Tomek & Skube of PAL at Jour et Nuit

Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art ParisDetail of wall made by Tomek and Skube of PAL crew in the courtyard of Jour et Nuit.

The graffiti collective PAL, formed in 2008, is the result of the union of several Parisian artists from various neighbourhoods of the city. Initially, the group consisted of a handful of friends who regularly met at festive gatherings. Over time, these encounters fostered closer bonds among them, and the idea of forming a collective naturally emerged.

Today, PAL comprises approximately ten members, although it is not an open collective. It is rather a close-knit circle of artists who share a common vision of urban art. The group is characterised by its diversity, with each member bringing their own artistic sensibility and unique style to the table. Together, they strive to blend their different approaches to create dynamic and energetic works.

The name “PAL” is originally a kind of wordplay, initially representing “Peace And Love.” This ironic appellation was a response to the Parisian graffiti scene dominated by artists advocating violence and fear. By adopting a name that evokes the opposite of these values, the collective sought to stand out and assert its own identity.

PAL’s artistic approach is decidedly experimental. The collective members became aware of the commercial hijacking of traditional graffiti by major brands, notably at events where urban art was used as mere decoration. This prompted them to return to more raw and authentic forms of creation, inspired by the 1980s, while adding their own personal and whimsical touch.

The current exhibition, organised at the artistic squat Jour et Nuit in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, offers a glimpse into PAL’s eclectic artistic universe. The courtyard hosts an imposing mural, while the walls are adorned with a multitude of works on paper. This exhibition, open to the public, reflects the collective’s desire to democratise urban art and make it accessible to all.

Through this event, PAL also seeks to advocate for the idea of free and spontaneous art, far from the constraints and codes often associated with graffiti. For the collective members, the essence of graffiti lies in the freedom of expression and the passion for creation. They see their practice as a means of breaking free from conventions and sharing their worldview with the public.

Ultimately, PAL embodies a new generation of Parisian urban artists, resolutely focused on experimentation and innovation. Their unconventional approach and commitment to free and spontaneous art make them key players in the contemporary graffiti scene in Paris.

Tomek and Skube PAL crew graffiti art exhibition mural Jour et Nuit Culture Paris - Underground ParisClick the image to view a larger size.

Street art auction Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

Graffiti art auction Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

Graffiti art exhibition Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

Street art exhibition Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

PAL crew interview by Will Robson-Scott.

When did PAL form?

PAL formed in 2008, I knew all those guys from around the neighbourhoods of Paris. They were all different ages, and after some time, party after party, we all came together.

How many people are in PAL do you think?

We’re about 10 people, but we’re close to each other. It’s not an open crew.

Who is in it at the moment, is there a roll call?

It’s just a load of friends who have fun transforming our letters into weird shit, transforming our shapes of our tags into something personal. We try to mix all our own styles together to give it energy. Everybody is ready for anything – if you say “Oh let’s do that spot,” we do that. People in Paris still enjoy spending time outside. So it’s so easy to spend time in the streets and push each other more and more.

PAL just means Peace and Love?

It was basically a joke. All these serious graffiti writers wanted to represent violence, they wanted to represent something that we should be scared of. So what would you think when you see this paradox of very tough spots to paint that says P-A-L, ‘Peace and Love’.

So it was basically the opposite?

Yes, it was anti-persecution. There was a really hardcore old-school scene and they were conservative – it was like “Look at these toys, let’s cover it.” When we were young we grew up with this, so it gave us more motivation – because we were so hated. But after some time we met everyone on the scene, I mean there are still haters and there always will be. Not everyone is here for love, and you can’t love everyone. It’s just in this group everyone is linked and we’re all ready to paint and share. It’s anti-tough guy because we like traditional graffiti, but not the attitude.

Parisian street artist Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

Paris graffiti artist Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

Graffiti art auction Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

 

So it’s experimental? If you had to explain what the crew was about, how would you do it?

I think one day we realised that all that super-tech graffiti of the ‘90s that we grew up with when we were teenagers was really used by corporations to make money off [of] the hip-hop movement. You know those events where they’d have people painting walls around the breakdance spot? We wanted to come back and be about something more raw. More about the ‘80s and colourful – we’d add whatever fantasy we wanted in our graff. Keep it illegal outside and keep it spontaneous – that’s the best part of it. Not just getting our names up in the street but transforming our style and building them up. It’s experimental in the way that we started to feel free to do whatever we wanted with spraycans. It might sound corny, but in the world of graff there’s no codes – but of course there are big codes – so we just decided to say “Fuck, we’re just going to rise up and do this by ourselves.”

Graffiti wall art Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

So you’re doing what you want basically?

Yeah, we do what we want. It helps us to travel more, and find friends who have the same state of mind. We all became different people when we realised that other people were stuck with those codes, and we just wanted to have fun. The main part of it is just having fun and being away from graffiti writers who think they deserve more respect than others.

Graffiti murals Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

Paris seems like a place where you can do what you want. It seems more relaxed than somewhere like New York or London. Do you think that the city being more tolerant of graff makes it a different scene?

I think that, for example, when you’re in New York you realise that everyone paints street spots really fast because there are so many factors that makes you able to get arrested. In Paris it’s different. The culture is way less violent and way more about talking about what’s happening right now in front of your eyes. Sometimes even with the cops you can talk your way out. During the daytime you’re not some ninja doing crime, you’re just someone who paints. So we took advantage of this and started pretending that we were simply painting things and not doing graff. In our minds it wasn’t graff anymore, it was just painting and it was free. It became way more expressive than just writing your name. When we came back to other countries after starting to do those styles we met other people and they went “Damn, I can’t believe you are so free to do all those things in Paris.” Not that many people are painting free in the street illegally. It’s just really well organised – because after time you know how to do it. It’s like those guys who are crushing New York while people sit around and say “New York is impossible to bomb.”

Graffiti art auction Tomek and Skube PAL crew Jour et Nuit graffiti exhibition Street art Paris

Exhibition organised by Pour La Gloire at Jour et Nuit 61, Rue Saint Charles, 75015, Paris, runs from 2nd to 9th September, 2012, 12pm to 7pm.

—-

Visit Tomek online, here.

[Originally published on 7 September 2012.]