Text and a selection of the photography by Meredith Shanoski
Thomas Dityvon, or Mister Pee, has a thread to his superficially comic characters: “dark thoughts.”
“I can’t just do ‘free drawings’, I’m always looking for sense. When you have a combination of trees and a world that’s more organic, it means something. A way to struggle against the culture, that is, the city, the politics. This is why my characters are always wearing hats, because the hat or the tie, for me, represents politics, or big industrials – big bosses,” Pee says.
Mister Pee glues up his work in Paris’ 10th arrondissement.
With a professional background as a graphic designer and illustrator, having been the comic strip illustrator for a popular kids magazine for years, Dityvon explains: “In France, the supermarket industry, this kind of culture, it’s very dangerous for our minds.”
Based in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, where he lives in a modest house with a young family of his own, it’s easy to understand how he would he would arrive at his anti- stance. He goes on: “My work is about freedom, about the way you define your freedom, and the idea of not wanting to be a sheep.”
The way Dityvon relates his art to his worldly experience of the ‘big industrials’ befits street art, which is inherently political. It’s no surprise, also that when questioned on his influences, he name drops the Polish artist and art theoretician, Krzysztof Wodiczko, below, whose light projections onto city buildings and monuments use the power of context to inspire debate over issues of their time. Pee describes him as “stronger than Banksy”.
Krzysztof Wodiczko light projection, Washington D.C. (1988).
However, Pee is no raving anarchist, and the world he creates through his illustrations is “… without a big discourse,” he explains. He sews in his beliefs about the ‘big bosses’ but the art is also another kind of journey, “just a way for me to draw, to find, and to experiment with shapes.”
His portfolio, with acrylic work, animation, and even paper toys, is evidence of his artistic breadth. With an early exposure to film and photography, as well as classic New York graffiti, Mister Pee soon became absorbed by offbeat imagery, incorporating it in his street art and always with a dimension of humour. “I always have to be sarcastic or to have the distance of hindsight, it’s having a critical regard, a critical view in the capacity of having some liberty of thinking, some distance regarding what you say. In other words, to not just leave something on the level of appearances.”
The artist weaves political undertones into his illustration, but reiterates that his work concerns the return to nature, referencing Voltaire, and Rousseau amongst the Lumières from the Age of Enlightenment, “There’s the big myth of a culture against nature. This is the same idea…back to the tree!”
A watercolored illustration at Dityvon’s studio.
Postcards, part of Mister Pee’s large portfolio.