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Pébéo-Fluctuart Urban Art Prize: Paul Gavlois


On the occasion of the 6th edition of the International Competition organised by Pébéo, meeting with Paul Gavlois :

1) Could you introduce yourself? What is your artistic practice?

I am a 26-year-old visual artist, and I live in Montreal. I'm from New Caledonia, and that's where I started my approach to painting, with tags and graffiti, which I've been doing for over 10 years now. When I was 18, I was lucky to get to go to Canada to study art history and then visual art, which changed my entire conception of painting and my outlook on the world. My artistic practice focuses on the representation of the gestural movements of the body in painting, through graffiti and, more specifically, tags. It is situated within the continuity of abstract expressionism and automatic reflexes, by highlighting the dissociation between reason and intuitive gesture.

2) What do you seek to express through your work?

I want to bring graffiti, and more precisely tags, into a visual space, without resorting to the limiting notion of a simple transposition of a street tag onto a support, but by betting more on the creative process, in which the transcription of a gesture imposes itself through spontaneity and a lack of control. My approach is combined with gestures of disappearance, erasure, superposition and recovery, which are inherent in the ephemeral status of graffiti. The spontaneity, speed and "brutality of the pictorial gesture" underline the energy of the painter of modern life, who interacts with the city and its representatives. My painting work tends towards the processual, and therefore seeks to represent the plastic and transgressive energy of graffiti, without basing itself on the formal aesthetics of it. I seek to recreate the automatic reflexes that depend on the moment, on one's psychological state at the time a work was created, to link art to life.

What are your sources of inspiration as an artist?

This is going to sound very cliché, but just everyday life. Watching how a bustling city expresses itself is simply addictive, especially at night. Walking around at night, only with my markers and paint. That's when I've had my most beautiful visual encounters.

Have you had an exchange or an encounter that was particularly important to you throughout your career?

Every encounter, good or bad, leads to reflection. But there is one that obviously stands out, which was my encounter with another graffiti artist that led to the formation of the duo Mad Rats.

What motivated you to apply for this urban art award?

During the unique health context we're all familiar with, the world of culture collapsed: all festivals, events, exhibitions were cancelled. It was during that dark period that I saw the call for taking part in the competition as a chance to bring back some colour and life. Plus, it's rare to see room being made for young, up-and-coming artists, especially in an environment like urban art. All of that pushed me to apply.

Can you tell us about the work presented for the award?

This canvas is part of a series of three paintings entitled The Judgment of Paris. In this project, I wanted to explore the interaction of different forms of in-situ gestures and the homelike aspect that a solid colour can give, as opposed to a pictorial gesture. The use of spray paint as my tool of choice has always been a given. Firstly, because of its aesthetics, which are strongly tied to graffiti, and then especially because of its ability to adapt to the body's gestural movements in a constant and uninterrupted way. So, the superposition of colours hovers around the gestures made with the spray can, increasing that gestuality and movement effect. These flat colours with spontaneous shapes echo what can be found on a display wall with the traces of advertising battles, ranging from tearing and overlapping to being completely covered up. The blue and pink colours used over and over in my work are the result of a voluntary detachment from the lettering associated with classic graffiti. Colour is used as the personification of an artist, linked to their style, causing it to become decipherable. With graffiti, we're used to working together to work faster and more efficiently: blue and pink are references to that complicity between two individuals. The other interesting thing about this process of accumulation is the creation of new shapes and compositions, which, when used just as instinctively, manage to structure and create a new whole, tending towards the direct visual impact that is sought by taggers. A representation of the interactions between the actors of urban life is then created.

6) What products from the Pébéo range did you use for your work?

For this canvas, I used cobalt blue from Pébéo's Mat PUB range. Its fluidity and strong pigmentation won me over.

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