Can you introduce yourself?
I am cartoonist since 1999 but also the author of the reference book on graffiti: Paris Tonkar (published in 1991) … I also practiced photography for many years as the paint. Indeed, I began to paint on canvas in the early 90s from the moment I could no longer manage the writing of my book, my studies, sport and my desire to express myself with bombs painting. Before there were fanzines like “The Zulu Letter”. My book was a new project as offering an overview of the graffiti movement that was born in Paris and everywhere including in uptown. For two years I am also the chief editor of an eponymous magazine that covers art news and time for old school graffiti.
You started with the tag, and then the picture, isn’t it?
Indeed I started very young to take photographs with a pretty basic device and, with the discovery of graffiti around 1985, I started to take the photos as well as tags and graffiti … For once, these two practices conditioned part of my adolescence. With hindsight, I think the writing of Tonkar Paris is the result of two factors: my passion for photography and practice of tag in my suburb, and when the opportunity presented itself, in Paris.
What was your passion for the world of Graffiti
It was during a trip to London in 1986 that I understand the meaning of graffiti and I decided to do also: down home and in my municipality, my school and sometimes the subway … I had seen in 1985 on the side of the “Petite ceinture” without really knowing what it meant. I also saw tags of Boxer, Bando … And Blitz! Anyway, I dive in and I quickly become unconditional! The breakthrough of the book comes later, much later … I bought two books about cults (Subway art and Spraycan art) I read quite often. I think the idea of my book began to germinate in my mind at that time … It was during a raid on line 10 with the TKV, SOS, NPA and my crew at this time the NSI (New Style Invasion) I decided to do a book on graffiti in Paris and the name of the book is obvious to me: “Paris cartonnée” which later turned into “Paris Tonkar.” This is the first book published in France on graffiti art in 1991. It is also the third in the world on the subject, in other words a reference with regard to urban culture!
At first, when you began to tagging, did you know that this was associated with the Hip Hop culture or this awareness came later
No, I did not associate the Hip-Hop to the tag when I started … For me, it was two different things and even antagonistic. I began with Smurf dancing in the basement of my city with my friends in the early 80s but with no be aware that this was the beginnings of this movement in France … Then the Zulu Nation appeared in my world, I have been in contact with a guy who was one but it does makes me want to deepen thing. To be honest, I felt very far from their “philosophy” … I did not feel the need to lock myself in another identity or another culture. I felt as well as French and Tunisian. For me, the tag was primarily a way of doing things forbidden at night … And the day! While I was working on my book, Queen Candy had called me one day to persuade me not to do it because I was not part of the Zulu Nation. I kindly replied that his opinion was not interested and I hung up!
La suite de l’interview : ici
(Posted on July 6, 2013 by George Stathopoulos)