As thousands of us pass each day anonymously, in identityless streets where human presence is fleeting, questions make sense. Do you feel comfortable there? Who owns the public space? What can we do so that each one of us is able to re-appropriate the streets so that we can feel at ease there, as if we were at home. How can we recreate a welcoming, reassuring atmosphere, transforming our sad public spaces into places of exchange and speech? How can we allow the streets to once again become spaces for expression, creation and sharing, they which remain the witnesses of our times and our lives? It is through this questioning that we met Christian Guémy, a street artist known internationally under the pseudonym C215. He shared with us his artistic approach and explained the meaning of his works in the public space.
Under the coloured mist, the childish face appears. Nina is his muse, his love, his daughter. The subject he has painted the most, the most known to the public, without hesitation. This time, she will not decorate one of the walls of the capital, it is for a client that he has recreated her.
Christian Guémy is 39 years old, with his hair in a mess and a casual look. After a childhood marked by abandonment, it was through painting that he learned to vent his anger. His goal is to use his aggressiveness, to make the most of it through constructive daily activities. The artist became known under the name C215, the patronymic of the association he created in order to organize collective exhibitions of street artists and to highlight their work through books. It is under this same pseudonym that he signs portraits that he displays in the streets of major cities around the world: Paris, London, Berlin, New Delhi, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Oslo, Casablanca etc. Spray paintings made with the stencil technique, touching by the details and expressions of the faces. Through his portraits, he tells the stories of these characters.
He leaves his works behind without regret, he even takes pleasure in abandoning them. Participating in an "art of absence", as he calls it, he likes to leave the trace of his visible passage without being physically present himself. He draws his pleasure from the moment, from a mixture of adrenaline brought by risk and exposure to others, but also from the satisfaction of embellishing a space and working, expressing himself freely without being accountable to anyone.
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Behind the search for the appropriateness of the place, the portrait, the colours and the dimensions, behind the characters he leaves behind, the artist is also in search of identity. "Art is my therapy," he confesses. After a darker period of his life during which he mainly represented tramps, orphans or those left behind, he now varies his subjects more and adds more colours to his paintings.
The pleasure Christian feels when he paints is intrinsically linked to the pleasure he shares with passers-by, those who are attentive enough not to miss his works. "I'm talking to those who want to observe the poetry of the city. And I hope that my work is part of it. "He wants to surprise passers-by by confronting them with his graffiti placed in unexpected places. "It creates a strong emotion and contact between the work and the public without necessarily identifying the public and the artist. »
Through his works, the street art artist clearly seeks to elicit a reaction from passers-by. Insolent and relevant, the man plays on ambiguity, on the tension between two opposing forces, both in his works and in his temperament. Behind his appearance as a somewhat baba cool artist hides a very cultured man, both rational and very attached to precision. "I like paradoxes, being at the same time in opposition to the law but for the well-being of all, I find it extremely romantic. The poetry of the thing is ultimately in that tension. What I paint represents both chaos and structure. "Sometimes with a hint of irony, he looks for the limit, the precise point where the work will make sense without tipping over into the provocation displayed, while leaving room for interpretation.
Christian recognizes the civic role that his works carry. In the street, art is obviously engaged and made for a public. "When I intervene in the urban space it is to bring people together, not to divide them, I try to create a consensus. I am not a provocateur. I try that it benefits as many people as possible and that it doesn't harm anyone. Through his works, the artist tries to nourish a questioning on identity, anonymity and the notion of the other. "I make anonymous. I address the viewer directly by showing his face through the face of another. There is an exchange. »
Christian Guémy claims it, he is not a vandal, he doesn't deteriorate his environment, on the contrary, he tries to promote a different view of the city. "I always intervene to transform a neglected space, therefore not maintained, into something that takes on value. There is a social benefit for the people who can enjoy it. The place becomes a space for personal expression. There is a magical side to this transformation. »
The artist needs to evolve, to learn in order not to get bored, he hates repetitive things. From now on, he also works on the internet "because the web is also a bit of a non-mappable space" he explains. In the near future, he plans to tackle painting large walls, which he is not used to. Laughing, Christian announces that he will be tagging graffiti when he's old. There's a first time for everything.
For the moment, you will be able to admire his works during his next exhibitions. :
"Urban masters", from 9 November, Opera gallery, London" Beyond street art", from 28 November 2012, L'Adresse Musée de la Poste, Paris" Orgullecida", from 13 December 2012, Montana gallery, Barcelona" Vedi cara", from 2013, Wunderkammern gallery, Rome
More information to be found on the page Facebook artist's official website and many photos of his works on his Flickr page.
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Also to be reviewed, a portrait of the artist made by Canal Street.
Article written by Jéromine Santo Gammaire, Web journalist for Creative Europe
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