12 Questions: FUZI UV TPK

By - Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

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FUZI got his start as a graffiti artist during the late 1980s in the violent suburbs of Paris, France. There he and his crew UV TPK wreaked havoc stealing, partying and most importantly painting the subway trains connecting them to the central city. They developed the “ignorant style” that allowed for more freedom and creativity than what most writers were painting at the time. They disregarded conventional styles of block letters and 3-D, instead painting however and wherever they wanted. Some people referred to it as sloppy and toy, but that aesthetic was a deliberate shot at shaking up the graffiti conversation, and a mentality that would go on to shape the views of writers today.

Since slowing down his vandal pursuits, FUZI has turned his attention to tattooing and illustrating, carrying the “ignorant style” he helped to develop crossover into his new pursuits. His style and philosophy has made him world renowned, and has created high demand for his work. He is currently in the middle of a world tour that has taken him to from New York to Australia. He took some time out to share with us what he has been up to.

1. How did you get your start writing graffiti in Paris? Who and what influenced you?
I started writing in the Paris suburbs at the end of 1980s, influenced by hip hop, the writers of my neighborhood, and later, by Subway Art. My goal was to cover the trains with my name and create my own

2. What was the scene like in Paris when you were writing a lot of graffiti? How is it different today?
It was totally different. It was more violent, it was about thugs, suburb crews and hip-hop. Without instagram and iPhones, no CCTV in the streets. We robbed stores and people to have spray cans, cameras, clothing. I was focused on subway and train paintings, the street painting was not my priority, but I was in the streets everyday, so naturally, I wrote my name everywhere.

3. You pioneered a type of graffiti referred to as “ignorant style”, could you describe what that looks like and what it means to you?
It’s about freedom. It’s something I made on purpose at the beginning of 1990s to break the graffiti rules. Wild style, block letters, throw ups, the same letters, the same boring shit. Me and my crews UV TPK arrived in this game with our own rules. Paint like you want, how you want, and paint more than everybody! I was influenced by the NYC pioneers, but more by the ambiance, and the feeling of freedom, of this period. We were wild and spontaneous and we acted like that in our graffiti.

4. How did writers in Paris react when you came out with your ignorant style? Did they appreciate it?
We were everywhere in the street, the subway, the trains, and people were disturbed because we had different styles and painted over everyone else. As a reaction, guys completely denigrated our work. Basically, the criticism was “Yes, you guys are everywhere, but you can’t paint, the technique is crap, it’s like you’re writing with your left hand, you’re just stupid vandals.” I used “Ignorant Style” to send the critics back to their own ignorance. They would never understand this style or that it could be voluntary and thought about.

5. How did you start doing tattoos? Did you apprentice somewhere or did you just pick it up yourself?
When I slowed down my vandal activities, I searched something else to express myself, with my own rules. I painted canvases, made sculptures, wrote and also took up tattooing. It was just another medium to express myself. I learned by myself, on my own legs. It was important that I make tattoos like I did everything else—without the influence of others so that I could keep my own wild touch and freedom.

6. Do you find that there are any similarities between writing graffiti and inking people’s skin?
For some kinds of tattoos, definitely yes. The prison tattoos, for example, or the homemade tattoos, keep this link with the streets. The ritual, marginal and illegal practice, that’s what I can refer to the most easily. I’m only interested in prison tattoos, gang tattoos or something symbolic. It looks more straight and to the point.

7. How has your graffiti experience influenced your tattoo style and philosophy?
I drew inspiration from those styles of tattoos, but also added my own background, my own vision, my path and my hand to it. I blew some graffiti, violence and streets into it. I used the punch lines the way I used to do on trains. I added characters and I started learning the technique alone, on my own thighs. And then, very quickly, my ignorant style invaded the tattoo world.

8. You’ve been known to tattoo people in unique places, on the street, in subway stations etc. What is the thinking behind doing this?
I’m not a traditional tattoo artist and I don’t want to make tattoos in traditional locations. I come from graffiti, the streets, the yards, the city, and I want people to experience this in my art art. The feeling when you paint is a big part of the game in graffiti—there’s exploration, risk, danger, adrenaline. I wanted to bring this feeling into my tattoos. I also like the experience to be unique. I want to leave a mark on the memory, in addition to the skin.

9. When you design a tattoo for some do you invite their input or do they usually let you do whatever you want?
I consider each tattoo unique, like a piece of art. People can choose a design from my thousands of pieces of flash, or we can talk about an idea and I’ll make something custom—but only with my style. No koi fish. But in the end, people come to me for my background, my style, my attitude. They don’t really care about the design. They want an «Ignorant Master» tattoo.

10. You recently made a trip to New York for and exhibition at Muddguts, How did you enjoy your time in the city? Did you get a chance to do any painting?
NYC is one of the places that most understands me and my work. The people are really openminded and love my style, probably more than anywhere else in the world. At my last event there, I did 24 tattoos in two days. It’s also one my favorite cities in the world, because it’s the mecca of graffiti, there is a big energy and I enjoy going back there and discovering new things. One of my favorite memories in NYC was tattooing inside of The Freedom Tunnel.

11. You are also a very talented illustrator along with your tattoos and graffiti; do you have a favorite medium?
Probably a regular black pen and paper. It’s the base of all my art–graffiti, tattoos, etc. I never stopped using this medium. It’s the fastest way between my mind and my hand.

12. What’s next for FUZI? Any new projects in the works or upcoming exhibitions?
I’m going to continue my «world tour» through the end of 2014. This year, I’ve already had events and exhibitions in New York, Moscow, Copenhagen, Sydney, Melbourne and Barcelona, I tattoo in Amsterdam on June 7, London July 2, and plan to hit New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo again before the year’s end. In 2015, I plan to stop traveling so that I can focus more on my fine art and build a strong series of work for an exhibition. I’ll still tattoo, but people will have to come to me.

All Photography courtesy of: @fuziuvtpk Email contact@fuzi-uvtpk.com for an appointment.

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