Crossing borders 018: Ralph Ziman

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Do you believe in peace on earth?

Most of my entourage is a little bit older than I am and because of this, babies and marriage are subjects that are brought into a conversation way more often than they used to. Personally, I’m nowhere near ready to have a child… I’m not even sure I want one. For that child’s sake. In 1989, The Miracle was the 13th studio album released by British rock band, Queen. On its title track, Freddie Mercury would sing “the one thing we’re all waiting for, is peace on earth and an end to war/It’s a miracle we need/That time will come one day you’ll see when we can all be friends”…

But what do I know about war? I’m lucky enough to have never experienced it first hand, and even more fortunate to not have lost one of my brothers to the war in Irak and Afganistan. I’m aware of how favored my upbringing in the world was. Not everyone has had my luck. Almost three decades have gone by since Queen’s release of their fifth single off The Miracle. More than 70 years have passed since the end of WWII and still on the news, all I see is humans repeating the same mistakes and bad decisions of the past, humans killing each other over power, land, racism, name it. It sickens me.

Maybe that’s why I love art so much: it opens discussions, and even if the piece is charged with sadness or restlessness, an underlying beauty remains to ease the pain in some of us.

For this Crossing borders’ edition, I was fortunate enough to speak with well-known and recognized South African director, writer and artist Ralph Ziman about his birth country, street art, film making and how he translates his life experiences, skills and learnings into a statement on culture and nowadays world issues into art.

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: You moved out of South Africa at the age of 19, to avoid conscription into the SADF. Were you already inclined to art at the time?
[Ralph Ziman]: I’ve always painted, I’ve always drawn. When I was 13 or 14, I was very much into photography, which fascinated me. I loved it, and I did that. Then, I suppose I started working. My first job out of school [at the age of] 18, was working as a cameraman, so I got into film that way. At every point in my life, I’ve been doing some form of visual art and, you know, from time to time it tends to shift and I do other things, different things.

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[F.P.G.]: Nowadays, you live in Los Angeles with your family. How close have you stayed with your roots?

[R.Z.]: I go back a lot. Some years, I’ll go back 3, 4 or 5 times, sometimes I’ll go back 2 or 3 times, and sometimes I’ll be there for a 6 or 9 months stretch. When I left South Africa, I thought I would never come back. I was eighteen; Apartheid was in full swing and the control it had over everything was absolute. Over the media, over radio, television, what could be shown, what magazines [could be read]… With a police state, in the early 80’s, we found ourselves embroiled in our war on the border. […] In South Africa, we were at the beginning of what was the civil war and they [authorities] were deploying the army into the townships which… none of it was anything I felt I could agree with. I couldn’t just do the military and tell my kids one day I fought on the side of Apartheid because I had to. So the options, they were very [limited]: it was leave and never go back, or stay and do the military. Or, perhaps a third option was to [be opposed to it] and spend maybe 6 to 8 years in a military prison, being abused and beaten. So, I boarded an airplane, and I left.

 

[F.P.G.]: Do you still have family there then?
[R.Z.]: I still have some family there; my parents are still there, I’ve got a brother there…. I still have some good friends from when I was a kid, and I’ve got a lot of friends I’ve made over the years, new friends. So you know, I connect with South Africa and people there. I love it; I love Johannesburg — the cultural aspects of it. I love that it has become this fascinating African city. There were places in Johannesburg when I was a kid -like Hillbrow- you’d go there, and it would be 95% white people… now you go there, and it’s 95% black people. A lot of places are still the same and familiar, but a lot of places have turned on their head. It is really interesting, and the other fascinating thing about Johannesburg now is, it’s not just South Africans; you meet Zimbabweans, Nigerians, Congolese… it’s become kind of this melting pot of Africa where you’ve got big numbers of people from every part of the continent. It is culturally just a fascinating place.

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[F.P.G.]: Being born in Johannesburg, but having spent most of your life living in the USA, where do you stand between what you know, have seen and lived, and the media’s representation of the African continent?
[R.Z.]: I think the way Africa tends to be represented is when there’s a war, a conflict or Boko Haram, and then it makes headlines. The rest of it tends to get very under-covered, and I think it’s a pity in a way because a lot is going on in Africa. I wish [the media didn’t] only show the wars and the most sensational aspects of it. It’s a huge place. News coverage… I mean, sometimes I do wish they would be harsher on governments that are in power about issues of corruption and not living up to the expectations of the people who elected them and put them there. In South Africa, I feel like the money that the country had should have been spent on education primarily, and then on housing for poor people who at the end of Apartheid had nothing, and then on hospitals and people’s health, on having a system to look after people. I think instead, what happened is that huge amounts of money are being served for corruption. Corruption done through massive arms deals, for example. […] It’s always been like that, unfortunately, so now a country like South Africa has one of the world’s biggest gaps between rich and poor.

 

[F.P.G.]: What perspective on art or life have you gained by moving out of South Africa when you did?
[R.Z.]: I mean, I couldn’t stay [in South Africa] because of Apartheid, but I do think there’s something interesting when you leave a country. When you’re away for long periods of time and you come back, you look at everything with a pair of fresh eyes. You look at things that people don’t think are interesting because they see them every day of their lives. As a photographer or as a tourist, a visitor, a guest, a traveler or whatever it is, you’ll go to places and be fascinated by something that people [see] every day. You’ll look at the electric fences of everybody’s homes in Johannesburg, and you’ll go “wow”, but other people have become so accustomed to it… I think in some ways, going back there with a fresh mind and a fresh eye, it has allowed me to see and be inspired by things that might just be mundane if I lived there.

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[F.P.G.]: At the time, your project “Ghosts” provoked heaps of discussion and media coverage. How satisfied are you with the impact it had? Do you still see that project having an impact today?
[R.Z.]: It’s something we want to keep going with. We did the first series in Johannesburg in 2013 […] and they’ve had a great impact, we’re still selling the prints – at least 3 or 4 a month. We managed to get a lot of attention from Huffington Post, BBC, The Guardian, CNN… A lot of people ran pieces on it. I do feel like people saw us and people took notice, and it’s something I want to carry on with, both in terms of raising awareness and donating money to charities that deal with gun violence and issues like that. It’s a project that has a life to it.

 

[F.P.G.]: Nonetheless, that project gave half a dozen Zimbabwean craftsmen 6 months of full-time work. What kind of response did you get from them? Is this something you try to do if possible? Implicate local artists in your projects?
[R.Z.]: It’s been great, because we have a really good relationship and I’ve continued to work with them through the years and I’m even working with them now on new projects. They’re just really great guys. It’s been nice hanging, talking, being with them, you know. The guys I work with, they’re five very different guys in terms of their personalities and their characters, but really, they’re all fascinating people. So yes, it’s an ongoing thing and we want to build it to the point where it’s giving them a full time job working on various projects, so that they can have a full time income and not be at the mercy of how many tourists come this year.

 

[F.P.G.]: With corruption and heavy police presence, to what extent is street art, graffiti or wheat pasting accepted? Was it hard for the Resistance project to see the day in terms of authorizations and such?
[R.Z.]: Well, It’s hard in Cape Town. We just put a new one up in Johannesburg last month, when I was over there. I collaborated with Jesse Hazelip, an artist I really admire. In Johannesburg, you can pretty much do anything you want. You could start putting a mural up in broad daylight and you would probably not get into any trouble for it. In Cape Town, in order to get anything done at all, you need the city to sign off. You need permission from the local municipality. […] It turned out okay and we had the city behind us and they were very in favor of what we are doing.

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[F.P.G.]: What’s the next step on that project?
[R.Z.]: We want to take it and put one in every city in the world. So far we’ve got one in Johannesburg, one in Cape Town, one in the townships around Cape Town, one in Venice, one in downtown L.A., one in South Central L.A. We just want to keep going and see if we can put these up all around the world.

 

[F.P.G.]: What’s your creative process like? Does your strong and successful background in film making has an effect on the way you create and present art?
[R.Z.]: I suppose the thing about film making is that it’s horrible in terms of how hard it is to make one: how much politics are involved, how much money you need to raise… how much of your life gets spent doing non-creative things. Trying to get a budget, figure out how to do it in the time that you have and the money that you have.

I suppose it’s probably subconscious things you learn, that you apply. Then, I think there’s probably a lot of new skills you have to learn, which I kind of love doing. I love not really being able to do what I think I should be able to do. Figuring it out as I go along. There’s something to be said about not being too comfortable in what you do or too sure of yourself. Street art is an amazing way of communicating; it’s not advertising, it’s not a billboard. But it gets people to react.

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[F.P.G.]: Is there a particular medium you prefer using and why? What kind of freedom does it provide you?
[R.Z.]: I just like when you can bring aspects of all of them together. When you can take what you know about photography or filming and use it to help you make a mural. I think nowadays there’s a lot of mediums being brought together by everybody, and I like that.

 

[F.P.G.]: Anything to be released in a nearby future?
[R.Z.]: Probably in about a year or so! It should be really fun!

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© All photos courtesy of Ralph Ziman.

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Ralph Ziman was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1963. He has directed over 400 videos for artists as diverse as Ozzy Osbourne, Toni Braxton, Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Shania Twain and Rick James, winning numerous MTV awards. His work in film includes over six features as a writer/director/producer including Hearts and Minds, the first independent South African feature film to be completed after apartheid. His vivid public art never ceases to raise awareness and open discussions. Heavy issues are put in the forefront: global arms trade, trophy hunting, resistance, a cycle of war, impoverishment and more, turning his art into a statement on culture. Currently based out in L.A. with his family, he focuses on his art practice, and flies back to his hometown a few times a year.

Crossing borders 016: Anthony Lewellen

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I like to think of the act of writing as a constant flow of unexpected, unannounced and raw ideas. More even, ideas that always sound like they can provide you a breakthrough, or even just greater your audience. Realistically though, the gap between that idea and what is poured with ink on a sheet of paper is often so great that many get discouraged, put the pen down and drift away from what they thought would be easy.

When I first pitched the idea of Crossing borders to my editor and manager, there a hint of fear I couldn’t speak to international artists as easily as I intended to, but I was determined to make that soon-to-be-born column my stepping stone to a writing career -so to speak. It was never about making it perfect on my first attempt; style and themes change and grow. It was much rather about making sure I gave myself some time to progress. That, to me, was -and still is- all that matters. Little did I know, a year and a half flew by bringing me here, at Crossing borders’ 16th edition. I present you Anthony Lewellen, an innovator within the pantheon of Midwest graffiti culture, a man of wisdom whose message is all about self-enlightenment and moving towards life fulfillment.

 

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: You were born, raised and still live in Chicago, a city that has had a central role in America’s economic, social, cultural and political history. With a “sink or swim” point of view on life in the big city, what makes Chi-Town so unique and appealing to you in terms of inspiration?
[Anthony Lewellen]: Chicago is an interesting place for sure. It’s one of the biggest cities in the country, but feels like a small town in many ways. It has a very unique sensibility, making it much different than the east or west coast. There is something about the Midwest that is very grounded and practical. I imagine my perspective on it is somewhat unique in that I was born here, so it’s perhaps inevitable that I take a bit of it for granted.

Most of what inspires my work is just intuitive and comes out of absorption and observation. It is easy to derive metaphors from things we see happening around us. Those things happen without the intent to create or mirror other meanings, they just happen, but if you pay attention, you see meaning in these things. If you are born in a place and lived there all your life, it is inherently a part of you as much as you are a part of it. When I’m out, I just see things that I find compelling. I don’t think about it too much, I just know that it’s interesting to me. I take all that in and later it comes out in my work. I would not go so far as to say that I try to be a conduit, but in some ways, it’s true. If anything, it’s like being a conduit with a filter on each end; only letting certain things in, then processes and lets certain things out. In a lot of ways, I think just getting to work is the best thing. Often inspiration is the result of the commitment to work and not the other way around. That might be a Midwest thing, I’m not sure, but my studio practice has over the last few years very much become more focused on a disciplined approach to creating.

 

[F.P.G.]: In 1993, you were interviewed for the Chicago Slices Raw: CTA graffiti contest in which you claimed graffiti was the youngest and truest art form. Do you still feel the same way about graffiti? How so?
[A.L.]: To say that a lot has changed since 1993 would be a tremendous understatement. The world is a very different place now and within that massive context, the relatively tiny culture of graffiti has changed as well. Now it’s also almost necessary to also include the term street art in there as well. For better or worse, there is an overlap between the two and many don’t really understand the nuanced difference between them, but they exist in the same world now.

It’s hard to say for sure what I was trying to articulate with that statement I made over 20 years ago, but what I think I meant was that it was an art form that was still on the outskirts: it had not been monetized or commercially co-opted as cultural cache. There was a bit of that at the time, but for the most part, it was unsanctioned and unrecognized. If you were doing it [graffiti], then you were doing it because you loved to do it, not because you saw it as a springboard for something else.

For me as for a lot of kids growing up in the city in poor neighborhoods, it was something that you could define and create that resonated with the world in which you lived in. It made sense because it was a product of the environment. It made sense to me as a city kid with creative inclinations and there were so many things about it that clicked. It was an authentic culture -or subculture- and the connoisseurs were for the most part the ones who were also the creators. You were taking paint that was made to paint chairs and bikes or whatever and using it in a way it was never intended for. You had to hunt downs caps and steal paint because either you couldn’t afford it or were not old enough to buy it.

I was all very raw, but it’s not like that now. It’s different in almost every way. I can’t say if it is for better or worse. The same happens with so many things once there is a significant commercial interest. The motivation becomes mixed. That might just be my perspective on it, but when I see a $10 can of spray paint branded specifically for graffiti/street artists and graffiti based reality shows popping up, it’s pretty obvious that the culture has changed. You can tell when people do it because they care about what they do and when they just like the label or want to cash in. It can still be an authentic expression; it really depends on individual motives. The waters just got muddier.

[F.P.G.]: What would you describe as being the key defining moment in your art career?



[A.L.]: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I ever really thought of myself as actually having a career; that is probably more a reflection of my life growing up. Even though it is how I make a living and support my family, I just consider myself a working artist. I make work, look for opportunities to share that work and then I work some more. As cliché as it sounds, I consider my whole life as a journey and a big part of that is to always move forward. There are lots of defining moments along the way, but many of them are quite small and for me, mostly internal. If anything, a truly defining moment was when I decided how I was going to define success as an artist. At some point, I realized that if success was going to be defined by external validation as in opportunities, accolades, etc., then I would be subjected to the inevitable ups and downs that they would bring. So I made the conscious choice to anchor myself to something else. For me, that is to create work that I think is good, sharing it and being able to make a living doing that. If anything else comes as a result of that pursuit that’s great, but if it doesn’t, I am not defined by that.

 

[F.P.G.]: Have some of your philosophical, political beliefs or guiding principles changed over time? What impact did you see it have on your artwork?



[A.L]: I’m definitely more philosophical than political. Although to be fair, I’m sure it’s my personal philosophies that move me away from politics. To answer your question directly, I would have to say yes of course. I believe that if we are not constantly examining what we think and what we feel then it isn’t possible to move forward or grow as a human being.

 

[F.P.G.]: Could you elaborate some more on the connection between personal and social awareness when it comes to art?


[A.L]: For me, this is something that I’m always trying to understand better and in particular how it relates to my work. It’s rare for me to intentionally try to explore things in my work as what I create relates to my personal experiences or things going on in our society, but as a being that lives and feels, it is impossible that these things will not become part of who you are and what you do. Most of what I do is purely intuitive. I breathe in and I breathe out. What surprises me is how much of what I feel, sense and process comes out in my art.

 

[F.P.G.]: I fell upon one of Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis’ quotes: “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.” How would you describe your personal artistic outlook on life?



[A.L.]: I actually think you can change reality and a big part of that is how you see and understand the reality in which you exist. I’m not sure I have an outlook on life that could be easily defined. As an artist, I always try to understand what is going on around me. For me, a big part of creating is an attempt in some ways to do that— to understand more about myself and the world I live in. Once you create something, you can step back and ask questions. Human beings are highly complicated things; we process and understand so much unconsciously and those things become part of who we are and we hardly know how or why. One of the amazing things about being an artist is that you can put something out there that may tell you more about yourself than you knew. If you were not making art, how else would that happen?

 

[F.P.G.]: Your project “52 Weeks” came to an end last January. Street art and graffiti’s popularity has considerably risen among people around the world, partly thanks to social media. How did you find the experience of having this project grow through online presence rather than putting up a mural and creating an impromptu conversation with a passerby? What did you like the best and least about the process?



[A.L.]: Over the last few years, I have intentionally created yearlong projects that were documented daily on social media. 52 Weeks was one of those and prior to it was Drawing A Day. Initially, it was just to share my work and have some accountability in my creative process. It ended up becoming almost an extension of what I love so much about working in the public spectrum in the way it engaged people and created conversations. It became a great way to parallel what happens in the street in some respects. Technology has made some pretty interesting things possible and I’m looking forward to take advantage of the ability to live stream and building some projects around that. The best thing about it was allowing people into my process, so they see what goes into creating my work and being accountable of doing something consistently with an audience. If there was a thing I liked least, it was managing the pressure to perform- so to speak. From the beginning, I accepted I would have to learn to do that to contend with taking on a project of that nature, but it would have a way of getting into my thinking from time to time, when really, all I wanted was to focus on the work.

[F.P.G.]: Your first published book “Process” offered the reader an examination of your artwork practice. “A Slow Chipping Away”, is currently in the works. What is it about? When might it be released?

[A.L.]: “A Slow Chipping Away” might be my personal artistic outlook on life. As a book, it is something that is still being developed. It might actually end up being a short film. The overall idea behind it is diligence as it relates to the creative process, but also as a larger metaphor for how I have come to understand how life must be lived. It’s rooted in the principle that seemingly impossible things are really an ongoing series of very small possible things, that when taken on consistently over time, culminate in something greater than the sum of its parts. Originally, it was going to be centered on the daily drawing project and the work that came out of it, but I realized there was more to it than that. It might take a few more years for it to fully come together. It’s still unfolding.

 

[F.P.G.]: What are some of your other upcoming projects?



[A.L.]: Right now, I’m in the middle of working on a short film that centers around drawing, the impact that it had on my life and how it relates to what I do now. I’ve also just begun a new year-long project called 12 Months where I create one large scale piece a month using the same documentation process as the last few years’ projects. It’s a continuing escalation of time and scale. I’m in the planning stages of working with the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and students from the west side of the city sometime this summer. I’m also trying to put together a few mural projects in the Albany Park neighborhood where I live. There are a few group shows coming up that I’m in and some residencies on the horizon. Other than that, just studio work and keeping the lights on.


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Born and raised in Chicago, Anthony Lewellen is a multidisciplinary artist, recognizable by his simple, bold, often pensive and compelling characters. He is a figure within the city’s graffiti culture and keeps “building upon a highly personalized vocabulary”. Though Lewellen is now solely focused on a studio practice, he has worked commercially as an illustrator and art director for more than a decade.

Crossing borders 014: Adida Fallen Angel

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Home. Such an interesting concept.

In its most common sense the word is defined as “a place where one lives; a residence.” It can also mean “a dwelling place together with the family or social unit that occupies it,” “the place, such as a country or town, where one was born or has lived for a long period,” a headquarters, or even the landing page of a website. But what is home really, when you’re on the road and away from friends, family, security, that so-called physical structure?

“Be it ever so humble, it’s more than just a place. It’s also an idea — one where the heart is,” says Verlyn Klinkenborg, in the article “The Definition of Home” published in Smithsonian Magazine almost four years ago. For me, growing up was all about going to school and doing sports, only to then be at home. Until the age of ten, I was the kind of kid who moved too often to ever feel at home anywhere. Of course, as a child, you don’t understand this concept, you don’t see it as it is. You just sort of feel lonely and lost, without any sense of attachment to a city or friends. As Verlyn Klinkenborg, again, explains in the Smithsonian Magazine article, “our psychological habitat is shaped by what you might call the magnetic property of home, the way it aligns everything around us.” The article demonstrates that with the example of how you might come back from a trip, and upon seeing your house, experience the illusion that it’s just like every other house on a street that’s full of them. Once the illusion wears off, that house becomes your home again. For me, a house was never that. Sure I have great memories from the many different houses I’ve lived in, but I have never called them home per se. Which is why at 14 years old and coming back from a trip to Cuba, I felt distressed finding myself wanting to stay abroad. The story repeated itself on each and every adventure from then on. Except now at 25 years old, a month and a half into my Working Holiday Visa in Ireland, I realize that all these years, I’ve fooled myself into thinking I would feel home anywhere else than in Montreal. That I only had to travel and find the city that could bring peace to my troubled state of mind. Funny how really, all I needed was to feel home in my own body and mind. When it comes down to it, what else have you got but you and your thoughts after stripping yourself from the life you had? You, you, you, oh and you again. Technology has made it possible to stay in contact with family and friends —thank god!— but you can’t hangout, they’re there more in support, like beams to your true home.

For this edition of Crossing Borders, meet my good friend and talented artist Adida Fallen Angel: an open-hearted long-time traveller who has also redefined the word home throughout his journey, now finding peace wherever he may be or go.

 

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: About 17 years ago, you decided you were going to follow your dreams by travelling the world, painting and making music. I reckon that’s been quite the journey. Can you tell me about the context you grew up in? How was life growing up in Tel Aviv and why did you feel you had to get out?
[Adida Fallen Angel]: [A.F.A.]: Growing up in Tel Aviv has been always a wild ride for me. I have a love and hate relationship with that city: it fuels me with energy, it has a non-stop action vibe which can make you feel great and alive, but at the same time it drives me mad at times and you can get lost and lonely. The beach, the food, the different changing scenes and the nightlife are always in your system and the need to do something impressive and fresh is constant. It is a small and loud very busy town, yet has a feeling of a massive growing city. It is constantly expanding and buildings are reaching higher tops every year. At some point when I was younger, I felt I needed to see and feel more. I needed to expand my horizons, explore and be alone to see what the world had to show me so I could truly find myself. In Tel Aviv I am too busy to even focus on one clean clear thought, so the decision to get out saved my mind and shaped who I am today.

 

[F.P.]: Having travelled around the world —Brazil, New York City, San Diego, Rotterdam, Berlin, Paris, Montreal— how do you see your art come into play throughout your trips?
[A.F.A.]: As I moved around the world, my skills constantly matured, but going to most of those places wasn’t as much about painting as travelling is for me today. When I was in the USA, I didn’t even draw. I doodled here and there, but nothing serious. In Europe, I started to get into the arts more and it really kicked off in Rotterdam. Again, it was mainly digital art and explorations. Montreal more than any other city has pushed me into classic arts and installations and I owe Tel Aviv for being my street art and large scale murals’ birthplace. Now, whether it’s painting, street art or photography, they are all deep in my veins and I am looking forward to travelling more and improving my skills.

 

[F.P.]: What is the story behind your artist name?
[A.F.A.]: To be honest, I don’t even remember when or how it started, but I know I’ve always had a passion and curiosity for the concept of angels. I believe at some point on my spiritual path, I decided that I was a ‘fallen angel’ who got kicked out of heaven for doing something evil and now I have to earn my wings back by doing good. For some odd reason, that idea made sense to me and it made me very conscious about my thoughts, feelings and actions. It made me focus on the good and forced me —with love— to create a character that strives to serve the people good vibes and positive art. It also leaves my personal life intact; Adi Khavous is a just a regular guy and Adida Fallen Angel is an artist fighting the good fight.

 

[F.P.]: You’ve told me about the city’s activities and fast-paced life. Now, Tel Aviv’s nickname is “The City That Never Sleeps.” Do you feel like it is an accurate description?
[A.F.A.]: That is absolutely true! It is one of the many things I love about the city. At any time, day or night, you can go out, find life, great food, friends, skate spots, parties and so on. Tel Aviv is designed for hard-working people who also love to party and enjoy their hard-earned cash. It is not an easy city, but it’s definitely a bubble of madness and joy constantly reinventing itself, staying fresh and old both at once. I really recommend that people see it for themselves once in their lives.

 

[F.P.]: Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the street art and graffiti scene quite young in the city? Given the current political and socio-economic context, how welcomed and appreciated is street art?
[A.F.A.]: Street art is not new in Tel Aviv, but it has only been getting more hype, respect and heat for the past few years. In fact, for many years, graffiti and street art in the city was hidden, mostly lame and very political. There wasn’t any place to buy gear —i.e., spray paint, paint markers, etc.— so the styles were poor. Then, people slowly started to travel more and get connected [to the Internet]. Social media and street art both started to shape themselves, shops started to sell paint and gear and artists started to explore mediums outside their homes. Graffiti and street art is now very much alive in Tel Aviv, but it is still in its baby stages. The way I see it, new communities are forming, more people are slowly reached by pieces, you see them taking pictures and tagging the artists. There is also a better documentation and now there are even some businesses and street owners that open their hearts and walls for upcoming artists to paint on them. It is still in progress, and far from a European or American scale, but it is a beautiful day for street artists in Tel Aviv as they can finally earn a little living and get a name for themselves. We will see how this progresses in the upcoming year, but I am very happy with the growing opportunity I get here.

 

[F.P.]: A lot of Tel Aviv’s street art is very colourful and has to do with spreading hope messages or showing people the importance of the power of doing. Your work is also very tainted with emotion and messages to the world. Do you believe these themes and colour palettes could have something to do with the socio-political context in the Middle East? Why?
[A.F.A.]: In a way, yes, my art does have something to do with the so-called situation I don’t live there anymore though, so I think of myself as a global citizen whose art reflects the feeling I have about the world around me. I project my emotions and messages wherever I go. I feel the need for love and positive art is growing, within and around me, and so I try to project that vibe on the walls I paint, hoping it brings to the passerby a smile and a deep thought about life.

 

[F.P.]: You were in Montreal for a while until last summer/fall when you went back to Israel. How does it make you feel to be in your birth country? After 20 years of travelling, do you still feel like it is home?
[A.F.A.]: At times I do, at others I don’t. It does feel like some kind of home, but I have long forgotten that concept. I feel that home is wherever I sleep at night or wherever I feel whole and alive. Because I moved so many times, I have learned to appreciate that feeling and invoke it to feel less lonely— or lost. Of course, every time I land in Israel, I get a buzz, a feel for the place that was once the only one I knew … That buzz fades very quickly though and that’s fine because it lets me enjoy Israel as a tourist, with the plus of still calling it home when I need to.

 

[F.P.]: Your most recent project is called “The Love Concept” art installation and is an attempt at finding a deeper meaning to the word love. How did this project come along and what is your favorite thing about it?
[A.F.A.]: The Love Concept project started in Montreal at the Fresh Paint Gallery where I did an intensive installation using wheatpaste, typography and spray paint. Originally, I had no idea how far it would go, but it felt like the subject needed more exploration. When I arrived in Israel with my girlfriend —who is also my co-pilot on the matter— I found myself going back into that subject and before I knew it we were making large-scale murals using the same creative process. I slowly realized how big of an iceberg I had been sitting on for some time. It keeps growing every time we do a new piece, as I am still doing research on the subject. I am currently fascinated with the LOVE idea. What is it? Is it just a word? Is it so cheesy that people now hate it or is it a force of nature that can shape and move societies? Uplift the human kind? Who really knows? All I know is that I want to explore it more and see where it takes me.
Making my art pieces and seeing them come to life is definitely one of my favorite parts of the process, but what I truly like most is seeing how people react to them. When they take extra time to imbibe the art and see the depth of it, they are always stunned by it. Some people get it, some people pass by without even lifting their eyes, some people take pictures and some people come and ask questions and show interest and admiration. I love it all.

 

[F.P.]: If a genie could grant everyone a single wish, what would yours be?
[A.F.A.]: I would love to travel the world while painting large scale pieces of love and beauty and singing positive powerful songs. It’s as simple as that.

 

[F.P.]: In what part of the world can we expect to see new art from you next?
[A.F.A.]: I will be back in Montreal this summer and I hope I can drop some more large scale Love pieces, hopefully expanding to other cities in Canada and maybe going down to the States. We’ll see where Love takes us.

 

 

© Photos courtesy of Adida Fallen Angel, Ana V, Irit Sapojnik, Irit Bithan, Mati Ale & Sand Gold.

Adida Fallen Angel | Website | FB | IG

Born and raised in the grungy streets of Israel, Adida Fallen Angel is an all around the globe visual artist mastering the arts of visual media, filming, photography, V.Jing and curating art shows. He mixes anarchy with spirituality, leaving walls with crisp art and love messages. An important part of his formal art education consists in studying Multimedia Producing at the SAE College in The Netherlands and working with the MAMA Gallery. He has shown a soft spot for Montreal, Canada, is currently back in his birth country, Israel, where he is working on a project called “The Love Concept” art installation.

Polar, tour du monde en Technicolor.

Sur la route de Polar, il y a des rencontres, des couleurs et des surfaces en tout genre… Ce street-artiste franco-américain, padawan du grand MIST, envisage sa planète dans toute sa diversité et sa richesse. Après avoir quitté son Montpellier natal il y a un an, il arpente les routes d’ici et d’ailleurs comme un terrain vierge propice à l’expérimentation et au développement artistique. Après avoir enfanté d’audacieux et espiègles personnages nommés « Bojos », il flirte à présent avec les formes et les lignes d’une abstraction étonnante mais n’en oublie pas moins de représenter des images figuratives défiant les lois d’un réalisme quasi-photographique. Entre les plages de Colombie, la pointe extrême sud du monde – Ushuaïa – ou même la multiplicité des paysages néo-zélandais, il a choisi de s’intégrer dans les vies des habitants de chaque endroit qu’il visite… Mais alors Polar, quand va-t-on croiser ton travail sur les murales montréalaises ?

Polar3Argentine, Ushuaia.

Fresh Paint: Présentes-toi, et parles-moi de ce qui t’a amené à devenir un artiste graffiti.

Polar : Je suis un artiste français de 28 ans, originaire de Montpellier. Passionné de peinture, j’ai commencé à peindre sur les murs de ma ville à l’âge 13 ans. Tout comme beaucoup de pré-adolescents je recherchais la confrontation et l’adrénaline, j’ai donc fini par troquer mes feuilles de papier et mes crayons contre des bombes de peintures et des murs.

Au début, j’en venais même à vendre mes collections de BD et mes CDs à un frauduleux marchand afin de pouvoir m’acheter mes bombes de peintures. On était toute une bande de copains à peindre toutes les semaines sur les murs de la ville, c’est à ce moment là que l’addiction commença.

FP: Peux-tu me dire quel genre d’artiste tu es ? 

P : Il m’est difficile de m’attribuer un genre, mes inspirations sont diverses. Ce que je peux dire c’est que ma peinture évolue constamment au gré des rencontres et de mes voyages. Je ne suis pas uniquement influencé par d’autres artistes, l’architecture et la nature constituent une influence majeure dans mes compositions.
Je me considère comme un artiste urbain qui partage une esthétique abstraite, les interprétations de mes œuvres sont diverses et multiples, une clé peut ouvrir plusieurs portes.

Pllar8wellington
Nouvelle-Zélande, Wellington.

FP: Comment qualifierais-tu de ton Art auprès d’un néophyte ?

P : Les regardeurs sont seuls maîtres de leur interprétation, les gens n’ont pas besoin de s’y connaître en art pour apprécier le mien. Je pense que c’est un des éléments essentiels de l’art urbain : un art vu par le peuple et pour le peuple.

Lorsque je réalise une œuvre, je partage une histoire qui m’est propre mais je ne souhaite à aucun moment diriger la vision des gens, les interprétations sont libres et infinies.

FP: Pour les gens qui te suivent depuis le début, on peut noter une réelle évolution dans ton art. Qu’est ce qui t’a amené à ce changement ?

P : A un moment donné dans mon parcours artistique je me suis senti bloqué, pris dans une routine. Les gens attendaient toujours la même chose de moi. J‘avais besoin de sortir de là, j’ai donc décidé de prendre un chemin opposé, privilégiant un travail d’atelier au travail de rue, afin de revenir avec un nouvelle approche, plus riche et plus variée. Cette stagnation artistique a aussi beaucoup alimentée mon envie de départ, de découverte et d’enrichissement culturel. L’on pourrait associer mon voyage actuel à une forme de retraite artistique.

polarBolivieBolivie, Sucre.

FP: Est-ce que tu choisis les endroits où tu voyages en fonction du potentiel créatif qu’il y a là bas ? Ou est-ce une fois sur place que tu te sens inspiré et que tu produis ?

P : J’ai pour habitude de choisir les endroits ou je voyage en fonction de la culture du pays et aussi possibilités qui peuvent s’ouvrir à moi une fois sur place.La plupart du temps je trouve des contacts une fois sur place et ensuite l’improvisation créé sa part d’aventure.
Il m’est difficile de produire au préalable car j’aime avant tout prendre en compte le milieu qui m’entoure. Chaque peinture se doit d’être en accord avec son environnement.

FP: Depuis que tu es parti, racontes moi la journée typique de Polar.

P : Il n’y a pas de journée typique, depuis que je suis en Nouvelle Zélande, la vie coûte cher donc il me faut travailler pour pouvoir continuer ma route, je ne voyage pas seul donc il me faut aussi faire des concessions.
Je pense à mon art quotidiennement, je dessine beaucoup et prends beaucoup de photos qui feront partie d’une base de données et alimenteront mes prochaines peintures. Je suis en constante recherche, l’on pourrait dire qu’une journée typique de Polar est constituée essentiellement de recherches de formes, de matières et d’harmonie.

Polar6colombieColombie, Cartagena.

FP: A quelle fréquence changes-tu de pays ? Quel périple as-tu déjà fait ?

P : J’ai débuté mon voyage en Amérique du sud, où j’ai passé environ 3 semaines à 1 mois et demi par pays, selon l’importance que j’y ai accordé. J’ai commencé par l’Argentine (Buenos Aires) et j’ai fini au Costa Rica (San José) le tout essentiellement en bus.
A présent je suis en Nouvelle Zélande depuis 5 mois et je pars bientôt pour l’Australie, où je compte y rester au moins 1 an, pour la suite, nous verrons au moment voulu.

 

FP:Jusqu’à présent, quel pays a été le plus prolifique pour créer ?

P : Je pense que L’Argentine a été le pays le plus prolifique en terme de nombres d’œuvres et de diversité des supports, parallèlement à la ville de Valparaiso au Chili, où l’ art urbain à une grande importance dans l’histoire de la ville.
Cependant les plus beaux projets réalisés ont été en Colombie, un pays pour lequel j’éprouve une affection particulière.

PolarOuarzazatMaroc, Ouarzazate.

FP: Ton but ultime serait de laisser une trace dans tous les pays où tu vas ?

P : Ce n’est pas mon but ultime, mais cela me paraît important de laisser une marque de mon passage dans les pays que je traverse. Je pense que c’est avant tout l’idéal de chaque artiste qui utilise les murs des villes comme moyen d’expression.

 

FP :Quelles sont les différences d’un pays à un autre en terme de Graffiti ?

P : Le style, les formes, les couleurs, même si de nos jours je ne vois plus trop de différences. Avec internet et la mondialisation maintenant ont porte tous les mêmes chaussures, on veut tous les mêmes téléphones et on fait tous plus ou moins les même graffitis.
Je trouve que les différences de graffiti d’un pays à un autre se distinguent de moins en moins.

Polar7NEWZNouvelle-Zélande, Wellington.

FP: Enfant, tu t’imaginais comment ? Et dans dix ans ?

P : Enfant je m’imaginais archéologue et dans dix ans, je ne m’imagine pas encore, parlons plutôt du présent et nous envisagerons le futur plus tard, laissons place au hasard de la vie.

 

FP: Quels sont tes projets à venir ?

P : J’ai un projet mi-Mars commissionné par la ville de Wellington. Je vais intervenir sur les murs d’un parc en collaboration avec une artiste locale qui réalise des fresques murales en mosaïque. Elle a notamment beaucoup travaillé en Amérique du Sud et tout particulièrement dans des favelas au Brésil. Le but est d’associer nos deux univers sur les murs du jardin public afin de lui redonner une nouvelle image plus contemporaine et chaleureuse.

Ensuite, je pars pour l’Australie où je l’espère de nouveaux projets m’attendent.

Polar1Maroc, Marrakech.

FP: Un mot pour les montréalais ?

P : Depuis le début Montréal fait parti de mon voyage. Ma route sur le continent américain n’est pas fini, donc j’ai envie de vous dire à bientôt sur un mur, dans un bar et sous le soleil j’espère!

 

Chili, Valparaiso.

Crossing borders 011: Des X

Crossingborders_artwork_H670px

 

When I think of my high school prom year, I get vivid flashes from my orientation classes. At the time, I was an A-grade student and didn’t think much of parties, drinking and late night chillings. Needless to say, for many of the friends I hung out with at the moment, it was all the same. Instead of that, rested on our lips that one question adults had managed to get us nearly obsessed with: “now that high school is done, what do I want to do with my life?”

Eight years later and my share of studying done, I work full-time on my sound technician career in a recording studio in the city, but yet fail to feel entirely content with what I’ve accomplished. I’ve always been one to work on plenty projects at the same time and so feeling like I’m only one thing — just another sound technician, really — is nowhere near satisfactory. Because really, what if we could be more than “just one thing”? In Alanis Morissette’s — a Canadian-American alternative rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, record producer and actress — introductory post featured on her new blog, she reveals she was made fun of “for having many passions, wanting to express in many forms — as though we could only be ONE THING; I don’t know anyone who is ONE THING”, she says.

I often wonder why we choose to define ourselves by our professions. It’s almost as if we’re constantly looking for who we really are without ever finding reassuring answers leaving us  the easy way out defining ourselves by what we do. Think about it; the first thing you ask after “hi, how are you?” when meeting someone, is almost always “what do you do?”. What we “do” has taken such a great importance that I’m scared it will only get harder for high school graduates to choose what they want to do for the next seventy-some years.

Personally, I have decided to quit my career job, apply for a 2-year working holiday visa in Ireland, work on my writing and see where it takes me. Others, like Des X, choose to work on other projects in parallel with their career choice. And while some may feel absolutely comfortable with being “one thing”, for others, maybe coming and going is what makes us who we are.

 

Fresh Paint Gallery: Hi Des X. For starters, could you tell me a little about your personal and educational background?

Des X: Hi! At first I was focused on humanities yet I graduated in architecture. As for personal background information, I grew up with the late ’80’s alternative culture, so my first passion was to listen and play thrash metal. After a couple of years of radicalism, I opened up my mind to different underground cultures.

 

FP: How was the street art scene in L’Aquila when you first started painting? Was it more about graffiti back then?

Des X: There wasn’t a scene. As you say, it was all about graffiti.

 

FP: If your hometown’s urban art scene had to be a musical genre, what would it be?
Des X: Probably old school rap, but now with my work and other interventions in the contemporary art field, I think the genre would be changing towards something like progressive or fusion.

 

FP: Back in 2011, what motivated you to start a artistic career on the side of your architect career?
Des X: Drawing is something I started a at very young age and I’ve occasionally produced artworks along the years. In 2011, I increased my art production. Living through the 2009 earthquake and moving to Rome — a culturally stimulating environment — in 2011 were the key points in transforming a natural inclination to a way of life. However, if those were certainly the key points to getting me to paint on the street, my involvement in the underground scene movement and the friendship I’ve developped with some graffiti artists have also played an important role.

 

FP: Why choose to express yourself through a mix of elements from abstract expressionism and realism? How did you develop that particular style?
Des X: I didn’t choose my style. What it comes out as, it’s the way I look at the world and its complexity. My artistic research origins from a strange kind of dissatisfaction regarding contemporary and modern art. In fact, I love the intellectual efforts, but I’m very often bored by the results — the same goes for the graffiti art scene. For those reasons, my style is balanced between an inner necessity to express myself in a rough way and the will to tell a story.

 

FP: What vision did you have as an artist when you started painting and how has it changed since?
Des X: When I started doing urban art, my vision was focused on the recovery of my alternative cultural heritage. Now at recent urban art more deeply. I think we are planting a seed to change the perception of our cities and the buildings we are living in. During my studies in architecture, I was taught — like thousands of other architects —  to consider the decorations as a crime. This was according to Adolf Loos. However, after a personal tormented intellectual period, I rejected this position. All I saw was an instrument of the industrial age built to uniform and control masses. This enlightened me on the role of street art, urban art and muralism in western societies.

 

FP: Generally speaking in Italy, to what extent is street art and graffiti accepted by authorities and public?
Des X: Street art is now well accepted, but the situation is different between big cities and small towns. People’s firsts thoughts are that street art is graffiti and graffiti is vandalism, but after an initial shock, the population generally loves the murals. The situation about graffiti (bombing and tags) is different though, as they are condemned as vandalism.

 

FP: What could you risk if police arrested you for “vandalizing buildings and properties”? Jail time, fines, community work?
Des X: You know, Italy is a lazy place. It depends on the officer’s will, on his judgment about your work and on the place involved. In theory though, if you paint a wall, you risk jail for vandalism and if you paste up a poster, you risk a fine.

 

FP: Where do you personally draw the line between art and vandalism?
Des X: I think it’s about the intentions and the way your action works with the surroundings.

 

FP: What does being a street artist mean to you?
Des X: It means having the opportunity to leave a message, travel and confront different people. It is also the achievement of some kind of self-controlled freedom; playing with what’s socially accepted and what’s not.

 

FP: How do you feel about your status in the muralism scene?
Des X: I consider myself as an emerging artist, but things around me are changing and wall painting opportunities are increasing. If I look back at myself a few years ago when I was just a loneliness guy with two spray cans in hands, I think I’m walking through my journey the right way.

 

FP: Last year, you organized the Re_Acto Fest, an urban art and street culture festival in L’Aquila. Was it the first time you organized something of this scale? How did you find the experience?
Des X: Yes, it was the first time and I had to solve a lot of problems. First of all, I had to face the false belief that a group of terrible vandals was putting under siege the town… This caused serious damage on the fundraising and other things, but after the first artwork  was shown, the public’s mood radically changed and the festival could run the way it was supposed to. The experience was very good while also being emotionally intense. Overall, working with great artists in my wounded town and having a strong collective behind the project has generated unexpected results.

 

FP: Graffiti and street art have forever been tainted with political undertones and cultural issues. Do you have any thoughts about the direction street art culture has taken over the past years?
Des X: There is currently a strong debate on the nature of street art. Some think that the recognition of street art in the global system of art — with legal spots and public funding — would mark the end of a movement, but I think some might refer to muralism in particular. As long as someone finds a creative and free way to say something in a public space, street art will not die. We are all staring at giant commissioned works today, sure, but there is still a flame. We have just to set our sight on a smaller scale to find it.

 

FP: What are your plans for the next upcoming months?
Des X: To paint!!!

 

© All photos courtesy Des X.

Des X | FB | IGWebsite

Des X is an Italian architect and artist born in L’Aquila in 1976. Living and working in Rome, he expresses himself mainly through oil painting and muralism. In 2011, he decided to start an artistic career besides his architectural practice, and to this day, still considers himself as an emergent artist. His style plays with abstract-expressionism and realism. Most of the walls he has painted can be found in Italy (Rome, L’Aquila, Modena) and in the United Kingdom (Bristol, Blackpool). Des X is also the creative mind behind the 2014 Re_Acto Fest — an urban art and street culture festival which took place in his hometown hit by an earthquake 5 years prior.

Papiers Peintres | Ella & Pitr

La ville moderne, de Baudelaire à aujourd’hui, a souvent servi d’inspiration pour bon nombre d’artistes, tous mouvements confondus. Son activité incessante, sa perpétuelle transformation et ses passants pressés sur les trottoirs, ont influencé le travail de plusieurs à travers les années. Encore plus que les autres formes d’art, une oeuvre d’art de rue, par son emplacement, entretient un lien indéniable avec la ville. Son sens, sa beauté ou sa force est souvent directement relié à son contexte urbain. Alors que certains artistes vont préférer crier haut et fort leur message en l’apposant sur les murs les plus visibles possibles, d’autres préfèrent infiltrer des espaces non-conventionnels, et parfois quasi-invisibles.

La série des Sommeils lourds du duo des Papiers Peintres, formé par les artistes français Ella & Pitr, est le parfait exemple de ce type d’interventions. Visibles dans plusieurs pays à travers le monde, leurs géants endormis sur le toit de bâtiments viennent confronter l’image qu’on se fait de la ville. Contrastant drastiquement avec l’animation de la rue quelques étages plus bas, les oeuvres de la série proposent plutôt un moment de calme et de répit dans le tourbillon constant du quotidien. Tout recroquevillés, trop grands pour le petit espace qu’ils semblent s’être trouvé, les colosses ont réussi à s’endormir dans le brouhaha constant de la ville.

Ella&Pitr, Montréal 2014

Basé à Saint-Étienne en France, le duo gagne en popularité rapidement à l’international. En juin dernier, les géants d’Ella & Pitr sont venus s’installer sur six toits montréalais, s’ajoutant ainsi aux autres personnages endormis effacés par le temps qu’ils avaient créés l’année précédente. Ne cherchant pas être vu de tous, puisqu’inaccessible pour le simple quidam, ils vivent à travers la photographie. Les images qui s’en résultent ont une certaine beauté dans le contraste des proportions personnages/ville. Les personnages monumentaux détonnent dans la grandeur de la ville, qui soudainement sous la lentille des artistes se fait toute petite. Les artistes questionnent ainsi les notions d’espace et de distance. Il y a quelque chose de poétique dans l’idée que le recul est obligatoire pour comprendre l’ensemble de l’oeuvre et de son contexte.

Ella & Pitr font aussi plusieurs autres séries, mettant souvent en vedette la même « famille » de personnages qu’on peut ainsi reconnaître dans les différentes villes où ils passent. Ils sont entre autres connus pour leurs oiseaux qui semblent avoir peine à s’envoler et leurs portraits de grands-mères parfois ennuyées et d’autres fois aux allures plus enfantines. Les personnages sont occasionnellement coiffés de couronnes, ajoutant un petit côté ludique aux portraits. Généralement réalisées en noir et blanc, les artistes enrichissent parfois leurs compositions d’une petite touche d’un rouge éclatant pour venir dynamiser le tout. Qu’on ait l’occasion de voir les oeuvres in situ ou simplement par l’entremise de la photographie, qu’on les croise tous les jours ou une seule fois, les oeuvres d’Ella & Pitr sont comme un petit remède pour combattre la grisaille de la ville moderne.

Crédits photos : Ella&Pitr

Crossing borders 006: Daan Botlek

Crossingborders_artwork_H670px

For some, growing up and living an adult life in the ‘system’ is absolutely fine. However, certain individuals feel constrained by the ‘system’. Without fail, they will question it and live in its margins.

This brings me to one philosophical notion: the concept of happiness. It has been the subject of discussion for a tremendous amount of years and most philosophers agree that it should be defined as one of these two things: a state of mind or a life that goes well for the person leading it. Problem is: happiness is not measurable, profitable nor is it tradable. It’s intangible and like every other intangible things, us humans, seek to define it.

A few theories about happiness are frequently brought up: hedonism — which identifies happiness as the individual’s balance of pleasant over unpleasant experiences—, life satisfaction — which identifies happiness as having a favourable attitude toward one’s life as a whole—, the emotional state view theory — which identifies happiness as an emotional condition as a whole— and the hybrid theory which identifies happiness as both life satisfaction and pleasure or emotional state.

Because this matter can be so thoroughly discussed, this short introduction can only give a quick overview of these theories. However, looking at the concept from a non-philosophical standpoint, people can be happy if they have something to strive for. Others, if their main goal is to fulfill their own expectations, hereby live freely. However, even the happiest people will see clouds over their heads once in a while. Human nature sees negativity everywhere. Aristotle once said: “happiness depends upon ourselves”. It’s just a matter of putting our minds to it. It’s doing what we want to do, for ourselves.

Daan Botlek is a Dutch artist who doesn’t depend on others to lead a happy life, through his own expectations and without system constraints.

 “I do a lot of different things, and sometimes I paint walls. I just do what I like to do in that moment, and don’t really look at what other people do. I don’t try to be up to date with the latest trend. I see it when I see it, that’s all.

– Daan Botlek

[Fresh Paint Gallery]: Hi Mr. Botlek. For starters, how did you see your future as a kid? Did you expect ending up in the arts?

[Daan Botlek]: I don’t think I had plans for the future. I still don’t. I guess I wanted to be an explorer. Heavily inspired by Indiana Jones and the Goonies, of course! Or become an inventor. But ending up in the arts is something I never expected or aspired to. As a kid, I was good at drawing but art was a weird world for me. I couldn’t understand it.

 

[FP]: In a past interview for Frank151, you said that you had started different educations but always seemed to be disappointed in them. What was it that disappointed you? What alternatives or piece of advice would you give out to people who like you, feel this way about how education?

[DB]: It’s hard to speak for others as everybody experiences it differently.

Primary school was a lot of fun learning all the basics; the world was one full of possibilities and dreams. But that untamed motivation disappeared in high school. I started to question a lot of things: the underlying structures of everyday life, of situations, of institutions (like school). Existential questions that were left unanswered. You can learn a lot in school, but knowledge isn’t the driving force, it’s proving you can get good grades.

Doing the same thing in every class, every day, every semester, every year was pretty devastating. It was like Groundhog Day. It was even more painful to realize that most people are convinced that working hard [to get a good grade] is a sign of intelligence. If you didn’t live up to other people’s expectations, you were just a lazy dreamer. Answers were much more important than questions. Knowing was more important than understanding.

I became completely apathetic. I didn’t do anything, had no motivation and couldn’t concentrate. School seemed to go nowhere with no apparent goal. Like a big black hole sucking me in. Going to school made me feel stupid. The only motivation came from cheating and finding ways to beat the system. It was the only thing that encouraged real life skills like creativity, ingenuity and people smarts. Paradoxically, you only learn about life after graduation. In school, you are kept away from it [life].

In continuing education, I kept the same mentality. I had a hard time taking anyone seriously, especially teachers. We didn’t share the same views, ambitions and expectations. I was bitter and very skeptic, but it’s okay now. After graduation, you can start pursuing your own dreams and get rid of other people’s expectations. It was a very long detour, but I’m now where I want to be and things are working out fine.

 

[FP]: What are the main difficulties for an artist living and working in Netherlands? How hard was it for you to stand out in a country with so many artists and such a strong art history?

[DB]: The main difficulty is the general mentality about art. Netherlands is a country of hard working no-nonsense people. Of entrepreneurs. Whereas as being an artist is seen as a hobby and people wonder how you’ll make ends meet. It only counts as a ‘real’ job if you make enough money.

For me, being an artist has never been a job but rather a way of life. To stick out is not important. It’s important that I can live the life I want to live. It is important that I can investigate, wonder, experiment, learn and share. I constantly have to find new ways to get a satisfying conclusion. Money and popularity should never be the goal. It will make the work predictable because it’s living up to other people’s expectations. I don’t mind popularity, but I don’t want it to govern my work and direction in life.

 

[FP]: The Netherlands has a long history of cultural social tolerance and is now perceived as a liberal country. To what extent do authorities accept street art in the country? Do cities tend to help artists from that discipline?

[DB:] To authorities, street art is graffiti and there is a zero tolerance policy. Also, homeowners are not in a position to give permission to paint their wall; the city government decides of that. It makes it very hard to negotiate projects. Any graffiti you see is ‘hit-and-run’ stuff. In Rotterdam and some other cities, there are some organisations trying to conceive big mural projects, but it takes time to convince the politicians of the benefits for the neighbourhood. Then again, I haven’t been in the Netherlands for almost a year now so I’m not sure what the current situation is.

 

[FP]: You tend to work hand in hand with the architectural elements of the building you’re painting on, which in the end creates a impressive pieces of art. Other than that technique, what is your approach to painting a huge scale drawing or painting?

[DB]: These are two different things requiring each a different approach. Indeed I make use of architectural and natural elements in such way that all of the surroundings become part of the painting. I just have to put some characters in the ‘scene’ and it will influence the complete environment. People have asked me to make canvas paintings of these characters but so far I have never seen a reason to do so. To put these characters on a canvas felt like putting them in a box, a prison. This idea actually became the concept for a new series of drawings and eventually some canvas paintings. I start with drawing a box. In this box, I put some basic elements to create an environment: a construction of stones, ropes, transparent geometric shapes, etc. In this environment, I put some characters involved in some activity or interaction; it’s not really clear what’s going on. For me, this is a new way of conceiving an image and a new playground to explore.

 

[FP]: You’ve been said to try to get people out of their comfort zone by using small provocative, disturbing and minimalistic anonymous naked human bodies on huge scales. Dutch artists such as Joep van Lieshout, Aernout Mik or De Rijk and De Rooij, all in different art disciplines have also used disturbing and provocative themes for their work. What can we make of this? Is the use of these recurrent themes part of a continuation in condemning something somehow? What do you like about those themes?

[DB]: Ha, okay, put like this it’s a bit out of context, but yes, I like to get people out of their comfort zone. I try to do so by creating images that are not clear. You will recognize everything you see in the image, but you still won’t have any clue of what’s going on. That is, unless you come up with your own story. But a lot of people demand an explanation. People need answers, but I don’t give answers, I give questions. The image is a formula, not the outcome. The audience has to participate to come up with a satisfying conclusion.

A question will make you reconsider reality. That is what art has been doing for the past 150 years or so: questioning our concepts of reality. Art is a way of peeking through the fabric of illusions we tend to create for ourselves, and that can be pretty confronting.

 

[FP]: Tell me if I’m wrong, but neither your paintings nor murals ever have titles. Why is that?

[DB]: Yes, for a long time I refused to give titles because I had the idea that it would define the work. After a while, I realized people made their own stories anyway, no matter the title. So a year ago, I abandoned the ‘no title strategy’. In fact, coming up with a title is one of  my favourite parts of making art. It’s an extra game to play.

 

[FP]: What has been the most inspiring spot to paint at and what’s one place in the world you would like to hit up? Why?

[DB]: That would be all the beautiful abandoned buildings and factories in Leipzig, Germany. A massive playground for exploring and experimenting. I go there every year to do a project with some other artists, culminating in an exhibition in one of those abandoned buildings. I’d love to paint in a big cave, one with cathedral like proportions. The result should be a mix of paintings, sculptures and installations. Cave paintings have always been a source of great inspiration. The mysteries surrounding them and their creators make my imagination run wild.

 

[FP]: Nowadays, many issues come along with the explosion of Internet. With everything being more accessible, art is being commercialized more and more. Other issues can include suing for breach of property rights and so on. What’s one issue or problematic you feel close to when looking at today’s urban art scene? Why?

[DB]: Well, I don’t know much about the urban art scene. I have more of an interest for art in general. Of course, a lot is focused on fairs and sales. That results in a lot of very good work but also very predictable art. I don’t know if that’s good, bad, or even a new issue. I don’t care much about it; I just focus on my work and life.

 

[FP]: Over email, you told me you had been travelling since April… What will you be working on in the next few months? Are you planning on heading back to Holland for a while?

[DB]: At the moment, I’m still in Bangkok where I just finished my first solo exhibition in Asia. I’ll stay in the area for a while to finish some other work. Then, I have to get back to Holland. I’ve got some exhibitions and projects coming up in Vlissingen, Rotterdam, Berlin and Leipzig. I’m very much tempted to go back to Bangkok soon. It’s a very inspiring place with an energetic art scene.

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Considered by many as a black sheep in the field of art, Daan Botlek enjoys bridging paradoxes. The Dutch artist is famous for his wide murals and paintings throughout the world. Associating him solely to this unique type of work though, wouldn’t be an accurate description. From miniature designs to huge wall paintings, every single piece he delivers seems to raise questions as he plays with architecture, perspective and impossible spaces giving the notion of entrapment to his art. 

Daan Botlek’s latest work was showcased in the “Inhabitated Hypercube” solo exhibition held in Bangkok. A few of the artist’s past exhibitions and events include “St+Art Mumbai” (Mumbai, India), “Graffiti and Street Art festival Styria” (Fürstenfeld, Austria), “Le M.U.R.” (Mulhouse, France), “Ampelhaus” (Oranienbaum, Germany), “Neurotitan” (Berlin, Germany), “Gallery Frank Taal” (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) and “If Paradise Is Half As Nice” (Leipzig, Germany).

© Pictures courtesy of Daan Botlek. All rights reserved.

Interview | Nelio, le désorde structuré.

Malgré son emploi du temps surchargé, l’artiste français Nelio nous a accordé un peu de son temps afin de discuter de son travail, ses voyages, et sa vision des scènes “Street Art” française et étrangère.
Rencontre

[Fresh Paint] Peux-tu expliquer ton background ? Comment as-tu commencé à faire de l’art ? Qu’est-ce qui t’as inspiré et qu’est-ce qui t’inspires ?
[Nelio] J’ai découvert le graffiti lorsque j’avais 13/14 ans. Le plaisir de créer des lettres m’a rapidement conduit à m’intéresser au graphisme. Ce qui me plaisait le plus dans cette nouvelle passion, c’était de créer des logos, et de faire des visuels déclinés en sérigraphie.
Je pense que mes graffitis ont évolué lorsque j’ai commencé à y incorporer cette influence liée au graphisme. Peindre des formes qui avaient la symbolique d’un logo, avec des aplâts de couleurs pures comme c’est souvent le cas en sérigraphie.
Depuis 4 ans environ j’ai arrêté de faire du graphisme et je consacre pleinement mon temps à mes créations personnelles. Étant autodidacte j’ai de sérieuses lacunes au niveau de l’histoire de l’art, mais c’est un sujet qui m’intéresse de plus en plus et je rattrape mon retard progressivement au fil des découvertes. J’aime beaucoup voyager et c’est dans ces périodes là que je suis le plus productif. Découvrir de nouveaux lieux, cultures, ambiances et personnes est très inspirant. Ça ne se ressent pas forcément visuellement dans mon travail qui suit un fil conducteur assez strict, mais ça m’aide à avoir l’esprit plus alerte, plus ouvert, pour trouver de nouvelles idées.

 

Granada, Spain, 2013

Granada, Espagne, 2013 

[FP] Ton style est à la fois désordonné et très structuré et géométrique, comment définis-tu ton esthétique ?

[Nelio] Mon esthétique est assez proche du constructivisme et du suprématisme.
Pendant longtemps je suivais des règles que je m’étais créées, je peignais un peu comme on joue aux Lego ou un jeu de construction. Essayer de créer de nouvelles compositions avec des éléments limités (carré, cercle, triangle,…), et que ceux-ci soient toujours en lien par rapports aux autres.
J’essaye maintenant de briser ces règles en y ajoutant des éléments qui vont créer une rupture, un contraste.
Pour le moment, dans leur structure, ces nouveaux éléments restent les mêmes que ceux que j’utilisais, sauf qu’ils sont comme déchirés. Un rectangle devient ainsi une forme composée de deux lignes droites reliées par un angle droit et une troisième ligne, qui elle est plus libre, et plus aléatoire. Cette volonté provient de mon intérêt pour les lieux abandonnés, où tu peux trouver des murs très rectilignes avec certaines parties qui s’effondrent. Je trouve la symbolique et le contraste très intéressants et c’est ce que j’essaye de reproduire dans mes peintures en ce moment.

 

Porto, Portugal, 2013

Porto, Portugal, 2013 

 [FP] Tu utilises des formes d’expression vraiment différentes, j’ai vu des grandes murales, des expos de print et même une sculpture, quelle est ta relation à chacune de ces formes ? As-tu un favori ? Est-ce-qu’un des moyens d’expression t’as poussé à dépasser tes limites ou t’as fait sortir de ta “zone de confort” ?

[Nelio] J’aime expérimenter différentes techniques car je trouve que ça nourrit et fait évoluer mes créations.
Un très petit dessin sur papier réalisé avec un stylo super fin, sera complètement différent d’une peinture dans un lieu abandonné par exemple. L’un, axé sur la méticulosité, aura un aspect plus intime et précieux, tandis que la fresque s’appréciera davantage avec un certain recul, car elle est indissociable de l’ambiance qui l’entoure, et subira plus rapidement les effets du temps. Les deux sont intéressants et j’aime jouer avec leurs  codes. C’est ce qui me pousse aussi à peindre à la fois sur de très petits formats et des grandes façades, sur toile et autres supports, faire de la sérigraphie, de la gravure, des sculptures en bois…
Souvent, le choix de la technique et du support peut découler d’une contrainte extérieure, ou que je me fixe moi-même. Par exemple, comme je voyage beaucoup, je ne suis pas souvent dans un atelier et je n’ai donc pas beaucoup de matériel disponible dans ces moments là.

 Cela m’a fait commencer une série que j’ai envie de continuer le plus longtemps possible: des dessins en trame avec un stylo à mine très fine. Auparavant j’utilisais beaucoup de couleurs dans mes dessins. Pour des raisons pratiques j’ai commencé à n’utiliser qu’un seul stylo noir, cette contrainte m’a permis d’expérimenter et de travailler les différents tons de couleurs grâce aux trames. Comme je trouvais le rendu intéressant, j’ai commencé à transposer cette technique sur mur. Maintenant j’utilise souvent qu’une seule bombe de couleur noire pour faire mes peintures, c’est à la fois plus économique et moins volumineux dans le sac à dos, mais surtout ça me permet de garder des parties du mur avec des textures intéressantes qui restent visibles à travers mes formes.
Avec cette série je met un peu mon travail sur les couleurs de côté pour me focaliser principalement sur la composition. Ça m’a aussi permis d’expérimenter avec les formes positives et négatives, et de développer un travail plus approfondi sur la lumière et les points d’entrée dans une peinture.

 

Exposition Knotenpunkt, Hamburg, Allemagne, 2014

Exposition Knotenpunkt, Hamburg, Allemagne, 2014

[FP] Tu as travaillé avec des enfants et dans ce que je crois être des quartiers défavorisés, quelle a été ton expérience ?
[Nelio] Ma dernière expérience d’atelier avec des enfants s’est passé à Vénissieux, une ville dans la banlieue de Lyon, dans le cadre du projet “Mosaïque Urbaine”.
Le groupe d’enfants était très enthousiaste et réceptif. Ceci m’a permis de pouvoir les guider très facilement à travers différents exercices, pour aboutir à la réalisation d’une fresque dont ils sont les auteurs. Je suis vraiment fier d’eux et très content à la fois du résultat et des moments partagés ensemble. Je pense avoir semé quelques graines dans leur esprit et j’espère que ça les aidera pour la suite, de mon côté j’apprends aussi énormément au contact des enfants, c’est une source d’inspiration souvent très surprenante. Ils arrivent avec leur innocence à faire des dessins très purs, souvent très difficile à réaliser pour un adulte.

 

Atelier avec des enfants de Vénissieux, France, 2014

Atelier avec des enfants de Vénissieux, France, 2014 

 [FP] Quel impact ou influence as-tu / veux-tu avoir en tant qu’artiste ? Quel est le rôle d’un artiste dans la société selon toi ?

[Nelio] Je pense qu’un artiste doit se positionner en tant qu’exemple, montrer qu’il existe différentes façon de penser, de créer, de vivre. Chaque artiste doit être original et développer un univers qui lui est propre, et ainsi offrir à la société une façon particulière de voir et de vivre le monde.
Un artiste est là en quelque sorte pour aider les gens à ouvrir les yeux et leurs autres sens aussi!

 

Santiago de Chile, 2014
Santiago de Chile, 2014

 

 [FP] Parle-moi de la scène artistique de Lyon et de France, quels sont les artistes que tu admires ou avec qui tu aimes travailler ? La réaction du public ? Celle des autorités face au street art ?

[Nelio] A Lyon je peins souvent avec le duo THTF, qui en plus d’être de super gars, font du très bon travail. La scène à Lyon est plutôt axée graffiti traditionnel, il y a pas mal de graffeurs qui cartonnent bien, mais c’est souvent par période, à part des gars comme Omick par exemple qui est toujours actif depuis des années. Lyon est aussi une ville de passage, des gars d’autres villes françaises viennent s’installer ici quelques années puis s’en vont et reviennent éventuellement de temps en temps. Ce qui est un peu mon cas, car je n’habite plus vraiment à Lyon depuis quelques mois.
Sinon la scène artistique dans son ensemble est assez intéressante, notamment au niveau de la musique, des arts graphiques et de l’illustration, pas mal d’artistes réalisent des projets d’auto-édition. La culture alternative est bien vivante. Mais la ville n’est pas vraiment intéressée par cette scène là. Lyon est une ville assez bourgeoise, et donc un peu coincée. Elle a une politique de rayonnement touristique international, elle gère son image comme une marque. Une marque qui vise un public extérieur plutôt que la population locale. Du coup le maire n’aide pas vraiment les petites associations, et concernant l’art urbain, pour faire plaisir aux promoteurs immobilier et ne pas rebuter les touristes il veut rendre la ville “propre” et le service de nettoyage anti graffiti est de plus en plus actif. D’un côté la démarche parait logique aux yeux de monsieur tout le monde, mais au final c’est bien dommage car la ville devient très aseptisée.
Après, il y a quelques artistes, petites associations et galeries qui essaient de faire changer les choses et qui y contribuent à leur niveau. Mais ça prend du temps car en France il y a tout ce poids de l’histoire et cette priorité des institutions à préserver le passé plutôt que d’investir dans le présent. C’est un pays qui reste très conservateur au niveau des institutions culturelles, et il y a peu de soutien à la jeune création. En plus, beaucoup de choses se font par piston et autres magouilles, donc ce ne sont pas forcément les meilleurs projets qui sont défendus.
En ce moment, en France, un des projets qui mérite pleinement d’avoir du soutien et qui commence à se faire entendre par les institutions est le festival Bien Urbain à Besançon, une petite ville à quelques heures de Lyon dans l’est de la France. Les organisateurs font un travail remarquable.
C’est aussi une preuve que le travail de qualité fini toujours par payer, car je peux comprendre aussi les institutions qui ne sont pas convaincues en voyant arriver sur leur bureau des projets “street art” ou “graffiti” avec aucune ligne directrice et une programmation bancale. C’est en faisant les choses sérieusement que les institutions suivront. Pareil pour les artistes, ça ne sert à rien de vouloir arriver au sommet trop vite et faire n’importe quoi pour y arriver, autant prendre son temps et bien faire les choses pour mettre toutes les chances de son côté. Je suis persuadé que si tu fais du bon taf, il y aura toujours quelqu’un qui aura envie de t’aider, et ça payera à un moment donné.
Après le graffiti à la base, c’est un mouvement d’émancipation personnelle et une sorte de rébellion, quand tu vas peindre dans la rue tu le fais principalement pour toi, et tu n’attends rien en retour. Si tu agis illégalement il ne faut pas compter sur le soutien de la ville. Ce qui est regrettable c’est quand les conséquences de tes actes sont disproportionnés: payer de très grosses amendes ou pire faire de la prison pour des dessins sur des murs ça ne rend pas forcément honneur à la justice, surtout quand tu sais que celle-ci accorde tous les passe-droits aux puissants qui font des trucs bien pire. Tu sens le deux poids deux mesures des institutions, et c’est pas ça qui va te donner envie d’arrêter de peindre sur les murs, au contraire!

Collaboration avec Thtf, Lyon, 2014
Collaboration avec Thtf, Lyon, 2014

 

 [FP] Le street art est peu à peu mieux accepté par le public et les autorités dans les lieux publics. J’ai vu que tu as peint dans une station de métro et dans Lyon, comment a été ton expérience ? Quelles ont été les réactions ?

[Nelio] Concernant mon travail je ne fais pas la distinction entre street art et graffiti, je me contente de peindre. C’est le public, les institutions et certains artistes ou graffeurs qui catégorisent, qui classent, émettent des jugements de valeurs…
Au cours des 10 / 15 dernières années, il y a eu une évolution de la manière dont les gens et les institutions percevaient le graffiti et le street art. Avant, quoi que tu fasses, si tu utilisais une bombe de peinture, tout le monde te considérait comme un voyou. Aujourd’hui une majorité des gens regarde ce que tu es en train de peindre avant de te juger. Si tu peins des lettres dans un style graffiti classique: tu es souvent considéré comme un vandale, si tu peins autre chose: les gens te voient plutôt comme un artiste.
Les regards et mentalités ont beaucoup changés, et cela a apporté des points positifs et négatifs. Dans le côté positif, c’est que maintenant ça devient moins difficile de pouvoir vivre de son art. Par exemple, auparavant j’avais mon travail de graphiste qui me permettait d’être libre dans la peinture, donc je n’ai pas eu besoin d’accepter des commandes qui ne me correspondaient pas en peinture. J’ai pu garder cette liberté de création personnelle et maintenant je commence à être sollicité pour ce que je fais, pour ce travail plus personnel. C’est ce qui s’est passé pour le projet du métro. L’architecte en charge de la restauration de la station m’a contacté car il appréciait mon travail. Et bien qu’il fallait faire quelques traditionnels croquis d’intention, j’ai eu carte blanche pour l’ensemble du projet. J’ai pris beaucoup de plaisir à le faire, et les retours que j’ai eu ont été positifs.

 

Metro Mermoz, Lyon, 2014
Metro Mermoz, Lyon, 2014

 

 [FP] Et par rapport à la scène artistique des pays que tu as pu visiter, est-ce-qu’il y en a qui t’ont marqué ?

[Nelio] J’aime beaucoup la scène artistique Italienne, elle regorge d’artistes très talentueux comme 108 par exemple, qui est un pionnier dans l’abstraction minimaliste dans l’art urbain. Il y a beaucoup d’artistes dont je me sens proche, qui développent un travail souvent orienté sur le conflit nature / construction humaine. Ça provient surement du fait de peindre régulièrement dans des lieux abandonnés qui sont nombreux en Italie.
Les scènes espagnoles et argentines me plaisent également beaucoup. Sinon avec mes nombreux voyages en Australie et les liens assez fort qui se sont tissés avec certains artistes, j’ai presque une seconde famille là-bas. Je me sens donc super bien dans cette scène là à chaque fois que j’y retourne. Et bien sur il y à Berlin, où je me rend chaque année pour revoir des potes, la scène là bas est incroyable, vu le nombre d’artistes qui y résident ou qui sont de passage. De plus, vu la taille de la ville pour le nombre d’habitants, tu trouves toujours des endroits abandonnés avec de beaux murs vierges, le paradis pour moi!

 

Cordoba, Argentina, 2014
Cordoba, Argentina, 2014

 

[FP] As-tu des projets à venir ?

[Nelio] Dans quelques jours je vais commencer une résidence d’un mois dans un atelier à Wellington en Nouvelle-Zélande avec mon ami Duncan Passmore. On va travailler sur de nouvelles peintures sur toiles et autres expérimentations qui serviront de base pour de futurs projets ensemble.
J’enchainerai ensuite avec une résidence en Australie, où j’exposerai le 1er mai à la galerie Backwoods à Melbourne. Et cet été je serai au Canada et aux États-Unis pour quelques projets dont une exposition le 11 juillet à la galerie 886 Geary à San Francisco.

 

Le Mur XIII, Paris, 2014
Le Mur XIII, Paris, 2014

Le monde de LilyLuciole

L’artiste LilyLuciole a pris le temps de nous répondre ces quelques questions, malgré qu’elle soit en pause de son travail pour des raisons personnelles. Elle nous parle de son aventure qui a commencé il y a trois ans de cela, de ses inspirations,  son rapport à la nature, les choses simples de la vie, l’art de rue…. Rencontre!

Fresh Paint: Être une artiste a commencé comment pour toi?
LilyLuciole: C’est trop simple de dire que je suis naturellement née artiste mais c’est vrai.  Je pense que j’avais cela en moi depuis le début et c’est le cadre familiale qui a fait en sorte que cela se développe. L’environnement de ma famille a soutenu ce don. Sans elle, Lilyluciole ne serait pas née et n’aurait pas jaillit dans la rue en 2011. 

FP: Tu as un style vraiment original qui inclue  découpage, collage, et peinturage, parfois utilisant une photo comme une toile, comme tu as fait à la galerie. Comment as-tu fini avec ce style?
LL: Je dirai que je n’ai jamais cessé d’être vrai, d’être moi-même dans chaque œuvre que je fais. Je suis métisse et je pense que j’avais besoin de ce mélange de style pour trouver la forme stylistique ou esthétique qui soit proche de moi ou qui parle de moi. Je pense aussi que j’avais besoin de m’amuser et de fusionner la peinture, le collage, le découpage parce que c’est riche en explorations, en découvertes et en surprises. J’aime autant admirer un masque inuit, qu’apprécier un Rembrandt, une représentation de Shiva, regarder une architecture contemporaine ou regarder un arbre, une fleur… Mon esprit est très ouvert. En prenant du recul, je me rends  compte que ce que j’aime c’est la couleur et la lumière avant la forme.

FP: Qu’est-ce qui t’as inspiré?
LL: Toutes mes explorations visuelles et mes thèmes sont puisés dans ma vie personnelle mais aussi les arts plastiques, la musique, la danse, les voyages, et l’enfance. Je parle énormément de moi à travers mes modèles : la femme, le corps que j’explore avec la danse. Ma foi est également très présente. Mon style est totalement en décalage avec la culture pop. J’aime cela car c’est ce qui fait mon individualité. J’espère que mes prochaines œuvres vont être un hommage à la beauté de la nature vivante que l’homme en général ne cesse de maltraiter pour son profit ou de nier au lieu de la préserver.  Cette destruction est en train de creuser les inégalités sociales, économiques entre nous les hommes. Il y a d’un coté ceux qui exploitent et de l’autre ceux qui se font exploiter.

FP: Ton oeuvre qu’on retrouve à la galerie a beaucoup d’autres versions. Est-ce que les variations sont basées sur des préparations ou est-ce que les oeuvres sont créées sur le moment même?
LL: Toute proposition de création est toujours l’occasion de renouveler la forme à partir des thèmes qui me sont personnels. Ce qui demande à la fois un temps de réflexion important mais aussi de reconnaitre ses intuitions. Donc, toujours jouer sur les deux plans. Écouter ses intuitions, les faire apparaitre et ensuite les travailler.

FP: Est-ce que tu utilises des photos que tu trouves et qui t’inspirent ou est-ce que les photos sont prises pour être utilisées spécifiquement pour tes oeuvres?
LL: Je te parle de l’intuition mais elle a besoin de matière pour surgir. Le travail d’autres artistes peut m’impressionner à tel point que cela peut donner naissance à une œuvre. C’est le cas lorsque par exemple j’observe une photographie. La photographie est un matériel magique que j’aime utiliser pour activer le processus de création. Je peux également imaginer une série d’images qui sera concrétisée grâce à Yahn, le photographe avec qui j’aime travailler.

FP: Est-ce que tu peux nous en dire plus sur le projet Art Fabric sur lequel tu travailles?
LL: Je suis absolument heureuse de savoir que mon oeuvre ait pu être réapproprié par Eric Marechal et Fabi Futata. A la base lorsque j’ai commencé j’admirais déjà leur travail. En fait, je n’aurai pas cru que je ferai plus tard partie de l’aventures : Chine, Mexique, Allemagne Argentine et j’espère un jour que ce projet viendra à Montréal. Je suis très intéressée par cet art engagé.

FP: Cela manque énormément dans l’univers du Street art qui est pauvre pour créer ce type d’initiative.
LL: Je pense que le street art est en train de s’appauvrir en terme de générosité à cause de la médiatisation qu’on en fait.

FP: Tu mets tes oeuvres dans des rues un partout dans le monde. Dans quelles parties du monde peut-on retrouver tes oeuvres?
LL: Comme mes oeuvres sont en papier, je ne sais pas si celles-ci existent encore. Les dernières oeuvres que j’ai collées étaient sur Montréal et je ne sais pas si elles y sont encore. Je ne cherche pas à savoir en fait.  Je colle et ensuite je ne reviens plus là dessus. Je passe à la suivante. Je me détache de plus en plus de cette volonté  de photographier à chaque fois mes œuvres.

FP: Les oeuvres internationales sont plutôt retrouvées dans des endroits pauvres et des places où habitent des minorités. Comment tout cela à commencé?
LL: Tout a démarré dans le 19e de Paris qui était un quartier populaire et qui depuis s’est fortement embourgoisé. Il y a encore un peu un tissu social mixte mais beaucoup de choses ont changé. Du coup, lorsque je suis arrivée sur Montréal j’ai voulu continuer à  créer mes oeuvres dans ce type d’espaces.  Le projet The artFabric est aussi un moyen pour moi de donner accès à l’art gratuitement à de personnes qui sont fragilisés socialement.

FP: Comment était ton expérience avec la galerie Fresh Paint?
LL: Pour la Fresh Paint, je sentais que j’avais une envie folle de parler de mon rapport avec la natalité, le fait de donner naissance à un enfant ce qui s’est matérialisée par un ballet de méduses. Ces installations de méduses étaient une occasion pour moi de parler aussi de la beauté de la nature. Les méduses sont pour moi des êtres vivants envoutants qui gardent une part de mystère. C’est attirant. Je sais que j’ai pris en compte  aussi l’œuvre  que j’ai remplacé sur le murs. Elle m’a inspiré. Je suis perméable aux œuvres des autres artistes quand cela me parle.

 LilyLuciole

The artist LilyLuciole took the time to answer us these questions, even though she is currently on break from work due to personal problems. She speaks to us of her adventure which started three years ago, of her inspirations, her connection to nature, the simple things in life… 

Fresh Paint: How did being an artist all start?

LilyLuciole: It’s too simple to say that I was naturally born an artist but it’s true. I think that I’ve had that in me since the beginning and it’s the family environment that allowed me to develop it. The family environment supported this gift. Without it, LilyLuciole would never have been born and would not have appeared in the streets in 2011.

Fresh Paint: You have a very original style that includes cutting, pasting, painting, sometimes using a photograph as a canvas as you have done at the gallery. How did you end up with this style?
LL:I would say that I have never ceased to be true, to be myself in every piece that I do. I am a mixed race and I think that I needed that mix in style to find the stylistic form or aesthetic that would be close to me or that would speak of me. I think also that I needed to have fun and fuse painting, pasting, cutting because it’s rich in explorations, discoveries, and surprises. I love admiring an Inuit mask, as much as appreciating a Rembrandt, a representation of Shiva, looking at a contemporary architecture or look at a tree, a flower. I have a very open spirit. By taking a step back, I realise that what I love is color and light more than form.

FP: What have been your inspirations along the way?
LL: All my visual explorations and my themes are drawn from my personal life but also the arts, music, dance, travel, and childhood. I speak a great deal about myself through my models : the woman, the body that I explore through dance. My faith is also present. My style is completely deviated from pop culture. I like that because it creates my individuality. I hope that my upcoming works will be dedicated to the beauty of living nature that man in general never ceases to mistreat for it’s own profit or to denies it instead of preserving it. This destruction is deepening social and economic inequalities between us people. There are the people who exploit on one side and the ones who are being exploited on the other.

FP: You have many other versions of the artwork you have done at the gallery. Are the variations based on planning or are the works created in the spur of the moment?
LL: All proposition of creation is always an occasion to renew the form the form from themes that are personal to me. Whcih demands reflection time as well as recognizing your intuitions. So, always play on these two planes. Listening to your intuitions, make them appear, and then start working.

FP: Do you use photographs that you randomly find and that inspire you or are the photographs taken to be used specifically for your art?
LL: I speak of inuition but this needs material so that it can surge. The work of other artists can impress me to the point that a work of art is born. This is the case for example when I observe photography. Photogrpahy is magical material that I love using to activate the process of creation. I can also imagine a series of images that would be concretised thanks to Yahn, the photographer that I love working with.

FP: Can you tell us more about the Art Fabric project you are involved in?
LL: I am absolutely happy to know that my work has been reclamed by Eric Marechal and Fabi Futata. When I first started I already admired their work. In fact, I would have never thought that I would later be part of the adventures : China, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, and I hope one day that this project will come to Montreal. I am very interested in this engaged art.

FP: This is highly absent in the univers of Street art which is poor in creating this type of initiative.
LL: I think that street art is becoming poorer in terms of generosity because of the media attention we are giving it.

FP: It seems that you put your art in the streets all around the world. In which part of the planet can we stumble upon your artworks?
LL: Since my work is in paper, I don;t know of these stille exist. The last works that I pasted were in Montreal and I don;t know if they are still there. In fact I don’t plan on finding out. I paste and then I don’t come back to it. I go on to the next one. I am becoming more and more detached form this will to take photos of my work every time.

FP: The artwork you put up on the streets are mostly found in poor areas and places where minorities live. How did this all start?
LL: It all started in the 19th of Paris which was a popular area and since has been heavily gentrified. There is still a bit of mixed social classes but things have changed alot. Since I have come to Montreal, I wanted to continue to create my works in these types of spaces. The artFabric project is also a way for me to give free access to art to people who are socially weakened.

FP: How was your experience working with the Fresh Paint gallery?
LL:  For Fresh Paint, I felt like I had a crazy urge to speak about my connection with natality, the fact of giving birth to a child which materialised itself by the ballet of jellyfish. This installation of jellyfish was also an opportunity for me to speak about the beauty of nature. Jellyfish are for me mesmerizing living beings that keep a part of the mystery. It’s attractive. I know that I also took into consideration the work that I had replaced on the walls. It inspired me. I am open to the work of other artists when these speak to me.

LilyLuciole