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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.

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Ox détourne les panneaux d’affichage parisiens

OX street art paris 3 IMG_0729-copy
L’artiste français OX a dernièrement détourné des publicités à Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, dans la banlieue sud de Paris, un travail artistique bien spécifique pour le site et le climat de ce lieu hors de la ville. OX aime afficher ses oeuvres dans les paysages arides de banlieue, d’autant plus qu’il devient de plus en plus difficile de détourner les panneaux d’affichage parisiens.

OX street art paris IMG_0747-copyOX street art paris IMG_0725-copyOX street art paris 4 IMG_0728-copy OX street art paris 5 IMG_0767-copy OX street art paris 6 IMG_0764-copy OX street art paris 7 IMG_0775-copy Cette dernière oeuvre incorpore le poteau du panneau d’affichage qu’OX noue et camoufle avec le ciel bleu de Paris. OX habite dans l’est parisien et a transformé des panneaux d’affichage dans toute la France et à travers l’Europe. Pour lui, l’architecture du centre de Paris ne lui permet pas d’exposer ses travaux pour deux raisons : tout d’abord, les rues sont trop étroites et ne permettent pas aux passants d’avoir une bonne visibilité sur ses oeuvres, ce qui ne permet pas non plus de prendre de bonnes photographies. Mais aussi parce qu’il trouve qu’il devient de plus en plus difficile de trouver des panneaux à détourner dans le centre de Paris.

Face àcette difficulté, la première chose qui vient à l’esprit de l’auteur de ces lignes est la pression de la police. Cependant, OX reconnait n’avoir jamais été arrêté en train de coller ses oeuvres d’art minimalistes par-dessus des publicités. La difficulté vient donc plutôt de la prolifération de nouvelles formes de panneaux d’affichage, technologiques, comme les panneaux à publicité tournante, protégés par une vitre, qui ne permettent pas d’y apposer papier et colle. Les panneaux d’affichage à l’ancienne, avec du papier et de la colle, sont aujourd’hui bien plus présents dans les banlieues parisiennes.

OX visitera bientôt Birmingham en Angleterre, où il n’y a encore que peu de panneaux d’affichage technologiques, une donnée qui suscite bien entendu son enthousiasme. Il est très facile de trouver des panneaux en bois dans la seconde ville la plus peuplée de Grande-Bretagne, vous savez, ces panneaux qu’on a tous vu enfants.

Face à l’adversité, OX prend le temps de réfléchir aux lieux dans lesquels il placera ses oeuvres. Cela lui permet également de viser un autre but important pour lui : ajouter un contexte à ses oeuvres. Cependant, il peut y avoir parfois quelques imprévus. Sa dernière oeuvre, par exemple, devait être placée 500 mètres plus loin sur la route, mais le panneau originellement prévu pour accueillir son travail présentait une publicité pour la campagne contre le Sida.OX street art paris 8 OX-original-location-IMG_1204 Le travail de rue d’OX n’est pas dirigé contre la société de consommation de manière intentionnelle. Ses opinions personnelles n’entrent pas en compte dans le choix des panneaux publicitaires qu’il détourne. Malgré tout, on peut affirmer qu’il choisit consciencieusement de ne pas recouvrir les publicités d’utilité publique, comme celle concernant les dangers des maladies sexuellement transmissibles, par exemple.OX street art paris 9 IMG_0721-copy————–

Pour voir le site internet d’OX, c’est ici.

Pour voir le site d’une organisation explicitement contre la société de consommation, qui s’intéresse aux panneaux publicitaires, un réseau mondial de détournement de culture, et des travaux créatifs qui veulent changer les courants de l’information, la façon dont les grandes entreprises exercent le pouvoir, et la façon d’être de notre société, Adbusters, c’est ici

Pour voir le site de Jordan Seiler, le blog Public Ad Campaign, c’est ici