Sheep in the Paris metro.
What’s your artistic background, and what led you to start making art in the streets?
My artistic career isn’t typical. I’ve skateboarded since I was young, which gave me a particular view of my urban environment. My entourage also played a key role. I hung around with graffiti artists and other skaters, who, like me have a passion for searching the streets. My favourite game is to adapt to my environment, to find skate spots is like finding a good spot for adding my work.
The Sheepest does Eastern Europe.
What’s the story behind the sheeps heads and what’s the significance of the wordplay you sometimes add underneath?
In 2006, I began pasting sheep. I chose it as a symbol because of what it represents, an animal known for being a “follower”, which is similar to how we often act as a society. The name is a pun on the superlative “cheap” but also a play on the third person conjugation of the French verb, être (to be), “est”. “Cheap” because of the vulgar cheap products that we buy shape our lives.
The Sheepest is sometimes drowning in the mass, and sometimes it’s away from the flock and asserts its identity. After pasting a few sheep on all fours, I found an old advertisement “Sheep” in a skate magazine, Big Brother skate magazine. Because it’s a profile view, I found it to adapt better to the angle of walls, a window, and so on. So after a number of years of inactivity, I decided to revise the sheep. I understood later that the creators of the brand were rather amused by the evolution of sheep.
As for the phrase “Je suis ceux que je suis” (meaning both, “I am, who I am”, or “I am those that I am”), I use the words to support the meaning to my approach, that is, the parallel between “suis” (being) and ‘suivre’ (follow), the concept of the individual and the collective; the affirmation of assertiveness, of freedom.
New York sheep.
Can you take us through the process for realising one of your sheep.
First I use a large A0 plotter, available to use cheaply at a local school, through a close friend. Then I look at the list of spots that I’ve recently noticed, and pick one. If I’m in another city, I take a few posters with me in my luggage with my pasting pole and my glue and I look around to identify the spots I might do. The identification stage is, for me, the most important and most exciting.
My criteria are visibility of the location, height, the location (a shopping area, an old street, a rooftop), how it’ll look insitu, and the personal challenge. Sustainability over time also counts. The fact that you can not remove it easily, so, whether the paper adheres well to the wall, or it’s protected from the weather.
The final step is to photograph the sheep in its environment and put it on my website in order to have a record of my flock.
The Sheepest in Belleville, a quarter in Paris’ 20th arrondissement.Sheeps heads in Brixton, London.
Once upon a time the townhall of the French city of Grenoble ordered that all the city’s street art and graffiti be cleaned off of the walls, except for the sheeps heads, we heard. Is this a fairy tale?
I’d heard this story, too, and I inquired more closely to find out, but it remains a mystery. Let’s say that over time, the city has built my sheep into the urban landscape. Thus, Grenoble and the municipality agrees to allow unsanctioned posters that are not casuing offence, we must assume. Also, it is difficult for them to reach work that is up over three metres high, which has meant much graffiti has been left for several years. Works that are high quality are sometimes left. The Belgian street artist, Bonom, visited Grenoble almost ten years ago, and his artworks of bison still remain. On the city’s ring road, for example, they started to erase the graffiti, but left my sheep in peace.
The Sheepest pastes up in Las Vegas
Sheep at Place Frehel, Belleville.
You’ve pasted sheep all over the world. Where are a few of your most memorable destinations?
Each new destination offers a new challenge, a new way to adapt and to be more spontaneous than at home in Grenoble. It’s really exciting to discover a new city in this way. Among the places that have left their mark on me, I’ve spent a lot of time in Berlin. I was surprised by the intensity of the graffiti and street art movement there. Because of this, I sought to stand out from the flock. For example, when I found a ladder in a yard this opened up new possibilities on the choice of spots.
Working on this scale continued throughout my stay. It took a lot of work carrying it the ladder, especially on the metro. It was bulky, but handy.
Other destinations that stand out are Serbia, Poland and Hungary, where I discovered buildings that had been bombed, which were being rebuilt, but still bearing the scars of communism and war.
When you visit a foreign destination, what comes first, the holiday or the sheep, and what motivates you to keep on with the campaign?
I’m an enthusiast who is constantly trying to feed his passion, so when I go on holiday, I manage to take posters with me, and most of the time the holiday destination is clearly oriented towards the sheep. What motivates me after all these years is the personal challenge to find access to unusual places – a roof, a wall, a bridge. Adapting the sheep to the urban environment is an endless game.
What direction do you plan on taking your sheep in future, or do you have other campaigns planned that you can share with us?
I hope that people react in their own way on the meaning of my approach, without the need for me to direct them. In parallel, I have worked with cultural and educational institutions primarily around a ‘sheep treasure hunt’. Otherwise, I’m still planning to expand my flock, and to develop in other techniques, such as stencilling.