Shaka: True relationship between art and spectator

I recently visited the studio of the French artist Shaka who emerged on graffiti style for an interview.

Alternative Paris and My Life on My Bike came to submerse ourselves in the anxious universe of Shaka – a felling that is strongly provoked by his work on canvas, sculptures and graffiti painting, through characters in movements that reveal the emotional work behind the facade of everyday human interactions.

Shaka autoportrait

Shaka autoportrait on canvas.

Shaka’s first experience on the streets, in 1995, was influenced by punk and hip hop culture. In the beginning he used to make small stencils against racism and messages about anarchy around Jamaican music. Later Shaka started to observe graffiti on the trains in France, and hip hop songs on TV got him inspired to make graffiti. In the beginning it was only for fun, but later he realized how he could mix graffiti with his painting skills and nowadays his work is a result of all these experiences: “I like to mix it all, in fact it’s just the way hip hop works, mixing elements to make music.  I work in the same way.”

He started to do graffiti in the streets of Paris and suburbs seventeen years ago. It was a natural way to  continue painting for someone who started doing it on childhood.

Shaka graffiti in Brazil

Graffiti by Shaka in Brazil

“I started to paint with oil on canvas when I was 9 years old, so when I started with graffiti I already had that experience. By the age of 18, my friends and I were students and we didn’t  want to stay at home or paint in a studio, we were looking for fun and graffiti was a way of combining both. Graffiti was really expressive for me, I wasn’t judged, I was free! I had a new name, I was excited, it brought me a good vibration and feeling, and that’s how I discovered a new way to paint”.

Continuing his artistic path, Shaka graduated in Fine Art at the Sorbonne, where he also did a Masters in Multimedia Arts.

One artist that influenced him was the Italian painter Caravaggio from the sixteen century (1571 -1610), an aggressive man that had a tumultuous life, including a lot of enemies and a murder story.

Streets by Shaka

Streets by Shaka on canvas.

Graffiti by Shaka

Graffiti by Shaka

Impressive sculptures,  some surprisingly on canvas, make Shaka’s work as impressive as his unique technique. His first studio in Paris  was in an old factory building: “In this studio I started using all things that I found around me on the floor. I used found objects to build, to put on canvas. In 2007 it was the first time that I used the process to make a sculpture on canvas, it was experimental in that moment.”

I was curious to deeply understand Shaka’s message. During the interview he revealed his interest in human interactions. Observing hooligans and the power of group force, coupled with his own need to have “real life” relationships during the current internet era, makes it clear for him that his art needs to be so strong in order to provoke reflection about human behaviour.

People by Shaka

People by Shaka on sculpture

Concerned about how our generation is submersed in a sea of information over the internet, and the virtual relationships that we have, Shaka is interested in bringing people to see his work personally with the intention of having real interactions: “My canvas and sculptures, the strong colors and characters speak about this. I want you to have an exchange with me, you have to go to the gallery or to my studio if you really want to appreciate my work. It is the way to enjoy sculpture. I’m interested in real relationships, all the characters want to exchange energy with people, to cause a reaction in them. Some people say that my work is too violent, too aggressive. For me that’s a compliment, it’s how I want to provoke people.”

Le Malin by Shaka

Le Malin by Shaka on sculpture

A strong reflection is generated after carefully observing Shaka’s work. Behind the violence represented in his paintings and sculptures thru an energetic color palette, there is a message of sensibility. It’s all about human expression, the movement of their bodies representing the struggle for individuality in social power politics. “I like to compare my work with how governments works, with the end of American dynasty for example. One character will fall for sure, and with his selfishness and violence he will take others down with him. I want to provoke a reflection about this selfish human behavior”.

When I ask him to explain why he is particularly inspired by Caravaggio, he says: “ I don’t have enemies like Caravaggio. But there are some connections between his life and mine. I’m not a hooligan, I don’t like football that much, but I like to be in a stadium to see and understand the forces of one group, five thousand guys, crying, beating, fainting. It is really impressive, it’s another world for a moment. You have your normal life, family, friends and work, but at that moment in the stadium, the whole group is a new force, rich and poor people together in the same place for a purpose. At the same time that Caravaggio was painting religion, his painting was really strong and contrasting, so his life was also strong like a hooligan.”

Street Allegory by Shaka

Street Allegory by Shaka on canvas

Shaka describes himself as the opposite of all images he creates, as he is a very calm person with good childhood friends. His art is the way that he has to fight, he explained: “I grew up between the suburbs and Paris, between the ghetto and middle class, and it was a positive cultural exchange for me. My first canvases when I arrived in Paris were about how people come from the suburb to Paris on Saturday to party and to have fun, there is a real difference between people from neighborhood and the center. Normally when journalists speak about people from neighborhood on television they talk just about the bad things. I made canvas in the same way that bad journalists report the violence on the suburb. There are a lot of positive things over there but the television never talks about it. My first graffiti crew was from the neighborhood. My confrontation is not a speech, it’s inside my art.  You have to fight sometimes, is not my way of thinking, but sometimes if you want to be respected you need to fight.”

Human Behavior

Human Behavior by Shaka on canvas

For Shaka it is evident that as an artist he has two different disciplines; working in the studio on canvas, and free work as a graffiti artist, alone or with his crew DKP in Paris. “My canvas are big paintings in graffiti style but is not about graffiti. You can make as many “graffitis” in a gallery as you want, but will never be graffiti. Graffiti is on the wall, on the streets and it’s illegal. If I go to the streets I want to have the feeling of graffiti… to be honest I don’t really appreciate doing legal walls on the streets, you have a lot of photographers behind you, it’s not free. Sometimes I like to be on the streets and make interventions during the night, what real graffiti is about.”

Graffiti by Shaka in Mancy

Graffiti by Shaka in Mancy

Graffiti by Shaka at Palaiseau

Graffiti by Shaka in Palaiseau

To finish the interview I asked Shaka which situations make him behave like his aggressive characters. He confessed that being in the traffic can make him very nervous, so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask him: “Why you don’t start biking?” It was a good chance to influence street artists through one of the proposals of My Life on My like, isn’t it?

Shaka will debut in NY at the gallery nine5 starting on December 14. He would love to paint a wall on the mecca of street-art during his time in North America. We all hope he does!!

Graffiti by Shaka at Melun

Graffiti by Shaka in Melun

Le Mur de L’Art – Opening documented by Alternative Paris

Alternative Paris  is shooting a documentary during the second edition of Le Mur de L’Art exhibition in Paris.  Right now, I’m tired, very tired.  Is already 2 a.m and our crew worked hard. I’m posting here some thoughts and pictures from this amazing first day!

Scenario – lights – cameras –  frames – distortions – thoughts.

Work in progress by artists  – installations – shootings – photography – smell of sprays – introductions –  booking interviews – thoughts.

Time –  last details – cardboard – food – team – first interview – first shooting on the street while artists were acting – thoughts.

Vernissage – people + people –  party – music – drink for free – 27 interviews booked, artists performances – friendship – network – business – thoughts.

Relax – movie inspiration – revision – walk – thoughts.

Relax – write –  photos to choose – this article – dreams and good night!

Chanoir at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Astro at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Speedy Graphito at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Shaka at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo by Fernanda HInke

Kouka at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Bustart at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Kashink and Speedy Graphito at Le Mur de L’Art
Phto: Fernanda Hinke

Thom Thom at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Beton and Valentim at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Teurk at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Jean Moderne and RCF1 at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Le Cyklop at Le Mur de L’Art
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Ella et Pitr interviewed by Fernanda Hinke for Alternative Paris documentary 
Photo: Jonathan Edwards

Ella et Pitr pasting -up on the streets and been filming and shooting by Alternative Paris crew: Jonathan Edwards, Charles Devoyer and Richard Beban. Photo: Fernanda Hinke

Elle et Pitr
Photo: Fernanda Hinke

‘Actions speak louder than words’ – L’Atlas interview

One day before interviewing Shepard Fairey last June in Paris, I was fortunate to interview the French artist L’Atlas. On his peaceful studio in La Forge in Belleville neighborhood, with a fresh and raining afternoon surrounded by bird songs and in company with my artistic minded friend Jordan Alves (who set up the interview and also helped me to edit it), we had the opportunity of submersing ourselves in L’Atlas universe explained by his calm and sweet voice.

L’Atlas Studio, Belleville – Paris

L’Atlas, whose real name is Jules Dedet Granel, is a French artist born in 1978. Major figure in the street-art, artist and typographer who has studied Archeology and Calligraphy. He started to work with spray on the streets of Paris writing his name in the early 90’s.

L’Atlas Studio, Belleville – Paris

In 2001, he stopped to use spray can and discovered the tape (scotch). L’Atlas is particularly interested in Kufi, writing geometric codes which transposes into the Latin alphabet. Always been attracted by the cards and travel, his artistic approach was marked since childhood by the books on astronomy and geography whose aesthetics attracted him deeply. It is in this universe that owes its name, directed in most of his works. After marking the floors and walls of the cities with huge compasses and labyrinths, L’Atlas took the path of geometric abstraction. Today he is represented by 5 galleries around the world in Paris, NY, Milan, London and Marrakech.

“Cosmic Graffiti” Exhibition, Espace Beaurepaire – Paris – Photo:Bombes Production

L’Atlas manhole cover, Toulouse – Photo:L’Atlas

I first asked him, how he got interested about cosmos, earth and geography. “I was attracted by things around energy, like earth and cosmos and I use to do Tai Chi Chuan that easily opened my contact with the energy of the universe. I think life is energy and also calligraphy is energy, paint is the translation of pure energy. For me, there is no difference between the universe and painting. When you look at a map, the universe and cosmos are geographic landscapes in a balance. In my paintings, I’m looking to re-find the balance of the landscapes and cosmos”, he explains.

L’Atlas, Jakarta – Photo:L’Atlas

His artistic name comes from the titan in Greek mythology. He explained to me that during his studies of archeology he learned also Greek and Middle East mythology. “I was fascinated for by that and I thought it was a good idea to mix this old mythology with something really contemporary and modern.  Also because the Atlas it’s a universal form that everybody understands. On the book and the map, Atlas really influenced my work”.

L’Atlas Studio, Belleville – Paris

L’Atlas Studio, Belleville – Paris

L’Atlas Studio, Belleville – Paris

Influenced by Hakim Bey, researcher of the Sufism, he explained to me his spiritual path: “I don’t believe in God, I believe in a stronger energy and I am trying to follow this energy. I’m very sensitive to feel the energy inside places. I used to read a lot of books about Taoism and I feel connected with this philosophy, where everyone can find his own personality and even that in this philosophy there are rules, they are flexible, different of the traditional religions that don’t respect your individuality, making people follow their own visions’.

L’Atlas, Bruxelles – Photo:The Street Art Blog

L’Atlas started to learn Latin calligraphy in 1996 and between 1998 an 2000 he learned Arabic calligraphy  in Morocco, Cairo and Syria, each time with a different master. “First time in Morocco was classic calligraphy. I learned 9 or 10 different styles, the year after I came back to Cairo to make a documentary about calligraphy. This time was the beginning of my art. In this time I was doing my first ideogram, trying to find a balance between the letters and the form. In 2000, I made my first exhibition with a video of calligraphy”.

In 2001, L’Atlas stopped to use spray can and discovered the tape. He confessed to me that when he used to work with cinema, he used to steal some rolls of tapes which wore perfect to start making links with geometry. “With tapes you don’t have to draw something so the line is already there. I like this concept of the tape, it is physical. The tape is something to make straight line, also the old painters used that to make the letters”, he said.

L’Atlas, La Forge in Belleville – Paris

L’Atlas, Strasbourg – Photo:Fat cap

In love to register the ephemeral of the streets,  he said: “I like to register the ephemeral of the streets, because it’s the dream of everyone to be eternal and then die. Since I was a child, I was looking to the forms of the city, especially geometric forms. The manhole cover influenced my work with graffiti and calligraphy.  I like the idea that I’m going to enter into this format and stay there”

One of the memorable works of L’Atlas career were the compass series on the streets.  He told me a funny story that about how this idea was born, when in 2001 the city hall decided to clean all graffiti and street art in Paris. “It was really strange, overnight they cleaned everything. I felt confuse and lost in the city that I grew up. That’s why I started to make the compass, to find my own directions on the city again. It was a joke for me”.

A joke that resulted into something useful in the city.  The compass series used to be  in front of the subway, people were confused, thinking that the compass were commissioned by the city or some museum.  “I realized that when you’re doing ephemeral actions you will provoke something on people’s mind”.

Compass – Centre Pompidou, Paris

In the Greek mythology, Atlas has 7 daughters, that which is a representation of the universe in movement. Our contemporary L’Atlas also has his 7 daughters, that are 7 canvas that he did in 2001 and he has been traveling around the world with them, with the same idea of movement. “My idea was to travel with the canvasses and make pictures of them everywhere, in each city that I passed by, always in the same way. I used to do it with graffiti, writing my name. With the 7 daughters is the same thing because my name is right on the canvas but what exists it’s just the pictures. It’s the most ephemeral action that you can do on the streets”.He is editing a book, which is coming soon, with 400 pictures from 40 cities with the 7 daughters.

One of the “Seven Daughters”, India  – Photo:L’Atlas

One of the “Seven daughters” , Moscow – Photo:L’Atlas

L’Atlas started writing his name with spray in the beginning of 90’s on the streets of Paris. When he was 21, he used to tag his name on Agnes B.’s truck in front of her gallery and got a show with her because of this action: “The power of the walls is huge. To make a graffiti is a really strong action. That’s why my favorite quote is ‘Actions speak louder than words’”, he said.

L’Atlas graffiti, Paris  – Photo: Jojo Blogs

Nowadays, he can spend a month in just one canvas working for a show inside his studio. I was curious too understand how he has been mixing these two things and he told me: “I made the choice to work with galleries, but sometimes I need to go to the street and make big things, otherwise I can feel really nervous and aggressive. I miss the street because before I had the right balance between the street and the studio. Now I’m working in a big studio with Tanc. I work for several galleries around the world so I’ve to spend a lot of time to create exhibitions”. He also completed: “The street is a good thing to show your art, because if you sell a canvas, maybe 50 people will see it, but if your work is on the streets, maybe a thousand people will see it every minute!”.

Even working more inside his studio than on the streets nowadays, it’s impossible denied L’Atlas roots from street-art.  It’s a such powerful example that how an artist that started to work on the “free” walls of the street can achieve successful and maturity in his art- concepts and lifestyle.

L’Atlas signed my Le M.U.R book, Belleville – Paris

Suriani: a Brazilian street-artist shines in Paris.

It’s Monday night and I’m going to meet the charismatic Brazilian artist and urban architect Rafael Suriani in front of Cirque D’hiver,  at Rue Amelot in Paris. A place that he suggested to meet me when I asked to interview him close to some of his recent works.

In a traditional Parisian cafe on the beginning of Rue Oberkampf we had an enjoyful  conversation for almost 2 hours and after that, we walked around and I had the pleasure to see personally, Suriani’s 4 latest works on street accompanied by him.

Based in Paris since 2007, I first met Suriani on the vernissage of a collective exhibition at Le Cabinet d’Amateur in the end of May. On that moment he was exhibiting his canvas beside the artists Fred Le ChevalierDiamantRubbish Cube and others. Naturally I felt interested  to decode  the work of a fellow countryman from Sao Paulo. Our connection, which is not just about coming from the same country, speaking the same language and working with street art, is also about sensibility for the same subject, a coincident  story that I will tell you later on in this article about the fashion industry, the Bolivian workers and the Braz neighborhood in Sao Paulo, that in 2006 both of us, Suriani and I were involved in different ways.

Rafael Suriani

Suriani knew that he wanted to be an artist since he was a child. He studied architecture because was a way to have a career and also the possibility to draw a lot. His first work on the streets was in 2002, time when the first generation of past-up emerged in the city of Sao Paulo.“In the middle of the architecture course I started a search of urban art, public art, monuments and sculptures in the city of Sao Paulo. In that time it was also the boom of muralist graffiti, the explosion of artists like Os GemeosNunca and Zezao, because I already liked the graffiti movement I was inspired and I started to past-up in 2002 and never stopped since then”, he says.

Suriani’s most recent work in Paris

Suriani’s most recent work in Paris

Suriani’s most recent work in Paris

Suriani’s most recent work in Paris

His thesis for the architectural university was a series of past up about Bolivian population working on the fashion industry in the Braz neighborhood, Sao Paulo. Is in this exact point of his work that Suriani and I got connected with our past. I used to work with fashion for a long time and I use to buy clothes to supply my store on this same place. One day I heard about the reality of the conditions of Bolivians that use to work for those companies, almost as slaves, working in inhumane conditions to generate more profit for the owners of the business and also to achieve competitive prices for people like me, that were buying from  them and collaborating for this unjust system. When I realize this sad situation, it was the same year that Suriani was “protesting” with his art work. “I contacted the Bolivian people that use to work in this conditions and inspired me in their culture to create this series. I took the millenary weaving of fabrics that they have and contrasted with the not poetic conditions that they came to work in the fashion industry in Sao Paulo, I inserted the image of a Lhama in the context that this people are living and had been suffering. Once one Bolivian man that saw this image on the wall in Sao Paulo came to me crying and moved with the memories he had of this animal in his childhood. I created a social visualization  for a specific group using the image of an animal, a metaphor.”, he explained me.

Suriani’s work in Sao Paulo

Suriani’s work in Sao Paulo

Suriani takes his inspiration from the urban life, urban culture, skateboarding, night life, street fashion, mythology from different continents, tales and everything that is related with young culture. “ It may seem incredible, but even using animals, my inspiration doesn’t come from nature but from the urban life. My characters are hybrids, which are very connected to the mythologies, the man/animal thing, this universe fascinates me”, Suriani says.

Animals were always present in his life: “ When I was a child I didn’t play with cars but with animal toys and I also use to have a dog, a fish, a turtle and a chicken that was devoured (laughs). Normally in my work I make series, I choose one animal and a state of spirit for him that can be funny, sensual, mysterious… That is also related with my spirit, with what I’m feeling in the moment. ”Even with the presence of animals in his life, he says: “ Work with animals in my art is not a personal thing, but I am fascinated that animals are living beings like us,  but we don’t understand them, we use to project ourselves in our pets, through our eyes we humanize animals.”

Suriani’s work in London

Suriani’s work in Paris

I asked Suriani what brought him to past up on the streets and he said:“ The necessity to participate without asking if I can, the desire to go out and intervene, change something on the environment. I like the idea that street art brings life for places without trying to sell anything.  Someone that brings its own energy and live this energy for the city. In the point of view of the artist, we have the opportunity to be spontaneous, something that we lost in our society. An opportunity to show our work without following the rules of traditional portfolios. I also like the sociability with other people that is possible when you join in the urban life.”

In 2007 Suriani moved to Paris, while working on restaurant he discovered a scholarship for a master degree at Université Paris VII Vincennes-St Denis with the theme: Urban art and collage, practice and theoretical, with the goal to investigate in what artists do on the streets with spontaneity. He searched about the theme “post-graffiti”: “There are not a lot theory studies about this subject. Graffiti was born more than 30 years ago and around 10 or 15 years the range of street art got expanded. Graffiti is an element of hip hop movement and post-graffiti are artistic interventions on the street that are not connected necessarily with hip hop. For example Os Gemeos use to make mural paintings with bomb spray and they are not always directly connected with the hip hop movement. Graffiti is the origin of street art and nowadays post-graffiti  is more amplified for people that are connected with other movements or not.”, he said.

Suriani’s work in Paris

Living in Paris he already did a lot of projects. One of them is the French bulldogs series, he explain: “The French bulldog is a dog race originally from Paris which has a sulky face. They are intimately related to the Parisians. It’s not a social critic, I love Paris! But is a critic about the famous image of the Parisians who always complain and are never satisfied ”.

French bulldog series in Paris

French bulldog  series in Paris

Cats also appear in Suriani’s work, “Cats are urban animals, specially here you can connect them with the famous roofs of Paris, they are free and not so submissive like the dogs. It’s not a ecological discourse but a way to talk about the urban man. Everyone can interpret the message of my work in different ways, I don’t want to say something specific, I believe that the work is strong when you have different interpretations, this is important for me”.

Street cats in Paris

Street cats in Paris

One issue that I was interested to know Suriani’s opinion, was about when street artists work above other street artist work, he sad: ”In Sao Paulo we call it “run over”, there is a lot of respect for the work of the colleagues. Here it is more usual to see an artist place their work on top of other works. In my opinion is unnecessary. There are so many walls, unless that the paste-up is really old or is ripped off.”

I asked him to compare the street art scene in Paris and in Sao Paulo: “Sao Paulo is a city always in construction because of the real-estate market  which is considered ugly. Personally I like this aspect of demolition and construction. The graffiti scene and mural painting are really strong . We have a lot of worldwide successful artists like Os Gemeos, Zezao, Kobra, etc… The city offers lot of walls and because it is considered ugly the reception for street art is very positive. On the other hand you don’t get so much visibility, because Sao Paulo has a lot of visual and sound pollution, a heavy atmosphere.  In Paris the past-up technic is really strong as well as installations and mosaics like Space  Invaders, Diamant and the collective French Tricot. Paris is calmer than Sao Paulo, monochromatic, less visually polluted. People use to walk more, even tough the pieces stay on the walls less time they have more visibility.” Suriani says

Suriani’s canvas















Observing Suriani series of work along those 10 years since he started, its clear the cohesion of an artist that mixes in perfect harmony theory studies and sharp concepts to create spontaneous and sophisticated work that he does on the streets and for galleries,

Suriani’s next show will be at Cabinet D’amateur on September 06 in Paris. He also will have a show in London at Islington Arts Center and he was invited to exhibit in Florianopolis, Brazil, let’s cross the fingers to see the work of this talented street-artist running the world! Congratulations Suriani!!

“The Beatles Cathedral Gallery” a movie by PAn Trinity Das

In the midst of the chaos of living in Paris, a couple of weeks ago I had the blessing of being introduced by the lovely Paz Reina to a short film, named “The Beatles Cathedral Gallery”, a movie made by the spiritual artist  Pan Trinity Das,   which has brought freshness, peace and hope to my mind.

I don’t usually talk about things that I haven´t experienced in person and seen with my own eyes, but in this case even with extreme distances between France, where I am based, India where the movie was recorded and Canada where Pan lives, it was impossible not to be touched  by this wonderful art creation developed by a creative global community.

After watching the movie several times, and being absorbed in its’ really special soundtrack, Paz (who has been traveling for 7 months with the mission to spread peace and smiles all over the word) introduced me to this other special being, named Pan. We had a long conversation over skype and once more, the universe showed me how great intentions and spontaneity can create extraordinary things.

Pan is a 26 year-old artist who lives in Toronto, and considers himself a spiritual “rainbow”. He has struggled to find space to show his work in the traditional galleries because his art is considered “too spiritual”. Recently, he was influenced by the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop, especially by the work of the artists Shepard FaireyBanksy and Barbara kruger. “ I started painting when I was 16. I did a lot of shows in coffee shops and my mom pushed me a lot to try and sell. I did my first graffiti project when I was 19, I painted a massive wall under a bridge with positive messages.”

PAn Trinity Das

A practitioner for 7 years of Bhakti Yoga , which means yoga of devotion, Pan had been encouraged by many friends to spend some time in the East/India. In the beginning of this year he travelled to India, and miraculous things started happening. “I was really captivated by what happens in India. In the beginning, I was just traveling and taking photos, I didn’t have plans to make the movie yet, it just happened afterwards”, he explained.

While living and performing seva (selfless service) at Amma’s ashram, he noticed that there were some paintings on the walls. “When I saw those paintings, I thought I could do something myself, so I talked to the supervisors and they were really interested in what I do. They gave me a space in a pool area and when I started to paint, magical things started happening.” In the first 2 days, he was allowed to paint 1 hour a day, which was not enough to get much work done. “After the second day, miraculously the pool filter broke, so they had to shout down the entire area and suddenly I had all day to paint and I thought,  “This is Amma’s grace.”

Pan and his Amma mural at Amritapuri

After this beautiful experience he decided to make street art in all the cities that he would visit in India, “That became my goal”, he said. After 3 months, Pan had painted in half the cities and villages he had visited, feeling disappointed that he hadn’t found suitable walls in the North, he headed to Rishikesh after a friend suggested there were walls down on the Ganges. Once he got there, he was directed by a musician named Parker Ainsworth to the abandoned Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, popularly dubbed the “Beatles Ashram.” The site where, in 1968, The Beatles composed the “White album” while seeking sanctuary from the lime light.

The Beatles and the Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in INDIA

“There I met some musicians who were interested in shooting a music video covering Beatles songs from the White album.  With my friend Ian Ether who is also an artist and a co-visionary of this project, I did a portrait of the Beatles for the visuals of video”.

The Beatles painted by Pan Trinity Das and  Ian Ether













Once finished , Pan realized that The Beatles cover looked too small for the cathedral space and a vision emerged of transforming the entire hall into a gallery : “I was blown away with the potential of that place… there was no reason to stop painting. I had one more month in India,  so I decided to clear my schedule and stay there”.

The Beatles Cathedral Gallery – work in progress

Each day  20 or 30 tourists and musicians came to visit the Satsang Hall. The affirmation of Pan’s visions came on the third day, when around 15 volunteers from all over the world came to help with the gallery, rapidly transforming the Hall and unifying the community.  The number of volunteers multiplied each day as artists, musicians and people who thought they could never paint were there working together as a community “full of compassion”, as one of the volunteers describes.

Since it’s impossible to find spray cans in India, the whole gallery was painted in oil paint which Pan supplied,  entirely in black, red and white.  At the end of 2 weeks, when the gallery was shut down by the authorities,  Pan had painted 10 portraits  of spiritual figures, besides the work of 4 other artists; Ian Ether from USA, Freja Fri from Denmark, Lorwen De La Foret from France, Alice & Julie Jensen from Denmark and over 50 volunteers from all over the world.

Portraits by Pan Trinity Das

Organic-circle/triangle pieces by Ian Ether

Work by Freja Fri

Volunteers helping to paint

Artists, volunteers and Pan on top at Satsanga Hall

Now, 2 months after returning to Canada, Pan continues to receive photos and letters from fans of The Beatles Cathedral Gallery. ¨On one of the walls, we wrote the Facebook page address  and now people send us their photos. I still feel so connected with the place, I left a legacy there”, he said.

The movie came afterwards as a way to share the project. It´s Pan´s first movie and he says he´ll continue to make them.  “It’s a great medium to share with the world everyone including my family.”

Planning to go back to India next January, Pan described it to me as “the most amazing place I have ever been to”.  “I’m going back to see my baby”” he says.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Asham – INDIA

Currently in Toronto, Pan just had a show in one of the most prominent Yoga centers in the city, and for that he created over 170 pieces of art in a month, and sold them at affordable prices, because “most people who support me are my friends, and some of them don´t have a lot of money.”

“Yoga changes the spiritual mentality of the whole world. It is a revolution in lifestyle and this should be represented in art. That’s how art works; we document what is happening in culture all over the world. That’s why I’m doing it, it’s a part of me. This is my political message, the message of love”. he says.

Having seen the movie and photos of this project and talked to Pan“in person”, I found in his art and in his movie the perfect connection between street art and spirituality, which fulfilled my own soul´s need for such balance. I hope to see Pan’s work on a Wall in Paris very soon.

To finish this very special article, I chose some amazing words that you can hear and see at the end of the video as part of the testimony of people who were lucky to be there and participate in the project: get inspired!


Shepard Fairey interview in Paris

As contributors to Street Art Paris, last Thursday Demian Smith and I, we had the opportunity to interview one of the most famous street artists in the world, currently: Shepard Fairey.

It’s a tremendous responsibility to interview an artist like him, who is also involved with business and politics. But yes, working as a journalist of street art I believe that when we have pure intentions and our goal is to absorb what the artist has to show in a positive way, we always get the right dots to connect.

Shepard Fairey is the brains behind the Obey Giant campaign and also the Barack Obama Hope poster during his campaign for the presidential elections. He came to Paris to launch a collection for Levi’s at its flagship store on the Champs-Elysees, and also to create a huge wall in the thirteen arrondissement.

During the interview we talked about his relationship with the fashion world, the project with Levi’s, all the charity programs that he is involved with and the help he gives to several institutions and also about how he feels nowadays after being responsible and influencing so many people to vote for Barack Obama with the poster “Hope”.

It’s hard to deny that he is a mix of artist, and politician and businessman. Talking with him and hearing his strong voice with well articulated answers I realised that he has a strong power to make a difference and to be a great example. It was really beautiful to hear how he is concerned about using his own profit to help others and the environment by  collaborating  with non–profit organizations such as Occupy Wall Street, Surfrider Fundation and many others.

When the interview finished, in an informal way I asked him if he was planning to paint something in Paris, and so we had the information first-hand of the address of the wall that he was going to paint (which was kept in secret for the first two days of work). The wall was painted over three long days, and we were there following step by step his work in progress.

On the third day (Sunday 18th June)  the gallery responsible for the  project , invited the media, fans and  people involved with street art to make a conference on the residential building  that he was painting. As a super-star Shepard was there posing for pictures and giving autographs with patience even with a lot of work to do before finally finishing the black and red, and involving and beautiful painting.

Between Thursday and Sunday, My life on My Bike and Street Art Paris recorded different moments and perspectives of his stay in Paris to produce a video that you can watch now on the link below and discover more about Shepard Fairey’s positive ideas and his performance in Paris.

Pictures below by – Demian Philip Smith – Street Art Paris and Maria Fernanda Schweichler

Hand-picked artifacts from the Studio of Shepard Fairey exposed at Levi’s Champs elysees.

Hand-picked artifacts from the Studio of Shepard Fairey exposed at Levi’s Champs Elysees.

Hand-picked artifacts from the Studio of Shepard Fairey exposed at Levi’s Champs Elysees.

Shepard Fairey on the pick-up, VIP Party @ Levi’s

Shepard Fairey – work in progress day one, Paris

Shepard Fairey – work in progress day one – Paris

Shepard Fairey – work in progress day two – Paris

Shepard Fairey – work in progress day two – Paris

Shepard Fairey – work in progress day three – Paris

Shepard Fairey- work in progress day three – Paris

Shepard Fairey- Paris

Shepard Fairey – Paris

Fred Le Chevalier – Interview

It’s Friday, 7.15pm, a beautiful and sunny afternoon. I have an appointment with the street artist Fred Le Chevalier in front of Le Canal Saint Martin in Paris. Wow, I’m nervous, I will interview him for my blog and also as a guest for a post on the Street Art Paris Organization.

It’s not a secret that I am a big fan of his work. I already wrote two articles about him, I went to his first exhibition and I’m following everything that this so poetic street artist has been doing.

I was there waiting for him with a friend of mine that was really lucky and bought the last piece available at the day of his first vernissage. He arrived, dressed in black clothes and also with a suitcase filled of his work.

Fred Le Chevalier and My friend MInes at Canal Saint Martin.

Now I will share with you the sweetest words from this Knight and his so true intentions with his art that inspired me and I am sure that inspire a lot of people in Paris and soon all over the world.

Fred Le Chevalier started to draw when he was a child and stopped as a teenager. Seven years ago, for our happiness, he started again. At the beginning, he used to upload his drawings on MySpace, also presenting them for people around who appreciate the work. With a positive feedback, three years ago he got the confidence to stick on the streets.

“The first stick was for a woman that I used to love. It was a present for her. At that time, I didn’t realize that I could do it so often”, he said.

When young, he found influence on the work of  Ernest Pignon-Ernest and on the punk movement, that represented freedom to be and do whatever you want.

In love for literature as Alexandre Dumas and Don Quixote, he explained to me where the name Fred Le Chevalier comes from: “I used to take care of a young baby and I had to gave names for his family, so I chose one beautiful name for me, Fred Le Chevalier (Fred The Knight)”.

Three time a week, during the day, Fred walks around the city to act. He doesn’t know exactly how many drawings he’s already sticked but he estimates around 2 or 3 thousand works. “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 1 second or for 10 seconds and slow down.”

I asked him to describe his work,  that is about his alter ego, once all his characters come from his feelings:

“It’s not easy to explain. But 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.”

My friend MInes bought a original drawing called “I live in a house inside of me” that coincident is the same serigraphy that I have in my wall at home.  Both of us created our own personal meaning for this drawing, but here is Fred Le Chevalier explanation for his creation:   “The draw – I live in a house inside of me – is a story about a child discovering the world and considering the world as cold and violent. The child decided to come back inside himself to find his own place again as a way of protection. When you create your own world inside of you, then you can communicate easier and grow up. It’s also a story about self development and improvement.”

“I live in a house inside of me” by Fred Le Chevalier

As I already wrote here, in his first vernissage  at Houla Ops Bar, he sold everything in less than one hour and after this success he was invited for some galleries to exhibit his work (check his agenda for 2012 at the end of this article). But talking with him about the issue Street art vs. Gallery was so beautiful to hear from him, his pure intention with his drawings: “I’m not a specialist about galleries, but I’m discovering this world now and I will have more exhibitions this year. I’m a little 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.

Quick enquête with Fred Le Chevalier:

One color: saffron

One book: The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

One website: Beatrice Myself

One Movie:  Monty Python and the Holy Grail

One meal: Asian vegetarian food

One place in the world: Toulouse

A period that you like to be born: Tomorrow…maybe!

Below, some draws that Fred Le Chevalier did between 2011 and 2012.

Fred Le Chevalier agenda for 2012:

May 31 until June 24 – Collective exhibition at the gallery Cabinet d’ Amateur in Paris.

July 4th  –  He will stick his characters in Aulnay-Sous-Bois during a cultural event near the “Canal” in Paris.

August – Collective exhibition at the gallery Nivet Carzon in Paris.

September – Solo exhibition at a gallery in the Marais Sometimes Studio in Paris.

October – Exhibition in his town Angouleme,  at the gallery Chez Cax.