Walking the fine line between graffiti and gallery shows is one that sees many who attempt it fall and splice into two – criticised from one or both sides of the fence. But out in Paris there's a crew – PAL (Peace And Love) – who've managed to tackle the trapeze, successfully exhibiting around the globe and completely crushing the streets at the same time. One of the founding crew members of PAL, Horfée is out in Australia right now with fellow artist Russell Maurice to hold shows in both Melbourne and Sydney, entitled Pathetic Bubble, kicking off tonight at Doomsday Store. We dropped in to share a moment with Horfée to discuss life, sneakers and his work.
The PAL name over the past few years has spread across the globe. When did the crew actually form?
We started to hang out with each other maybe seven years ago, but we started with our crew name about five years ago. That's when we began to paint all together and started trying to get out almost every day. Paris was really good for it because it's a good city to paint the street. The funny thing is it took time for people to realise how much energy we were putting in, because there are some parts of the city in Paris that is really crushed with graffiti and it took time for the Paris scene to respect the effort. There's hierarchy in graffiti and you know how old timers are.
A lot of crews that come up quick and hard often come up also on beef and jealousy. I'm guessing it was the same for you guys?
Yes, of course. That stuff is never ending, it's still on. What's interesting is with the graffiti culture and communication on the internet is we were lucky, because the net was on top of what it could be, exactly at the same time as when we did all this work in the street, so it just spread out all over the internet very fast. Plus I always thought your graffiti couldn't just stay in one town, it had to move and it was really important to support the culture by keeping in contact with the people you meet. You go in the city and you come back and see them again, the guy comes to your house and of course you end up making something a bit more international. Now in Paris, because people have heard of us and about what we've been doing there, people have been coming to check it out. But most of it's not there anymore, Paris is getting cleaned so bad and the laws are more strict. We've got this new vandal squad that have been bitching people up really really bad, like pushing to have people sent to prison. But, really all they are about is making money for the state out of graffiti writers, it's not about being a puritan or even pushing the idea that graffiti is bad. They're not creating propaganda against graffiti, and they don't even clean it sometimes after someone is busted, for them it seems to be just about fucking people's lives up.
Is there anyone in your crew with a sneaker obsession?
We all started out life with some sort of fantasy through having American shoes. For Europe and France we all grew up with the essence of hip hop through the attitude of clothes, because sneakers were pretty much related with hip hop and stuff. I think in ways we're all interested in sneakers, but we also know that our lifestyles can't be combined with sneakers because we just trash them all the time, we just have fun wearing whatever shoes we've got on. We're all into Huaraches very much and we've being buying bootlegs of them, like Chinese versions and killing them in a couple of months and just buy new ones.
In Australia stereotypically Air Max Plus (Tuned 1) are pretty popular amongst writers. How about in Paris, I've heard that it is kind of the same?
With those shoes it's more popular in the suburbs. They're a statement about being tough and also they're related to the whole suburban rap music culture in France. I think they're also popular in Morocco, a lot of people migrated to France from there so they're also wearing them.
Is there any kind of popular trend amongst writers and what they wear in Paris?
There's this new wave of a kind of neutral hipster, all wearing North Face. It's always the same though, like something big shows up with a big name like Supreme and everybody wants it, once everybody has it it's over.
How about Lacoste tracksuits, are they still popular?
Yeah, still a bit, it's a bit kitsch now. But some people really push the culture of staying 90s, it's not very hip, it's more about being a gangster.
What are the best shoes for running away from police in? (Horfee is wearing a beat down pair of boat shoes with the soles peeling off).
Not these. That's a kinda crazy question… Whatever I got.
Your style is very unique (both graffiti and studio), where did you draw inspiration from early on?
Of course, I think a lot of my work is referenced from a lot of different sources of what influences me. Everyday I try to observe and feed my needs. I'm very curious all the time about what to reuse and to put into my work. Russell and I have some basic inspirations that we share, which are like comics and cartoons from the start of the last century. But there are a lot of different scenes through the world that reuse that same reference to make something more controversial or subversive, like underground comics for example and those type of things to criticise society with, it's a very popular language. So I think Russell and I are on that branch, but I mean for my part of the work there's a lot of other references and also I do a lot of very engaged work because a lot of what I do is outside. To me bombing is part of being that artist that I am – it's part of it but I'm not selling bombing, bombing is the part of how engaged you are through images. Doing this you're part of the culture, graffiti is disciplined so you just follow the rules and do your stuff, but I'm an artist and I have some needs. I need to create always, so I'm just trying to get organised to do the right things at the right places and graffiti has nothing to do with inside a gallery so… I'm just doing it outside and one of the first references I have is other graffiti writers that are true to the game. I think it's being really radical to not make money with graph, but at the same time someone could criticise me and say, 'Yeah, but you surf that fame, kids love your graffiti work.' or whatever. That's not the point, I mean you just try to make your position in society.
Yeah, it's a balancing act for sure. How did your connection happen with Doomsday?
They had my book in here, and once I told them, 'Hey, respect, you've got my book, I have no idea how you got it.' They replied and said that they liked it, I thought it was pretty nice for a shop to answer right away, because most of the shops have such a big turnover they don't even consider what they've got in their shop aside from like a big brand or something. So I thought it was interesting how they support the culture. I asked if they wanted to trade a piece of art for some clothes, but they said don't worry and sent me a package. My friend is friends with one of the designers here, he asked me if I wanted to come do a show here. I thought doing a show in a shop was a bit weird but at the same time Doomsday have the store set up in a way that it's an experience to come in here, they really consider what they are stocking, it's really refined and there is a good atmosphere. I really like the fact that they can just empty everything out of the store and we can just show our work and it just goes back to being a shop.
What's important to me is that people can't just let huge brands control everything, we need to support isolated shops, people have to keep on supporting the source. The source of the culture is the artist. It's good to be supported by people who really understand what you do and how dedicated you are.
A selection of Russell's work.
Horfée and Russell Maurice's 'Pathetic Bubble' show will open tonight at Doomsday Store followed by a second show in Sydney next Friday at China Heights Gallery.
Doomsday - Melbourne
Opening Friday 16th May, 6-8pm. Continues until 13th June.
195A Brunswick St. Fitzroy Victoria.
China Heights - Sydney
Opening Friday 23rd May, 6-9pm. Continues until 25th May.
3, 16-28 Foster St, Surry Hills 2010, AU
Check more work from both of the artist via the links below.
May Contain Filth