Freedom With A Spraycan: The Neist interview
Graffiti writers are an ingenious bunch with the subversion of the daily grinds constant suppression of creative endeavour coming as an engrained part of the culture.
Whether it’s catching tags on your way to work, plotting nocturnal movements on your lunch hour or, as Parisian-come-London based writer Neist does, actively using these constraints to further his work, we each have our own way out.
Member of the progressive european Ghetto Farceur, Neists pieces are dense and loaded with intricate detail and direction – but remain loose and fun.
Murdok: what is a graffiti writer to you?
Neist: A graffiti writer is someone who can find freedom with a spraycan.
N: I started to paint graffiti around 2006-2007. First of all in South of France, near Toulon then I moved near Cannes, where I met different writers and started to get more involved in wildstyle. I became part of the crew EC which meant “En Couleur” at the time and became “Eighties Conspiracy” since most of the crew members that moved to Canada or even London were all born in the 80s. I moved to Paris in 2010 and continued to work on my style and played the Parisian graffiti life too. After a year, I became part of the GF crew (Ghetto Farceur which means Jokers from the ghetto) which has been created a year before by my friends Rems and Kurve aka Dicek2 that I knew from near Cannes. Then I moved back to south France in Montpellier, where I’ve been more working and drawing than painting really. But it was a big period where i’ve been evolving and get more confident with my style after spending most of the time with my friends Bims and Romea from the GF.
4 years ago I moved to London where I’m trying to paint as much as I can during my weekends, mainly alongside my friends Aseb and Cemo from the EC but also with a lot of artists fron around the globe that I’ve met here.. I paint only 2 to 3 times per months probably, but manage to draw almost everyday so I’m creatively active.
I try to paint with a minimum of 2 spraycans if I can because it’s cheaper and easier to carry around the city as i’ve only got my 2 legs and the transport to drag me around London. From that my style and approach on a wall changed, I paint quickly because it’s annoying to have to come back the day after to finish a piece. I have to keep it simple by working mainly freestyle and straight shots which means I avoid the “illustrator” effects and prioritise the movement of the colors and the forms, textures and details of my letters.
It’s a mix with traditional graffiti (because my priotity is the letters)
but organic, futuristic and abstract.
M: You’re known for your incredibly technical and surreal pieces, where does the influence for this come from?
N: I grew up in a creative family: my dad is a joiner and my granddad was a Blacksmith and a painter, so I used to spend a lot of time in their workshops drawing, painting or even sculpting.
I was drawing many kinds of things during my childhood: cars, animals, cartoons, Mangas, flowers or even stuff I would remember seeing during the day like landscapes so I feel like art has always been part of my life and I feel at ease with the creative process.
I’ve never been to art school so most of my recent influences are coming from friends or what I can see in the museums or from different media; mainly cinema and music.
I’ve also really got into impressionism after viewing an exhibition about many painters from the 18th and 19th century and lithographs from around the french revolution are aswell a good inspiration.
I need to stay creative and keep evolving my style as much as I can, otherwise I would not feel myself, I would become frustrated and unhappy.
M: How do you start a piece?
N: I never sketch or use a drawing when I’m starting.
Most of the time I start with a medium colour, then I try to add other colours from the same intensity. Then I will add brighter colours to arrive at a step where I’ve got a volume that I will use like a stone and start to sculpt my letters with a dark colour on it.
Sometimes I like to keep it more simple and just use emulsion first, I can do just a rectangle or something similar then I will improvise my letters on it as well. I can start from the right, the middle or the left, depending my mood. I like the challenge of it and it’s more fun. I’ve been trying different ways to start a paint, one of the hardest paints has been to make a rectangle filled with horizontal lines and then going one shot on it. I was very happy with the result.
I have to spend more than an hour per day on the tube, so I use this time for drawing. I can sometimes do some watercolor paintings in the evening or before I go to work which helps me to wake up or go to bed in a peaceful way. I need to stay creative and keep evolving my style as much as I can, otherwise I would not feel myself, I would become frustrated and unhappy.
It could be anything alongside graffiti that feeds in to what I’m doing. It can be some random things I can see while I’m working, discovering music or spending time in nature helps me being creative.
M: What do you think working freestyle gives you over painting something you’ve drawn?
N: I find it easier and faster. I have always found it more intuitive to do it that way.. if I try to paint some of my complex sketches it would take ages, some lines could have angles that I don’t find natural to paint with my body so I wouldn’t really appreciate the moment even if the final can look good.
M: What have your weirdest experiences been when painting?
N: Painting with my friend Rekulator is always weird. He is probably the most talented artist I have ever met but he is as well the weirdest one. He can come with the weirdest concept ever… it’s classified unfortunately.
Could you sum graffiti in 3 words?