Raphael Federici: Street Visual Artist
CURATOR BRISEIS ONFRAY | INTERVIEW WITH RAPHAEL FEDERICI | PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY RAPHAEL FEDERICI | COUNTRY FRANCE
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP, AND WHERE ARE YOU BASED NOW?
I grew up in the South of France in a little provincial town called Aix-en-Provence. I left my home town for Paris, where I have lived for the past 10 years now. Since my departure, I have travelled a lot. Still, France will always be my favourite country to live in.
PARIS IS STILL CONSIDERED ONE OF EUROPE’S MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES AND IS THE EPICENTRE OF ONE OF THE FINEST ART CULTURES OF THE WORLD. WITH SUCH A RICH HISTORY TO FOLLOW, WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOUR NEO-POP, CONTEMPORARY STYLE THAT PARISIANS (AND TOURISTS) LOVE SO MUCH?
Paris is so inspiring and I admire it daily. I am in love with its imposing cultural energy. I call my movement “Neo pop expressionism”, because I feed off childhood memories. I grew up with a language that was specific to my generation – American comics, blockbuster movies and very colourful videos games – but I also deeply admire the work of the Old Masters. I do not consider myself as a graffiti artist even though I much appreciate this form of art. My work is less harsh and more universal. I think that this is why some of my frescoes are so appreciated by tourists.
YOU HAVE A UNIQUE YET INFLUENTIAL TALENT AS A VISUAL ARTIST. WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT STREET ART WOULD BECOME YOUR CREATIVE PROFESSION?
Street art is a unique and rapid way to share work. As I travel, I enjoy taking over walls that inspire me. They mark my journeys and are an indicator of the places I have been to. Through these walls, which are accessible to all, I want to share my message and why not make passers-by smile as I do it?
DID YOU ATTEND A DESIGN SCHOOL OR IS ILLUSTRATION A HOBBY THAT YOU MASTERED FROM CHILDHOOD? HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR STYLE?
Both! When I was a kid, I relentlessly depicted fictional characters on every bit of paper I could find. I am literally obsessed with drawing and creating. I went to a design school and specialised in object design. But somehow this pathway didn’t suit me. I wanted to be free of conventions and guidelines and let my characters escape into the city.
WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST OUTDOOR ARTWORK, AND WHY?
My first outdoor artwork was in a street in the South of France. I drew a character on the wall, just for fun.
I was just a teenager at the time!
My first ‘officially’ recognised outdoor piece was a collaboration with an artist named Combo, 6 years ago. He invited me to a street art ‘session’ with him and I loved it. Now it’s more of an obsession. I feel the need to immerse the streets with my characters and share my vision of the world with as many as I can reach.
I think that social media is a crucial tool when it comes to judging the impact of my work on its surroundings. If it is shared, commented on, hash-tagged … I can have an approximate idea of how other people interpret it and I am often surprised by the amount of foreigners who have picked up on it.
AS ‘PUBLIC’ ART, WHAT MESSAGE OR ROLE DOES YOUR STREET ARTWORK REPRESENT TO THE COMMUNITY?
The messages are many and various. But my work is often a reflection on how I perceive society. Sometimes it’s more of a criticism, sometimes it’s more of a positive message. I try not be too sanctimonious. I gave up trying to control the interpretations others give to my creations.
I still believe that artists have a tremendous impact on civilisation today. They help us see things differently and raise questions to problems in ways we hadn’t thought of before.
“I call my movement ‘Neo-pop expressionism’,
because I feed off childhood memories.”
YOUR WORK IS TYPICALLY VIBRANT AND COLOURFUL. HOW DO YOU CHOOSE A WALL OR VENUE, AND WHAT INSPIRES EACH DESIGN?
My travels have played a giant role in the colour palettes, subjects and themes I chose to expose. The graphic aspect is very important to me, but the environment is not always as essential, even if I love adapting my works to each environment and vice versa. I believe that our urban landscapes need to be constantly upgraded, the more ingeniously, the better! I mostly look for walls that are visible and easily noticeable. I want to bring a touch of colour to all the areas I find too grey.
YOU HAVE BEEN PAINTING YOUR WAY AROUND THE WORLD SINCE 2012. WHAT WAS THE MOST INTERESTING PROJECT AND PLACE THAT YOU HAVE VISITED? AND WHAT WAS IT THAT YOU PAINTED AND WHY?
My favourite place to paint was Rio, in the Favela Babylonia. It was a journey full of strong emotions and a bit of danger, but the contact with the locals and the country in general was very impressive. The trip to Brazil was an amazing experience.
One of my biggest frescoes was in Cape Town. It was in front of a schoolyard and thousands of kids played around me every day as I painted. We also created a fresco all together. An epic and very emotional moment.
WHAT IS THE LARGEST OR FAVOURITE PROJECT YOU HAVE CREATED, AND WHERE IS IT?
My largest project was for the “Nuit Blanche” event in Paris. The Town Hall of the 3rd arrondissement of Paris gave me carte blanche, allowing me to do whatever I wanted in it.
It was a huge challenge. It took me over 3 months to prepare for it: a solo show with works on canvas, sculpture, an orchestra, light installations, goodies. Fortunately, it turned out great!
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO TRAVEL OR DID YOUR TALENTS TAKE YOU AROUND THE WORLD?
I never travelled much as a kid. My parents lived modestly and we couldn’t afford big journeys. As soon I was able to travel independently and for the purpose of my work, I vowed to never stop travelling and discovering new environments.
WHERE DO YOU THINK STREET ART ORIGINATED FROM?
The Lascaux caves, hieroglyphics, revolutionary mural paintings in Mexico … to me street art is a way of expression before being a movement.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION AND WHY?
My favourite travel destination is Ibiza. I have friends there who showed me some of its many secrets and I have fallen in love with it.
WHERE IN PARIS DO WE FIND YOUR BEST WORK?
The 2nd district is my playground.