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'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
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© Courtesy of the artist
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© Topsafe London
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© Courtesy of the Artist and New Image Art Gallery
Horfee is one of the leading graffiti writers in the world. In the past 12 years he has travelled the world extensively, leaving his own hugely unique take on graffiti wherever he goes. But it is in Paris, his hometown, that he has left his indelible mark; it is difficult to find a district that he hasn’t covered in his name. A recent graduate from art school, he has begun to interest the art world...[more]

Interview with Horfee

London, Mar. 2013: Known as Paris' most prolific graf artist, you'll find it hard to walk a street in the French capital where Horfee hasn't been. And all the better for his insane, pyschotropic paintings and drawings on walls and paper, with their talismanic energy. His works live and breathe independently; they are fizzing with the kinetic enthusiasm Horfee evidently has for making art. One of many reasons that he has received such a great positive reaction, especially among his fellow illegal painting peers. In a week Horfee opens his first solo exhibition in London with help from Topsafe. I want to go give him a high five.

Charlotte Jansen: What’s gonna to be in the London show?

Horfee: Well, I guess it's gonna be big subjects on wood and big compositions with details. I tried to make what I could in this show to work in good conditions (it doesn't make the work look good all the time, but it’s good to have everything you need when you have a clear project).

It is gonna be most of my will of being free to paint whatever I want, to open [for] myself new doors of expressions, to fight all the "recipe art" that takes control of everybody's head nowadays…

Trying to be original with yourself is the hardest challenge I think, and it feels good to work with people who are independent. There’s more freedom to do whatever I want, because with no big galleries behind me, I couldn't afford a show that really represents me, so I thought the best way at my level will be to show my fantasies, or just imagination...

CJ: How come a London show only now?

H: It's taking a long time to build a show anyway, so thought it would be great to take my time to do it. We almost organized it last year, but things are very complicated when you have to move pieces of art through different countries, and like I said I had to find a simple way to make it happen, which is quit your life to go inside your art environment, and it's not always easy to stay in the middle of all your pieces; you just can't stand them anymore in a week! Seeing them every day is the opposite of the work you can produce in the street, ephemeral, on a wall, that ten minutes later you'll have forgotten…

So yeah, I guess I also needed to be sure I found the good people to do it with, and Topsafe is good for that.

CJ: How do you work?

H: References is like food for any artist I have met so far (who is not mentally ill); you read, you watch, you use your five senses to let things go through yourself to be able to re-interpret them.

Vintage comic books or prison tattoos, Mary Poppins or Sonic Youth, they are all in my head once I loved them so yeah, I also use references from my head after a proper digestion. That's how I work considering references as something really important.

CJ: Are you pleased with the responses to your work?

H: I don't work for people to be happy about what I do, but it's still a pleasure to have someone that really knows you as an artist, and really understands what you're trying to say; he might not even get close to what I meant in the show, but it still feels good that people are involved in it. That is why you do a show, to share it, and have responses, otherwise you had better keep it in your house. You work on your stuff because you need it to feel alive; I am pretty sure people can tell when a show is about making money or simply expressing yourself.

CJ: What do you like about Paris?

H: Paris is a good place to live and achieve projects that need freedom, and also the rhythm of the city. I am a pure Paris product from Paris, so it will always be a place for me to keep my feet on. The way underground scenes are still able to develop new ways all the time; music, parties or raw expression: Paris has room for everything.

CJ: Where does all the energy come from?

H: As I was saying earlier, the motivation is to feel alive, and find a balance in all the things I am interested in, so many opportunities to get involved in projects with friends, or with people from other countries, that are interested in what I am trying to develop. My opinion is that people need to connect more to make things bigger; sharing the culture through shows is good, but Paris for example has a lack of friendship between people who do obviously the same things. Today's world tears people apart from each other, with competition, and I like to think that art can solve this problem just a little bit. That is a good motivation, apart from style research or urban exploration.

CJ: How do you feel about ‘going legit’?

H: Who doesn't fight what's his biggest problem can't live straight right?

I just wanted to push myself out of the limits I thought I had. I am still acting anonymously, but there is no harm in choosing to keep your ID card personal. Who really needs to know my name? What do I care?

It might change but, I still think work is work, and the person who made it is different. It's not like I don't paint in the street anymore, or as if I was retired, I just paint in a different way; it's like playing another sport. I hated when Michael Jordan started golf but, I take the risk, I really want to do these things these days with my people, so it's not a problem.

CJ: What is so interesting for you about the early cartoon era?

H: They definitely found perfection to me: when they where able to criticize society with symbols and characters for kids, with messages for adults; the style was jazz and movement really musical; it was a real discipline that people really confederated. Not a blockbuster with the heroes in a Macdonald’s restaurant to promote it. You were still able to see the hand of the artist who drew them, the personal choice of the style subjects, and the short stories. Most of them today would be censored, because of politics or racism, or sexual suggestion; todays' world controls everything to not shock, or upset Christian minds. I hate that. To me it's fascism.

CJ: What question would you like to be asked?

H: What's your favorite food? Hehe

I am so into Asian food these days it's scary; this is also where the inspiration comes from, what's in my stomach hehe!


Charlotte Jansen


ArtSlant would like to thank Horfee and Topsafe London for making this interview possible.


(All images: Courtesy of the artist)


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