Thursday, 7 April 2011

Interview with Jean Marc Paumier ("Rue Meurt d'Art")

POSTED IN:  ~ PeopleInterviewsArtists

Rue Meurt d'Art
Committed Urban Artist

One of the first things you notice as your train from Saint-Lazare draws into the station at Colombes... is a series of three circular wall paintings characterfully decorating the side of a building. Weary commuters have used this for many years now as their signal to wake up and get off.

And it's true that Jean Marc's colourful larger than life portraits and their thought-provoking speech bubbles have accompanied me too on my Paris peregrinations for quite a while now.

It was just recently though, on discovering two superb new pieces side by side in a little hidden Parisian square, one of which inspired this artistic iPhone photo on the left, that I decided to find out more. Which wasn't difficult, as I was starting from zero.

I literally knew nothing of the person behind the paintings on plaster (via canvas), and it's been a fascinating process discovering who he is and what makes him tick.

You can learn about our first meeting here where I accompanied Jean Marc / Rue Meurt d'Art on a 'Collage Sauvage'  through the streets, cemeteries and revolutionary urban landscape of the 20th arrondissement.

Now I am proud to offer you an interview with the man himself, when he showed me around his home turf, Colombes, in the north-west suburbs of Paris. I also visited his studio, which is a delightfully tucked away little artistic haven and is where most of the photos here are from.

I appreciate Jean Marc's openness and willingness to take the time to talk with me in between painting restauration and preparations for the happenings and 'public hangings' (!!!) he so enjoys participating in.

Do click on any of the pictures in this article to enjoy larger versions of them, showcasing some of the amazing works of art that are just lying around Jean Marc's studio waiting to be discovered.

Keep your eyes up also, as you walk around the streets of the city, both in Paris and Colombes, and you'll see work by 'Rue Meurt d'Art', which is a pleasurably ambiguous play on words where we aren't sure if it's the streets which are killing art, art which is smothering the streets, the streets which are dying for lack of art, or if it all isn't just a bunch of vicious rumours...

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 The Interview

 ==> Note: My 'artistic' translation into English is followed by Jean Marc's original French, in purply-pink italics, if you'd prefer it.

Paris If You Please: Does Paris please you?

Rue Meurt d'Art: Yes, a lot, I'm an authentic lover of Paris, a town with is constantly in motion, sometimes extremely lively, close to a certain tension.

I'm still discovering the city, I walk there often, sometimes crossing it in its entirety with my partner.

Oui beaucoup, je suis un authentique passionné de Paris,  ville sans cesse en mouvement, vivante parfois à l'extrême, proche de la tension.

Je continue sa découverte, j'y marche beaucoup, on la traverse de bout en bout parfois avec  ma compagne.

PIYP:  Do you have a favourite place in the city?

RMd'A: I like the 18th a lot, because I had a studio in rue Ramey, between Barbès and the Butte. It was still a bit of a working class area at the time, in fact it was rather mixed, workers, executives, artistis, old Parisians who would delight in telling you about the Paris of the 30s and 40s. There was a friendly atmosphere, almost village-like.

J'aime beaucoup le 18ème, parce que j'ai eu un atelier coté rue Ramey, entre Barbès et la Butte, c'était à l'époque encore un peu populaire, en fait plutôt mélangé, prolos, cadres, artistes, des vieux parisiens qui vous racontaient volontiers le Paris des années 30-40. il y avait une ambiance chaleureuse, villageoise presque.

PIYP: You put your works on the walls of Paris like many others, but your approach is not that of a simple 'street artist'. What drives you to do what you do?

RMd'A: I've always conceived of what I do as what you could call a transversal body of work, completely opposite to the approach of what is generally known as street art. I always install my urban collages in public, during the day, and involve other artists and other ways of expressing one's self. This was pretty unusual at the time when I started. What drives me.. a sort of unconsciousness I think.., no, I'm joking, in fact it's the desire to develop a global approach through urban art which isn't solely centred on myself.

This approach is guided by an attempt to create links between people, both artists and non-artists, in a specific location in the town, at the time of installing the artistic piece. We need to change the perception of art and of artists, to give them a real approachability, to rediscover a kind of social role.

J'ai toujours conçu mon travail comme un ensemble disons transversal, et très à l'inverse des pratiques de ce que l'on appelle le street art. J'installe  toujours mes collages urbains en public, de jour, et implique d'autres artistes d'autres modes d'expression. C'était assez rare à l'époque où j'ai commencé. Ce qui me pousse..une forme d'inconscience je pense, je plaisante, c'est en fait le désir d'avoir à  travers la peinture urbaine une démarche globale pas seulement centrée sur moi.

Cette démarche est guidée par la tentative de créer du lien entre les gens , artistes et non artistes, dans un lieu spécifique de la ville, au moment de la mise en place de l'ouvrage. Il faut changer le regard sur l'art et les artistes, leur donner une proximité réelle, retrouver une forme de rôle social.

PIYP: Your decision to add a 'speech bubble' to your images, which used to be solitary, has created both a unique 'brand' and also the opportunity to enrich your creations with words. Why this change?

RMd'A: It was above all an evolution more than a change. At the beginning I had a project with a series of collages of writers and poets, starting with Prévert, and the addition of words seemed natural. And in the end I carried on, which enabled works which at first were simply aesthetic pieces to take on an other, rather offbeat, dimension. Words are now an important element of my work - they allow me to synthesise my thoughts, but also sometimes to throw people off track; I have fun, in other words!

Ce fut surtout une évolution plus qu'un changement, j'avais initialement un projet d'une série de collages sur les écrivains et poètes, et j'ai commencé par Prévert, l'adjonction de mots semblait évidente. J'ai en fait continué, permettant à des représentations qui n'étaient qu'esthétiques d'avoir une dimension autre et décalée. Le verbe est un élément important maintenant dans mon travail, il me permet de préciser ma pensée, mais aussi parfois de brouiller les pistes, bref, je m'amuse!

PIYP: Vous êtes un artiste engagé au niveau politique et au niveau de la ville. Qu'est-ce que c'est, pour vous, être un artiste 'engagé', et quel est la place, justement, pour l'art là-dedans ?

RMd'A: Yes, I am committed, as every citizen should be. Political issues affect all of us, and if more people were active in this sphere we wouldn't have these oligarchs who confiscate the power and misuse our democracy. For me, there isn't art on one side and politics on the other. Getting involved in associations and so on is all part of a coherent whole, which underlies and continually enriches my artistic endeavours, giving them their strength, if they have one.

Oui je suis engagé, comme tout citoyen devrait l'être, la chose politique est l'affaire de tous et si cela était plus fréquent parmi nos concitoyens nous n'aurions pas ces oligarques qui confisquent le pouvoir et dévoient la démocratie. A mes yeux il n'y a pas l'art d'un coté, la politique de l'autre et  l'implication associatif  etc.. c'est un tout  cohérent, qui enrichi perpétuellement mon travail artistique, le sous tend, lui donne sa force si elle en  à une.

PIYP: I accompanied you one Sunday on a 'collage sauvage' (loosely organised poster pasting) to mark the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune. What does this even represent for you?

RMd'A: The 140th anniversary of the Commune was important for me; of course this historic event remains a failed revolution, but a victory nevertheless in terms of the ideas it brought into existence. These ideas are forever valid, this desire of the people to be involved in their own destiny, to control it, to aspire to freedom. What else are the Arab countries looking for at the moment? I'm not nostalgically attached to the past; I believe that we can use symbolism to better understand what is happening today, in a very authentic way.

Les 140 ans de la commune était un anniversaire important pour moi, cet évènement historique reste  une révolution certes vaincu mais vainqueur dans les idées qu'elle avait fait naitre. C'est idées sont éternellement d'actualité, ce désir du peuple de se mêler de son sort, de le gérer, d'aspirer à la liberté. Que cherchent d'autre les pays arabes actuellement? Je ne suis pas un passéiste, je considère juste que les symboles peuvent être utilisés pour éclairer ce qui ce passe aujourd'hui, ce n'est pas artificiel.

PIYP: You seem to thoroughly enjoy bringing people together for modest local community events, be they political or purely artistic. What gives you the most satisfaction, either artistically, politically or simply in life in general?

RMd'A: You're right, I love getting people together for these little events, because they bring pleasure to living together and remind us that our culture isn't sad or staid. I'll say again that my collages represent a certain type of street art, but that they are also a pretext for get-togethers, for stimulation and for forging links.

Oui, vous avez raison,  j'adore réunir les gens autour de ces petits évènements, parce qu'ils donnent du plaisir de vivre ensemble, que la culture n'est pas triste et compassée. Mes collages ont une expression  particulière dans l'art de la rue, mais ils sont aussi des prétextes à réunions, à mouvements, à liens, je le répète.

PIYP: Have you ever had any problems linked to your artistic approach, seeing as it's potentially provocative and sometimes illegal to post stuff up in the street?

RMd'A: The only time I had problems with the constabulary was, ironically, a time when I had all the official authorisations necessary. It's enough to make you sick of wallowing in legality!

La seule fois où j'ai eu des problèmes avec la maréchaussée, c'est justement la fois où j'avais toutes les autorisations officielles, c'est à vous dégouter de se vautrer dans la légalité!
PIYP: What are the reactions to your art, positive or negative, which have marked you most?

RMd'A: I've had many reactions to my artistic urban activities, most of the time positive, and of course occasionally negative. Not everyone likes these strongly political statements, and so much the better.

What really strikes me though is the warm approval of the people who actually live with my collages every day. One time I was taking down a piece for restauration, when a lady who lived next to it came down from her apartment to hurl abuse at me and demand to know who had given me the authority to remove it. It was comical, she was really angry about it!

J'ai eu beaucoup de réactions à mes interventions urbaines la plupart du temps positives et forcément parfois négatives, cela ne plait pas à tout le monde ces propos  très politiques et c'est tant mieux.

Ce qui me frappe c'est l'appropriation des gens qui vivent au quotidien avec mes collages, ainsi un jour que décollait l'un d'eux, une dame, voisine de l'endroit est descendue de chez elle pour m'apostropher et me demander qui m'avait donné l'autorisation d'enlever çà!! cocasse! elle était très en colère!

PIYP: What are you working on at the moment?

RMd'A: At the moment I'm working on three collages that I have to do for next June, and above all an evolution of my artistic expression - not a change in my working methods or theatre of operations (still the streets) but on what I'm going to respresent. I'm taking a few new directions, so stay tuned - I hope to surprise.

En ce moment je travaille sur trois collages que je dois faire au mois de juin prochain et surtout à une évolution de mon expression artistique pas sur le mode opératoire ni sur les lieux (toujours la rue) mais sur ce que je vais représenter.. à suivre j'ai quelques pistes nouvelles, que j'espère vont surprendre.

PIYP: If someone wanted to become a 'street artist' of some sort or other, what would you say to them?

RMd'A: There's no method. I'd tell them just to do what they want to do, to be coherent with themselves, don't try to please others, don't try to 'find a theme'...

Il n'y a pas de méthode, je lui dirais juste fais ce que tu as envi de faire, soit cohérent avec toi même, ne cherche pas à plaire, n'essaie pas de trouver un truc...

PIYP: And finally, what's your philosophy on life, if you have one?

RMd'A: It's what I said earlier - that's my philosophy of life, plus a quest for harmony with others of my kind.

Ce que j'ai dis au dessus c'est çà ma philosophie de la vie, plus la recherche de l'harmonie avec mes congénères.

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Note: Once again, thanks to Jean Marc for this great interview and do check out his work on his Rue Meurt d'Art site here, and also in my Paris street photography - he crops up quite often you'll find!
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© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

1 comment:

Marilyn said...

When I was a child I was told never to write on walls.

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