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

Horfee – Hard Comix solo exhibition in Paris

Last Saturday I joined the opening of the second solo show of the Parisian street and graphic artist Horfee. The exhibithion named Hard Comix took place at the Gallery Celal in Paris.

“Hard Comix” by Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

Hard Comix series on canvas is a result of a new challenge for Horfee. Producing works indoors in a studio, he criticizes the contemporary art world, the excess of the capitalism, corruption and greed. His inspiration comes from the original pulse of his city and also from old cartoons of the 30’s that he represents between illustration and abstraction.  Five hours after the opening of the show , half of the canvas were already sold, proving Horfee’s immense success.

“Escape dat shit” by Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

“Quatre éléments” by Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

“Skull head’s mechanics” by Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

“Try one” by Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

“Train 3” by Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

“Trains mascarade” by Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

“This is how we do it” by Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

Horfee at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

Horfee Vernissage at Celal Gallery – Photo Fernanda Hinke

Horfee started to work on the streets of Paris 12 years ago. He have been writing his name on walls, trains, trucks and roofs all over the world and his work is considered to be the most innovating and original graffiti in the world at the moment.  With a unique style mixing typography and illustration,  he loves bombing  (or “BOMB-BING” as he calls it) in a “dubs” (style of make graffiti very quickly).   But even with this underground attitude in his blood he also attended the “celebre” École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Graffiti by Horfee
Photo by Demian Smith – Alternative Paris

Graffiti by Horfee
Photo by Demian Smith – Alternative Paris

Graffiti by Horfee
Photo by Demian Smith – Alternative Paris

Last June in company of Demian Smith, we interviewed and recorded Horfee while he was making a wall with the British artist Sickboy in the eighteenth arrondissement in Paris, a wall arranged by Alternative Paris. Moment that we understood his point of view as a graffiti artist working between freely on the streets and for galleries. “The way that street art evolved gave us an opportunity to live from it without transforming what is the base, the base for us (me and my friends) is street graphic as a discipline, just putting your name out in the streets. Beside you are free to be an illustrator, and show your art with the same name that you sign on the streets inside galleries.”, Horfee explained us.

Horfe (left) & Sickboy (far right) stand in front of their painting at the eighteen arrondissement in Paris Photo by Demian Smith – Alternative Paris

Horfee & Sickboy work at eighteen arrondissement in Paris
Photo by Demian Smith – Alternative Paris

The show Horfee Hard Comix will run until December first at the Gallery Celal. For more information click here.  Our video interview with Horfee and takes from this amazing show will come soon!

Mausolée: A Residence artistique in Paris

Last weekend an astonishing project called “Mausolée” was presented  by the French artists Sowat and Lek. In 2010 they found one abandoned supermarket ( 40.000 m2 in 4 floors) in the north of Paris, which was also, for a long time, the residence for homeless. The  abandoned building  was invaded and made an artistic residence by Lek and Sowat.

They invited 40 French graffiti artist and photographers, old and new school, to work with them for a day or a week. For a year, in a great secret they created the mausoleum. In the destroyed building with a lot of dirt,  abandoned  pieces of cars and personal objects from the homeless that  use to live there, the artists found a paradise for graffiti art: white walls.

Amazing and huge abstract and figurative graffiti was painted during the residence, putting the roots of the street art  in deep connections with its means of existence: sub-culture.

To present us this incredible project “Mausolée” the artists made a movie and a beautiful book (Mausolée – edited by Alternatives). Both were showed in a great installation, inspired by the artist residence and also with some objects that they captured from the abandoned supermarket. The exhibition took place in a 200m2 site under-construction residential building last weekend. Congratulations Sowat and Lek!