For your work in the Street Art Alley and in the Alley Gallery you chose the theme of Gauguin’s Yellow Christ as your inspiration, why?
JS The Pop Up Street concept - the Street Art Alley - interprets the major cultural events of Paris in an “off the record” manner, more punk, and totally. There is a gigantic retrospective of Gauguin’s work at the Grand Palais right now, so with Eva Leandre (the street’s curator) we wanted to create a Christmas scenography linked to Gauguin through a hommage to his self portrait with the yellow Christ.
What does this work and the figure of the yellow Christ conjure up for you?
JS I wanted to reinterpret the portrait of Gauguin and of Christ. I made the Christ pink, purple, blue, green… I like to work with artistic references, make allusions, basing work on inspirations, on reinterpretations, on reflexions, tied to artists from the past. I use that, I am inspired by it. In this instance I repositioned the Christ like a icon of Pop Art, as Warhol did with the Mona Lisa and in his transformation of Marilyn Monroe into a contemporary Mona Lisa. I’m interested in the actualisation of the figures. It is the idea and figure of Jesus that is want to actualise, I want to reboot it, give a new image closer to that of the 21st century. It’s almost a dissident act to repaint the Christ figure, yet it’s been repeated to us for 2000 years with no update.
What is it about the symbolic figures?
JS I am very interested in the crucified and condemned figure. Hence, Christ and Gauguin (who has an eminently christic power) are two figures who captivate me. They are symbolically fascinating. I’m interested in the crucified and scorched figures of contemporary society. What I’ve realised is that we aren’t really evolving, we’re stuck in capitalist materialism. I endeavour to create against the status quo, against the politics led by Macron, Trump, Merkel, and all the others. The image of the Christ aims to show that nothing much has changed, that we haven’t escaped the ancestral struggle between the spiritual and the material. My Christ is anticlerical.
What attracts you to street art, and can you describe your practice?
JS Street Art is important for democratisation and desacralisation. Already in the US and UK of the 1970s, guys were getting out in the streets and put up spontaneous and ephemeral art, almost compulsively. The impulse is to create art outside of business and the system of profit. For me, a real artist has a desire to create outside of the commercial sector. Do you think that the painters of the Lascaux caves painted to get paid or to please the bourgeoisie? No! It was a magical ritual in the etymological sense. Punks painted in the street against the bourgeoisie who created economic and social conflicts. The artist screams and magnifies the spirit of nature: it’s a spiritual mission! In this we are in the only non-subservient religion. These guys in the streets are the primitives in the caves with balls, they paint with freedom. For me, art is punk, and street art is its most wonderful expression since it’s not about selling but about communicating with those who pass by and look up. It’s an immediate and ant-bourgeois art form, hence fundamentally anti status quo. Certain limitations in galeries and art institutions push artists like myself towards street art, in a search for different ways to reach and communicate the public. The concept of the Street Art Alley influenced me a lot in that direction. The idea of an out-of-doors gallery and of a complementary exhibition space was really seductive!
How does your installation in the street relate to your work exhibited in the Alley Gallery?
JS With Street Art there isn’t the same “fear” of entering the gallery, its direct communication with the population of passers-by. The idea here is to invite the public to come look at the works in the street and in the gallery as they are complimentary. Painting in the street is essentially anti-conformist in the sense that it’s free from the social norms which are imposed and asepticised. It creates a link to the mystical world. The pulse of life is communication. The street is precisely that, it’s alive, it allows the art to be related to the mural fresco and the the magical world of the ephemeral instant. Street Art is the irreducible link between the artist and the people, the link which challenge the ubiquity of the institutions. It’s the grassroots. That is what gives a real depth to my work, the contact with individuals. I want something to happen, to found magical relationships. Nonetheless I notice that in the gallery world things are changing, are becoming more and more hybrid and polyvalent, adapting to a changing world. The Street Art Alley created by Eva Leandre is a pioneer in terms of supporting Street Art in Paris in the sense that it promotes a true access in which art is in the street and in the gallery. This creates useful dialogue between inner and outer locations for exhibitions, melding the traditional and the unconventional and offering artists two distinct but related spaces within which to work and divulge their message. It’s the perfect mix for the artist.
What links tie you to the Alley Gallery?
JS I have a particular tie to Eva Leandre (director of the Alley Concept Street) whom I’ve known for 30 years. She has always encouraged artists to exit the temple of the gallery and exhibit in the streets. It’s a brilliant idea which challenges the institutional norms. Since 2011 she has convinced the residents of the rue Androuet to entrust her with the walls of their street and buildings to create an outdoor gallery. Myself and Eva agree: we must renew and revise our ways of exhibiting and making art, make it an aesthetic experience, an integral part of our daily lives. Saying no to business-art and touch people directly with a message that is not watered down by institutions and speculators.
(Translated from French)