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From sgraffiti to graffiti, from Cauchie to Seen

I was first impressed by graffiti, then by sgraffiti. A pun that sums up my first approach with decorative Art. Graffiti Art is now worldwide known but it’s in the mid-1980s I had my first graffiti experience. I remember French artists like Lokiss or Bando, it was a great era even if graffiti were then only regarded like vandalism; at the same time, graffiti artist Futura 2000 was asked to work on a commercial for RATP (Paris Metro/Bus company). It was then a little inconsistent, not to say two-faced. Still today, it’s like graffiti are more welcomed in galleries than in the streets…

I will not tell you the history of graffiti, many people already wrote about it but graffiti has existed since ancient times and has even been found in Pompeii. It has always been employed to communicate social or political messages. Recently, graffiti artist Seen, one of the most famous pioneering graffiti artists also known as the Godfather of Graffiti (he started to paint on New York’s subway in 1973), came to Paris for a show entitled: Seen City. It was his first show in Paris and I wish I could have met him, he’s like a myth.

But if graffiti is about scratching a design into a surface, sgraffiti is about scratching through one layer of pigment to reveal another beneath it (a technique still used by remarkable Morocco’s artisans with intricate and carefully carved stucco). A British street artist from Leeds, Paul Curtis (known as Moose) creates graffiti by cleaning dirt from sidewalks and tunnels; this is the contemporary form of sgraffiti. One of the most renowned sgraffiti artist is Paul Cauchie, a Belgian architect who created the most beautiful sgraffiti during the Art Nouveau era. He did an amazing work, especially on the façade of La Maison Cauchie in Brussels, built in 1905. If you ever come to the Belgian city, you have to visit this house!

From sgraffiti to graffiti is not only a pun to me. Both Art are not ‘technically’ connected but they represent an important part of what fires my imagination. Associate the work of Paul Cauchie and Seen may be surprising, but they are true artists, in a different time. Brassaï, one of my favorite photographer and sculptor, published a book as early as 1960 about graffiti. And some graffiti artists like Kaws in the United States or Tilt, Fafi (Fafinettes: Jeanette and Claude, but still no Irina…) and Myst (Goldorus, Orus, Malus, Bonass… Mist ‘The Infamous’ is in da house! ) in France, are now creating vinyl collectible figures; they are the art toyz I’ve been talking about several times on this blog (Yes, I’m a vinyl fetishist… vinyl toys actually.).

The circle is now complete ^_^

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