I recently had a nice chat with Simon Grainville from Urban Art Paris.
Read the article (FRENCH VERSION) via their website HERE
1/ The inaugural exhibition Aesthetics held at the Artcan gallery in Paris (from 15th September to 11th October 2020) was a remarkable event of your artistic actuality in France. You showed your work with the artist Markus Genesius. What was the process of this project ?
The exhibition had been delayed from April 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions. After months of lockdown restrictions we finally got a window of opportunity. It felt good being able to come together and connect through art in Paris’ wonderful ArtCan Gallery! I worked with the gallery before some two years ago and they invited me for a show. It was great working with Markus, our art goes well together. We have both evolved from graffiti to working with abstract shapes and experimenting with 3D, searching what lies beneath matter. I displayed some of my BRIQUE-sculptures in which I processed small pieces from outside murals. I also showed my more recent collages. The opening night was a success, although the atmosphere was quite unusual with everyone wearing face masks. By now this has become normal.
2/ While you were in Paris, you took some of your free time to have little getaways with local artists such as Katre. Do you have an anecdote to tell us?
I have known Katre for twelve years, he visited me in Sydney, Australia, when I stayed there in 2011. Especially during the current times in which we all work quite isolated in our studios and interactions are limited, it was great to meet him face-to-face. We caught up, made fun and ‘played’ a little making a mural next to his studio.
3/ Among the artworks presented within the exhibition, there were several sculptures from your « BRIQUE » series on which you worked for two years. How would you describe your artistic ambition?
BRIQUE is the result of a constant evolution of my style. From two-dimensional murals and canvasses my work has slowly but precisely evolved to 3D-art. I have always been inspired by the effects of light and shadow to create a sense of depth in my work. In my murals I use cement to prepare the surface and generate a deepness that creates a 3D-effect through natural shadows. Working with cement inspired me to take out pieces from old murals and reshape them into a new form, the BRIQUE sculpture. We have to see where my work evolves to, but I have the ambition to make larger outside works, possibly work with buildings. But it has to grow naturally.
4/ You also exhibited some new artworks such as collages. So you are extending your practice to more and more mediums?
I am always looking for new methods and media to express my art, but as I said, it needs to be a natural evolution. In the end, it’s not the material that matters most. My style has to remain recognizable. From BRIQUE it has been a natural next step to collages in terms of the level of detail, composition and the game of lights and shadows.
5/ This new creative impetus was born in a very exceptional social and health context… How did the different lockdowns impact your artistic practice?
The lockdowns have had a huge impact on my practice, the collages for example originate from this period. I spent a lot of time in my home studio, practicing and perfecting my style. Since schools and daycare were closed my sons were often at home with me. Seeing them cutting up paper and sticking it onto other pieces of paper while I helped them with the glue, inspired me to start making collages.
I also launched DOES Gallery; we turned my home studio into a multifunctional space – half studio, half gallery – with an official gallery wall to present the latest studio work to the public and make it directly available on the market.
I look back at the lockdowns as a tough but fruitful period in which I took the opportunity to take a step back from the everyday rush and discover new things. It has also been a blessing spending all this time with my family. The kids distracted me regularly which was sometimes a nuisance, but I got practiced in getting back into my creative bubble in an instant. And quite frankly, we didn’t have a choice other than dealing with it. I always try to find something positive, even in a shitty situation.
6/ All of this emphasizes your adapting capacity. Your book First 20 years illuminates brightly the evolution of your style since your first piece in 1997. How do you regenerate your inspiration?
I often find inspiration in shapes and colors that I see in everyday life, while traveling or hiking a nearby forest. But primarily, each work I make inspires the next so each piece is an evident succession of the one before. This is how I train myself and develop my skills. This slow but steady progress is also displayed in the book First 20 years. You can see that in the first six years I am trying to find my own style, experimenting with shapes. In 2006 I clearly chose a path and started mastering my style and technique. I have learned to understand letters, their composition, the connections and balance between them. This is something I am particularly proud of.
You’ll see throughout my artistic career that there have been several milestones that got me to where I am today. Often these milestone are linked to my personal life. Looking back at those moments you see a next step in my style that I then practice and perfect during the following years. For example, when I quit my soccer career in 2008 I went through a difficult phase in my life. It was during that time that I started working with and discovering color schemes. Another milestone was the birth of my oldest son in 2014. I started trying new things, working with cracks and tears and creating more depth into my work. This was the starting point that lead to my current 3D-art. Creativity and my development as a person are definitely intertwined.
7/ Despite all the renewals, we can still see the importance of the letters on which Phase 2 insisted with his manifesto in Style Writing from the Underground. With Nash, Chas and Tumki, you created the crew Loveletters. Who were the artists who influenced you when you started ? Any recent discovery to share with us?
During my soccer career I got used to working as a team, challenging, supporting and inspiring each other. It was a natural thing for me to create a team of artists around me. That’s why I co-founded the Loveletters-crew.
After I quit my soccer career in 2008 I felt the need to develop myself as an individual, both personally and as an artist. My wife and I decided to go live and work in Australia for a little while. There, I followed my own path as a solo artist, not feeling restricted in any way. Another milestone is my first solo exhibition ‘I love Letters’ in Sydney in 2011. I painted several pieces during our stay in Australia and had some earlier work sent over from the Netherlands. I was quite nervous but it turned out a success, I nearly sold everything that night. This moment was a kind of revelation to me, a confirmation of my artistic abilities as a solo artist.
Nowadays, I get inspired by people that continuously push their boundaries. I can’t mention anyone in particular, it can be someone I meet or something I see in a magazine or through social media.
8/ Your work is currently exhibited in the group show ‘One by one’ at the ABV Gallery (Atlanta, USA). What are your plans for 2021?
This year is still a little uncertain because of the pandemic. For sure I will keep pushing my boundaries, discover new materials and further perfect my collages. An exhibition in Paris’ Molitor will hopefully take place as soon as covid-restrictions allow it. We have been planning it for a while and I am very excited about it because Molitor and I have a history. Behind the scenes there’s also a lot of stuff going on like collaborations. You could think of a dinner with DOES, interior design or designing sports equipment. I’m sure it will turn out to be an exciting year!