Interview: The World Through The Eyes Of A Street Artist Fouad Ceet
1. For someone who does not know you yet, how would you introduce yourself in a few words?
I have been a graffiti artist since 1988 and I travel around the world, doing exhibitions in different cities. I started graffiti when I was 15 years old and I never expected to be in the gallery now. It has also been many years since I am doing the “Chickens.” I call them Chicanos. My Chicanos are very colorful, which is what I really like: to fill them with colors and to make people happy. Today, I create the Chicanos like the typical graffiti letters like other graffiti artists. When I first found my iconic chicken, I realize that was the way to connect my ‘lettering’ artwork to the people.
2. Was there a pivotal moment in your life that made you decide to follow your path as an artist?
No. For me, I never expected to be an artist. At the beginning, it was just a game. I just hung out with my friends and painted with them. I never thought that one day I would become an artist doing exhibitions in different galleries and museums. Even now, I still get a little humbled when people contact me to buy my work, to have a solo show or to do a project with them. They always say that they like my Chicanos and ask me if I want to do a collaboration with them. I want to stay like this, with a kid’s mentality.
3. Do you have a favorite photograph or painting that inspires you most of the time?
Not really. Sometimes, I get my inspiration from my friends, when I am traveling, from the TV, from the news stories, or from the social media. I get a lot of inspiration from everywhere. I have so many friends that are very good in painting and they always play with colors. So do I. Every day, I find inspirations and creativity from them and their art works. Not just graffiti artists, but all kinds of art.
4. Which artist in the past would you like to meet the most?
Basquiat or, maybe, Kay Sarin. Sometimes, I am happy for the fact that they are from France. These guys were also very influential to early graffiti and my country because they were among the first people who painted in the streets. They served as our guide to today. So, I think it would be nice to meet them just for me to know how they saw painting or how they lived during that time. This is especially true since everything has changed now with the rise of social media. Now everyone is competing across the world.
5. Do you interact with the digital world/ technology in your work?
Actually, we (artists) need to send our art into the digital scenes, even if we do it by hand. I only use images because I am not a good writer. For example, nowadays when I go to paint a mural in New York, or maybe here in China, hundreds or maybe thousands of people will probably see it. Before, a mural could only be seen in person. Because of this, I believe that social media is useful. But just like any other technological advancements, excessive use of social media has a bit disadvantage, as well. Now, anyone can just copy your image or use it without your permission. So, for this, I only use social media to promote myself and to let my fans or the people know what I am doing and where I am. For that, I’d say I have a positive interaction with digital media.
6. Jardin Orange in Shenzhen is an artist residency that you founded in partnership with Montresso Art Foundation and SoFunLand. Could you present it in a few words?
Jardin Orange is an artist residency in Shenzhen, China where we bring artists from around the world. We provide accommodation for them for a minimum of a month to work for their pieces (artworks) and to focus on their work ideas. We also allow them their own studio during their stay. This gives them peace of mind to concentrate and become more creative on their own schedule. Our mission is to give them the opportunity to be more creative than they were before coming into the residency. We talk together about art over a lunches or dinners. We dissect our work or experiences. We also have a big gallery for them where we show our resident artists’ works to people of the region. We are also looking into possibilities of working into second projects like partnerships with malls, so we can also showcase our artists’ works in different venues across China.
Follow up: What inspired you to fulfill this grand accomplishment?
During my career, I had been previously to different residences, but the most important was the Jardin Rouge residency, by the Montresso Art Foundation in Morocco. Once when I went there, a partner told me that he wanted to open an associated Jardin Yellow in China. While we worked out the details we changed the color to orange- Jardin Orange. In Chinese, the translation comes to “Red House”. Now there is a Jardin Rouge in Morocco and a Jardin Orange in China. I got a bit of inspiration from their residency.
7. You became a Grayton watch ambassador a few months ago, why did you choose to work on a watch?
Before, I never imagined that I would work with a watch brand. But an opportunity knocked on my door when I met Remi, the CEO of Grayton. He asked me to do a collaboration together because he liked my art. So, I checked his watches and I saw that they were all quality watches…we made a deal. It was very nice because my story is distributed with every limited edition watch and they had a very nice packaging sent with it. It was an easy project and I really like the brand because it made a refined watch feel young, fresh and very creative -- like my Chicanos on the face of it.
8. As an ambassador, how does it feel to see your “chickens” in a watch and worn by people? What is the message that you want to convey to these automatic watch aficionados?
Yes. For me, it is very fulfilling and satisfying to see my work, and especially my chickens, in different places. I cherish seeing them on everyday objects, like clothing or accessories, watch for example. When people wear or use them, I can tell that people really like my art. They are carrying my name, my brand, around the world.