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tavar zawacki

Tavar Zawacki

The dynamic world of graffiti births geniuses every day from every nook and cranny of the world. Tavar Zawacki could not escape the call into the art world. By birth, he was already surrounded by art being born from hipster parents.

Born in the 80’s, there were a lot of influences to be unique and speak your mind. He grew up with an open mind and when he turned thirteen, the world of graffiti and skateboards came knocking.

Born with a free spirit and a strong belief in what he wanted to do, the young man booked a flight to Paris at the age of 19. Armed with art supplies and all the money under his name, he began his journey.

An arrow is a symbol that he uses to represent and sign his work. When asked why he chose the arrow pointing upwards as his symbol, he simply said this “The arrow icon I painted was representational of the powerful mentality to ‘Rise Above’ fears, challenges, and anything holding you back from your goals.”

At first, the arrow is not what he used as his artist signature, he used to go by the alias ABOVE. It was in 2001 that he chose to use the arrow signature and from then it’s almost stapled to his name.

Many believe that you have to lose yourself first before finding yourself. In a new country, you meet different people who show you a varied way to live life. Tavar chose to live a nomadic lifestyle. He traveled from country to country looking for new experiences.

The mix of experiences on his 15-year nomadic culture was pooled into a source of inspiration. When you look at his work you can feel the synchronicity between the different stencil layers and text. When he finally settled in Berlin Germany back in 2014, it was time to reclaim his name.

Because he did not want to live in the shadow of the artwork that he had created in his youth, he started to paint under his real name. Finally, he felt like he had more freedom to be himself and to offer authentic expression from the pool of experiences he had amassed.

Not discrediting all the work that he had done previously, the artist continues to amaze the world. He has participated in many events in the past where people have gotten to see him work. For example, in Sweden, he painted the mural Metamorphosis on an eight-story building.

The work got attention due to the vibrant colours and arrow positioning. He said “It’s about having fun and experimenting. As an artist it’s important for me to experiment with my work, otherwise one can become stagnant. Making this mural put the arrow into a new context, giving it room for expansion of a new life.”

In 2015 he participated his largest project yet, the Incognito. The 33meter wall mural standstill today. The abstract piece is full of bright colours that are hard to miss. The piece was commissioned to commemorate the city of the Gold festival. The piece got notable mention internationally fueling his passion.

He has had exhibitions of his work and has visited over 60 countries. The transition of names in the art signature was visible in 2017 when he started using his real name in the same year, he unleashed a solo exhibition.

Launched in Berlin at Urban Spree Galerie, the collection ‘metamorphosis’ was unveiled. “Metamorphosis is about the transformation from one state into a newer dynamic one. With a lot of brutal honesty, and conviction for growth I was able to take inner inventory of what no longer served me.” Said Tavar.

He continued to say “I was able to let go of the fears that were stifling my creative progression. I was prepared for feeling uncomfortable during this metamorphosis. I was learning how to unblock my personal censors, and be valiant in painting the styles of works I’ve previously been too reluctant to paint.”

This was his first show using his birth certificate name as his artist signature. A book with the title of Metamorphosis was also unveiled later that year. The book contains Tavar Zawacki new work and also included his 2014 Detroit exhibition. The book is just an eye-opening read into the artist journey for the work presented and the things that inspired him.

The 49- year old is still young at heart and has a lot of things to look forward to. The world looks forward to seeing the artist that they knew as ABOVE transform his artwork to reflect his current perceptions.

With the arrows always pointing up, the sky is the limit for Tavar Zawacki. We can only wish him the best in his endeavours.

blek le rat xavier prou painting

Artist Spotlight: Blek le Rat

Xavier Prou or popularly known as Blek Le Rat, a French graffiti artist was born on the 15th of November 1952, in Boulogne-Billancourt, western suburbs of France. Dubbed “The father of stencil graffiti”, Blek Le Rat attended the École Des Beaux Arts in France before graduating in 1982. He is said to be an inspiration to many stencil artists for years such as Banksy and Invader. He is also nicknamed ‘Banquesy’, the French Banksy.

Le Rat gathered inspiration from Blek Le Roc, a French Comic about American trappers during the Revolutionary War and adopted part of the name for his own. Le Rat begun his art in the streets of Paris around 1981 painting rats.  He described his rats as, “only free animal in the city, one which spreads the plague everywhere, just like street art”. Eventually settling for the “rat” name as an anagram of “art”.

Before he graduated, Le Rat visited New York and fell in love with the city’s street art and graffiti in 1971. He returned to France determined to make a difference. And that he did. As he didn’t feel New York’s still would suite his hometown, he decided to go a different route and develop a unique style for Paris. At that time, no artist was using stencils for their work and here’s why Le Rat stood out of the pack. Most street art is deemed illegal and comes with hefty fines. Le Rat didn’t want to spend so much time on the streets due to the police, and hence the genius use of stencils to make it even faster.

example of blek le rat stencil art

The Rise of the Stencil Graffiti King

Canadian artist, Richard Hambleton brought his work to Paris from the US in the early 80s. At this time, Blek Le Rat was already doing his black rats stencils and was inspired by Richards’s larger pieces. So, he began making larger pieces of art and even self-portraits.

Blek creates all his stencils by hand to ensure a perfection and best use street art use. He is credited as the first person to create life-sized stencils and transforming stencils from the then basic imagery done by most artists.

The first meeting of the urban art movement and graffiti was held in Bondy, France in 1985. Blek Le Rat, Leonard Hilton McGurr was known as Futura, Sylvain Perier also known as SP 38, Miss.tick and Olivier Rizzo aka Speedy Graphito, were among those in attendance.

In 1991, Blek dedicated a replica of Madonna di Loreta, by Caravaggio an Italian Baroque master to his then future wife, Sybille. This image is Le Rat’s oldest known artwork. In the making of this replica, the French police identified and arrested Le Rat. This brought about his subsequent use of premade stencils, which made the use more efficient in speed and also avoiding the larger fines that came with being caught in the act.

blek le rat example of stencil art

Competition or Comparison?

Although the two have never met, much comparison has been done in the industry between Blek Le Rat and Banksy artworks. Prou has definitely had influence over Banksy. In the past, Banksy has been quoted saying, “Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well, only twenty years earlier”. Le Rat’s response to this sentiments was , “People say he copies me, but I don’t think so. I’m the old man, he’s the new kid, and if I’m an inspiration to an artist that good, I love it”. Their relationship has been mainly based on rivalry and admiration and increasingly unstable over the years.

blek le rat ballerina

Despite these sentiments, Le Rat has been quoted expressing his “anger” with Banksy in a Graffiti Wars documentary by Channel 4. He has publicly expressed his disappointment with Banksy making a man with a child or Banksy making rats. While some could argue Banksy made Le Rat famous by taking on most of his previous work intentionally or not, Le Rat was however displeased as Banksy was reproducing his technique and style in street art. He went ahead to suggest Banksy reveals his identity for everyone to know what kind of person he was. As fans and enthusiasts hope a pray for a collaboration between the two, it remains to be seen what comes out of the two artists’ differences.

Exhibitions

Blek Le Rat’s organized his first solo exhibition in October of 2006 at the Leonard Street Gallery in London. Most of his oeuvre has been included in many collections and galleries all around the world. He also took part in the Cans Festival in 2008 were famous street artists were also featured. Prou made his American debut in 2008 at an event held in Subliminal Projects Gallery in Los Angeles, Southern California. At this exhibition, he featured his wife’s photography and three-dimensional artworks. In December 2009, Le Rat had an exhibition titled, ‘Le Ciel Est Bleu, La Vie Est Belle’. Which translates to ‘The sky is blue, life is beautiful.’ This exhibition mainly covered his work from the early 80s to 2009. In a bid to bridge the divide, he went ahead to exhibit 25 unique lithography monotypes and large-scale artworks as well.

With a career spanning an impressive 30 years, this artist has no intentions of stopping anytime soon. As signaled from previous interviews, “I will never stop. Ever. Unless there was something wrong with my legs. But 30 years is a long time. It’s a lifetime. This is my life”. Prou still commands a great deal of influence in today’s guerrilla style art movement and street art. No doubt his name will be revered for many years to come.

Artist Spotlight: C215

They say that practice makes perfect. That has proven true for the street artist Christian Guémy who has spent over 20years honing his craft. Known all over the world as C215. Known primarily first for graffiti then stencil work, the artist has a philosophical approach to life and art.

C215 was born in Paris back in 1973. From the time he was a child, c215 had an interesting life. His mother was also an artist, she spent her time creating drawings and frequently engaging in smoking cigarettes. When she committed suicide at 18 years old, C215 was left with his grandmother who fueled the artistic passion.

His grandmother took him to the space where his mother used to work and from there the art and Christian Guémy were one. He even joked that earlier he would steal girl’s notebooks and leaving drawings in them. The girls would open their books and gasp with surprise. As he grew up the passion grew even bigger but he had to make money and support himself.

Before becoming the renowned artist that he is now, C215 held regular jobs. He worked as an export manager for luxury furniture, worked in the financial markets and also conducted a market study for the furniture trade union.

All these varied experiences between working a regular 8-5 job, his studies and being a freelance artist has contributed to the man that you see now.  He has an interesting approach to his artwork and perception of life.

Unfortunately or fortunately, C215 has faced some prison time. The cell in which he was held was number 215. He decided to use his cell number as his art pseudonym, which to this day he is known by. If it were not for that prison time, we probably wouldn’t have the powerhouse logo that is C215.

His work

Before all the fame, Christian Guémy was versed in what he wanted to do. Considering that he got a master’s degree in art history he got a chance to work in an encyclopedia of crafts projects. His main focus being the history behind cabinets, plaster and stucco decorations.

c215 artwork on street

He went on further to study the 17th-century religious architecture and classic French architecture to give him a better understanding of the skillsets used in those days.

c215 madonna and child

C215 is well versed in the ways of street art. He has 20 years under his belt using spray cans to create works of art. He started using stencil in 2006 to make art when he was looking to make a portrait of his daughter and her mother. It proved successful and he started going at it seriously.

mural by c215 cat in tunisia

By 2007, he had galleries interested in his work and it became the main source of income for him. Seeing that he was dedicated to stenciling every day he compiled an enormous collection of art. In the beginning of this journey, he worked with the powerhouse Banksy which made his name be known by those who had not heard of it.

You can find his art in the walls of Paris and major cities in the world. He believes in creating street art that blends while sending the right message. Most stencil drawings tend to lack dimensions. His art has layers of vibrancy giving you that 3D feel. The colors draw you in, leaving you lost in wonderful detail.

c215 artwork near magazine rack

His work is focused on creating portraits of normal people that are overlooked by the society. He is not interested in the celebrities or people who hold big positions in the society. His interest is to capture the uniqueness of street children, beggars, the babysitter, the homeless man on the street corner or anyone who receives no recognition.

He wanted people to look at his paintings and ask who the subject was. That intrigue and recognition of the forgotten ones in the society are all he is after. He believes that every human is unique and deserves to be recognized.

c215 artwork

He is not only a stencil artist. He has other hidden talents that he is still discovering. He has dabbled in media arts and installations. This only goes to show us that there is more to expect from the artist.

When asked what his artwork stood for he stated “In the end, behind the portraits, the question is always freedom and dignity in the face of a capitalist daily life system. “ He strongly believes that artwork should be shared among people. Just because people can’t afford gallery-based art does not mean that they cat view it from the street. Strong words behind a strong man.