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Artist Spotlight: Mode 2

This brilliant man was born in Mauritius in the year 1967. His days as a child were spent exploring the Indian ocean before eventually relocating to the UK in 1976. Heavily influenced by the culture he was exposed to in the 80s, the young boy spent his time diving through comic books and sci-fi stories. He claims to draw for as long as he can remember. This only speaks of his exceptional talent.

Mode 2 has taken the art world by storm, drawing his inspiration from the hip-hop culture which was close to his heart. He says “After my school exams in summer ‘84, I started hanging out in Covent Garden, the hub of the London Hip Hop scene, which I had discovered the year before, walking through it with my mother and the younger of my older brothers. My drawing ability led me to pick up the marker and spray-can, doing anything from painting banners for the “Alternative Arts” center, or customizing the trousers or jackets of some of the other people hanging out with me, whether they were dancers or Mc’s”

He has written his name among the greats like his partners’ Eskimo, Zaki, Scribla, and last but not least forming Chrome Angelz. The forerunners of the British graffiti circle recognize his work in street art inspired movement. For more info you can check out his latest tales on his blog.

His Artwork

His motto to empty every paint can as beautifully as he can has followed him all through his art life. Understanding rhythm and movement are the hints given to understand his artistic way. Mode 2 uses the fluidity of the movement in dancing to emit some good vibes from his projects.

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He has enjoyed residence at the emporium Coco de Mer. During his residency, he refined an offshoot style where he mixes graffiti art and variables of traditional portraits. He says that he cannot put his art in a box and refuses to categorize or define his art.

Taking leave days from school, Mode 2 used to travel to Paris to get commissioned jobs. He rubbed shoulders with the famous Bando. He became part and parcel of the first generation of graffiti writers who were based in Europe. Their environment was soaked in inspiration for them to take in and create amazing artwork.

As an artist, he employs a harmonious contrast to make his objects come alive. He loves painting about situations everyone faces like lust, love. And sexual promiscuity. He uses his style in such a way that it has no proper posturing or obvious antagonism. This turn of events landed him on the cover of” Spraycan Art “back in 1987 and the exposure took him to a new level in his career.

His passion for soaking his surroundings brought him a close working relationship with the compact camera. He took photos of what captures his eye. Some of his photographs were however used in a book that was printed by Lazarides Gallery located in London. This was the beginning of “Toxic” Paris parties in 2004.

Because of his love for hip hop, she designs banners for the” battle of the year” even though he is still one of the competition’s committee. Lately, he has gotten opportunity to display his prints at the Galarie Issue in Paris, France. This event is to socialize people with digital applications.

The year 1996 was a good year for Mode 2. He met Swiftly who hosted a show and this changed his life yet again. He opened doors making flyer illustrations for various companies both locally and internationally. Till today he still enjoys making presentations once in a while.

Although his artwork shows an obsession with the female form, he insists that he tries not to have preferences while making art. Even while painting of harsh realities, Mode two tries to breathe a little positivity into the wood work.

He also hints of how he got his success. He is heard saying”Still, when looking back over the years, what had helped me to really make my name was what many would call graffiti, though it was actually called “writing”, by those who practiced it and made it evolve.” He encourages young artists to let creativity flow and to avoid tags.

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Mode 2 has been around the art scene to see it morph into what it is today. He has already put his name in the hall of fame. We salute his hard work and his inspiring history as he has gained millions of loyal fans all over the world.

He lives us saying “We, in the meantime, despite the plague of communication technology, will continue to evolve and refine what we do, choosing where and when we wish to reach out to the public and give from what makes us feel alive.”

The Wall of Love

We all grieve in different ways. Some isolate themselves. Others seek out people with whom to grieve. Some turn their pain into anger, others into compassion. Certainly in the wake of tragedy, there are plenty of ways to seek solace.

We have spent a lot of time on this blog talking about how street art can beautify a space, or act as a critique of street art itself, or even have a political message on its own. We haven’t spent much time on one of the fundamental ways that street art is used, and that is in remembrance and respect.

Last year, one of the most shocking terrorist attacks in the world took place in Paris, France. It brought the entire world to a halt and for one evening, we all stood shocked and paralyzed as the situation played out. When the emergency response crews were finally able to rescue everyone they could and put down those responsible, the world was left to mourn, and one of the ways that people decided to grieve was through street art, and in creating what has come to be known as “The Wall of Love.” Not to be confused with Paris’ other Wall of Love, which bears the word love in hundreds of different tiles, but one that’s directly connected to how Parisians feel about the attacks, some few months on.

wall of love in paris

The Wall of Love was started by Diana Kami, an artist who lives in the 10th Arrondissement in Paris. Her initial response to the attacks was an almost instinctual need to create something, to funnel her feelings and grief into something tangible and expressive. So she headed to a stretch of wall on rue Alibert. Nestled close to two of the cafes targeted during the attacks, the space is is often used as a canvas by local street artists. Her paintings inspired other mothers from Kami’s daughter’s school and they soon petitioned the local government to paint the entire wall. Together, they raised 500 euros, and the Wall of Love started to take form. The group decided to call it “Dessine-Moi un Bouquet,” and the project began to build steam.

After the crowdfunding effort, the space became much more well-known by local artists and other people who felt a deep desire to create something from their grief. Jo Di Bona, Ernesto Novo, and Mosko were just a few of the gifted artists who helped paint the wall, which now stands as a testament to the beauty that remains in Paris, despite the horrific attacks last November.

What the Wall of Love shows us street artists is the continued power of public art to not only help artists, but help others. In this case, the wall has become a symbol of beauty, resilience, and grief, and in that the people of Paris have a chance to mourn and point out that beauty can be a response to tragedy.

ella pitr wall mural

Artist Bio: Ella & Pitr

Great art can often come from great collaboration. The Wachowskis, The Russo Brothers, The Coen Brothers, and many other great team-ups have changed movies, and the same is true within the art world. Street art is almost always collaborative in some regards, too. Even as we spotlight individual artists, many projects are the result of minds coming together to create something better than what could be thought of individually. And while some artists have made their way on their own, and have made their distinct stamp on the world of street art, many others have done so by working together and, in the spirit of collaboration, created something otherwise impossible.

This sentiment is true with Ella & Pitr, two French artists whose work is the very definition of the collaborative spirit. The two rose to prominence in the mid-2000s in Paris, a city with a vibrant and wonderful street art community. To make their mark, the two created pieces that rely on multiple people working together in two major ways, and one of the most noticeable expressions of this is their Sleeping Giants series.

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Painted around the world, Sleeping Giants is a series of extremely large murals of people lying down together. The pieces vary in their sentiment and purpose, but most use muted colours and simple shapes, an approach that makes these extraordinary pieces wonderfully ordinary, which highlights a certain beauty in a very mundane activity: sleeping.

Ella & Pitr, Lillith and Olaf, for the Nuart Festival

Ella & Pitr, Lillith and Olaf, for the Nuart Festival

The Sleeping Giants pieces gained international fame when the duo set out to create Norway’s largest mural. Called “Lillith & Olaf,” the piece features a person crouched and sleeping, with a colourful king figurine off to the side. But while the piece itself, in its construction and perspective, is beautiful, the reason it made headlines is the size. At over 225,000 square feet, the piece is easily the largest mural ever made in Norway, and it took the world by storm when it debuted in the fall of 2015.

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Ella & Pitr have made a number of murals, both in the Sleeping Giants series and in other exploits that, while not quite as big, are still interesting and interactive pieces. Many of their murals play with the idea of optical illusion and perspective, and people are constantly playing around while photographing themselves in the pieces. Such an effort to interact with street art is not uncommon, but people having fun with a piece in their own way is one of many signs that a piece of street art has done its job, captured people’s attention, and created an opportunity to turn the piece into something more.

The collaborative spirit of Ella & Pitr is a great reminder of how much street art relies on groups of people over singular artists. And while many street artists have deservedly made names for themselves, it’s important to remember that people, not a single person, are integral to art. Not just because every artist needs an audience, but because great things can happen when we work together.

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JR Bio

JR is a French street artist who’s largely illegal art projects have blurred the lines between art and vandalism, spectator and actor, and expression from activism. Unlike many other graffiti artists, JR specializes in photography and often flyposts his work in places where street art is banned, and sometimes can even land you in jail. In all of his work, he seeks to raise awareness about the problems facing certain groups, and each is a combination of daring and insightful that often leaves people, and lawmakers, in awe.

portraits of a generation by JR

He first rose to prominence with Portraits of a Generation, which took pictures of inner city “thugs” and plastered all over his hometown of Paris, France. Posted in many places where the 2005 riots were at their most violent, Portraits of a Generation challenged many people’s preconceptions about who were involved in the riots, and for what reasons. Many of the posters were removed within a few days as they were illegally exhibited, but the project raised people’s awareness of Paris’ race problems, and their newest street artist.

face2face jr

The success of Portraits of a Generation only made JR more bold, and he decided to travel to Israel and Palestine for his next exhibit. Called Face2Face, the project sought to show both sides of the conflict as people with more similarities than differences. He traveled to both countries, taking closeup photographs of people who were asked to make faces of certain emotions. The pictures were then placed all over Palestine and Israel in the largest unauthorized street exhibit in history, with faces from Israelis and Palestinians placed right next to each other to emphasize their similarities.

women are heroes by JR

But it was JR’s next project that has brought him the most amount of success, and let him travel to the most number of places in the world. JR turned his attention to women with this project, whom he says “play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism.” To bring awareness to women’s roles in conflicts around the world, he decided to create a series of female gazes, flyposting pictures of women’s eyes so that they look out on the world around them, and called it Women are Heroes. He started the project in Rio de Janeiro in 2008, but has since done similar projects in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, India, and Cambodia.

inside out project by JR

Women are Heroes brought JR even more international attention and allowed him to branch out from activist artist to activist, using money and resources he’s acquired to not only continue to comment through his unique brand of street art, but to be actively involved in change. He won the 2011 TED Prize, which he used to establish the INSIDE OUT participatory art project. Through the fund, JR and his foundation “gives everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and make a statement for what they stand for. It is a global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art.” To date, more than 200,000 people from more than 112 countries & territories have participated.

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High Art, Angry Vandalism, and Murals: The Life and Times of Zevs

By the time French street artist was featured in Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop in 2010, he had already done his first solo art show in Hong Kong, defined the French street art scene, and almost been run over by a train. That last incident was how he got his name. After all, it was the Zeus train that nearly hit him while he was painting inside a train tunnel and decided that such a close brush with death should be remembered, and no moment should be wasted. And no one would accuse Zevs of squandering his life. He’s probably one of France’s most important art figures, one that never shies away from the deeply political.

Many of the artists we’ve featured here at MuralForm have gone from tagging trains or walls to art galleries and Zevs is no exception. Bridging the gap between the “high” art world and the “low,” street-level art, some would argue, has been accomplished. Banksy sells pieces in galleries for small fortunes. Shepard Fairey has turned his most iconic pieces into gallery art, and subsequently turned them into recognizable and profitable pieces seen everywhere for backpacks to campaign posters. Some even crossed over to advertising for some of the biggest companies in the world. But Zevs, he’s happier discrediting the corporate world while still pushing the boundaries of street art.

Zevs started out in Paris in the 1990s tagging anywhere he could, but two ongoing projects in particular caught the attention of the public. One, called Shadows, painted fixed shadows of various objects on the ground. Everything from park benches to wastebaskets were given permanent(ish) imprints on the ground or nearby walls. The work showed that street art wasn’t limited to walls, but could traverse other surfaces as well, a point Banksy would pick up in a few short years. His other major project, Visual Attacks, targets billboards in France, to this day spraking a debate on whether he’s a vandal or artist. Zevs would write alternate slogans on the advertisements and paint bloodied eyes on the models, disrupting the marketing with disturbing images and words. Visual attacks attacks commercialism exactly where it’s most prominently seen: advertising billboards.

zevs liquidating cc logo

Zevs continued to target commercialism and major corporations in the mid-2000s with Liquidated Logos. The project takes corporate logos and drips paint from them, giving the illusion that these logos are dissolving. The project speaks to the ever-presence of logos but their non-tangible existence, undermining their constant appearance in the street, on the screen, and at home.

Zevs art continually challenges the distinction between vandalism, street, and high art, incorporating postmodern styles and aesthetics into his artwork to push these boundaries even further. While most would condemn much of his street-level artwork for its intrusion, the very openness of Zevs’ art speaks to the constant intrusion of marketing as being unnecessarily encouraged and sanctioned by the government. His politics and prominence in Europe has let him move to art galleries, but Zevs seems continually uncomfortable with the art we’re forced to consume everyday.