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Street art at Rue Denoyez in Belleville

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithRue Denoyey, Belleville, in the 20th arrondissement.

The Belleville neighbourhood is our favourite street art and graffiti destination in Paris and Rue Denoyez is the main attraction. Since the 1980’s musicians and artists have cohabited with the working class and immigrant communities, Rue Denoyey’s walls have been coated with art, some great, some not so great. The neighbours may have a thing or two to say about this, but their voices are mainly drowned out by the music. One of the best bands to have started out in Belleville is Les Rita Mitsouko.

Diamant, above, makes diamonds by painting onto glass, explaining that he also creates poster and collage work on the streets: “I do not want to be imprisoned by my diamonds. I want to be free to do what I want. I keep the diamond as a signature”. His work is featured on Rue Denoyez, which is a ‘free zone’ and as such, the spiritual centre of Paris’ street art and graffiti scene. The Frichez-Nous La Paix gallery – a project space for displaying work by graffiti and street artists from France and abroad – opened in 2002 to accommodate artists from squats in the area. The gallery is available to the community for free, and exhibition artists must pay a small stipend to cover the charges. Opposite the space is a  large wall for anyone to use express themselves through art, without prior consent.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The blue painted woman in the bottom-left hand corner is by Alice Pasquini, a.k.a. AliCè. Born in Rome, Pasquini is a professional illustrator. Annoyed by female stereotypes proposed by artists who represent women as sexual objects or cartoon heroines, AliCè is interested in true depictions of femininity. She has painted lots with French street artist, C215, and is prolific in the streets of the Paris suburb, Vitry-sur-Seine.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The Sheepest spreads its anti-consumerist message from up high. The artist, comes from outside Grenoble, where once upon a time the authorities ordered all graffiti be removed except sheep. Left alone, they generally last on the wall for around a year before being sheared off by the elements.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

These water-drop shaped portraits nicknamed Dropman (sic [surely Dropmen?!]) are by Ema aka Florence Blanchard. Painter Ema was raised in Montpelier and spent ten years living in Brooklyn. She now lives and works in Paris. You may like to check out her show, Ephemera, on at the moment at Galerie Rue de Beauce.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The building block is by Teurk (Valentin Bechade), a painter, sculptor, designer and performer, from the second generation of graffiti artists in Paris, which became active through the 90s.  In 1995, he travelled to Beirut where he made ​​a series of photos showing the scars of the city archived in its architecture. Concrete is of special interest to Teurk, hence his crude trademark.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

1984 is one of Paris’ most famous graffiti crews. This piece of work has actually been created onto hardboard and stuck to the wall, rather than painted on. The roller is a much-used tool among graffiti and street artists, as well as the more commonly known spray can.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian SmithPortrait of a child with Tin Tin’s dog, Snowy by Swiss artist Bustart

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Peek at the top-left hand corner, where there is one of Space Invader’s prolific mosaics. Known as “Invader” to his friends and work colleagues, he was born in 1969, and started out in his ‘career’ in 1998. His works can be seen in cities across the world, an “Invasion” which he documents, with books and maps of where to find each invader. The locations for the mosaics are chosen according to criteria including aesthetic, strategic or conceptual advantage. An Invader campaign in Montpelier was orchestrated so that, when placed on a map, the locations of all the mosaics formed an image of a giant space invader character. The mosaics are half built in advance and when Invader arrives in a city he obtains a map and spends at least a week to install them, before cataloguing, photographing and mapping the locations of each piece. Invader is one of the artists that features in Bansky-directed 2010 film, “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” He is the cousin of the main character, Thierry Guetta, aka Mr. Brainwash.

Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

The work on the left is by French artist L’Atlas, who is interested in the subject “displacement.” He is a distinguished calligrapher and practices calligraphic abstraction, whereby every letter is considered as a shape and every shape as a letter. The piece on the right is by an Italian woman street artist, Nemo.

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Interview with graffiti collective OnOff

Interview street art graffiti paris LIMO-ONOFFCREW-2

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff

Tell us about your artistic backgrounds.

The OnOff Crew is a group of people, friends that have evolved in different creative areas: design, architecture, graphic design, photography, drawing – we are all working in these kinds of sectors as designers. Our time at university studying art gave us references, practices, cultures, and it also opened our mind in our graffiti art.

We’ve been a crew for three years, based in Paris. Each member comes from a different city and department in France.  Paris reunification has enabled our focus and motivation to grow. We created the crew in Reims where the graffiti scene was not very big but we had some great meetings. The province offered us great blank spaces unlike Paris. What we value most in Paris, however, is the multitudes of styles, people, crews, meetings, events. There is a large emulsion in Paris, and it moves all the time. New pieces appear every day. This is a gold mine for the eyes.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

Do you have favourite spots for making artwork outdoors?

A couple of months ago we were painting on that wall of fame on Rue des Pyrénées. During three or four years, every Parisian crew has made their own piece there. Every weekend it was a special moment with new meetings, new connections, festivals, photography. For us, it was the best place in Paris, not only for graffiti artists, but for families and people with kids to appreciate, to come and enjoy colours in the street. Now it’s dead. RIP that wall.

We don’t think there is a ‘best place’ for street art in Paris because each person can make a place as a unique and special as he likes for himself – all of Paris is a street art map.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

Do you prefer to paint certain places over others?

On the end of the week we are thinking where to paint. Mostly we go to walls that are free to paint. We like to make meetings with others crews. Where we were in Reims we liked to find some empty places, with texture, architecture, special ambiances, factories, abandoned houses. We prefer this context to walls in the street. It makes us paint more expressively and sensitively because we make some link between the space and our paint.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

What other surfaces do you like painting on and what has been the most unusual?

We really like big and high walls outside. Sometimes we work on other surfaces to give to our production new directions: paper, cardboard, canvas, stickers, packaging, bar toilets, people. We make some unusual productions like shoes, boats, clothes, skateboards. There is not a perfect surface as every surface is a new challenge and it makes our experiences more rich and special.

The collective includes graphic designers, video editors, illustrators. How do these techniques feed the work you put up outdoors?

We try to influence our street art by these techniques. For example, we like to put design references in our painting. We enjoy creating links between old references and contemporary practice and visual render. Sometimes we work on infography, folding, to prepare an intervention. We also think we can find reference and ideas in every domain (cinema, theatre, products, publicity, optics) to make our paintings more specific and closed to our ways of work and lives.

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright OnOff crew

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

LIMO - ON OFF CREW Paris Street Art Photo: copyright 2012 Demian Smith

Your recent exhibition at Le Friche gallery in the Paris neighbourhood, Belleville, included an unusual and intricate installation. Can you tell us a little bit about the show.

It’s been a while that we have been questioning the concept of volume in our 2D pieces. The idea at this moment was to introduce depth in the wall by experimenting with the 3D effect of bi-coloured blue and red glasses as an optic graffiti. When Photo Graff Collectif (PGC) & Frichez-Nous la Paix gallery asked us to intervene in their space, we found that it could be a good occasion to push our 3D volume reflexion further. So we be began to think of a unique installation that would fit only in this space for the exhibition. This space had to be the representation of our walls atmosphere in three dimensions. By this way, the spectators were totally emerged in the heart of our world, a surreal and highly coloured world, which was given highlights to have more impact.

Our product design experience at school helped us to make the main idea in volume more concrete, in association with our friends Club 300. We work five days and five nights in a real workshop atmosphere. The whole installation was composed by green and coloured cones, white rabbits, little houses and that black character. The OnOff Black man named “Colonel Prols” landed it this world by chance (as the spectator), and he is surrounded by a world of strange activity, so the name “Enter the Wall” was an evidence for us.

What is the importance of street art do you think?

For us, street art (or street activism) is a way of life. Our eyes and brain are always careful to space, ideas, logotype, advertising, interaction between people and street areas. Our practice gives us the occasion to express ourselves with a huge liberty. Street art is also a medium that helps us to catch people’s attention in their everyday life, no matter the way we do it : graffiti, stickers, drawing, installation, posters.

Do you have any plans for 2012?

Pleasure, laughing, ideas, new concepts, painting, travelling with my homies: Limo, Jok, Olson,  Kanos.

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OnOff give a special thanks to Club 300, Rachel, Louise, Simon, Lucie, Juliette, Arnaud, Jeremy, Margaux, Neoar, and PGC and Frichez Nous La Paix Gallery.