The Island of the impressionist is actually an archipelago composed of a few natural islands. Chatou – where painter Renoir painted his famous work of art ‘’Luncheon of the Boating Party” (“Déjeuner des canotiers”) – is one of them. During a period called La Belle Epoque, it was the place where many mythical French artists like for instance Monet, Degas, Manet or Courbet used to meet, chat and needless to say paint. It is an inspirational place that mingles the heritage of French art and a legendary moment of French History, when the country was peaceful and when a new art movement could emerge. It is not far away from Paris, so it’s worth the visit. Today, we are talking about this place for a specific reason. Now it’s time for contemporary artists to pay tribute to it. Not with intimate scenes of everyday life delicately painted on canvas but with colossal frescoes that shed a light on different important subjects in today’s world paint with spray paint, brushes and roller. Six artists have been chosen to express their personality and point of view, while fitting into the surroundings, through 8 giant pieces of works executed in 8 days. Why? It is not only a matter of beautifying the area. In reality, this project was conducted by the city of Chatou in association with the American NGO Street Art for Mankind who works with the UN and The Kailesh Satyathi Foundation (Nobel Prize winner in 2014). This NGO works with over 80 street artists around the world. Their goal is to fund resources to stop the atrocities of child labour and trafficking. The artists that have transported their vision of the word in Chatou are Lula Goce, Victor Ash, Carlos Alberto GH, Vinie Graffiti, Emmanuel Jarus and Vesod. Let’s take a closer look at the murals.
This mural was created by French artist Vinie Graffiti. The artist from Toulouse has a very recognizable style with an endearing character, a manga-inspired girl with an afro that represents diversity. Diversity of color but also the diversity of the genre. Here, her colorful afro are words like woman, biodiversity, equality, different religions… There are clouds in the background, which may indicate that the girl is dreaming… dreaming about a better world where diversity would be accepted everywhere. She performed her work in a lot of places around the world, and she explores different forms of art like a sculpture.
Victor Ash was originally known as Ash2. He was the pioneer of street art in Paris when it spread in the 80s. He started in Stalingrad and in La Chapelle alongside JonOne, Mode2 and Jay1… He was even featured in the book Spraycan Art by Henry Chalfrant. In Chatou Victor Ash made two murals. This one has a strong message and tries to convey the importance of the democratization of the culture. The little boy is holding a pile of books, and on those books, we can see the face of the great writer Guy de Maupassant. It might be a political message which echoes the recent event. During the 2nd wave of the pandemic, the government closed the bookshops, saying books aren’t a necessary need. It was as if the government looked down upon the culture. Culture that is a big part of French History. Outside this controversial aspect, the mural also celebrates the city of Chatou which is a city of culture and music. The second mural is a bluish portrait of the Jazz musician Hal Singer, and it’s obviously located at the entrance of the Hal Singer cultural space. With these works, we can see that the artist enjoys playing with contrasts.
This is my personal favorite. Mexican artist Carlos Alberto GH from Guadalajara makes 3D artworks and likes to put himself in the action of his works after painting them. His main theme is the preservation of the fauna and flora. Luckily, it is also one of the main concerns of the city of Chatou. That’s why the fresco was painted on Auguste Renoir Middle school. The problem must be taken seriously right now in order to secure a better future for the children. The birds and the flowers are in the hands of a human being, which translates that nature is now in the hands of humanity. Most of the time, the artist paints tropical animals, which brighten up the place. This mural is what we can call a trompe l’oeil in French.
At first glance, this one might give you a head spin. This is the work of Vesod, an artist from Turin whose father is Dovilio Brero, a surrealist painter. Born with an artist’s mind, he began graffiti in the 90s. He got his inspirations from renaissance art, futurism, but also from his love for mathematics. In his world, space and time are no longer something that we can process with our brains. What reminds us of Nolan’s movie is the mirror effect, which makes us lose our eyes on what we’re supposed to look at. A bridge that doesn’t have an end, but leads to a Paris that seems lifeless.
A woman sits between both, she’s stuck in a time loop, but she’s calm at the same time. Her body is transparent and lets appear the Seine behind her, almost like a ghost. Made with a roller, this mural is a truly astonishing work that requires some knowledge in geometry to be precise as it is.
This mural represents perfectly the combination between the artworks of the impressionists and the current rise of street artists. Emmanuel Jarus, a Canadian artist who called himself Youngjarus depicts the human experience in his environment across the world. This is his own version of Monet’s Women with a parasol. His work has always a humanist approach through the depiction of a human being. However, here, it’s more like the woman is protecting from the rain than protecting from the sun. With these shades of blue and the melancholic stare of the woman. This is not the first time that Emmanuel Jarus collaborates with Street Art for Mankind. In 2020, he created a historical mural in Manhattan for the 75th anniversary of the United Nation.
To celebrate the city’s garden, artist Lula Goce painted an orange-colored fauna with a woman in the middle who is looking right at us. Lula Goce was born in Galicia in Spain. Her work is inspired by classical paintings such as Valazquez, Goya and Caravaggio. Her hometown is part of her inspiration too, the orange which reminds the dryness and the prolific nature. Recently, we went to the inauguration of the brand-new mural made by the artist on the Mercure & Ibis Hotel in Montmartre. It is also in association with Street art for Mankind for their project #GenerationEqualityMurals. With the making of this mural comes the help of UN woman, Manpowergroup and the 18th arrondissement town hall as well. The mural projects the future of equality between men and women: A little girl looking up at the sky on the shoulder of her mother. As said by Lula Goce, in the world of art the equality between women and men is not yet achieved. Women have more struggles when it comes to finding the finances for their projects. With this new kind of project, we hope things will get better in the future.
You have to visit Chatou during this month. It’s a beautiful place, and you can show your support to all the artists and to Street Art for ManKind. According to the Kailesh Satyathi Foundation, there are still 152.1 million child labourers worldwide. This project might make a difference. You can donate through the website of Street Art for ManKind: https://streetartmankind.org/ and you can follow them on Instagram to discover more murals across the globe: @streetartmankind.
This is a reminder that art can have an impact on social issues and can help our world to move forward in a better direction.
We are organising a hike there on Sunday, July 18th, if you wish to join us, reserve your spot here.
Written by : Lola Bikindo