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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.