Interview with the first Knight of Paris street art, Fred le Chevalier

Paris street art ‘man of the moment’ Fred le Chevalier, having captured the Paris public’s adoration in such a way that his last show, and first solo show, sold out in under an hour, could be considered a phenomenon.

The proof of this is the story of when Fred got caught by the Paris police: rather than receiving a fine, or worse, spending time in a cell, he found out he has fans in powerful places. 

Maria Fernanda Hinke-Schweichler, who also blogs at MyLifeOnMyBike.com, has managed to track down this French street art cavalier. Below is a summary of what she discovered.

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (1)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (5)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (4)

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how and when you got started in making street art?

I used to do draw when I was a child and I stopped when I was a teenager. Then seven years ago I started again and I began posting my work on MySpace. I received really good feedback and I would give my drawings to people who were fans of what I was doing. The positive responses that I received encouraged me to draw more and since then it’s taken up a lot of space in my life.

I started to go out on the street to paste up my work three years ago, with the same idea I had with Myspace and with giving my drawings to people, about sharing my work with people without being in a gallery. Doing street art is a way to talk with everybody, not just with a specific audience.

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

When I was young I was really impressed by Ernest Pignon Ernest. I liked this kind of poetry on the street. I’m not a specialist on street art but I had a good feeling about this kind of art, as I like free things. Punk music has the same spirit of being able to express yourself freely without being a musician. In the same way I felt free to draw without knowledge of any formal technique.

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (2)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (11)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (8)

Where does the name Fred Le Chevalier originate?

I use to read books by Alexandre Dumas, and I always liked this kind of literature with knights and a little romanticism. Also, I took care of a young baby and I use to give names for his family so I chose one beautiful name for me, Fred le Chevalier (Fred The Knight) because of the literature, Don Quixote, and then other people used to call me Fred Le Chevalier. When I had to choose a name to sign my drawings, it was natural to take this name.

What motivates you to go out and put art on the streets?

I started to have self-trust about my drawings from the feedback of people that saw my work on Myspace. I like to walk, so I walk around the city and put my art at the same time. The first time that I put up work in the street it was for a woman that I use to love – it was a gift for her.  At the beginning I didn’t realise that I could do it so often. Putting my drawings on the walls of the city is the only way to share and to talk with all the people. People can stop to see or not, people can like or not. We walk very fast in Paris, we have many things to do, we don’t have time but sometimes when you see something on the wall you can stop for one second or for ten seconds and slow down. I like this kind of poetry.

How often do you put your art on street?

I use to put three times a week and nowadays I always work during the day.

Do you have any idea how many collages have you been posting on the streets, so far?

I have no idea, but in the beginning I use to post small ones. Once I posted 100 in just one day, during one year it was just small pieces, now I put big ones. Maybe so for I’ve stuck around two or three thousand pieces.

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (12)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (13)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (3)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (14)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (15)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (16)

I heard that once you were caught by the cops and one policeman loved your work?

This story is really funny. In the beginning I use to stick during the night. I thought I should be discreet because it is forbidden. It’s not so true actually, when you do with sprays you have to be really careful, when you do it with paper it’s not so dangerous. I had posted one paper the night before in the same area, the day after I was sticking again when I was approached by a cop. He started to ask me what I was doing and I was unable to answer. I started to hesitate, I was really nervous and afraid that he would make me pay a fine, but the cop asked me to show him what I was doing that night and told me he really liked what I do, and to have a good night. It was funny and strange, because he really knew about my work.

What are you trying to achieve with your art?

What I like about my work is that people can create their own meaning. I like when people appropriate my drawings and recount their stories with their own imagination. I like sweet things that come from the infancy to the adult age connected with the dream realm and tales. Sometimes are sweet emotions about love, but sometimes are hard emotions. My characters never are adult or child, man or woman, it’s always a mix. I try to do things that are optimistic. I’m not interested to make a provocative work. I like mixing poetry with street art. I really enjoy when people tell me that my work makes them remember their childhood or for instance a mother that already passed away. When people take ownership of my work, this is what gives me pleasure.

Where the inspiration for your characters comes from?

They come from my feelings. I identify myself with most of the characters.

Could you explain a little about the alter ego in your work?

In the beginning my characters were just about me, always the same characters, same shoes, same tie, same hairstyle. Now I have more characters. Most of the time it is about me, but sometimes I try to represent people that I know, especially friends. I try to stick the drawings close to places that they are used to going, but I don’t tell them.

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (9)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (6)

What do you think about the work of Tristan des Limbes?

Tristan is my friend and I feel close with what she does. Some people say that we are opposite, my characters are sweeter, while her message is depressive. But I don’t think it’s so true, because poetry is not just to say that the sky is blue, so I consider what she does as a poetry, dark poetry, but poetry. In my characters there are a lot of occult meanings, sometimes in their eyes. It’s also about despair. I don’t consider my art so far from her art. I really love what she does because it’s her, you identify easily, is black and white as my drawings and when I see her work this inspires me to stick more.

You have been putting up your work in Paris and as well as other cities in France. But you have also put up work in Brazil.  Do you have any plans to travel anywhere else in the world with your street art?

In Brazil it was collaboration with a friend that takes pictures of street art. I have given them some drawings to stick. I didn’t go to Brazil unfortunately, this project is called Street Art Without Borders. He put some art from abroad in Paris too and he put mine in Brazil, Germany and Denmark, also he will go to Japan. Will be great for me because I drew a character for a Japanese movie and my drawing is going to Tokyo. I already went to Berlin and I was impressed with the amount of art on the walls. I would like to go in more cities in France and in others countries too. This is something that I would really like to do.

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (17)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (18)

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (7)

Do you choose where to put your pieces in advance or do you improvise?

Both, there are some walls that I go to again, again and again, especially in Le Marais because I started there. Every time that I go somewhere I try to stick something.

Where is your favourite neighbourhood to show your work in Paris?

I stick in the Le Marais in the 3rd Arrondissement very often, because I have a lot of friends that are lesbians and we go there often to take coffee – it’s like a habit, and I like a lot of bakeries there. I like Le Marais but I prefer Bellville and I would like to live there.

I had the pleasure to go to your first vernissage at Le Houla Oups bar and everything was sold in less than one hour. How do you feel about that?

It was a great party with a lot of people and so much good feedback. I didn’t expect to sell all the pieces so fast – it was crazy and a surprise for me. It was a perfect start and evening but also a bit disturbing to be honest.

What do you think about street art inside a gallery?

I’m not a specialist about that, but I’m discovering this world now and I will have more exhibitions this year. I’m a lit bit afraid of this world. I see a lot of people coming to me because they want to buy my art as a product, which I don’t consider very funny. I’m more interested to sell for a cheap price for someone that loves my work instead of selling for a big price to someone that wants to buy as an investment.

When I draw it’s the same thing for a street or for a gallery, but the emotions are different. I really like the feeling of sticking my drawings on the street.

You work in a school too. Do you like to support yourself just with your art?

I would like only to spend my day drawing. My goal is not to become rich, if I can get enough money to support myself from drawing it would be perfect. But I have my job at the school that makes me free to say yes or no, which for now is a good way to make better choices.

What are your plans for the rest of 2012?

I have a show opening on May 31st - a collective exhibition at the Cabinet d’ Amateur gallery  (lecabinetdamateur.com) alongside various artists, including big favourites of mine, Rubbish Cube and Diamant. I also have other collective exhibition in Paris in August in a gallery near to Beaubourg, Nivet Carzon. In July I have plans to stick my characters in Aulnay-Sous-Bois during a cultural event near to the canal on July 4th. I will have my first solo exhibition in a gallery in Le Marais in September in a place called Sometimes Studio. And then finally, I will have an exhibition in my home town Angouleme, in October in a shop gallery called Chez Cax.

Street art in Paris by Fred le Chevalier. French street artist Fred is very active on the Paris street art scene currently – Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith (10)

Find out more about Fred le Chevalier at his website, http://fredlechevalier.blogspot.fr/

This interview was originally published on the website, Street Art Paris.

Interview with Paris street art innovator Gz’Up

Quickly! an introduction to Paris street art innovator, Gz’ Up. He’s French, he lives in Paris, his street art consists mostly of anthropomorphic octopusses cut from plywood and glued high up on street corners, he’s angry about people stealing his work, and, one day he hopes to make an octopus on a girl’s behind – his name is taken from rapper Snoop Dogg’s saying, ”Gz Up, Hoes Down”.

Here’s an exclusive interview by Lisa Marie, who also edits international street art blog, Onewalltoanother.com.

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (26)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (25)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (21)

Can you tell us about your artistic background and what brought you to street art?

I began doing graffiti at the start of the ’90s and then stopped between ‘96 and ‘97 for military service. I started up again in 2010, but with a “street art” orientation, to bring back the balance with all those artists who exhibit only in galleries. To give street art back to the street.

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (8)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (2)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (20)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (14)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (12)

When did you put up your first octopus?

It was in May 2011 and it was a collage made of hard board. I’ve been busy since then. To date, I’ve placed 214 Octopuses.

Do you only put your work up in Paris?

Right now Paris is still a good playing field as there’s an audience. Later on I’d like to tackle the provinces and cult cities, like Berlin. Also, I’d love to put an octopus on a girl’s ass - avis aux amatrices. There is actually a place I’ve wanted to put a piece for almost four months, but every time I get there the police arrive, plain-clothed in their Ford Focus, or in a police car. It’s around Odéon and this place is pretty well guarded and very crowded, day and night. But I’ll succeed.

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (9)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (23)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (22)

Do you prefer creating your Octopuses beforehand, or the thrill of spraypainting them on location?

The works I make beforehand that I put up high stay longer and take less time to put up.

How do you feel when your pieces are removed?

It pisses me off every time. When it’s the street-cleaning service, it’s the game, I can understand. But this service isn’t the most active, far from it. When it’s done by pseudo-collectors, I don’t understand it. They can go to hell. Street art is changing right now and it’s probably coming from the art market with its indecent prices, hence the interest for jerks to rip off the work of Invader or Gregos, for example. Since the arrival of the internet and illegal downloading, maybe people think that you can take whatever you want without paying. Soon we’ll have a Hadopi [French anti-copyright infringement legislation] division against street art thievery. If they really like the work of some artists, the best thing to do is to let their work be exhibited on the walls.

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (17)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (19)

Do you chose in advance where to put your pieces or do you improvise?

At first everything was planned and I used to identify every spot. But after a while, I started to improvise more, which allows me to exhibit in places other than the exclusively street art areas, like Le Marais or Montmartre. Thanks to Google Maps for its valuable help.

Some street artists work together or put their pieces next to each others. Is this the case with you?

No, my goal is to be as discrete as possible. Walking around in a group with ladders, big bags and a glue gun, you’re sure to get caught by the police before being able to put anything up. This way I don’t depend on anyone else: if I don’t feel a plan or an action, I don’t do it. I take my time: if I must wait 30 minutes before acting, I do so.

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (18)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (16)

Have you ever been caught in action?

In my graffiti period, yes, many times.

Do you feel that the octopus design, which allows you to be identified, is also a limitation?

No, I don’t see it that way. On the contrary, repetition helps you to be known and get identified. As I never make identical octopuses, I don’t get bored. Between two different pieces, there’s often a whole world.

The octopus design comes from the videogame Wonderboy and your pictures are frequently inspired by games or cartoons from the ’80. Are you a gamer of just nostalgic?

Gamer: it happens but I have less and less time. Nostalgic: certainly. I recognize myself a lot more in the ’80’s or ‘90’s sprites, and it’s the same for cartoons. I have strong memories about old Game Boy and SNES games. It was magical.

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (5)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (15)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (24)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (4)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (6)

Your pseudonym is taken from a line the famous West Coast rap album Doggsytyle, “Gz up, hoes down”: Snoop Dog fan, little misogynous, or both?

Well, I used to like Snoop, but he’s changed side so much since that I don’t have an interest in him anymore. Though, the first album, and maybe the second, are still a big classics.

Definition of misogyny: hatred of women. It’s totally the opposite, I love women. They’re wonderful and so beautiful.

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (7)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (10)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (3)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (13)

What is the importance of street art for you?

It’s more important than all the crap being forced upon us by television. It’s a drug for me. How many street artists were outside last winter at -8°C?

What are your plans for the future?

Paste again and again to become the number two of French street art. Maybe create a Facebook account but I’m afraid I won’t get any friends. Anyway, I can be found on my Flickr: flickr.com/photos/gzup

See more work by Gz’Up in a critique published by Paris Play.

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (11)

Paris street art - Gz'Up street artist interview - outdoors modern art museum Paris - Alternative Paris (1)

This interview was originally published on the website, Street Art Paris.

 

Interview with Ella & Pitr “les papiers peintres”

Ella & Pitr produce wheat-pasted street art, and currently have an exhibition at Galerie Le Feuvre (which also reps for Space Invader). Ella & Pitr met while putting up street art and now have two children together … Read on for their thoughts on their artwork, the feeling when one of their street artworks is ripped down, and the problems of pasting street art in low temperatures!

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Rue Saint-Sébastien, Paris

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

Tell us a little about your artistic backgrounds and how you met.

We met each other one autumn evening in 2007 in the streets of St Etienne, while pasting. Ella, who comes from the south of France, was pasting up her first drawings, and I asked her what she was doing and if she’d like to paste work with me. She said yes – now we have two children.

Our backgrounds are like a connection between our street art and people in the streets – it’s very interactive. We play on this side of our art by asking people to take photos in front of the frames we paste, and getting them to send them to us.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Rue de l’Argonne, Paris

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

You currently have a show at Galerie Le Feuvre here in Paris. How does the work that you exhibit indoors differ from that which you paste in the streets?

Indoors, our work is not free, so for every canvas we show in a gallery, we paste two or three drawings outside to maintain the spirit of the street, which is our main activity. The reason behind our street art is simply that it’s the easiest way to get in touch with the public.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

How do you choose the walls on which to paste your work? Do you prefer certain contexts over others?

We choose the walls that have beautiful colours, details and history. We like to paste drawings that can have a link with the context. We try to create a story for every drawing.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

How do you prepare the work you paste?

We prepare our work in advance in a workshop and mainly use paper and Chinese ink.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

What has been the most unusual place you’ve installed your work?

We have put work before in a church.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Rue Saint-Sébastien, Paris

Have you ever collaborated with other artists?

We are especially close to artists who have no direct link with street art – so far we have only worked with another street artist, Maca, whose work is compatible with ours.

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

The biggest challenge recently was the low temperature. We pasted recently when it was -12° and the glue became ice, and our fingers were out of control.

We’ve recently seen new work around Paris. Tell us a little about these pieces?

The drawings of picture frames we did are like a game. We think it’s cool to create a link between us and unknown people.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Rue Saint-Merri, opposite Centre Georges Pompidou 

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Quai de la Loire, Paris

Tell us about some of the reactions that people have had to your work on the street.

Usually, people are pretty nice, but once when we were in Venice, a man who saw us pasting big works in the street phoned the police and followed us untill the police arrived. He was really proud of it. We were really angry. Fuck this guy.

How do you feel when one of your pieces is ripped down very soon after being put up?

We feel like children in front of a destroyed sand castle. And then we create a new drawing and start again to look for a place to paste it.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Ave. Jean Jaures, Paris

You live in St Etienne, but you travel a lot.  How does the street art scene in St Etienne, and France in general, compare to the other places you’ve been to?

St Etienne is a quiet city. Street art is not really important. We like to travel because it’s important for us to see what is going on in the world – everything is moving very fast.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

Where else in the world would you like to put up pieces?

Where do we start – the list is too long.

What do you think is the importance of street art?

This is a joke, and we hope that one day, nobody will ask that sort of question.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

What are your plans for 2012?

Day after day, forever.

Ella et Pitr "les papiers peintres" interview - wheatpaste art - exhibition Galerie Le Feuvre - Alternative Paris

This interview was originally published on the website, Street Art Paris.

C215 interview – Paris street art’s answer to Banksy?

A C215 interview is not an easy journalistic practice. It seems like every question one thinks of to ask is well worn. C215′s stencil technique is distinctive, as is the man behind the art. Starting out in the 1990s in graffiti C215 understands the style from its origins in Hip Hop, but C215′s stencil art is today far removed from New York subway cars. 

A master of placement, always making his street art fit its environment seamlessly, C215′s oeuvre would fill multiple volumes of books on street art. Not that C215′s art can be categorised solely in the context of street art. He has helped to redefine the boundaries of stencil graffiti and in Paris he has been elemental in gaining acceptance for the urban arts from local government; and whatever one understands about the man himself, his contribution to this new “Rock n Roll”, the global street art movement, is great. Paris’ answer to Banksy, though? You decide.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Street art by C215 in Vitry-sur-Seine, the Paris suburb which street artist C215 has helped turn into a ‘street art museum’

Tell us about your artistic background and how you go into street art?

I haven’t had a formal artistic education, but my natural mother drew and left me her materials after she died at the age of 18. My grandmother drove me to reuse her materials and I would draw every Sunday at her place. This was when I was six, and I also used to draw a lot at school for fun – things like comics for the school journal and caricatures of kids and teachers. When I was fourteen, my uncle commissioned me to write Midnight Dreams in the NYC graffiti writers’ style, which was also around the time I first tried using spraypaint.

I’ve got a master’s degree in art history from the Sorbonne, about Franz Marc and Romanticism, and another master’s degree from CNRS, about XVIIth century religious theory of architecture and painting, but I’ve never been to art school, I’ve never been taught or studied fine art.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Vitry-sur-Seine-Madonna-and-child - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Street art by C215 in Vitry-sur-Seine. C215′s stencil technique blends his artwork seamlessly into its environment

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

It was of a colourful portrait of Ava, the mother of my daughter, Nina, in 2006, which I’d already made, without a computer.

Your friends and family feature in lots of your pieces. How do you go about selecting your subjects? Are they all people you know and what is the process to get your work onto the street?

This is a very natural process – I don’t believe that much in ‘Art’ with a big ‘A’, and when I think about my future, I want to remember my feelings and the people I met, so most of my recent works are based on pictures I took during my trips, pictures from my life, representing people that I loved. I am also working with friends like Jeremy Gibbs and Jon Cartwright. I think the most important thing in life is friendship.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

 C215 Street art in Vitry-sur-Seine

How do you choose which walls to paint on?  Do you prefer certain contexts over others?

It depends on the stencils I‘ve been preparing. I used to prepare my stencils and my colours according to the places I visit. After that I try to interact and make my works blend as much as possible into the environment.

Tell us about some of the reactions that people have had to your work on the street.

Most of them are nice, but it does occasionally happen that someone will have a stupid reaction. I remember once in Marseille a very bad feeling: a family of Arabic people began abusing the friend with whom I was painting because she was Italian. This happens, but rarely. Most of the time people come and check what I’m doing and are surprised, and then compare it to writing and love it.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Stencil artist C215 Street art in Vitry-sur-Seine

You live in Vitry-sur-Seine in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris, which is covered by your work and the work of several other well-known street artists, including Roa, Jimmy C, Nunca and Pixel Pancho. What has been your part in making Vitry a street art ‘destination’?

I don’t know, it has been also very natural, just inviting friends of mine to paint in my area, with neighbours and city institutions providing walls. No sponsor, no project, no flyer – just artists working, relaxed in the streets. This is the good side of not being in Paris, intra-muros.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Stencil artist C215 Street art in Vitry-sur-Seine

Having travelled extensively presenting your art in cities around the world, in which places did you have the best and worst experiences and why?

It has been great to paint all over the world and I’ve had mainly good experiences, and just a few negative ones. I especially like to go painting in places that are not yet familiar with street art.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Rome street art - Alternative Paris

 Rome Street art by Stencil artist C215. Photo: C215

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

I think it was great to paint a copy of Caravaggio’s Medusa in the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, during the anniversary of the Carabinieri: hundreds of cops busy with a ceremony. I did it, as I did many other stupid risky paintings in the last few years.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

C215 street art in Vitry-sur-Seine

How does the street art scene in Paris and the surrounding arrondissements compare to that in the other cities?

Paris gave birth to street art, as New York gave birth to graffiti, and I guess in future Paris will be involved in this movement in a big way, like no other city in the world.

Where in else in the world would you like to put up pieces?

I want to go to South Africa quite soon as well as a few other exotic destinations.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Stencil artist C215 Street art in Vitry-sur-Seine

Tell us about your latest exhibition “Prophètes” that is taking place in the XVIIth century Saint-Louis de la Salpêtrière church in Paris, and about transferring your art onto stained glass light-boxes?

Basically, I’ve been transferring my main kids’ portraits into religious icons, and placing them in a church, as ecumenical symbols.

My art is anthropocentric and I believe every person is a cosmos, with a certain divinity. I want to give this through my art as a symbol of a new iconology. Instead of old classical religious icons, I selected kids faces as an ecumenical symbol of faith and hope.

Stained glass is a new medium to me and follows on from, firstly, painting white on dark surfaces, and then, my exploration of colour. This is the first time I’ve tried exploring light as a medium; although, the stencil allows light to pass through it.

Light is also linked to religion, however, for the people who would have a certain inhibition to visit an exhibition taking place in a Christian church, they can still visit the light box which will be displayed outside the church, on the wall of the City Hall of the 13th arrondissement of Paris, creating a “universal” space, which acts in a different way from the religious space of the church. Maybe for me, as a street artist, it is even more important to see the reception of this one piece, than the rest of the light boxes that will be inside the church. Every night, along with the city lights, the light box will be turned on.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Stencil artist C215 Street art in Vitry-sur-Seine

You have said that the exhibition is “a call for religious tolerance and ecumenism”, and many of your street pieces carry the slogan, “MAKE ART NOT WAR”. What role should politics play in urban art?

Painting in the street is already a political act, because it helps to fight against standardization. You can have a more specific message, but for me “Making Art” in the streets is already something

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Stencil artist C215 Street art in Vitry-sur-Seine

What do you think the importance of street art is?

Street art is as important now as was Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 1950′s. So, it’s just the beginning, and it will change the world.

C215 interview - Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris. Photo: Demian Smith

Stencil artist C215 Street art in Vitry-sur-Seine

What are your plans for 2011?

Being happy, travelling as much as I can with my daughter and to enjoy life.

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art - Alternative Paris - credit-photo-agnes-gautier

Stencil artist C215. Photo: Agnes Gautier

C215’s latest exhibition “Prophètes”, organised by Galerie Itinerrance the city of Paris, opens on 22nd March 2012 at 6pm at the XVIIth Century consecrated Parisian church Saint-Louis de la Salpêtrière:

Chapelle Saint-Louis, Pitié-Salpêtrière
47 Bd of Hospital, 75013
For more information email: mehdi.bencheikh@itinerrance.fr

Paris stencil artist C215 aka Christian Guemy - Paris street art exhibition, The Prophets - Alternative Paris

For more on C215 check out his website Flickr and Facebook pages.

This interview was originally published on the website, Street Art Paris.

Interview with British street artist Nick walker

Interviewing a street artist from Britain is an odd first post for a Paris blog on street art, perhaps. But we were keen to find out the latest street art news from him after his recent art attack on Paris.

We were blown away by graffiti artist Nick Walker’s recent swathe of illegal work, done during February’s absolutely freezing conditions – a distant memory in today’s 18 degree Paris sunshine – that given the lofty heights to which he rose after dropping THAT piece in 2010, we thought it only fair to give him Street Art Paris’ first attention.

So, for the record, his opening this blog is simply because he was first in the queue of street artists who were active in Paris recently, and nothing whatsoever to do with any underhand British favouritism.

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

Street art news from Nick Walker - Demian Smith (18)

Street artist Nick Walker’s Vandal character genuflects to the Paris street art scene?

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