Tuesday, 14 September 2010

LSD Magazine Interviews - French Street Art Legend C215 (Issue 5)

Laced with a both a haunting realism and an otherworldly transcendence of the flesh into the immortal mysteries of identity, the supremely prolific and painfully genuine C215’s work drips with the whirlwind emotions of the human condition. He speaks through the universal language of communication, the human face to the universal elements of our existence and our shared hopes and shattered dreams through savagely emotive, yet silently reflective portraits that define the commonalities of humanity through the fragmentation we all feel so witheringly and all collude in so blindly. Yet while he urges silent introspection toward our attitudes and prejudices through his silent poetry, despite all the corrupting ills of society, greed and ego that penetrate us an overwhelming joy and embrace of all that is human shines through through the radiant energy that vibrates around his work and the exuberant and dramatic color schemes he so often hurls into the increasingly monochrome world around us. This is intangible complexity in all its conflicted clarity and the man himself took a moment for an exchange of ideas with LSD...

Can you tell us a little about your background and your early journey 

My life was reasonably stable until the age of 14 when I became a raging drug addict : hash, heroin, coke and moreover LSD. My LSD period was unarguably great for opening up channels of creativity, but led also to a certain self destruction. I travelled with the Nomads alongside Spiral Tribe in the early 90’s until I found myself in jail and was forced to re assess my condition, realising that it was time to get myself clean of drugs and start out on the next phase of my life. I began to study tentatively, before the momentum began to snowball and I eventually found myself with a masters degree in Art History, another in History and 2 bachelors degrees, one in German, and the other in English. I fee

What impact did the illegal rave scene have on your creativity and your perception of the world?

It gave me the opportunity to discover that you can be at the heart of a movement that is bigger than you and step outside pure individualism into communal goals, communal living, and a wider purpose. It woke me up to the fact that you don’t need to go to night clubs or museums to experience art, but that you can feel art, create art and be art by yourself, doing it with your mates in unexpected places each with their own intangible character like abandoned warehouses or caves. Ultimately, art is visual poetry, and poetry is always unexpected. 

Is there a beauty in the abandoned?

Whatever is abandoned can equally be saved, and that is the essence of romanticism. Abandoned warehouses, asylums and derelict wastelands reflect our own lives, with a strong sense of the ephemeral. We feel small and modest when we weigh our prized individualism against time and the wider universe, and consider how long any of us or anything we do will last within collective memory. Time being stopped in a specific place helps us to understand how short and transient life really is.

What does our attitude to public space say about us as a society?

In today’s Western cities we find ourselves living in an increasingly puritan atmosphere. Under the questionable cover of struggling against crime and terrorism, cities have been cleaned up to the point of obliterating any form of self expression with the glaring exception of branding and corporate advertising. The bottom line is that within in a modern liberal economy, public space exists solely to generate profits for commercial interests through the penetration and shaping of our daily reality - that’s it. It’s up to us to change this scandalous dynamic and speak about the place of human beings in the urban landscape. Raising that voice and letting it ring out and be heard would truly be a new humanism.

What effect does gentrification have on community identity?

Gentrification gradually forces cities of the world to fit the same mould. Communities are slowly being dissolved to allow this globalised uniformity to set in and genuine social relationships tend to disappear, leaving society and the urban landscape only really able to sustain business relationships. There are walls of separation everywhere: door codes, guards, cards, etc that break down the spirit of human interaction and communal trust and break us down into a dehumanised conformism.

How do you explore the forgotten in your work?

I try to show the neglected and the rejected people society chooses to blind itself to - the homeless, street kids, people who failed or had no chance to succeed and I paint their inherent beauty and dignity. In a world where people who have fallen through the net of officially ‘socially acceptable’ I try in my own way to bring their identities into the light and perhaps awaken the passing viewer to the real flesh and blood, feeling individuals that they may decide to ignore or whose conditioning may not allow them to embrace the common humanity they have with these forgotten souls.

Is there a universal language of the human face? 

Emotion is universal and eyes betray the same feelings everywhere. What is important is to find the link that unifies us within the same community and a shared humanity, beyond religion, politics, economic imbalances and social issues. My job would be to gather people once more around simple feelings they could share together, facing an unexpected homeless portrait painted in a street and speak directly to the individual humanity within the portrait that speaks to the primal in us all.


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