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In conversation with Julien De Casabianca

In conversation with Julien De Casabianca

He describes himself as “pathologically happy”, but happiness is not the only emotion that his street art conveys. The avid research for beauty is what drives Julien De Casabianca‘s amazing works of art. With his installations, beauty sheds light even in places mostly believed to be the poorest neighbourhood. Thanks to his joyful juxtapositions, the paintings normally exhibited in the most renowned museums, come to life again in the most uncommon buildings whose scratches remind us of the passing of time and the way in which even art can change and reflect this transition. In his work though, paintings are not the only subject. People passing by in the streets, playing, running, became a signature of his art, showing that there’s beauty even in the smallest, simplest gestures of everyday life.

When did everything start? Have you always wanted to be a street artist and filmmaker?  

Absolutely not. Originally, I wanted to be a football player, I was in the Paris Saint Germain’s young team, but I failed pathetically. I became artist when an artistic squad (in an occupied building) opened in front of my house. During my first visit inside, I felt they were living in the right way. I didn’t want to be the fifth Beatle. So I changed my life. I had the idea to spend 10 years to become an artist. 

The street is your field of work. Everything is mutable there, so it’s a very particular space for placing a painting. Where do you get the inspiration for your projects? 

As you say, the street is extremely varied, so the inspiration is the connection between my mental vision of the world and the sight of it. Plus, I am pathologically happy, which makes me see beauty everywhere.

You described the Outings Project as a “two-folded artistic gesture”. Indeed, one piece of art contains another, that contains another piece, almost like a mise en abyme of an artistic process. Can you talk us a little bit more about the project behind this creation?

Outings consists in taking high profile paintings from museums (always located in rich areas), and then sticking them in the poorer ones. It’s a temporal work: the everlasting picture and the limited graffs on the streets. And in order to find my wall, I explored the possible canvases through my camera lens. 

The juxtaposition of modern paintings on the contemporaneity of the buildings you use as canvas causes a visive contrast thus raising a strong, emotional reaction. What is your inspiration behind this creative process? 

I was in the Louvre, and fell upon this young woman’s painting Mademoiselle Rivière de Ingres, who was imprisoned inside this castle, and inside the frame. A sudden prince charming desire to free her washed over me. I wanted to show her the contemporary world, and thus pasted her, in real size, to a building’s wall. 

The film Passing By took you three years of filming people on the streets of 44 cities in 22 countries. You managed to capture the simplicity of everyday life, its colors, its sounds, its people. What was the sparkle that gave you this wonderful idea? It must have been an extremely touching experience to capture those volatile instants.

I have always been touched by those unspoken bonds that blossom into existence between strangers in the public space. When someone is running in the metro, or there is a hurriyng crowd in the evening, you see stressed people, but I see people impatient to get home to their loved ones. Passing By is about the poetry of living together. I filmed everywhere in Europe, Rome, Milan and Naples too, to capture them.

During coronavirus pandemic the streets emptied, especially during quarantine, could be very intimidating. As if, psychologically, the outside world and the streets it’s made of, may be the enemy. Did this health emergency affect in any way your work or your views around street art? 

Actually, the emptiness caused by the pandemic gave me the opportunity to start pasting a Sex series. There is a lot of sexual intercourse in classical paintings, but the street art word is still reluctant to sexual pastings. I was one of them too, but still took the opportunity and did it. 

In these last few days in Rome, the police have discovered the identity of GECO, one of the most sought-after anonymous graffiti artists in Europe, who used to write his own pseudonym in capital letters on several public spaces in Rome. The news has inflamed a lot of GECO’s supporters who started to email Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi declaring her incompetence and reconfirming the power of art. What are your opinions on this matter?   

The artists are here to push the limits. If they don’t do it, then who will? GECO graffs on walls, which is architecture, and architecture is art too. GECO graffs on street furniture, which is design, and design is art too. GECO does art too. So, who gets to decide which one of these artistic propositions is better than an other, which one deserves to stay or not? 

Do you have any future projects you would like to share with us?

More pastings in the US, Australia, Japan and Italy, and I am currently in the making of my new feature movie, an animated puppet stop motion. I will also be in Italy, Rovigo, at the Wallabe Street Art Festival in June. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring street artists?

Do. Do. Keep doing and never stop. As they say, practice makes perfect. 

On the cover: Julien De Casabianca – Calvi, Corsica


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