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Jorge Pomar paints at Le MUR

Jorge Pomar art exhibition Paris street art graffiti interview Le MUR OberkampfJorge Pomar uses naive imagery to bring attention to harder issues such as capitalism and the arms trade.

Interview by Jess Zimmerman

Naively painted animals toting guns on a public wall in Paris? Chatting with Argentinian artist Jorge Pomar (AMOR), reveals he experiences little anxiety over the potential clash of such imagery.

In Paris to paint at Le M.U.R., the three by eight metre billboard set aside by the city council for the purpose of promoting urban art, his latest painting is child-like and colourful, but actually serves as a vehicle for a much darker message. You may be drawn in by Pomar’s work at Le M.U.R. with its chipper rays of sunshine, but this mural is certainly no wallflower.

Jorge Pomar art exhibition Paris street art graffiti interview Le MUR Oberkampf

Jorge Pomar art exhibition Paris street art graffiti interview Le MUR OberkampfJorge Pomar is commissioned to paint at the renowned Le M.U.R. space in Paris’ vibrant Oberkampf district in the 11th Arrondissement.

Jorge Pomar art exhibition Paris street art graffiti interview Le MUR OberkampfJorge Pomar painting at Le M.U.R. (detail)

Interview by Jessica Zimmerman:

How did you get started in the world of street art and graffiti?

What motivated me was how easy it is to say things in the street, how simple it is to connect with others. The common space that we all share is the best space to work in. When you want to say something the best way to go about it is to make it in the street, like advertisements.

Jorge Pomar Catálogo de armas Buenos Aires street art graffiti interview Le MUR Oberkampf (4)Catálogo de armas, AMOR, Buenos Aires, 2014.

Is your work put up purposefully to reach people? To convey a specific message?

Yes, these days I often find myself wondering about conveying a message, but the question is what exactly. Should it be something positive? Should it be about change? Or do I just want to draw? I think I’m in between both, because I like both. Maybe it depends on the place and context, as well as the people who are going to see the piece.

My very recent work is all about guns and the business of guns. Nations like France for example produce cars, wine, cheese and guns. It’s another part of the business; they sell guns to every country in the world to kill their people. I can’t find the sense in that. And I definitely don’t like it.

So are you taking a distinct stance on that?

Yes sure, but I don’t know if commenting on it is going to change anything. There’s a chance that by just expressing something about it, or even by just straight up denouncing it, it might change something, but I’m not sure.

In a broader sense, would you say you have one message or one philosophy behind your work?

When I started painting, I started off doing graffiti like everybody else, by which I mean just going tagging. That scene is all about the street aspect, about creating a name. After a couple of months, I realised that there was absolutely no sense in just saying my name, just saying hello. There is no point in just saying, “Jorge Jorge Jorge”, over and over again. I decided I wanted to say something more transcendental, so that’s how I started writing the word Amor, which means love, and which began to open a lot of doors for me. Maybe it’s a little bit ‘cursie’ – a very special word in Spanish – its means lovely, but in a stupid way. Kind of sickly sweet, tacky, or cheesy, but sometimes I just feel like that. Other times I feel that there is a heavier responsibility in writing that name, but I’m comfortable with it. I think it’s important to express whatever you want to say in the street, and if it happens to be positive, then great.

Amor street art Buenos Aires graffiti artist interviewBuenos Aires, 2014.

So now under the name AMOR, you’re painting guns?

Yes, and that’s a big contrast isn’t it? A big difference, but I don’t have any problem with that, because it’s all part of the same language in some way. Guns come from hate and hate is the opposite of love, so I actually feel that it’s very normal. But I see the potential disparity, this guy is painting “LOVE LOVE LOVE”, and it’s not about loving the guns, it’s just the opposite, but I like that contrast.

In my most recent work there are a few specific characters that have evolved around this theme. They are all very innocent and naive animals: bears, lions, all done in pastel colours to give a jardin d’enfantskind of feel. Except of course that they are carrying guns. There is no way an animal can carry a gun, especially not an innocent animal, so I like to use it to create a strange sort of sensibility, an odd little image to make you think about the use of these guns.

León con botas street art Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview“León con botas”, Curuzú Cuatiá, Provincia de Corrientes, Argentina, 2014.Gato con botas street art Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview“Gato con botas”, Argentina, 2014.

I’m glad you brought up the animals, I wanted to ask you about the imagery you use. It ranges from animals, to figurative to more abstract stuff.

This entire year, I’ve been trying to formulate a clear line or statement about the aesthetics of my work. I just try to use these animals, abstractions, geometric shapes, cities, plants, and organic elements to open as many doors as possible. When I’m in front of a new mural I just paint what I feel in the moment, but sometimes it’s better to have a clear line to follow. I think I’m at that moment where I need to locate that line and respect it for a couple of months at least to make a series of works and be more responsible to one subject.

Is there a specific symbolic value behind the images you choose?

Yes sure, of course, actually. It also depends on where and why I’m painting. For instance if I’m working on a commission, I’m not going to paint animals with guns, I’m going to choose something funnier and more innocent, like plants. Everyone loves plants. They can pay me and okay great, bye bye, I’m off. If I’m working on an abandoned wall then I’ll do whatever I’m feeling in the moment. And now it’s animals. Animals with guns.

Clearly context is super important for you.

Sometimes when I do graffiti, just graffiti, I don’t worry too much about the context. It’s just about having fun and marking a territory; about a symbolic presence. It can also be like a logo or a brand, and within that specific context I can utilise the same aesthetic, but it’s always just going to be graffiti, that kind of fun.

You have this whole outdoor practice that is so evolved and so elaborate, and then you have all the work you do on paper, do you see those as two separate practices? Do they inform each other in any way?

I feel that there is a big difference. Again all the subjects are related in some way, but paper is in it’s own sense a separate subject, where I can paint abstract or get into typography, or even start drawing cars from the ’80’s. Maybe there is no sense to it, but a lot of people see connections between my outdoor and indoor work. I don’t see it yet, but I’m essentially trying to make a whole globe out of my stuff.

So it’s a kind of little mini world you’re creating?

Exactly, like a personal one, with a lot of elements, very different, but all within the same world.

Would it be fair to say that between your works on paper and in the street you are creating a personal universe?

That’s exactly it, all the elements, wherever and however they are made, exist in the same reality.

Marfa, Plumas & Amor street art Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview“Marfa”, Plumas & Amor, Buenos Aires, 2013.

Alright, now a totally different question: who inspires you?

There are a lot of artists of course, my friends from Argentina, my crew members, garbage on the street, PixaçaoJoan MiróHorphée, a lot of writers from France.

Children’s books also play a huge role in my work. I love the childlike imagination in all the imagery. Specifically I think the book Moon Man by Tomi Ungerer, the French illustrator, is amazing.

I also look towards Heráldica, which is the study of medieval shields. I’m actually really interested in the middles ages when all families used to have their own shields designed with specific symbolic elements. I find it fascinating, and so mysterious. It was a dark moment in time, all the castles and mystics.

Patricio, 19 pájaros y Mu street art exhibition Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview Underground Paris“Patricio, 19 pájaros y Mukenio”, Plumas & Amor, Buenos Aires, 2014.Amor & Plumas street art Wynwood Walls graffiti artist interviewPlumas & Amor, Wynwood, Miami, 2013.

Can you talk to us a little bit about your publications? There are three separate books, how are they different?

The first was made with my friend Nadia Patrian at Jellyfish, its a publication about magic and mysticism. She selected twenty artists from Argentina, the US and Europe whose work deals with the subject, and from there made a nice big book, very colourful and published in hardcover. I really love the work she did. The second book is a collection of pictures I made with a few friends while taking a photography course led by the Argentinian photographer Guillermo Ueno. The book has no text at all, its just images.

The last book I made with P. Vector Codierer, a very good friend from Berlin who lived in Argentina for some months. He’s a writer, a very good writer. He’s done a lot of work in Germany and Argentina with a very special style, he’s really a very delirious guy, so we decided to make a book about a large mosque in Argentina. We started to develop a concert about Arabic graffiti based on the idea that graffiti is something occidental that comes from the Greek alphabet. You can read it from left to right, but in Arabic you read right to left, and with the lettering, you can’t read it unless you speak the language. We found that difference interesting and decided to physically ground the concept around the mosque.

Jorge Pomar art exhibition Paris street art graffiti interview Le MUR Oberkampf Buenos Aires street artist (28)Jorge Pomar art exhibition Paris street art graffiti interview Le MUR Oberkampf Buenos Aires street artist (25)‘Orientalist’ graffiti zine produced with Berlin-based artist, P. Vector Codierer.

And was it well received? What was the public reaction? 

It was very well received, people were really intrigued by the unfamiliar and it turned into a very strange book indeed. We only made fifty copies of it, so just a few people actually own it. We also made a large presentation to launch it, which was very well attended. People were curious because it was something very delirious, but very serious at the same time. We approached it like a weird job. Its amazing how in the span of a couple of months you can go from having an idea in your head to having the realised version in your hand.

What is the main difference in producing content or work for a book as opposed to the street? 

The main factor is time. Making a book can take a year, maybe more. Creating a mural takes one or two days, maybe a couple of hours, even. Being outside painting is an immediate experience; it’s about living in the moment, while the book is a much slower process.

The idea of making a book of only images also sometimes struck me as odd; it doesn’t always make a lot of sense. I like to write, so I think the dialogue between the text and images, if it’s well done, can be really interesting. Maybe next, I’ll make a mural about these texts with an image added onto the side.

Jorge Pomar art exhibition Paris street art graffiti interview Le MUR Oberkampf Buenos Aires street artist (25)“Where Da Track At”, AMOR.SAMOR street art exhibition Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview Underground Paris“SaMoR”, AMOR and SAM, 2011. SAMOR street art exhibition Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview Underground Paris AMOR Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview

What is your favourite city to work in?

Buenos Aires, because it’s my city and I know it very well. I know where to go, at what time, and how to move. That’s maybe even more important than where to go; it’s all about how to move. Attitude is probably the most important thing in this street world. Buenos Aires is a very relaxed city in that way, there are lots of people who happily receive graffiti and street art, unlike other parts of the world where rules are so strictly imposed.

So you are less afraid of repercussion and getting caught in Buenos Aires?

Nowadays, I’m actually less afraid of getting caught anywhere. Maybe in the US I still feel nervous, just because its rules are so strict. You can easily have a very bad experience. In Buenos Aires is so simple, you can talk to the police like a human being. You can explain what you’re doing. In the US I don’t think you can talk to a police officer because of this stance they have on authority. I understand it, because that’s the kind of society they want, and that’s how they work. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but talking is the best way of communicating, if you can make it happen of course.

Orbita antigua de la luna Amor street art Buenos Aires graffiti artist interviewOrbita antigua de la luna (Old orbit of the moon)”, Buenos Aires, 2014.Naive graffiti street art Brazil by Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview “A verdadeira fortaleza se encontra dentro de nos”, Festival “Concreto”, Fortaleza, Brasil, 2013.

So how would you compare working in Paris to Buenos Aires?

There are a lot of painters here, I think people are maybe getting sick of it? Maybe not sick exactly, but there are so many urban artists that have had such a strong presence here since the 90’s. In Buenos Aires, it’s something newer, so with that freshness you can do whatever you want… well maybe not whatever, but almost. Here, I don’t know, its just a different feel. Maybe you need to ask more, seek permission more often before painting. There are so many rules, and different rules than I’m used to. More bureaucratic I think. Well like in every city, bureaucracy is present everywhere, especially in the kind of movement we are talking about, the painting of public and private space.

I was talking about this yesterday in Atlanta while attending this festival, Living Walls. It was well attended by many artists from around the world, really great artists who go there to paint huge murals. I painted while I was there, but didn’t participate directly. A lot of people like it, but then again a lot don’t. They see it as something very invasive, an encroachment of on the visual panorama. Personally I think that’s stupid because they complain about someone who is just painting a wall and it’s just paint. Maybe right beside the wall, on the corner, there’s a homeless guy, or maybe ten homeless guys asking for money to eat, or to feed their kids, but people just see the paint. They don’t see the poverty, they don’t see the people.

That’s one thing that’s very common now in Buenos Aires, these rich old ladies complain so much when I’m painting in the street, they often call the police. Then the police come and I explain that I have permission and then they immediately leave me be. But the old ladies keep complaining. I just want to say, hey come on man, it’s just paint. Don’t worry about it. Worry about your stuff, your life. Or if you want to complain, use that energy to go buy some rice for that guy who is dying in the street. I think the same situation is happening in every city. I think we are very ignorant, sometimes, very stupid.

So you want to wake people up a little bit?

I honestly don’t know if that’s possible, but I do want to shake them a little bit, if I can. To wake up is very difficult, even I can’t wake up, it’s tough to wake up about certain things. !

So you think we all have a little waking up to do? 

Sure, that’s very sure. I was thinking about all this stuff when I was getting here … the world is really fucked up in a way. I was wondering while on the plane for example, where are all these people going after the airport? Where is all the garbage from this plane going? I mean someone gave me three plastic glasses of water, I just need one, not three. They were throwing away all this shit in a bag. I was wondering how many planes will fly in one day, and how much garbage they will throw away, how many dollars they owe to these companies, I don’t know, we are in a very special moment here in the twenty-first century. War is still here, poverty is still here, difference in still there… individuality, materialism… what’s happening with all these aspects to society? Sometimes I feel worried about it, but then I just forget.

Forget out of pessimism or optimism? 

Sometimes I don’t know if it’s good to forget. Sometimes it’s cool, because you can’t live with that weight, all those thoughts I’m thinking now. That’s when I think I prefer to go to sleep and not to wake up. Maybe I need it, like everybody, unless you are Gandi or Mother Theresa or somebody like that.

So do you think we’re headed towards total implosion and eventually we’re really gonna screw this shit up, or we’ll suddenly realise “hey, we need to make some changes fast”? And then maybe we’ll see a shift for the better?

Well I think about that all the time. I don’t know how it’s going to develop. I think it’s likely it will go in the same w, more consumption, more ignorance. And all for the masses. Maybe some people, artists, pacifists, and specific groups of politicos will start to change a little bit, but I think that the outrage of the people will continue on the same path. I don’t know, I’m just looking at the way we are evolving as a human race. I guess time will tell.

Yes, it’s always like that, time will tell. Time is very sage, very knowing, very wise.

While you are in Paris, are you hoping to get any work done?

Yes, I came here first of all to do Le M.U.R.. Before arriving I contacted a lot of Parisian writers, like Sonic. There are a lot of walls I want to make. In fact, I want to make one wall a day. That’s how it has to be this trip, I’m not here to be a tourist. Not this time, it’s all about work.

Proyecto Tenis, Gomo & Blem & Amor street art exhibition Buenos Aires graffiti artist interview Underground Paris“Proyecto Tenis”, Gomo & Blem & Amor, Buenos Aires, 2010.  Creo & Amor, Buenos Aires street art exhibition graffiti artist interview Underground Paris Creo + Amor, Buenos Aires, 2012.               Amor, Buenos Aires interview “Pixoamor”, AMOR rooftop graffiti in Buenos Aires.

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Visit Jorge Pomar’s website. here.

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Lek & Sowat’s Mausolée film launch

Mausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

In August 2010 Sowat & Lek, from France’s DMV crew organised forty French artists to paint out the inside of an abandoned 430,000 square foot supermarket in North Paris. For a year, an illegal artistic residency took place, documented by photo and film and by collecting detritus from the huge squatted complex which has been brought together in this new exhibition in Paris’ 13th arrondissement.

Lek & Sowat tell us that what remains of the site close to Parc de Villette is “a temple dedicated to a disappearing underground culture, slowly being replaced by street art and its global pop aesthetics”.

The project includes work by the following artists:

Apotre, Bims, Blo, Bom.k, Boyane, Brusk, Butterfly, Clickclacker, Dem189, Domone, Fleo, Gilbert1, Gris1, Hobz, Honda, Jayone, Jaw, J.P, Kan, Katre, Keboy, Lek, Manyak, Monsieur Qui, O’Clock, Omick, Onde, Outside, Paum/Sarin, Rems, Res, Romi, R. Skyronka, Sambre, Seth, Shook, Siao, Skio, Smo, Sowat, Spei, Swiz, Tcheko, Thias, and Wxyz

An installation inspired by and made using materials from the site of the “Mausoleum” is now open to view by the public, and the accompanying book, can be bought online, here.

The project is essentially the brainchild of artist Sowat. He was assisted by Lek, and the video was edited by Kan.

Other similar projects include the Underbelly Project and Ghostvillage Project.

Picture found at the North Paris site and framed as part of the exhibition

Mausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Mausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithMausolee Paris exhibition presented by Sowat and Lek of the Da Mental Vaporz crew Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The show finishes on 14 April and is from 3.00 pm to 8pm, at the following address:

11 rue Marie-Andrée Lagroua-Weil-Halle (enter by the front gate of a residential apartment complex, and enter through the first door on your left),

Paris 75013

Métro/Rer: Bibliothèque François Mitterrand

Info: mausolee@hotmail.com

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Interview with Nick Walker

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012Nick Walker’s Vandal character genuflects to the Paris street art scene?

Interviewing a street artist from Britain is an odd first post for a Paris blog on street art, perhaps, but we were keen to find out the latest  from him after the recent swathe of interventions he left for us, produced during February’s freezing conditions – a distant memory in today’s 18 degree Paris sunshine. So, for the record, his debut on this blog reflects his achievements in Paris, and has nothing whatsoever to do with any underhand British favouritism.

In the interview, Walker tells us how he picks his locations and reveals that Paris hasn’t seen the last of him (he may yet return to spend time and learn the language); and that he’s still on talking terms with Banksy, despite exploding a rat.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into street art.

I grew up in Bristol in the UK and got into graffiti art in the early 80s. I was transfixed by music videos like Blondie’s Rapture, Malcolm Mclarens’ Buffalo Gals, and Hip Hop History, an Arena special on BBC2. One of my major influences and turning points was seeing the graffiti artist outlining the Buffalo Gals lettering throughout the video. It was so well executed and spontaneous that I instantly wanted to be able to do it myself. ‘Nick Walker’s first exposure to graffiti’ – the Buffalo Gals music video with artwork by Dondi White.

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012Nick Walker’s first exposure to graffiti – the Buffalo Gals music video with artwork by Dondi White

Your new graffiti artwork around Paris, some of which is in collaboration with London street artist SheOne, features your bowler hat motif . Can you explain a little about these pieces?

The recent artworks scattered around Paris are of The Vandal, a character I created, whose purpose is to travel from city to city throwing his palette of paint down high rise buildings and famous landmarks – his version of ‘painting the town red’. The Vandal’s premiere appearance was in a painting called ‘The Morning After’ which is all about the artist ‘post-action’, as he reflects on a night’s work and enjoys the quiet walk home, still a free man, with the city behind him dripping in rich colour. This concept developed into a series: I’m currently working on the eleventh city, which is Paris.

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012Street artist Nick Walker makes a mysterious reference to “Derby” in this recent work made in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, a collaboration with London graffiti artist, SheOne

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012Testicles, spectacles, wallet … spray can

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012The genie in the bowler hat

How do you pick your locations?  What do you think is the importance of context to your street art?

First I ask a contact in the chosen city to source some walls and then I study photos of the area in order to get a good idea of scale and then I choose which image (stencil) would be appropriate or inappropriate in that specific location. A lot depends on how hot the area is, which direction the traffic is travelling, and how nosey the neighbours are. If you choose a really touristy area the police will be quick to shut you down. Context is very important, too: it’s always a good idea to take the subject matter and place it in a relevant or directly polar environment – a little provocation can be fun at times. I have a mild political agenda but it’s always intertwined with a degree of humour and entertainment.

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright 2012

Nick Walker Street art paris photo: copyright SheOneNick Walker paints in Paris’ 2nd arrondissement last month. Photo: SheOne

Your work, Le Corancan [pictured below], painted illegally Canal Saint Martin in 2010, featuring several veiled women lifting their skirts to reveal their stockings and suspenders as they danced the cancan, was removed almost immediately by the French authorities, and made more than just street art news. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced putting up your work in Paris?

Le Corancan was a rather stressful painting – the deal was to finish the piece before the school opened opposite the wall. A reliable source had said it was likely the care taker would call the police so it was a good idea to start as early as possible. However I forgot to put my watch forward, so was an hour behind, still operating on UK time. We ended up starting much later than hoped, just after 7am, and finished at 10am. I was still painting when the kids started arriving and it was getting a fair bit of attention to say the least, but I finally managed to finish up and move away from the wall. I sat on a bench by the canal watching the police arrive. There were about six on foot, constantly saying “non, non …” into their radios. I hung around for a few minutes and then decided it would be a good idea to go back to the hotel before one of them clocked my finger nails. I knew that this piece didn’t have a very long shelf life, as it coincided with the French government’s final decision to ban the burqa in its capital city. Anything remotely political on the walls around Paris at that time was getting buffed immediately.

LeCorancan-photo-street art paris canala st martin credit-Nick-Walker-2Six women wearing Islamic veils and dancing the cancan painted  just before the French government moved to ban the burqa from being worn in public, painted next to the Canal Saint-Martin in 2010

Tell us where your favourite spots in Paris are for painting, and hanging out?

For painting I don’t necessarily have a favourite niche, the whole city is up for grabs – it’s a case of painting at a spot that makes the most sense at a given time. It can be quite a spontaneous process or heavily planned. The piece we did on Rue de l’Échaudé in the Latin quarter of St Germain-des-Pres was in a good area. We rolled up to a wall opposite Cham’art Contemporain and just got to work – no one cared. In fact, quite a few of the surrounding shop keepers came out and had their photos taken with us. Sometimes blatantly being seen in broad daylight is the way forward. If you’re painting at night on a city wall you look a thousand times more suspect. In terms of hanging out, there’s always a good chance that I may end the night at Le Baron, owned by French graffiti artist Andre.

Nick Walker street art paris photo: copyright 2012A collaborative piece by Nick Walker and SheOne in the Left Bank neighbourhood of St Germain-des-PresNick Walker street art paris photo: copyright 2012

Nick Walker street art paris photo: copyright sheeone
Photo: SheOne

For several of your recent Paris paintings, you collaborated with London graffiti artist SheOne. Are there any Parisian artists with whom you’d like to work?

I like what “Da Mental Vaporz crew” is doing right now, a serious melting pot of styles. I keep seeing the work of Dast on vans around the city. I really like the simplicity of his work. It reminds me of the work of late New York graffiti artist Keith Haring, in a way.

Dast street art paris photo: copyright 2012‘Haring-esque’ street art work by Parisian graffiti artist, Dast

What’s your opinion on the street art culture in Paris? How does it compare to street art in London and Bristol, and other cities around the world?

The graffiti scene in Paris is intense. Paris has had it locked down since day one and you can see that immediately when arriving at Gare du Nord on the train. It’s like a pandemic – no other city is quite so heavily layered up. New York used to be as densely hit in its heyday, but with all the gentrification that’s taken place in the last two decades the crown has been passed to Paris. In London, the Borough Councils and the Police are too uptight about graffiti and relentlessly buff walls, only for them to be re-tagged. It’s a waste of money trying to persistently control and clean so much street art in London. They’re simply shovelling the snow during a blizzard.

Nick Walker street art paris photo: copyright 2012Walker’s Vandal character painting the streets red

Nick Walker street art paris photo: copyright 2012

The exploded rats seen in some of your paintings are aimed at your contemporary, and fellow-Bristolian, graffiti artist Banksy, it’s been reported. Tell us how this discord began.

It’s weird – there have been rumours for some time about this. Yes, it’s a bit cheeky, blowing up a rat but that’s as far as it goes. I was just bringing a bit of edge into the game, and people are still speculating about it. The truth is that I like Banksy, and we still talk.

What are your plans for 2012?

I have a couple projects coming up for Paris, the first of which will happen in April. I’m also in a few group shows, so I’m painting in the studio pretty much every day. My ultimate goal is to get a French tutor and move over at some point. I have much unfinished business in Paris.

What do you think is the importance of street art?

Firstly it’s important for it to be on the street and in the public realm for everyone to enjoy. If an artist calls him or herself a “street artist,” then it is imperative that they be actively painting in social space. A wall, a shutter, a building, an alley way; a blending of aesthetics, humour and a gentle nudge of an idea might just change how a passerby views their day. By changing a known environment, you look again at a familiar site and perhaps see the world a little differently, if just for a moment. The street is the biggest gallery an artist could wish for and it doesn’t matter if it’s illegal or not in my opinion it works better on the street. Also, it’s a gift to the people of the city.

nick walker street art paris photo: copyright nick walker

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Nick Walker’s website: theartofnickwalker.com.