He’s everywhere and yet no where, working on the the streets silently & secretly, adding to them like no one ever has. c215 as most would know him has been around the world with his stencils and paint, resurrecting lifeless walls and dead corners of the urban landscape with profound portraits. When looking at his work, there is a certain intimacy which envelopes the audience. These portraits are never distant, almost like these subjects were right there, suspended in the middle of a heartfelt conversation. It reflects a lot upon the relationship this artist wants the viewer to develop with the piece; confident, bold yet personal. Ladies & Gentlemen, I’m proud to present to you Christian Guémy AKA C215 with me on Saturday Night Conversations.
Q. What attracts you to street art?
A. Painting in the most beautiful gallery ever : the streets. Painting for people i don’t know, providing them a surprise, an emotion. Interact with a context, instead of hanging up on the sad white commercial walls of a gallery.
Q. How did you start? Do you think the culture of Paris has inspired the artist inside of you?
A. Graffiti and street art are very strong culture in France, having an existence of almost 40 years, from the lats Neo-Realists to the very last generation of parisian street artists. I’ve been beginning with a portrait of the mother of Nina, as a souvenir for my daughter when she will be older. Then I decided to paint portraits of Nina everywhere I could go.
Q. There is rarely any form of text which goes along with your work. Does that sometimes lead to a different interpretation of your work than intended?
A. I like when people can interpret my works. Freedom and poetry are very important. In France Miss Tic has always been using texts next to her pieces. Jef Aerosol does it a lot too. Then Banksy did it many times. I am not sure about the messages I could write, while I am sure of the faces, so I am never writing anything .
5. What inspires you?
A. Mainly my daughter, and then the streets : people living in, painting s I left in the streets. The streets are my studio and laboratory.
6. Its brilliant how cultures of different places have inspired a subtle style change in your work. Do you think of yourself as a traveler more than a graffiti artist? Or is it the other way round?
A. I think graffiti is like surfing, you have to travel to experience new contexts, new difficulties, new cultures. A graffiti artist staying his whole life in teh same street or district has to be very conceptual to be good, while traveling gives you constantly new opportunities to improve.
7. Any tips for amateur artists out there?
A. Taking time to practice and have a clear idea of what is personal in your works, before going up in the streets and galleries, to find originality. In any contemporary art, originality is the only question, coming along with freedom
8. Tell us about your upcoming show “smoke gets into your eyes”.
A. This new show will mainly deal with old cigarettes ads in order to show how crazy tobacco advertisings could have been in the past : Cigarettes lobby always tried to persuade ordinary people that, by smoking, they can get the style and attitude of dominant social groups : intellectual white men. It is again an exhibition trying to show how advertising is lying to sell death, using weakness and dreams of people to sell them anything.
Here are some snippets from the upcoming show :
Thank you so much Christian for giving me the time for this interview. Also to everyone : if you love Christians work like I did, you can see more of it on his personal website. And if you’re lucky enough to be in San Francisco, then you can see his upcoming show too at the Shooting Gallery