Between reflection time and speed of execution
“Why should street-art only be on the street? Why do some graffiti artists refuse to go to galleries? ”
How did you become an artist?
In 2000, while I was in the music business, I discovered Graffiti and loved the vandal side of it. I was already tagging before, even if the result wasn’t necessarily aesthetic, because it was more a question of putting one’s mark on it. From then on, I did vandalism for four years, without keeping any dates or precise traces of this period. I didn’t do anything to get to where I am today, it was all a simple expression.
At the same time, I had a musical project with Bioshanka. I was approaching my twenty-fifth birthday and I thought music would allow me to express myself while at the same time managing to get financial recognition for my work. I stopped playing for nine or ten years, but then I started again when I met some people in the business who, through the Hip project, edited me to put me next to street artists. It was in 2010/2011, and I was discovering this universe, without understanding why it only included visual arts, without musicians or street theatre. Indeed, when we were talking about Street Art in France fifteen years ago, it was referring to festivals like Aurillac or Avignon, but not to Street art as it is defined today. So I think the public has categorized my work more than I have.
One anecdote seems important to me about my first steps as a cartoonist. The first time I tried to paint was after I had a “strongly coloured” evening. A friend, who had a very good artistic culture, took me to Beaubourg to show me a Pollock painting. I hallucinated and immediately asked her who could have painted something that looked so much like my painting. That day, I realized that what I was drawing could give me confidence.
What made you go back to the streets after all these years?
After some trouble with the law, I wanted to integrate myself into working life with a job that interested me. I was artistic director and project manager in a communication agency. There I developed a whole graphic culture by detaching myself from graffiti. I continued to do a bit of vandalism from time to time, while staying in the background. When I thought about taking over, it was with the eye of the art director that I examined my work, to find out who I was and what I was going to do. In the gallery, my past as a vandal justified a state of street artist, but I disagreed with that entirely. This incident made me realize that I had to go back out on the street for fun, but also that I didn’t really know how to graffiti. What I was doing was vandalism, but not murals or lettering.
When did the figure of Moyoshi appear?
Moyoshi already existed in 2000: it was a solo musical project I was touring with. When we were about to release a second demo, the band split up, leaving a lot of ideas unfinished. I was a fan of electro and abstract hip-hop and I loved Asian culture, from DJ Krush to anime acts like Le voyage de Chihiro and Princesse Mononoké. So Moyoshi came into its own naturally, accompanying itself at the beginning with Asian lettering.
For you, who went from graffiti to street art, what would be the difference between the two worlds?
I think it’s a matter of nomenclature. While a forty-five year old guy was telling me that what was important to him was the transgressive nature of Graffiti, today street art is more about interacting with passers-by. However, in the end, what will count is the presence of an expression: the more spontaneous it is, the more valuable it will be. Those who don’t make a long-term commitment but bludgeon the street before a show will find it harder to be accepted by the underground community. In this respect, I think that the street art world will have to take responsibility for not just being a fad, and be consumed in ten years’ time.
A DIRECT LINE ADAPTED TO ITS SPACE
What does the street mean to you as a space?
When I started, the street was a space of freedom, but also carries a negative connotation. When Sarkozy arrived at the Ministry of the Interior, it became synonymous with “scum” and “thugs”. Added to this freedom was a transgressive side, that of allowing oneself things, of being outside when everything was closed, even if in Normandy it was a crime of dirty mouths.
However, the street is also a space of constraints. I hung out there a lot, even slept a little, before I found the right people to help me. I am one of the people who likes to walk there, to whom it offers new ideas. Discovering an office job for years before returning to the street also helped me get over the fence. And I’ve always appreciated this big difference: I think that life is not a straight line.
Finally, the street offers a way to remain anonymous. When you’re a musician, you have to show up on stage. Graffiti, on the other hand, allows you to spend an evening with people who are wondering who’s painted a piece of work, without them suspecting that you’re standing in front of them! This ability to remain hidden has been a victory, even if it does require more time to allow you to be spotted. Thus, the only ones who will recognize you will be the curious and the crooks.
Why did you choose the bomb as a working tool?
To be honest, at first I worked at Posca. It was quite easy to steal them, until the day when the shopkeepers realised that it was better to hide certain markers. But they were mostly too small and I didn’t think they were seen enough. So I got some more conspicuous bombs from a body shop. One day, I met two guys on a graffiti field who showed me some real bombs and some techniques. It was a shock, because until then my graphic expression was quite rough: to leave a trace, a piece of plaster or shoe polish could be enough. I was already oriented towards characters and I liked very much the abstract movement with an aestheticism close to the world of illustration (lettering, but which was not my first universe). Nevertheless, I think the important thing is to develop one’s own aesthetics, which is not necessarily linked to the tool, even if there are periods in one’s life when one will favour one rather than the other. In the workshop, I also try to transcribe my universe with chalk, brushes or markers.
How important is direct line drawing in your approach?
Direct line drawing is a discipline I’ve always loved: a wall, a bomb, a single line. In the first festivals I was even called “Le traceur”, because I always worked with these frenetic lines. I didn’t realize at the beginning the importance of this style linked to Graffiti in my work. The real graffiti artists I met told me that I was an atypical personality in this field, which made me tripped because they had spotted me.
This layout is accompanied by a taste for improvisation.
For one of my last frescoes, I assumed in front of the public and journalists not knowing at all what I was going to do when I started. I don’t worry about facing a wall, because with experience I have mastered a few colour palettes, choices of dynamics and some strong aesthetics. I love freestyle, starting a fresco and spreading out more and more, with music blasting in my ears. I was already adopting this attitude as a musician, not wanting to do covers. I prefer to work on my own expression rather than taking over someone else’s work at the risk of distorting it. I’ve always favoured creativity and improvisation, even if freestyle has also played tricks on me and I sometimes use sketches. Because of this, I often had to lengthen my frescoes at the beginning to correct a defect in harmony or composition. I also wanted to finish my bombs at all costs, even if it meant overflowing into the trash can next door.
From fantasy creature to experimental research...
Why did you choose to paint these half-animal, half-plant creatures?
I am in love with the animal world and Nature: as it is more and more missing in our daily life, it is a strong source of inspiration. I didn’t necessarily pay attention to artists who painted animals, because everyone has their own graphic paw. In my work, I first paint the eye on the wall, which I consider to be both an animal and a plant entity. I then conceptualized this, thinking about the idea of nature erasing us and taking back its rights. It’s a theme that can be found, for example, in Princess Mononoke. This duality of Nature and animals uniting to fight a great battle and defend themselves inspired me a lot, even though it took me nine years to realize it. In fact, for a year, in 2014, all I did was use a colour palette associated with Japan, black, red and white.
How did you go from these creatures to a more experimental approach?
As you get older you realize that the duality between Man and Nature is very much exploited in the arts. If I found these creatures interesting at first, I’ve been trying to get rid of them for a year now. I want to look for something else, having realized that if I wasn’t in movement my work would lock itself into an era. But the evolution of expression is permanent and you have to accept it. At the moment I am very attracted by abstract and graphic universes, which allow me to broaden my research.
For example, I work a lot on the concept of anamorphosis. I don’t pretend to invent it, and I looked at it before I started with Urb’1 who were the main specialists, like Felice Varini or Georges Rousse. Anamorphosis imposes a constraint and forces one to always return to one’s starting point, especially when one works with the eye, guided by a cross. This creates some imperfections that make its charm. In the street, if I find a meter with a wall behind it, and some small pieces of furniture, I can make an anamorphosis using these supports. It’s interesting because one part of the work will remain fixed, while another will be ephemeral.
Fragment of fresco
With your project Fragment de fresque, you are trying to answer the eternal question of street work versus gallery exhibitions.
It’s not an idea I invented, but I managed to conceptualize this questioning that was in the air. For my first solo show I wanted to find something that showed an evolution between Moyoshi working in the street and the animals I drew on paper. This posed several questions in the background: Why should street art only be in the street? Why do some graffiti artists refuse to go to galleries? I read a text about my work explaining that I had the street as my studio. I then decided to use this sentence in the literal sense of the word, adding a constraint to my outdoor work, because I like to work with rules when I impose them on myself.
How’s the fragment gonna get from the street to the gallery?
I’m painting a mural with a canvas hung on the wall with two nails. This allowed me to see and learn that because of the wind its fixation was decisive in order not to let it fly away. Once the painting was finished, one of the two photographers who accompanied me took a picture of the whole. It is this photograph that will be shown in the gallery next to the painting (the fragment), with indications about the place, the date, the hottest and coldest temperature (so that people realize that I am outside), as well as the name of the work. So my big gap was realized and I was waiting to hear the reaction of the urban artists.
Why was the presence of photographers important on this project?
I try to work as much as possible alone, but you have to be able to recognize the skills of people who have specific abilities, especially in photography, and who can collaborate with you to enhance your project. It was crucial for me that the person who buys a fragment could see where it came from otherwise it wouldn’t have made sense. Without this information only the aesthetic side would remain, which is awkward when proposing a specific approach.
Fragment of a fresco thus symbolically brought a piece of wall into a gallery.
I find that the return of the others is constructive, it helps to clarify his ideas so that the underlying theme stands out better. From this point of view, I liked the good feedback I got from vandals. They had understood the difficulties I had had in painting outdoors, even if it made me more versatile and autonomous. Every street artist tries to respond to this opposition between the street and the gallery, but most of the time it only results in a reproduction. By concretizing this concept I really succeeded in bringing the exterior to the interior. The return of an old one particularly marked me. He underlined the fact that the canvas, which initially belonged to a figurative ensemble, became an abstract work once hung alone in the gallery. It was a dimension that I had not perceived before.