In relation to the release of Cosmonometry, the long awaited book about the works of Pro176, we have gotten up close and personal with the Parisian artist in a interview. Our curiosity over the material we find published in the publication was mixed with some things we just had to ask him… Hope you all enjoy it.
-Why did you decide to release a book at this moment?
I think it was a good moment for me to release this work, after 25 years of active painting without a break, I thought it was a convenient year for it. I’ve waited for this project to get mature, I had it in my head for a while. I think that to come out with a book you need a long time of practice and have had created some kind of urban legend, shaped a personal identity, your own style, have something to share, and it is necessary to leave traces of material behind us to create bases for coming generations.
-Does it mean that Pro176 has reached his peak in his career as a writer?
Hell no!!!! I’ll do graffiti until I die if God allows me, I do progress every day, and I haven’t played all my positions yet. I have a lot more goals to reach, but nowadays, my work on canvas takes up all my time, the work on studio has overrode the walls, but I find pleasure in both of them, they are complementary for my balance in life.
-What will we find in Cosmonometry?
It’s a monograph of more than 256 pages, that trace back from my debuts in graffiti until my work in galleries, the introduction is made by Mode2 and more than ten other stakeholders like Jay1, Skeme, Ket1, Poet, Phos4, Tilt, Nomad, Dize, and others. You will also find a lot of my productions on walls, sketches from different times, some vandal graff on rails, my canvas work and others bonuses. I’ve worked a lot on the layout, the rhythm and the graphics of the book with my friend Tarik Briziz, who was down with me on this project.
-So we will find vandal graffiti in the book… and what does that mean to Pro176?
Of course you’ll find vandal graffiti in my book, either it be on a train, subway or the street and its shutters which were my throw-ups playground for many years, it’s my base, where I came from, wild graffiti!!
But my range of activities is large and street graffiti was just a moment of my career, I have practiced real graffiti during years but what describe me the most is the walls, I have a great pleasure to explore the world of letters. But an illegal action from time to time is always welcome.
We wanted to create a work full of details that people could read multiple times but still find something new that they’ve previously missed.
-Is it a book made for all types of crowds, or is it a publication which only will be enjoyed by 100% of us graff connoisseurs?
This book is dedicated to people who love graffiti stemmed from a long tradition, people who will be inspired by solid bases and make it evolve toward a futurist vision, but also to the neophyte, people who are interested in the evolution of a graffiti artist from the streets to the galleries. As I often say, I make art, period, and categories pisses me off. I took the time to write many texts about my career to make the work as comprehensible and accessible to anyone with interest in art, since this book does not only talk about graffiti and its universe, there is also a big chapter on my work on canvas.
-What makes Cosmonometry stand out from all the other books about graffiti writers personal careers?
I have my own style, so the book is unique for that fact and it cannot be compared to any other writer, I’ve developed a personal universe, not to say a school after all those years. This book is different for its route and originality, each artist is different and the results might have different aspects, but I think I have something more to bring to the table.
-The title refers to a futuristic world which often can be seen in your work, on the edge of the obvious influences of Jack Kirby and his passion for comics. Can you explain the conceptual background of these aesthetics?
I learned to draw very young thanks to Jack Kirby’s comics, he was my first teacher in a way, and his universe followed me naturally into graffiti, to go along with it was obvious. I added my personal touch to it later, to me the comics world is very close to graffiti, besides it was inspired a lot by it, by de big flat colors, the onomatopoeias, the titles, the light effects, etc… it all comes from the same continent. But I did get inspired by a lot of french draftsmen too, they had another expertise of the line matter.
As well as for graffiti, my basic books are ‘Subway Art’ and ‘Spray Can Art’, but french graffiti at that time (CTK, BBC,..) lead me on my way, they had something that Americans didn’t have, a little bit like french comics… And to get back to the question, when I conceptualize a wall, I spit out all of this culture assimilated during years, I do appreciate that my backgrounds have impact as much as the first elements like the letters or the characters.
It’s a philosophy that requires time and patience.
-The style of letters has also gone through certain changes during your time as a writer, can you explain this and tell us where it is heading next?
I am constantly in style research, it’s a disease lol!!! In Cosmonometry, you can see how the style progresses from year to year, I have always attached a great importance to the futurist aesthetic, so it’s logic that today I draw spaceships and other space machines. I have a special ritual, each winter I question my letters, I always try to create a new collection for spring, summer and winter time. There are too many possibilities and combinations offered of a letter. I can’t keep stagnating, my brain is below perpetual movement.
-What do you aim to conceive with each piece?
Since a few years, I try to assimilate concepts on walls, so it presents more than just a piece, like a lettering on a basic background, I have done this too much. Now, I take more of my time to enrich my comments on walls, I want my characters, background and letters in the same way, I want to overtake myself piece after piece.
I want people identify my walls and see the difference, for instance in my book ‘Gravitational Hunting’, I want them to understand that it is about a spacial hunt, like another wall I made with Nomad ‘Dwellin in the lab‘ which had a laboratory theme. By now, I am deeply concerned by the world of robotics, technology and genetics. I think that I will work a lot with this topic the coming years.
-Name one writer which you think is a good example of quality graffiti.
Mon partenaire Nomad is the best example for me at this moment, he has a good formula, and you can find out in Cosmonometry, theres a few works we made together there. His paintings always spoke to me, we are on the same wave length, we are part of this writers brotherhood who are connected to spray-can art and of a classic graffiti tradition, with a true love for well made letters. Each new wall put me under pressure and makes me to try to overcome myself. He manages to live as a musician and he plays multiple instruments. I am very happy when we meet up to paint, we talk the same language!!
-UB / RTZ. Define these groups briefly.
They are kind of like my blood group. I am part of Ultraboyz since the first day in 1997, I did a lot of work to get this group known and to impose its philosophy to the world. And about Return To Zero, it’s Phos4, who made me get in his crew RTZ in 2010, to me it was the crew who was most representing my vision of graffiti and how we should do it, it was an honor to me when he asked me to integrate his team.
-In the eyes of Pro176, what is the role of graffiti within art? and what role does art play for graffiti?
Graffiti is a new step into the art world, it’s a discipline which arrived without asking for permission to no one, its gallery was the trains, subways and streets, a new way of painting, with cans and visible to everyone. Now it begins to be recognized and get a real role on the market with strong and charismatic actors, but also, every movement that gets more mature is followed by hijacking and brings along a lot of phonies too, I deal with that through philosophy because I am sincere in my approach, and my direction is of the good kind. Now people will see how to move graffiti forward, whether it is in the street or in the galleries, we have already seen so much change.
-To wrap things up, give us an advice or lesson which life has taught you.
Stay humble and positive, and stay focused on the work, work is the key.