On our last full day in Paris I'd signed Kelly and I up for a 3 hour Belleville Street Art Walking Tour of Paris. We met our guide at the Cafe Charbon as we gathered with the other participants of our tour. The tour started off slowly with lots of talking but not much seeing so I was happy when we started to pick up pace and head out to navigating the streets of this popular section of the city.
After about an hour and 5 or 6 city blocks we started up a small side alley right by the metro in the heart of Belleville, named rue Denoyez aka street art alley. It was once a small laneway filled with abandoned shops, but has now been taken over by a vibrant street culture scene that uses the walls and windows as its canvas.
As we strolled up rue Denoyez there was this lanky guy, with long hair, a greying beard wearing a Ramones t-shirt, standing in a doorway to one of the old stores. The storefront was adorned with interesting art pieces which I just had to stop and take a look at.
It turns out that the lanky guy was a chap called Pedrô! and this was his studio and gallery.
We got into a conversation about his work and I asked him if he would let me photograph him in his doorway. I showed him some of the 360˚ panoramas I'd shot and he was more than happy to pose for me. I promised him I'd send him a link to the panoramas once I'd got back home and processed them. He asked me if I would mind shooting the gallery as well and I was more than happy to do so. In return I was thrilled when he offered me one of his vinyl record paintings of Marilyn Monroe to take with me.
From a post by Graffik Gallery about his exhibition, "Upcycling" in London in 2015, I've learnt a bit more about Pedrô!
Born in 1960's, Pedrô! started his career in Paris in the early 90's when street crews flourished in the wake of the Art-Cloche movement ( Cf: Jean Stark, Lolochka, SP38, Elco, Braconnart). Regarded as an illegal activity, street artists were often forced to work at night and in urban wastelands (temporary autonomous zones), occasionally choosing or being forced to live with the homeless themselves.
In 2002, Monsieur Delanoé, the newly elected Mayor of Paris, offered the collective the right to three shops in rue Dénoyez in the Lower Belleville area, where the group had been staying illegally for several years after being evicted in 1997 under the decentralisation policy of the École de la Rue Blanche (ENSATT). The exterior wall in front of the gallery provided an outdoor presentation space for the artists to create their graffiti and street work, becoming a landmark in the Parisian street art scene. In the shop at no. 16, Pedrô! collaborated with portrait painter, Marie Decraene, and for several years the space was dedicated to portrait painting, becoming known as L'atelier Dorian Gray.
In order to archive his activities, Pedrô! created his own blog in 2004, which lead to him receiving some major commissions and invites to exhibit his work. Stencilling has become his medium of choice and his unique approach consists of valorising each object by upcycling it, giving careful consideration to how the portrait relates to and becomes part of the artwork: a portrait of Sigmund Freud is depicted on pages from the Psychoanalytic Yellow pages; Andy Warhol on the back of a television set; Jimi Hendrix on a vinyl record and Obama on a coffee bag from Kenya. The process involves converting waste materials or useless items into new, valued items and reducing their environmental impact.
So if you love Street Art and find yourself in Paris don't hesitate to stop and say hi to Pedrô! and check out his wonderful artwork.
Pedrô! is a member of a collection of artists whose association is called "Friches et nous, la paix." For more information on the collections activities visit their website at http://art16denoyez.canalblog.com/
To see more of Pedrô!'s work visit his blog at http://pedrodorianblog.canalblog.com/