E&M: Hi Maurice! (Julien?) thanks for agreeing to this interview with Europe&Me!
My pleasure !
E&M: First things first: can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Hey E&M readers! I’m a French artist, doing collages and spray paint.
I started creating two years ago when I moved to Harlem, NY and haven’t stopped since then. I got infused and deeply inspired by both the artistic vibe of the city and the self-determination of people I’ve met there!
Also, I’d probably define myself as brain / legs!
E&M: Why Maurice?
Fast backward to 2013, far from being an artist. I decided to spend a year in the French military to learn about myself and go beyond my Parisian habits and entourage. I chose the French special forces where every soldier needs to find a pseudonym, that needs to have the same first letter as your name – M in my case. My commanding officer, ironically : “Mac, Max, Martin, Matt, … Already taken. What about Maurice ? haha”. And I picked Maurice, loved the cheekiness of it.
Fast forward to September, 2016. I had been in New York for a month, and had already started painting and participating in artistic group shows in Harlem – S/O to FantasyInColor. When things started kicking off, I decided to use a pseudonym. I chose to reuse Maurice, as he was already kind of an alter-ego. Yes, many of my friends call me schizophrenic.
E&M: Let’s talk about you work: How did you start making art?
I started making art in August 2016; I was initially in New York for my studies and I had two weeks of free time before classes started. I was in this new city and in a very vibrant and inspiring neighbourhood – Harlem. I also had very blank walls in my room.
I then one day went to Blick Art Materials and bought some basic art supplies. It’s at Union Square, and I randomly passed by Strand Book Store, a gigantic second-hand book store with dozens of shelves full of marvelous books on the sidewalk. I came back home with many treasures and a ton of inspiration.
I didn’t even have a desk in my room at the time!
E&M: Why collage?
I don’t have any formal artistic training. I am really bad at drawing. And I didn’t want this to be a limiting factor in my ability to express myself through art.
Books are an endless source of visual inspiration. I mostly work with photography books, novels, poetry…
I also like collage since it’s a way to revive some old books that are forgotten and lonely on their shelf. I may cut through them, but their pages end up surfaced and seen by many more people.
E&M: Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am very inspired by life in general. This may sound like a bullshit answer, but I very often have the idea for a new painting as I reflect on people, their behaviours, our society etc… These reflections are of course nourished and enriched by the inspiration I get from different artists, rappers like Youssoupha, J. Cole, Alpha Wann or Oxmo Puccino and philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre or Amin Maalouf.
On the visual part, I am a big fan of street photography. I love looking at people, their expressions, then try to make up a story around them. I also really like the style of street artists like Okuda San Miguel, Felipe Pantone or Kobra.
E&M: What would you say is most characteristic about your art?
Lines, Lines, Lines.
I do work a lot with lines, perspectives and beams. I believe that they’re great metaphors for many components of our everyday lives: feelings, thoughts, ambition, purpose… These elements all have a starting point and a direction. Or sometimes several direction. Not always direct lines, sometimes broken, sometimes reflected …
I did an unprepared interview last year, in which I say ‘lines’ in every sentence. My friends haven’t stopped joking about that since then.
E&M: Is there something special about New York that made you start creating there? Something that would be missing in Europe?
I started creating in New York because I got fully energised and inspired by this new city. Moving to any new country or city could have also triggered that dynamism, but New York, and Harlem specifically, are truly special.
Support is everywhere. From what I’ve experienced there, New-Yorkers are very expressive and optimistic about what other people do. At every art show in Harlem that I took a part in, I got submersed by good vibes, constructive feedback and emotional support. No one would ask about my background, it was all about the present moment, the art that was showcased and the vibe the was created. I believe that this state-of-mind is very specific to Harlem.
The other thing that struck me is inattention, in the good sense. You can be whoever you want, dress however you want, do whatever you want, no one will judge and people won’t even notice. This absence of notice and reaction is a fertile ground for experimentation and boldness.
I once went to a party fully coloured in orange, dressed like a tiger. No one cared on the subway. Same outfit on the Paris metro, everyone would have reacted and noticed.
E&M: Now, what about the future: You’ve had some successful exhibitions in New York and in Paris, what’s planned next? And where?
Haha thank you! My last exhibition in Paris – Renaissance, June 2018 – was an emotional bomb and the result of months of work of creation, curation and logistics. I learned many lessons from it and am taking some time to reflect before engaging on the next ones.
I am taking this time to focus on creating new pieces and exploring new mediums.
The next main exhibition will include dance and rap music, and will take place in Paris, probably around March or April 2019.
I also participate in group shows in Paris, and soon in Brussels and London. I regularly post all details on my Instagram page. I’m always keen on collaborating and talking about cool projects, don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Maybe a kickass European art festival in collab with Europe&Me?
E&M: Are you exploring any other form of art?
Yes! While I still have tons of ideas to explore through collage, I’m actively looking into street art and have some projects about to pop up. Keep an open eye if you ever walk around the Buttes Chaumonts or the canal de l’Ourcq.
E&M: And just to end, a couple of personal questions: who is your favourite artist?
Hard one! I don’t really rank the artists I like. They all live in different artistic dimensions, which makes it impossible to rank them.
Yet, if I had to pick one artist that deeply inspires me, I’d take Oxmo Puccino. His song “Toucher l’Horizon” is my leitmotiv.
E&M: Any upcoming artist/writer/band/dj you’d like to recommend to our readers?
You should take a look at Bokani (painting and collage), Chloé Maréchal (painting), Jean-Baptiste Pain (street photography) or Morgane Lang (illustration).
And put an hear to Gabriel Auguste (psyche pop), Simia (rap) or Sollières (ethno techno).
E&M: Finally, would you like to share anything else with E&M readers?
<Cheesy alert !> Don’t let anyone define you and more importantly, don’t let yourself define you. Definitions are life blockers; go explore your feelings, envies and ambitions without trying to define these. Change every ‘Why’ into a ‘Why Not’ and you’ll change your perspective on life. </Cheesy alert>
You can check his work and reach out to him via Instagram – @mauriceartist – or on his website www.mauriceartist.com