“Animals are moving to the city.”
Interview with Laurier Street, street artist.
Hello Laurier, thanks so much for agreeing to join us for the third edition of Fanatalk: a conversation between nature enthusiasts.
You are a street artist, and we absolutely love your collages of animals with their imaginative decorations. It makes a nice change from the hyper-realistic or fantasy-style animals that you see most of the time…
L.S. Yes, I add some personal touches by decorating them with swirls and patterns. People have displaced nature in recent years and my intention is to bring them back into the urban environment, but in a different way. That’s why I use the tagline “Animals are moving to the city.”
Fan. What gave you the idea?
L.S. I have been drawing for years and I’m always scribbling swirls and patterns in my notebooks. I love to draw but I never thought my work would see the light of day. Last year I had a tour around Lisbon looking at the street art there with a specialist guide. I was struck by the way she presented the art works and I discovered the collage technique, which involves cutting out a drawing and pasting it outdoors on the street.
Where street art was concerned, I was more familiar with graffiti. I was struck by the idea of the collage because it was fairly similar to what I was already doing. I also found out that there were quite a few girls who were using this technique, and that it wasn’t necessarily a field only for men. I thought why don’t I try that too? I started with a small drawing of an octopus because it had a feeling of movement that I liked.
Fan. And that’s actually how we first found out about your work. It was in the Oberkampf district of Paris. That’s impressive. But you’re originally from the South of France aren’t you?
L.S. That’s right! Being from Marseille, I have a real soft spot for sea creatures, especially the ones that live in theMediterranean. So I pasted up one drawing and I thought it was fun, I liked it. Getting outside rather than being stuck alone at home with my drawing pad, and sticking up my works in the street art districts of Marseille meant that I could come into contact with people and I began trying my hand at slightly larger formats. That’s how it all started.
Fan. What has changed for you since you started filling the streets with your work?
L.S. At the end of the summer in 2019 I pasted up my first animal. It’s quite refreshing to draw animals and talk to people passing by, children and adults alike… It makes them smile when they see a small fish on their way to work in the morning!
I think that’s my new passion, it’s fulfilling and I meet lots of people. At first I was quite reluctant to paste my art works in broad daylight with my face uncovered, so I hid under my hood. I would go out pasting up my work in the evening; and then I realised that when I displayed my art spontaneously, on a Sunday afternoon for example, people would come and talk to me, ask me questions… As a result, I developed my collages: I talked about doing larger formats but I also brought in colour, which makes the animals even more alive. I then started having articles about me in the Marseille press, in the street art guide, it’s been really nice.
Fan. How was lockdown for you?
L.S. I took the opportunity to work on more drawings, which of course I couldn’t wait to get out and paste up! But it was above all a chance for me to sit down and do some research. For example I worked on adding a layer of watercolour to my drawings or started writing down all my ideas for the future. When the lockdown measures were eased, I was more than ready to bring out my work and share it in the street.
Fan. Speaking of watercolours, are you totally self-taught in your techniques or have you had drawing lessons?
L.S. Indeed, I am completely self-taught, I have never taken any lessons and these spiral techniques come straight out of my imagination, even my unconscious mind. I go into a kind of semi-hypnosis when I draw, it’s actually quite relaxing. Lately I have done my own testing with watercolours, and the results have sometimes been surprising! I studied town planning, and I have always loved city streets. That’s what really drove me outside and made me want to represent the city in a different way with my animals.
Fan. You often add a caption to the photos of collages that you publish on your Instagram account. We really love the flower in particular. Why don’t you always include those captions on the walls, like the messages by Miss.Tic for example?
L.S. My approach is different: I’m a big fan of French rap, which involves a very literary element.All the captions for my drawings come from the rappers I admire and always quote, and they allow me to combine my two passions. That flower is a special project: I have a Canadian friend who writes poems and as we both appreciate what the other creates, we decided to do a mini collaboration combining words and images to add another dimension to the drawing.
Fan. Your choice of quotes suggests that you value freedom, breaking through what society expects of you…
L.S. Yes I probably need that, and it’s true, street art involves breaking the rules:pasting my work on walls is semi-illegal. But I don’t want to do anyone any harm, I just want to express myself on the street. I have always been an introvert, so I draw enormous strength from producing my drawings in complete freedom. Animals are also a symbol of the freedom to move, to swim, or to go wherever they like. We humans are more limited, we are contained within our society. I also really need space, to discover my city differently, as well as other cities where I would never have been able to go. The world is opening up to me and I really want to go out and paste my drawings wherever the mood takes me!
Fan. Have you ever had any problems with the police?
L.S. Some drawings have been painted over by graffiti cleaners, which does make sense. But recently, even though it was during the official Grenoble Street Art festival, I was pasting a seahorse onto a wall with a member of the festival organisation team who is from Grenoble herself, and another woman threw several buckets of water from the fourth floor!
But in terms of official authorities, I choose places where my drawings cause as little disturbance as possible: I avoid new facades, certain types of stone… I only look for the positive side of street art and I respect the city.
Fan. That’s a smart way to look at it. Just like the world-famous artist Invader who leaves his mosaics all over big cities, but works very discreetly…
L.S. The world of street art is going through some really interesting changes. My art is created on canvases that are lesspermanent than mosaics or paint, even though some collages have managed to resist the elements for over a year. In the Panier district in Marseille for example, street art is tolerated and the works are all still there. But the temporary nature of my work also has its charm, that’s what street art is all about.
Fan. Can we come back to the flower? Have you heard about the public initiative known as Sauvages de ma rue, which encourages people to take pictures and list the names of the plants that grow naturally around their homes? It reminds us of your slogan: “Animals are moving to the city”.
L.S. This flower is the only one to date, but I do intend to do more exploring into the plant world. It has huge potential and I’m known as Laurier (bay leaf) so I am thinking about it. I might look at creating some climbing plants, Mediterranean plants to stay local… and for the colours too. There are definitely some wonderful ideas I’m yet to explore. It actually could be interesting to draw parallels between the wild plants that grow in an urban environment and drawings on the walls.
Fan. Your project struck a chord with us because it is similar to that of Fanatura, in the sense that we both are making a genuine commitment to nature, through an optimistic and respectful approach, with a little mystery, or even magnetism, but above all completely free of aggressiveness or violence.
L.S. Yes, it is more about questioning, of arousing curiosity rather than trying to make people come on board with an idea. Street art is right there in front of you, every day. Either you walk past it without seeing it, or you look at it without necessarily interpreting it properly. It really makes me happy when people tell me that it has moved them, that they have never seen anything so pretty on the street and that my drawings have helped change their minds about graffiti and street art in general.
Fan. Do you think it’s a generational issue?
L.S. No, I would say it’s intergenerational. One day I was pasting up a drawing and a couple came to tell me that their two children didn’t like going to school, but since I had pasted up my drawings, they had been happy to get up and see them every morning, and check if there were any new ones. It was an exciting change of scenery for them to see a lion or a fish on their way to school! I put a lot of emotion into my work and that kind of feedback is very welcome.
I also took my grandmother with me when I pasted up some works in her neighbourhood. So every day on her way to the bakery she can walk past the bird she pasted up, and she can talk about it with her neighbours. Animals bring people together because they resonate with all generations. It is an open project, and it might not seem very “green” at first glance but it can be understood on several different levels, and if all it does is make children, parents or older smile as they pass, then I have achieved something great.
Fan. What effects have ancient illustrations by explorers had on your work?
L.S. I like doing research on the subjects I draw, and that might include research on drawings of the animal or simply information from a Wikipedia page. So I came across those types of illustrations quite naturally. They have very clear, very legible lines, and they helped me a lot as I learnt to understand the shapes of different animals. I use various sources to create my own drawings, but these plates really do have a lot of charm, they are interesting graphically and historically. They’re very inspiring.
Fan. Nature is depicted in many new and different ways all the time. And we at Fanatura are big fans of that! Laurier, thank you very much for agreeing to be part of this Fanatalk, it was a great conversation between nature enthusiasts. We’ll keep an eye out for your works on the walls of our streets, and we’ll follow your work online. We love being surprised by your beautiful swirls and patterns.
Translated from French by Ruth Simpson
If you’d like to learn more about Laurier Street, here are some links to her treasures ▾
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