Christian “C215” Guémy is internationally known for his piercing portraits, stencils, and gripping social commentary. His depictions of the human experience will connect you to what is happening in the world, yet the interpretations are still there for you to make. It’s just a matter of putting it all together. And put it together The Paris Postal Museum has, with a group show featuring Swoon, Vhils, Shepard Fairey, and the subject of what you’re reading, Mr. Christian “C215” Guemy.
Our correspondence allows you a glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s most prolific composers of fine street art. Check the technique…
How did you get started painting and creating?
The day my grandmother put in my hands the artistic tools and papers of my suicided young mother. I was 5.
The contrast between your subject matter of hardened homeless or disenfranchised people and the fine lines and fine-tuned tones you use to create such a delicate image creates an opportunity for a conversation that’s not being had. How do you feel about being a go-between of sorts to get the right types of conversations started?
I would be bored working always of the same subject. Each subject deserves a proper style and treatment. Anyway, when I paint, I like to lay a beautiful clean stencil on a chaotic (but organized) background.
Who are some of your favorite painters to work with, or who, among your peers, do you consider virtuosic?
What are your feelings on the recent arrest of Ser?
I didn’t know. Been arrested many times myself; they always let me go.
You’ve been called “France’s answer to Banksy” by some. How do you feel about such comparisons?
You can not compare two contemporary artists. I love his works anyway, but his art and mine have not so much in common; I’m so French while he’s so British.
Tell our readers about the Paris Postal Museum group show. That’s quite an impactful lineup (C215, Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Vhils, Miss Tic, among others).
I’ve been painting during years on French postal boxes without authorization. Now I have a painted box of mine in the permanent public collection of the Postal Museum, and I am happy to be part of this show. They will print a stamp with the portrait of my daughter, so I’m very happy.
In addition to creating street art all over the world, you also produce commercially for galleries as well. Which avenue do you prefer and which brings you more satisfaction as an artist and why?
The streets, for authenticity’s sake and for adrenaline as well. Art is far more outside than in galleries.
Your focal points are definite and inviting. What do you hope for viewers to take away from spending time with your work?
Whatever they want. It is out of my control and it’s better like that.
Tell me about the street art scene in Paris, France, and Europe in general and how it compares to other cities and countries you have been to?
Paris has a long story of graffiti, and street art is nowadays one of the most competitive in the world. I am happy to be part of this scene.
There exists a certain rhythm to your work that is visible in the finished product. Take us through your process and what producing a work entails.
38 years of learning life, nature, and art. No computer, just handy craft.
What do you hope to achieve by making art in the streets?
I was initially thinking it could change the world, and it has mainly been changing my life.
What is next for C215?
Happiness, I hope so…