Archive for the ‘Miss.Tic’ Tag

An old favourite

I arrived in Paris last Thursday night, with just enough time to get to the opening of a new show by Miss.Tic. Miss.Tic is something of a cultural (and countercultural institution) in Paris. She has been making stencils and putting them up for many, many years – probably about two and a half decades.

Her works are tremendously recognizable, because they always feature the same devices: a woman, or a woman and a man together, occasionally a cat or a woman and a cat. The images have a nicely stark, graphic appeal, and accompany a brief line of text. The text, for Miss.Tic, is the crucial thing: she describes herself as a ‘poet’ rather than an artist. the words are carefully chosen, and play on language, using puns, double meanings, and subtle satire. The text often has a feminist overtone, which is then placed in tension with the illustrating image, in that the woman in the picture often assumes poses that are stereotypically provocative. For many years, the woman in the images was a representation of Miss.Tic herself; in later years, she has created a generic female, who appears with a stereotypically ‘beefcake’ male.

Her work is now regarded very highly in French art circles. The show was held in the Galerie Lelia Mordoch, in a very trendy part of Paris. The opening was filled with chic Parisiens, all clutching plastic cups of white wine or Evian, and all desperate to speak to the artist.

When I was in Paris two years ago, Miss.Tic was kind enough to do an interview with me, so I felt brave enough to go up and say hello. She appeared to remember me (‘Ah oui, la petite Australienne’) but there were certainly too many people around to have any kind of conversation. Here are a couple of examples of her work, one inside the gallery and one in the street nearby:

(Sorry for the slightly dubious photographic quality – it was very unclear whether it was OK to take pictures so I was being very hasty, and it’s not the best framed shot.)

Every now and then in Paris, especially in certain areas like La Butte aux Cailles, it’s possible to come across street-based works by Miss.Tic. These are a great pleasure; they seem much more raw than the gallery works (which, by the way, have rather large price tags – many of the works in the current show are priced between 8000 and 14000 euros). Here’s one I saw yesterday:

And here’s one on a gallery door (Le Cabinet D’Amateur, near Ledru Rollin):

And just in case you thought, when I said that Miss.Tic is something of a cultural institution in France, that this was just a figure of speech, check this out:

Miss.Tic’s work has been immortalised on a set of stamps, an indicator that a previously minoritarian activity is becoming increasingly mainstream. But aside from that, I love it. She’s on a set of stamps! How cool is that?

Refiguring the Walls of Paris

Street art and graffiti, when spoken about by those who don’t enjoy the experience of discovering unauthorised art in city spaces, are sometimes said to deface the walls of the streets in which they are found. Calling it ‘defacement’ is a way of saying ‘damage to property’, of course, but interestingly, when street art’s detractors want to focus on the question of purely physical damage to property, they usually use the term ‘vandalism’. So the term ‘defacement’ seems to speak to something else, as though the walls of the city have an outward face, which has been altered, spoiled, or even destroyed by the artwork – literally de-faced. (There’ an excellent book on the concept of defacement by Michael Taussig, if you are interested in thinking more along these lines…)

Thinking of city walls in this way sounds odd, until we start thinking of how we are quite accustomed to speaking of the facade of a building, for example; both ‘facade’ and ‘face’ share the same root, from facia (face) in Latin.

On my way home from Paris to Melbourne, I was thinking about the term ‘defacement’ and how it gets used as a negative descriptor of street art and graffiti (well, it’s a long, long flight, you have many hours in which to ponder these things). If walls have faces that can be ‘damaged’, then that sets the street artwork up as operating as a form of disfigurement.

[If you don’t look at street art as a form of disfigurement, then of course the addition of artworks to the city walls by its artists can be construed in many, positive lights (as written about in previous posts on this blog): as a gift, as a contribution to the community, as a means of beautification of drab spaces, as a form of communication between the artist and other members of the community, and as a means of celebrating the city itself.]

It seemed particularly fitting to me to think through the idea of street art and graffiti as a form of defacement and disfigurement after having spent two weeks in Paris this May. I spent hours walking through the streets and saw some amazing and inspiring work. One of the things that was striking about it is the preponderance of figurative work: there are hundreds of portraits by dozens of artists adorning the walls of Paris, and here is a selection of some of the ones I enjoyed most.

Here’s a section of a large work by the Vancouver-based artist Indigo:

One of the curving black figures created by FKDL:

A beautifully placed image by C215:

The incomparable Miss.Tic, making stencils since the mid-1980s:

Two works, dancing together. The corps blanc, or white figure, is by Jerome Mesnager, the female figure is by Jef Aerosol, both also veterans of the French scene:

And here is one of Nemo’s typically segmented scenes, in which a dark silhouetted figure tumbles through various scenes against a backdrop of sandstone:

As a graduate student, much of my time was spent reading the work of the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault (and since becoming an academic, a lot of my time is spent teaching his work too), so it was a great pleasure to come across his face on a number of walls, placed there by the stencil artist PITR:

And I was fortunate enough to catch some freshly painted stencil works by Jana und JS, stunning in their photorealistic detail:

Finally, a slightly different kind of portrait, that of the grinning yellow cat made famous by Monsieur Chat. These cats apparently bound across many of Paris’s rooftops, but I caught sight of only one. You can just see its Cheshire-cat happiness high above the street, beaming down at the passers-by:

It’s easy to find this kind of street art appealing: well-executed images in bright colours, skillfully applied in well thought-out spaces. What’s not to like? Who could call these images a disfigurement of the walls? But I think that what I saw in Paris was more than just a negation of the criticism of street art’s detractors. And so I’ll say this: instead of simply being not-disfigurements, these works actively re-figure the streets of Paris, opening for the passer-by moments of narrative and instances of beauty where previously none had existed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers