstone of our society and it alienates all desires and human relationships. The sharing relationship that seems to me  as close as an alternative type of relationship is the one you could develop with a work of art. His own is that the work cannot be exhausted after being consumed culturally. In a way, it’s escaping to planned obsolescence which is the essential condition for the capitalist economy to be wealthy. I’m not talking about the work of art as an object but as concept: on the contrary, works of art contain in themselves sensations and ideas – that belong to everybody – and a  power of transformation of imaginary – which everyone can experience – and that can not be reduced or enslaved by individual property. The interest is of my point of view the urban intervention holds that character otherwise immateriality, temporality. The destruction predictable near horizon – as dependent on the vagaries of the good / malicious passersby, of the rigor of cleaning service or of the urban renewal plans – gives it a form of intensity. What is rare is not the work as an artifact (as it was the case with the works of art in the modern period) but the fact of being able to experience a situation.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2012_TRACTS_PARIS_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_IMG_8137 copyTracts, 2012, Paris

What is the power of art to you?

An emancipatory principles of art could be described as an initiatory journey that always tends to put our comfort zones in crisis. Child, I was interested by Picasso for his deconstruction of the rules of representation, perspective or anatomy. Teenager, I went away from Picasso to focus on the hallucinatory world of Dali inspired by dreams and carried by the surrealist thought. Then adult, I detached myself from modern painting to go towards more conceptual and experimental approaches; I have kept Magritte’s univers whose graphic compositions by bonding or temporality of perspective are closer to an everyday poetic and is still inspiring me. A discovery of a field of art brings a gesture that brings you to question the certainties that have motivated that gesture. It’s the transformative power of art that matters. Discovering a work forces you to bend your mind and project yourself into the perception of someone else, in order to experience a new sensibility – in a way that it is otherness – with a horizon to achieve: to go beyond the definition art in order to return to life and to be intensely present to the world.

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2014_PARKINGTICKETBOUQUET_MONTPELLIER_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_IMG_5248 copy

Mathieu Tremblin interview by street art paris 2014_PARKINGTICKETBOUQUET_MONTPELLIER_MATHIEUTREMBLIN_IMG_7858 copyParking Tickets Bouquet, 2014, Montpellier

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All images by Mathieu Tremblin

More informations about Mathieu Tremblin: Facebook  and website.

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Interview: May 2015.

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Interview with Dede & Nitzan Mintz

Dede and Nitzin Mintz Le Carillon Petit Cambodge Rue Alibert Rue Bichat IMG_2830

Translations of Nitzan Mintz’ work:

Hebrew (original):

יום הולדת לפצע

נעשה לו מסיבה

בלונים נקשור לפצע

נאחל לו שיגדל

קרבנות נקריב לפצע

יתגדל ויתקדש.

English: 

A birthday for the wound

We will hold a celebration

Tie balloons for the wound

Wish for him to grow

Sacrifices will be brought forth

May he rise and become holy

Dede and Nitzin Mintz Hopital Saint Louis IMG_2853Dede and Nitzan Mintz make work on the walls of Saint-Louis Hospital, opposite the Petit Cambodge resturant and Le Carillon bar, the site of one of the 13 November attacks that happened last year.

Street poet Nitzan Mintz and street artist, Dede, both from Tel-Aviv, have painted work in front of the Petit Cambodge restaurant and Le Carillon bar, two sites synonymous with the 13 November terror attacks which took place last year. Both artists explain the intervention here, with a healthy dose of humour at the start, becoming more solemn later into the interview.

What brought you to Paris?

Nitzan: One of the aims has been to sniff around to try to find an art residency, here. We want to join a program here that will drive us to create, like a workshop, like a residency. We’re looking for new places, we feel like we haven’t been to Paris enough. Or, at all.

What did you hear about Paris?

A lot of beautiful things. All people love Paris. They adore.

What did you hear about Paris?

Well, that’s it’s one of the capitals of art, and that it’s a cultural place…

Come on!

What? What are you looking for?!

Behind the words.

Ok, about the food!

We heard it’s very romantic.

No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

Ok, so about the food.

Yeah food is…

You heard that Paris is where the money is?

No, no – that’s New York. When I think about Paris I don’t think about money. Paris is, I don’t know she’s gorgeous. She’s like, when you walk in the streets of Paris you, you’re really inspired, just because you looked at a building.

She’s gorgeous like a blonde?

No, no, no, no, no, she’s not gorgeous like a blonde. She’s gorgeous like an old lady, like a hipster old lady, you know the rich old ladies, ones who wear fancy fancy designs, like, really wild, high platforms and tons of make up, eighty years old, with sun glasses, big ones, but old. She’s super fancy and she walks in the streets very proud with a poodle.

You came for that?

Yeah, sure.

Dede: You know we haven’t been a lot to Paris so yeah for the first time, for second time, yeah, we came for that.

Nitzan: And now, since we are here, we want to come back, for an art program or something and to stay for one month or two months, and that’s it.

Dede and Nitzin Mintz Le Carillon Petit Cambodge Rue Alibert Rue Bichat IMG_2738Dede and Nitzin Mintz Le Carillon Petit Cambodge Rue Alibert Rue Bichat IMG_2792 copy

What brought you to paint that wall?

Nitzan: We came to Streetartparis.fr, at the office, to ask for help because we are not locals, we don’t know the rules, we know nothing about creating here. Those people took us on a tour…

Dede: First they helped us search on the computer…

Nitzan: Yes, with Google Street View. And then, we found an ok wall, like a wall that can…

Dede: It was beige.

Nitzan: Yes, it was beige. A beige wall.

A lot of beige walls.

Nitzan: And, it wasn’t what we wanted, but that’s what we had, so we said ok let’s go for it, and I was a bit depressed because I said shit, it’s not my thing, beige, and, I like to do things that are more site-specific.

Dede: “This spot is not special enough… ”

Nitzan: And, I don’t know anything about this wall.

Dede: “It’s not falling apart, it’s not something that fits… ”

Nitzan: Yeah, it’s not something to fit, exactly. And we said ok, so we will do it in order to have something in Paris, to say that we have something in Paris. Something to be proud of back in our home-town of Tel-Aviv.

Dede: So, people will believe us.

Nitzan: Yes, believe us, and to worship us for doing it. And then we went, and we were walking, and then, suddenly, the Demian, he stopped for some reason, I don’t know and he said, this is the café that was attacked in the terror attacks six months ago. And then, I don’t know, we looked at the wall and I thought, the wall is very very ugly, because it’s not my type of wall. I like walls that are older, and falling apart, or with natural frames that the streets can provide. And I like to know the history. And then he told us the details of the hospital, and the terror attacks that happened here, and, wow, it was like, wow, ok, this wall is not exactly my type, and Dede’s also, but what a story this wall has. This wall was witness to the whole thing, which is very important to all. So, I said, ok maybe my art won’t look very good on it, because it’s not my regular style, but, wow, we will have a story, and then I took all my poems from my bag, and I started looking, and I didn’t even look, I just popped it out and then I said this one, this poem belongs to this wall. And I asked for people’s opinion, and Demian said “but, you’re going to do it in English?” And I said, what can I do? I don’t have a translation. And then, two girls that were with us, their names are Cécile and Léa, wonderful Léa and Cécile, they translated it. We went for a coffee, and we were sitting, and it was like happening. It was like three angels came to me. It was a miracle for me. I was standing outside of the scene and I was like, wow, I didn’t do anything for it to happen. Everything was like, connected, like boom, boom – it happened so fast and suddenly, I had a french translation to my poem, and I was able to communicate with the people who live in the space, in the area, which is amazing, because I didn’t prepare it so it was like a miracle. And everything was super, super, like a miracle, like it was supposed to happen. This is how I felt.

God came down from the sky?

Yeah, something like that. Like angels.

It’s the power of street art?

Nitzan: No, it’s the site-specific angels that came and saved me. The site-specific angels came because they know! They know that it’s important to me to create site-specific walls with my poetry. They know it, and instead of making it really boring like a wall, with text, it doesn’t have any connections, they brought me, boom. I think the most interesting location ever, and by accident I had this poem and that exactly fits into the location, exactly, it’s like I wrote it for the location – but basically I wrote it about Israel – and everything happened like that, which is very, very, very scary and beautiful.

Dede and Nitzin Mintz Le Carillon Petit Cambodge Rue Alibert Rue Bichat IMG_2820

Dede, why a bandaid?

I paint a bandaid to heal, it’s a kind of a trademark for me. I have been painting the bandaid for almost 10 years now. It developed from different places and has different meanings. People can relate to it in different ways and for me it keeps changing as I continue to investigate meanings, and compositions.

Actually, I wanted to paint a bandaid because I know I can do it quickly and today we don’t have much time, but then when we to this specific location and it made sense. It fits the place and the area then all of the associations I had here – suddenly it just felt right to actually paint this specific piece. It can stay as a tag in different places but here it meant something more important for me. Something that I can relate to and something that I think the people in the area can relate to in different places. And I think it fits with the text. But we didn’t do it before like this, like assemble text with this, with the image. I think it fits well.

Nitzan: Yes, very well.

Dede: I hope people will like it.

Dede and Nitzin Mintz Le Carillon Petit Cambodge Rue Alibert Rue Bichat IMG_2808Dede and Nitzin Mintz Le Carillon Petit Cambodge Rue Alibert Rue Bichat IMG_2841

What was going through you in terms of a connection between what happened there, what happened in this area, and what’s happened many many times in Israel? Not exactly the same but… random acts of terror against non-military targets. How were you relating that to your own experiences?

There is a connection. I feel like in Paris it’s like such a new situation. That you can feel it in the air, you can see the people, the way the woman who came up to me while I was working and read the poem, how she reacted, she was crying. In Tel-Aviv, I don’t think it would happen because if I would put the same poem in Tel-Aviv, no one will ever connect it with terror. Or they will, politics will, but not to specific cases because those terror attacks happen all the time. We are like inside – it’s like mainstream.

Dede: Yes, people are growing with this condition. It is with us all the time. Here, when you put it in such a specific area…

Nitzan: You know it’s unique. Because this area is unique. It’s like you were born with migraines, so you will deal with that through all your life, but for a person who just had her first time with a migraine, he can throw-up, he won’t go to work, he won’t do anything, he’ll be paralysed. So, for us, it’s like growing with the migraine all our lives. So it hurts very much, but we know how to work with it, and we know how to eat with it, to go to see friends with it, until it happens really to you, to one of the members of your family, or your friends, and then it’s like a new migraine. Because, if it happens to someone in Israel you’re very sad and you’re shocked, but when it happens to you, it’s another story and luckily I don’t have that kind of experience in my family or with my friends.

Dede: There was an attack also at a bar in Tel-Aviv on Dizengoff Street, that was the last attack when the terrorist came and just shot everyone at this junction.

A Palestinian?

Dede: Yeah.

Nitzan: A Palestinian man with a gun.

Dede: It wasn’t related to ISIS, there was no connotation, but in his ideas he was influenced by tapes and movies. He started shooting in the middle of the street, like, a really busy street and in this pub, in the middle of the day, he shot and killed one of the owners of the pub. And then this pub got shut down for a week. Then they started to fix the pub, and to try and continue. And recently, they asked me to come and paint inside and also when I came I talk with the owners and people in the pub, and I came to the conclusion to paint the bandaid, and we actually did it like two weeks ago. Two bandaids on both walls and also in the memory of the owner who dies.

Nitzan: So, there is this connection between the two places.

Dede and Nitzin Mintz Le Carillon Petit Cambodge Rue Alibert Rue Bichat IMG_2822

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Nitzan Mintz can be found online, here and here.

Dede can be found online here and here.

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Interview with Nelio

Nelio artist Lyon rue du paradis performance art geometry IMG_1770 copyNelio paints at rue du Paradis in Paris’ 10th arrondissment

Does your artistic production look more at the process or at the result?

I have three ways in which I produce, artwork based on a reflection, made as an exercise, and made as an experiment. When my work is based on a reflection, it tends to be the case that I’m aiming at transmitting certain messages in my paintings, whether in relation with observations of the world around me, or by introspective, philosophical or political reflections. But in the manner of a graphic designer when creating a logo, I will condense all the basic ideas, so that they are conveyed just in the form or the colour. It becomes less obvious, more intricate, and gives room for different interpretations. The message can be the starting point to create but is not necessarily the purpose of the work.

Artwork made as an exercise, is where the starting point of my paintings is an exercise. It can be the representation of my current research, a stage in my artistic construction, whether in composition, colour, shape, matter, light, volume. In this way, sometimes my painting speaks exclusively about painting.

Nelio artist mural street art graffiti rue du paradis IMG_1880Nelio artist graffiti rue de la fontaine au roi IMG_1945 Spontaneous painting at rue de la Fontaine au Roi in Paris 20th arrondissment

Artwork made as an experiment, is a third method of creation that is established when I try simply to transcribe feelings and emotions, without narration or hidden messages, when I want to reach pure abstraction. Working in this way, sometimes I surprise myself with my creations, this happens particularly when I do sessions of automatic drawings, that is, to draw as quickly as possible, and make a lot of drawings without stepping back. I imagine that the unconscious takes a larger part in this type of work.

At the end all these creative processes there is a mixture, and an overall common thread in my works is established, which brings out a sense of uncertainty in the viewer, who no longer knows exactly what to think or feel. “What is the message in this painting? Is there a message in it? What does it represent? Is it figurative? Abstract? Is there something written? Is it just decorative painting? An exercise? Is it the result of a elaborated sketch or an improvisation?,” and so on. Even if the starting point, the process or the purpose may sometimes be obvious, I try to make each painting allow this kind of questioning.

Nelio architecture rue de la fontaine au roi IMG_1959 Architecture compliments Nelio’s geometric style at Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, 11th arrondissement

What is your relationship with graphic design? And architecture?

I discovered the graffiti when I was thirteen or fourteen years old. The pleasure of creating letters led me to become interested in graphic design, which I studied formally for a while. What I liked most was to create logos, and experiment with screen-printing. I think my graffiti evolved when I began to incorporate this influence and started to paint symbolic forms with areas of flat colour, as is often the case in screen-printing.

El Lissitzky, A Proun suprematism copyright 1925 A “Proun” work by Russian suprematist artist, El Lissitzky. Ink and watercolour collage, untitled1 (1925)

About four years ago, I stopped doing professional graphic design and began to devote all my time to personal creativity. Being self-taught I have serious gaps in the history of art, but I would say that my aesthetic is quite close to Constructivism and Suprematism. For a long time I painted a bit like I was playing with Lego or a building set, trying to create new compositions with limited elements, a square, a circle, a triangle. Now, I’m experimenting more by making work which is freer, more random. This desire stems from my interest in abandoned places, and the architecture of these places. By making art in such a space, adding colour, form, a narrative develops, the space becomes a place. The kinds of spaces I prefer to work in are where you can find straight walls with crumbling parts. I find this kind of situation the most symbolic and an interesting contrast to the geometry of my designs.

I like to experiment with different techniques, because I think it feeds and develops my creations. Sometimes I’ll produce a very small drawing on paper with a fineliner, which will be completely different from a painting in an abandoned space, for example. This focus on meticulous detail, will have a more intimate and precious aspect, while the fresco will work at being viewed from a distance because it’s inseparable from it’s surroundings, and will degrade over time. Both are interesting and I like playing with the codes of each. This is what also drives me to paint both on very small formats and large facades, painting and using other media, especially screen-printing, engraving, and woodcarving.

Nelio artist paint wall graffiti rue du paradis 10 arrondissement IMG_1805 DIY attitude to production lies at the heart of the graffiti-street art culture

How do you choose your “canvases”?

I prefer to paint in abandoned places. In the city, I’m not inspired to paint a wall when there’s advertising around it. I also don’t look for the most visible or the biggest, rather, the most charming. I’m not a fan of blank, sterile walls, I work best when the wall has a history and is starting to fall apart, creating an interesting contrast with my clean geometric shapes. When there are inspiring surroundings, such as, architecture, atmosphere of the place, colours, and so on, this all adds to the narrative. My way of working is the street work is always site-specific.

Nelio architecture perfromance graffiti rue du paradis ICF habitation IMG_1831 Nelio’s physical style of producing this large-scale site-specific work at Rue du Paradis in the 10th arrondissement doubles as street performance

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Learn more about Nelio, here.

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Interview with Louis Masai Michel

London street artist Louis Masai coral

The United Nations climate conference, or COP21, has been happening in Paris, and meanwhile, London-based artist and muralist, Louis Masai, has been here promoting consciousness on the degradation of our coral reefs by painting beautiful coral hearts inside Montparnasse station and on walls in the 11th and 10th arrondissements. We’ve been out in the streets documenting his production and interviewing him on his practice.

London street artist Louis Masai coralDetail of one of Louis Masai’s spraypainted coral reef hearts at Rue Saint-Maur in the 11th arrondissement.

Tell us a bit about your background and how you became an artist.

Well I guess the cliche of ‘I was never good at anything else at school’ is how it all started. That combined with the fact that my parents were art school sweethearts meant I was born with artists’ genes flowing through my bloodline. Actually, the vast majority of my family are creatives, so the cliche must have context in there somewhere. But, ultimately whilst living in cornwall for ten years, minus the four years spent studying fine art, I became fed up of being a big fish in a small pond and so plunged deep into the depths of London, which is where I’m based now, working half the year in the studio, and the rest, painting outside around the world.

London street artist Louis Masai coral

Does one become an artist, I’m not so sure, I think that ultimately its either within you, or not. I’d agree that one can get better at being an artist, and the survival game can get easier or harder, but just because you can paint, draw or create doesn’t make you an artist; being an artist for me is about lifestyle and accepting that your addicted to it. I get grumpy if I don’t create for more than a day or two, and I can definitely bore the tears out of someone that doesn’t love art as much as me, by talking about how important it is to society.

What inspired you to start painting images from the natural environment?

I guess it’s harder to run out of ideas when you create directly from what interests you. For me its the natural environment. I’ve always admired wildlife and the softness of nature, so as I’ve grown older my desires to encourage other people to reflect upon the natural environment has taken a heightened interest for me. I feel like it would be strange if that was not reflected through my art. I feel like visual images can be used as a way to provide a voice to the unheard and so my art is that communication for endangered species.

London street artist Louis Masai coral

What inspired your recent trip to Paris, and why are all your paintings of coral?

For the past twelve months or so I’ve been working alongside an amazing environmental agency called Synchronicity Earth. The first project was called This Is Now, for which we created a short film about British wildlife, highlighting invasive, endangered, and extinct species.

This is Now, a short film chronicling the production of a series of Louis’ community-based paintings by filmmaker, Toby Madden

The current project is about coral reef decline. The idea behind the project is to both spread awareness of the present reef situation but also to support regeneration of corals. The first stage is crowd funding where by we are currently editing the film that documents the mural I painted in Shoreditch in East London in October. That film will encourage investors to support the redevelopment of reefs around the world via Synchronicity Earth’s coral campaign. The campaign will also gateway for me to create more murals around the world which will raise awareness for corals and encourage more people to be environmentally aware of the damaging effects that we have upon the oceans. The most important factor to remind everyone about is that CO2 emissions are destroying oceanic life, and if the ocean temperature rises the reef will die.

The reef is a living biodiversity that not only protects the earth from flooding but will also be the first step of a domino effect that could destroy the planet’s sustainability forever. That’s a scary prospect and I don’t think many people are aware of it. In fact, it still amazes me how many people think coral is a plant instead of an animal.

Louis Masai LondonLovesCoral Shoreditch Rich MixMural painted in Shoreditch, London by Louis Masai as part of Synchronicity Earth’s coral campaign

So, that first London mural, in the centre there’s a hollow heart shape. The overall coral formation is a padlock and the heart shape in the centre is the keyhole. The keys are now being painted around the world as heart-shaped corals. These are what I’ve been painting in Paris, the keys are symbolic of the need to unlock the heart of the situation by joining together and tackling the threats faced by it. It’s definitely a very flowery artists perception of how to enlighten a critical situation, but I hope it’s one that can unite people globally to take a little more action in researching how to actively reduce their own carbon footprints, if you want to pursue that investigation watch the film Cowspiracy on Netflix.

The reason I was in Paris last week was because whilst I was there the United Nations conference on climate change, COP21, started. I’m creating a film about this trip juxtaposing the City of Love in a heartbroken state with me painting coral hearts to hopefully raise some thoughts about the oceans.

London street artist Louis Masai coral rue de la fontaine au roi Coral adorned with a #LOVECORAL hashtag at Rue de la Fontaine au Roi in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. Photo: Louis Masai

You add hashtags to a lot of your murals to try and create online support for this and other environmental causes. Does this strategy impact the purity of the artwork itself in your opinion?

Well, I’ll reckon with you, I personally loath social media and all the paraphernalia that adorns it, however I also recognise the importance it holds, both for me as an artist and as someone who wants to spread awareness on the environment. I use it to my advantage as best I can: hashtags have become a well-known way to collect images, data and thoughts from all different social media outlets.

Hashtags neatly organise this information for people around the world to stumble upon. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the same thought processes as each other and so I try and encourage viewers to follow a ‘yellow brick road’ and in this instance it’s #LOVECORAL. I write the tags on the walls with my paintings to lay the foundations for the brick road, and they work. I don’t always adorn hashtags to my work but in cases like the corals I feel it’s relevant. On other occasions, I write messages or statistics, and although it might make the painting become an advert for my cause, I’m okay with that because it’s promoting a higher level of consciousness, and if I can seed consciousness then my art achieves far more than just being a pretty picture that brightened up a dingy street corner. I guess this is why people will title my style of work as ‘activism’, but for me its just a modern way of shepherding people’s thoughts and movements.

London street artist Louis Masai coral

In my opinion, painting on small walls functions as an advertising tool for an artist and it’s only when the wall is large that it becomes a mural of some sort. I feel that the majority of my work is not just an advert for what I do on canvasses, but also an advert to raise awareness. If the hashtag or statistic written in conjunction to the wall painting becomes visually un-aiding to the image’s purity, I’m okay with that because my studio work doesn’t have those issues and holds 100 per cent purity.

I also think as a whole viewers become far too precious of art outside; paintings have shelf lives outside and more often than not the artist accepts that more than the fans. If, as a viewer, you are disturbed by an impurity of visual language then I think you need to let go of it and remember control is for art indoors.

What is the difference between what you paint in the streets and the work you sell?

Both deal with the same issues of species awareness. Indoors I work with brushes on reclaimed wood and selvedge paper and fine-tip pens. Recently, I have also started sculpting with resin and toys. Outside, I’m using spray paint.

I can’t achieve identical qualities from one medium to the next, so obviously there is a difference between the two outlets for the image. What I do notice, though, is that each style informs the next, whereby I’d like to be able to do exactly the same with both mediums, so we will see what happens in the future.

I guess the other difference is, as I said earlier, when I paint outside I’m advertising and in the studio I’m not – I’m creating decorations for the home.

London street artist Louis Masai coralRue du Faubourg Saint-Denis and Rue de la Fidélité

London street artist Louis Masai coral

London street artist Louis Masai coralRue de la Fidélité in Paris’ 10th arrondissement

What goes through your mind when you paint in the streets and how do you feel about your work being painted over or removed?

When creating a painting, the course of time, from start to finish, encompasses many different thought processes. I feel extremely passionate about what I paint, so there is a lot of sentiment and emotion that goes into each painting. Usually, I listen to music when I paint also. This provides another creative level which I find hard to salvage from other sources as it enables me to concentrate with individual moments during the piece. I actually didn’t listen to much music whilst in Paris. I think i did this intentionally to feel the emotion from the city itself more. Ultimately, painting is my meditation and I become totally self-absorbed and free from my own personal issues.

If i get painted over I actually really don’t care anymore, it used to upset me, but these days I just accept it as a part of the way that humans treat their surroundings. When my paintings get wiped out it acts as a metaphor for the actual animal being endangered – here today gone tomorrow.

Please can you tell us a bit about your plans for 2016.

I have a few group shows already penciled in and I potentially have an international solo in the talks. I will paint more walls around London and I’m working on a USA tour for end of 2016.

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Find Louis Masai online at his site and Instagram, here and here.

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Philippe Hérard on Belleville and his “gugusses”

IMG_1374Painting on craft paper by Philippe Hérard.

If you’ve already ventured into Belleville, in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, you can be sure you’ve walked past one of Philippe Hérard’s “gugusses”. The French artist has been based in this French quartier – home to Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier – for the past 25 years, and has kindly received us into his atelier, for an interview and coffee.

The stories Hérard pastes up on walls in the street, or paints onto canvas, are those of faceless figures placed in absurd or uncomfortable situations. His work quickly becomes familiar to passersby, with its earth toned palette and symbolic elements: buoys, ladders and planets. A dreary atmosphere and sense of helplessness emanates from all this.

When asked about his artistic influences, Hérard tells us without hesitation: Jean Rustin. “He’s a great man. A very great man.” With a dark palette and figurative style, Rustin’s characters transpire a sombre and disenchanted vision of humankind. The women and men he paints are raw: their grotesque, sometimes naked bodies are shamelessly exposed in cramped positions; their expressionless faces, staring directly at the viewer, convey a feeling of aimlessness and resignation.

Jean Rustin 2Painting by Jean Rustin.

IMG_6665Paste up by Philippe Hérard, rue de Savies in Belleville.

Some of the same obscurity can be found in Hérard’s paintings, but in a less blunt manner. His “gugusses” (the name he has given to the characters present in almost all his pieces) appear huddled in on themselves, pulled by strings, trapped in buoys, facing walls… They are often looking away, but when facing forward, their faces are darkened, so as not to impose their gaze on the viewer. Hérard is certainly more chaste in his representation of the human condition: “It’s obvious that my work is about me, about others, because we’re not necessarily all happy. […] I paint firstly because I need it to feel better. It’s my frame to express myself […] It’s my way of saying things to others. That’s all”. Hérard concedes that he does not analyse anything. While working, some things become obvious to him, such as the use of the buoy which pleased him visually. All his paintings are titled ‘cent titres’ (phonetically, it can mean ‘without a title’ or ‘one hundred titles’), leaving the interpretation free to all. However, Hérard’s work can sometimes be more abrasive. He did a series of portraits called “sutures”, in which faces are wounded, lacerated and sewn. This may unconsciously be a reference to Rustin’s disfigured humans.

Oddly enough, Hérard has only been a street artist since 2009: “I told myself I should try it out. So, very humbly, I put my gugusses and buoys in the street, which I painted on craft paper. I had something to show. It started out like that”. Before then, he was content with exposing his work in galleries. The street, however, offers a different creative experience. “It was quite odd at first, because I felt like I was doing something bad. I did it during the day. And then I was quite surprised, because people were very welcoming. This really motivated me. An exchange was taking place.” Hérard then discovered that people were taking pictures of his work, posting them online, asking who it was by (as he initially did not sign) and offering various interpretations. “I saw my gugusses in their environment. I had put them on the wall and said what I had to say. But people would convey another image. They would put a frame, insert a character and create a sort of canvas. It was funny for me to see my gugusses differently, in situ.”

IMG_1376Philippe Hérard’s atelier in Belleville, with bike, buoy and gugusses.

Street art is by its very nature contextual: putting up a piece on a wall alters the urban landscape. “What I like is the fact that, when I paste a “gugusse” on a wall, it’s unique. I create a shadow, and from that moment, the whole wall becomes a stage for my character. Creating perspective changes the wall into a canvas. It becomes part of my character.” The brown tint of the craft paper he uses blends in to the colour many Parisian walls are painted. “There’s nothing intentional, just like with the message. I just need to do it, that’s all. It’s like people who need to consult a shrink because it makes them feel better. It’s chance.” He tells us that street art allowed him to get out of his atelier and meet people: “when working in galleries, people come to see your work and it’s not the same crowd. Most people I see in the streets don’t go to galleries. It’s complementary, I guess. I see a much broader panel of viewers. Street art taught me a lot. It opened me up anyway”.

One of the traps some street artists are fearful of falling in is pleasing their ‘audience’ by serving them the same patterns or narratives over and over again. When asked about this, as well as the impact working in the street has had on his work, Hérard tells us he doesn’t plan on painting buoys his whole life. “The work I do in the street shouldn’t impair my work as an artist in general. I need to be careful and feel free to do what I want to do. I don’t think it’s something that’s restraining me at the moment, but I think about it a lot, because people often talk to me about me about my early work. I try to always have a little reference, but constantly offer something new,” he says.

IMG_4414Paste up by Philippe Hérard, rue des Couronnes in Belleville.

Philippe Hérard was exposed to art as a child when, following an accident in which he broke his leg, he was immobilised. One of his great uncles who happened to be a painter and a priest visited him during his recovery and initiated him to drawing. “I liked it, I felt it in my guts and from that moment on, I only did that.” Instead of going to summer camps like other 13-year-olds, Hérard would join his uncle in his 4L (a very typical Renault-built car from the 60’s) and paint landscapes along the Marne River, still life and wood-timbered houses. With this teaching, he gained an appreciation for impressionists and “classic” painters. After a short time spent in school, he came to Paris and studied illustration/design. Later, he worked with advertising agencies, but eventually quit to paint full time. He decided to stay in Paris, after developing a strong attachment to the capital, and later to Belleville. Hérard has been part of the Association des Artistes de Belleville for two years, and has taken part in the annual Portes Ouvertes des Ateliers des Artistes de Belleville. “I told myself, after 20 years, I wanted to sign up and participate in a local activity, to be stamped.” In December 2014, he exposed some of his work at the gallery, Le cabinet d’amateur, in the 11th, alongside Levalet, Ender, Urbanus, and others: “I discovered their work, and then I met them. I wanted to share with them on a professional level.”

Apart from these local roots, we asked him about his work that has been pasted around the world, and if he adapted his message to the places he travelled to. He smiled and told us, “I don’t travel at all. People paste up my work in other places. It all stemmed from Eric Maréchal. He pastes up pieces all over the world. Now, he has an association; he only pastes things in difficult places like refugee camps or slums, to bring art into places where there isn’t any. People learned about this by word of mouth, and they come and find me and tell me they’re going abroad. They paste up my work and send me photos of it. I find it awesome, because without leaving home, I have my buoys in Tibet or God knows where.”

PH site 9Work by Philippe Hérard pasted up by Eric Maréchal, slum in Sao Paulo.

To see more of Philippe Hérard’s work, visit Joël Knafo gallery (11 September – 10 October 2015).

To learn more about Eric Maréchal and The Art Fabric: theartfabric.com

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Interview with Thomas Dityvon aka Mister Pee

IMG_0078Postcards, part of Mister Pee’s large portfolio.

Thomas Dityvon, or Mister Pee, has a thread to his superficially comic characters: “dark thoughts.”

“I can’t just do ‘free drawings’, I’m always looking for sense. When you have a combination of trees and a world that’s more organic, it means something. A way to struggle against the culture, that is, the city, the politics. This is why my characters are always wearing hats, because the hat or the tie, for me, represents politics, or big industrials – big bosses,” Pee says.

IMG_0561Mister Pee glues up his work in Paris’ 10th arrondissement.

Mister Pee - Thomas Dityvon street art paris

 

 

With a professional background as a graphic designer and illustrator, having been the comic strip illustrator for a popular kids magazine for years, Dityvon explains: “In France, the supermarket industry, this kind of culture, it’s very dangerous for our minds.”

IMG_0072

Based in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, where he lives in a modest house with a young family of his own, it’s easy to understand how he would he would arrive at his anti- stance. He goes on: “My work is about freedom, about the way you define your freedom, and the idea of not wanting to be a sheep.”

The way Dityvon relates his art to his worldly experience of the ‘big industrials’ befits street art, which is inherently political. It’s no surprise, also that when questioned on his influences, he name drops the Polish artist and art theoretician, Krzysztof Wodiczko, below, whose light projections onto city buildings and monuments use the power of context to inspire debate over issues of their time. Pee describes him as “stronger than Banksy”.

wodiczko-arch-001(1)

Krzysztof Wodiczko light projection, Washington D.C. (1988).

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However, Pee is no raving anarchist, and the world he creates through his illustrations is “… without a big discourse,” he explains. He sews in his beliefs about the ‘big bosses’ but the art is also another kind of journey, “just a way for me to draw, to find, and to experiment with shapes.”

His portfolio, with acrylic work, animation, and even paper toys, is evidence of his artistic breadth. With an early exposure to film and photography, as well as classic New York graffiti, Mister Pee soon became absorbed by offbeat imagery, incorporating it in his street art and always with a dimension of humour. “I always have to be sarcastic or to have the distance of hindsight, it’s having a critical regard, a critical view in the capacity of having some liberty of thinking, some distance regarding what you say. In other words, to not just leave something on the level of appearances.”

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The artist weaves political undertones into his illustration, but reiterates that his work concerns the return to nature, referencing Voltaire, and Rousseau amongst the Lumières from the Age of Enlightenment, “There’s the big myth of a culture against nature. This is the same idea…back to the tree!”

IMG_0070A watercolored illustration at Dityvon’s studio. 

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Check out more of Mister Pee’s work at his website and his Facebook page.

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Interview with Intra Larue

Rue Denoyez Belleville Intra Larue Paris street art Intra Larue installs a work with the aid of a city rubbish bin at Rue Dénoyez in the Belleville quarter.

Text by Meredith Shanoski

French street artist Intra Larue started casting plaster sculptures from her breasts as a joke. She works a day-job and hasn’t told her father about the endeavour yet, which is surprising because with 450 painted breasts and counting, her sculptures are slowly giving flecks of colour to a grey Paris.Intra Larue Paris street art - Underground Paris (1)

She sits down with us and pulls her breast sculptures from socks before casually placing them on the coffee table between us. It’s hard not to laugh, and she attests that much of her audience’s reaction is similar. Our society has rendered the female breast in such a light that outside of a sexual context it is… well, a bit uncomfortable, bizarre, taboo. And yet, as a part of the female anatomy, it’s as normal as the next thing. Well aware of the taboos, Intra Larue takes to the streets with her delicate yet provocative, forward-thinking works.

Intra Larue Paris street art - rue denoyez - Underground Paris (3) Rue Dénoyez in the 20th arrondissement.

Intra Larue’s process is a meditation on fragility, freedom, and colour. She draws on inspiration from her quotidian—old typography books, Art nouveau, and fingernails—but revels most in finding the right corners for her work, for which she has curated an eye. Boulevards are out, as are most low spaces, so she climbs— rubbish bins, poles, pipes, ladders—anything to allow the sculptures to be seen and not touched. Placement is paramount, and for that she is attentive to avoid school grounds and religious buildings.

Intra Larue Paris street art - Underground Paris (4)The artist uses a lighter glue in anticipation when she suspects pieces may need to be removed

Intra Larue Paris street art - belleville - Underground Paris (5) Intra Larue Paris street art - parc de belleville - Underground Paris (8)One of Intra’s breasts stuck insitu at the top of Parc de Belleville.

Intra Larue Paris street art - parc de belleville - Underground Paris (7)   Intra Larue Paris street art - oberkampf - Underground Paris (9)Oberkampf in Paris’ 11th arrondissement: however small, the sculptures bring unexpected colour to drab city corners.

Intra Larue Paris street art - oberkampf - Underground Paris (6)

Intra Larue cast the first sets of breasts with the strongest, most durable plaster, but after the majority of her initial installations were stolen or dismantled, she shifted to using a more delicate plaster. As they are nearly impossible to steal without destroying, the fragility of her breasts protects their integrity. Further, the artist justifies her disinterest in commissions or gallery exhibitions, explaining that outside influence would extract its candour. “Wouldn’t she want to capitalise on her opportunities?” we ask, but as of late no money nor attempt to steal will obtain one of Intra Larue’s elusive breasts, which is her small victory.

Intra Larue Paris street art - place maurice chevalier - Underground Paris (2)Work at Place Maurice Chevalier in the 20th arrondissement.

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To see her repertoire, check out Larue’s Flickr.

Contribute your own images of Intra’s breasts at her Facebook page.

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Interview with Levalet

Levalet Street art Paris

Born in the Lorraine region of East France, 27-year-old Levalet takes advantage of Paris’ architecture, combining his knowledge of theatre and painting especially, with a keen eye for topography, to produce site-specific scenes painted with Indian ink. Here, he talks about what makes his work possible, his artistic background, the legality of making street art in Paris, and places he likes putting up work.

Tell us about your works, what are your main themes and influences? 

I don’t know if we can talk about any main themes in my works, I work on staging each piece uniquely. My influences are numerous: theatre, film, plastic arts, comics. Afterwards, I contextualise it with the environment which affects the iconography of my scenes. Most of the time I rely on situations inspired by everyday life, and always a bit out of sync with reality.

Levalet Street art ParisLevalet pastes up in Paris’ ancient Latin Quarter in the 5th Arrondissement.

Where and when did you put up your first street piece?

I started painting on walls when I was thirteen or fourteen, in Guadeloupe, but it was more for fun and the for rush of adrenalin than for an artistic goal. When I was 17, I moved to Strasbourg, and there the walls are so clean and so historic that almost nobody wants to work on them, but I was working on video installations, and I was able to experiment with projections in urban places. But it was when I arrived in Paris in 2012 that I truly started to work as a street artist, inspired by the architecture and this feeling of freedom you can feel in the capital here.

What prompts you to paint work in the street?

The street is a place where I can work freely, I don’t have financial or time pressures. And this is mostly about besieging public places, everyday places, and being able to put up work that creates a dialogue with the real world. I like the idea of trying to combine several realities, using the world as a medium, and as a guide for representation, positioning the artistic image, in a place that was not meant for it in the first place.

How important is the architecture to your work? 

Topography is very important for me, this is why I always check a place out before I work on it. I try to mix the world of representation with the real world by playing on the physical cohesion of the situations I put up. Architecture supports my work. Then I work on staging the artwork with photographs. Photography allows me to play with the point of view and to intensify the “window-dressing” dimension of my work. Photography also allows me to create a dramatisation within the dramatisation by a including passer-by or other elements.

Tell us a little about your artistic background and how and why you got into street art? 

I started studying plastic arts when I was 17 and tried different media, paint, photography, video, sculpture, and today I am an art teacher, but as I said earlier, I have numerous influences and for example, acting influenced my work a lot. We can say that I came to street art more by transposing an installation practice than by a “classical” way, such as starting with graffiti and later getting involving graphic design.

Levalet Street art Paris An onlooker enjoys Levalet’s street art performance which even the police tend not to mind, he says.Levalet Street art Paris Levalet Street art Paris  Levalet tirelessly brushes out air bubbles and wrinkles from his pasted paper artwork.

You live in 13th Arrondissement, what do you like about putting work up locally?

I sometimes work in my neighbourhood, not often but regularly. I sometimes like being able to follow a work’s life, how it is transformed, how other artists can change it or destroy it. It is also more convenient for me as it is the only neighbourhood in Paris where I can put up my works legally without having them cleaned off, thanks to the town hall and its policy of including urban arts in the neighbourhood’s identity.

What factors do you consider when deciding on a location?

I’m relatively attentive to places whenever I’m outside, and when chance puts me in front of an interesting place, I take a picture and I measure it. Everything is potentially interesting, a spot on a concrete bloc, a crack, a recess, a piece of urban furniture. Whether I use a place I spotted or not depends on the projects I create day-by-day. There are some places I’ve spotted that will probably never be used, and sometimes one year can pass between the moment I spotted a place (I write it in my notebook) and the moment I use it. When I willingly look for a place, meaning when I walk by neighbourhoods only for that purpose, I first go to the small alleys, the hidden places, the unusual neighbourhood, and I avoid the big boulevards.

Levalet Street art Paris Levalet Street art Paris

Can you describe a route you’ve taken in the past, or an everyday route, and describe the details.

I think what I like most is walking by the different rivers in Paris, “les quais de Seine”, “canal Saint Martin”, “Canal de l’Ourcq”. Rivers always offer architecture and spaces that seem completely different from a big city such as Paris. I like these places because they inspire surrealist ideas in me easily. Being close to a river, in one way, gives me the illusion that I am still connected with the rest of the world.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced putting up a piece on the streets? 

Two months ago, I put up a sketch on La Comédie Française. There were ten policemen twenty metres away. They did not see me that time, but every time I’ve been caught, I’ve always been let off, and sometimes they’re amused. I can’t complain. I don’t really feel the police as a challenge. A bigger challenge is for me to start a project in which I try new things, because before the end, I am never one hundred per cent certain of the result. Half of the time I need to change my projects because I realise that, for example, the sketch is too big for the wall or an object can’t be fixed with nails.

What are your plans for 2015?

I have a few group exhibitions planned in Paris, an exhibition and two festivals in Italy and mostly I want to do unpredictable things. I have a few indoors installation projects planned, but for now nothing is really decided.

Levalet Street art Paris Detail from Levalet’s latest scene in the Latin Quarter.

Photos of Levalet’s previous installations:Levalet Paris15 minutes of fame. Photo by Charles Levalet, 2014.Levalet Paris Rhizomes exhibition, Home street home, Montpellier. Photo by Charles Levalet, 2014.Levalet Street art ParisIconoclasme. Photo by Charles Levalet, 2013. Levalet Street art ParisLa machine infernale. Photo by Charles Levalet, 2014.

Levalet Street art ParisUne bouffée d’air frais. Photo by Charles Levalet, 2013.

Levalet Street art Paris   Comédie française. Photo by Charles Levalet, 2014.

Levalet Street art ParisEnvolée sauvage. Photo by Charles Levalet, 2014.

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Visit Levalet’s Facebook page, here.