Eye-cracking colours, a style that keeps evolving and a skill he has mastered for almost 20 years... Katre is one of these taggers that make you want to sweat doing some exercise in an abandoned warehouse. Known by anyone who ever used a spray-paint can, this writer from Paris belongs to the most famous crews in France. After completing two books about abandoned places he was deeply fond of, he now uses pictures of these urban temples as a background to his latest creations: black and white snapshots, cut by his “K”, as if he were giving another birth to these forgotten places. When you see the five letters of his name in electric tones and flashing colors, you just feel like you got hit in the face by these deep and vivid-edged outlines around each letter.
Jacker / You started doing graffiti in 1993, do you remember your first sprays? What did graffiti look like and who tagged walls at the time ?
Katre / I lived along the Line 13 and I constantly saw subway trains arriving at the station completely tagged ! There were a lot of tags in the streets as well, ‘Z’s from Bando and a few colorful pieces. It all deeply marked me and gave me the motivation to start tagging. After a lot of paintings on canvas I started to tag in 1993 in the subway halls and around the block (14), and in the street with the STS crew.
J / It has now been more than 20 years, what have you done during all this time ?
K / Wow ! I started tagging in the streets, in the subway, on a few trains, but I quickly got interested in doing pieces and color murals, etc. I joined numerous crews along the years: SWC, TER, OMT, LCF... With STS, we quickly structured as an association in order to do ornaments on metallic curtains (right from 1996) and, as a result, be able to get a lot of cans to paint and a private studio to create sounds and make music ! It started out as plans and finally became a real job. In 2000, with the association “STEUS” (STS), we opened a professional recording studio in Montreuil : Folimer Studio ! I was participating in recording sessions as a sound engineer (we mainly recorded rap music) and I also kept painting a lot, meeting more and more people and doing huge walls. I travelled a lot in France (Toulouse, Bayonne, Marseille, Annecy, Lyons, etc.) and abroad (Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, China, Australia, Chili, etc.) to do graffiti jams and other events. In 2005, I wrote the book Hors du temps (published by Colors Zoo) : it was about those abandoned industrial wastelands and the taggers who liked to come to those places and paint in black or with very few colors (using spraycans only).
In 2012, I wrote the second opus of the book : Hors du temps 2 (published by Pyramyd). It was thicker, presented more artists and depicted more quality as well ! Since 2006, I mainly focused on graffiti and painting, making ornaments and performing for companies while developing my workshop activity, because I was eager to discover new wastelands and abandoned places at the same time. Today, I exhibit more, focus more on my paintings but I still do big walls, attend graffiti jams and tag in waste grounds with spray cans.
J / I remember the first pieces I saw that were from you when I started painting, I think it was back in 2004 when your tags were very explosive. Your technique changed a lot since then, even though it remained ‘wildstyle’. How did your style evolve along the years ?
K / Well, I have a few styles that I developed that you can spot right away because they are very specific. For instance, the style between 2009 and 2011 that consisted in painting in 3D and make the letters burst, while creating an effect of speed. Many people asked me and still ask today if I ever thought of getting back to that.
But you know, at some point, I need to find something else because I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again for 10 years. After this ‘bursting’ style, I wanted to stop focusing on tiny details and start expressing myself even more through body language and fatcaps, doing something more spontaneous. I developed this Fat Cap style, which was almost astro fat, with very thick contours and with which I have been playing with the letters transparency: not filling them completely, only giving them this electric touch. I have stopped doing 3D or light, have tried breaking the habit of graffiti, it corresponds to something quicker and more spontaneous that I really like.
It has been 2 or 3 years now and there it is, I am getting bored ! So I am going to try and find something else and we will see where it takes me ! I am also starting to tag walls along the lines of what I paint on canvas: sticking a picture of rubble or of a broken building and expanding it with paint while adding my two pence to this universe... We will see where it goes !
J / Can you tell us more about your books Hors du temps, which focus on graffiti in abandoned places ? What is it that fascinates you in this activity, and what place overwhelmed you the most ?
K / It is really fascinating to discover empty places like this, with broken walls and rust and unique materials ! Plus, tagging these walls represents a real challenge because it means adapting to the surface and try to be more conceptual. I think it is a graffiti branch on its own, much more conceptual. I wanted to buy a book that covered that aspect but I could not find anything, so I motivated myself into doing this. In 2005, after three years of work, I finally managed to publish the first opus of Hors du temps, with the help of Colors Zoo. The book focused on taggers who specialized in this graffiti atmosphere : LEK, DRAN, 6PACK, BRUSK, RESO, HONET and many more ! It became a reference and sold really well over five years.
In 2010, I wanted to write another book and I took the time to make a sequel with the goal of introducing these taggers’ own places and paintings ! I wanted the reader to discover the atmosphere from those places and the atmosphere from the paintings in those places. I signed with Pyramyd, who put their trust in me regarding the page formatting, the artists choice, etc. It came out before Christmas 2012 and has sold out since then.
J / Back to your technique: I noticed that you used a black and white background for your pictures in some of your pieces. Can you tell us more about this medium ?
K / As I was saying, I developed my work on a canvas, I didn’t want to do graffiti on a canvas as I would do it with my friends on a wall or in a jam. I wanted to depict a universe in relation with graffiti but more personal, which is why all the pictures of the wastelands taken in those fantastic places became backgrounds to my paintings. Today I do more and more performances and walls with this concept !
Just like the façade of the tower 13, where I stuck the picture of a city being demolished, adding the letter ‘K’, which became an abstract element since it was completely smashed; Flames bursting out of these wasteland debris ?!