We heard that art is a form of expression that can free your mind and counter the evils of our society. Between you and me, when I see the artwork of Maye, I can believe it. He reveals a poetic and critical universe from the depths of his mind with his creations. Watching the world around him with a savvy eye, his paintings depict a strong vision allied to a great sensitivity, and we have no choice but to take a massive slap, in front of a multitude of details created with precision. Maye knows how to blend the colors with emotion, a bewildering harmony of beauty, while introducing profoundly true messages, hidden behind many symbols and signs. Just 25 years of age, and he’s already made footprints within the universe, and he has only just begun paving his path.
Jacker / You started graffiti very young. How did you get into it ? What attracted you to this discipline ?
Maye / I started at the age of 15. I would always draw as a kid. I remember when I’d come home from school, on the road, I’d be trying to visually capture all the graffiti I saw. And at night, I’d reproduce them. Until the day someone told me that that was not what graffiti’s about, that I had to find a tag, a nickname and form my letters. But basically, it was mostly the hip hop culture that attracted me. I started dancing in addition to drawing, I wasn’t that into graffiti, for me it was mainly dance. But SPN, a crew from my neighborhood is what triggered the shift. They were becoming really well known because of their graffiti and managed to develop a sort of notoriety, so I thought “why not express myself on a wall!”.
J / What did your first pieces look like ?
M / My first pieces were tacky and drippy -not a pretty sight, but it was fun because that was my period of discovery. We would head out at night like vandals. I remember doing my vandal thing this one time, I woke up at 4am to escape everyone. So I’m doing my painting, and I get to the E and realize that there is still space, I step back and see that I had in fact forgotten the A. So I had to erase it, redo my contours with the sun coming up and cars passing by, it was a real mess! I said to myself “that’s it ! I don’t want to do this anymore.”
J / Today you often represent your characters with thin elongated limbs which has become your trademark. How did they come to you?
M / I quickly realized that not everyone can make beautiful letters. To make your name in lettering, you have to be very good. Characters were going to have a greater impact on people. I started out with characters that were round, fairly fat, the Michelins as I called them. And then I got sick of it, it was too childish. So I did the opposite of fat and round, I went to tall and lean.
J / You also mix floral and mechanical elements into these bodies, how did you come up with this style ?
M / One day I got an order from a florist who wanted a logo, a man and a woman. I wanted to put flowers in the guy’s beard but ultimately I turned the whole thing into foliage. I developed it some more and created these leafy characters. With Momies, we also spoke about creating a dismembered robot with each limb linked by cable modules. As I sketched I kept going back to my robot skeletons. And instead of veins and organs, I made pipes and wires. I saw that it worked well and so I developed an entire universe.
J / Where does your inspiration come from ?
M / From art in general. I know how to look elsewhere than just at graffiti, like art exhibitions especially. Inspirational artists aren’t necessarily in graffiti, even though there are a lot who inspire me, that’s not where I go to to find my inspiration. Ultimately what you re-create is just what you’ve seen. TV for example, shows you things that you’d never seen before. Today if someone talks to us about Syria, we think of war right away, but have we ever been to Syria ? We have no idea what it’s really like down there. That inspired me a painting of some journalists, on one side war, and tranquility on the other side, because ultimately we’ll never know the other side. I think it’s important for any artist to look outside of his milieu. In terms of graffiti, it’s good to follow writers but also to go see what’s happening in contemporary art, sculpture, aboriginal art, pointillism, etc...
J / You are part of the Montpeul Yeah Crew, POW, ODM and CFL. What’s in it for you ?
M / Honestly ? Crews are about connecting with others, sharing your art and building a team. But I have a different concept of crews that some others may have, I also have my own life to live. Momies once told me that the graffiti artists that succeed, are alone. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality. You will generate a lot more buzz if you worked alone on your wall than if there were 50 of you. Being in a crew for me is like a way of saying that you belong to a team that is linked beyond just painting.
J / After starting with graffiti, you now exhibit your paintings. Was it the next logical step for you ?
M / For me it was just the continuation. After a while, there comes a point where you start your artistic career. In graffiti, you start off with vandalism, you make a little name for yourself, and then you’re gonna want to develop a technique, a style. You’re going to want to steer yourself in several directions until you find what works for you. And once you have your identity, that’s when people want you, they know that they will not find this elsewhere.
J / So is it ultimately a desire to live off one’s art ? Is laying it on canvas the only option in the world of graffiti ?
M / Yeah, it’s true, totally. But not everyone can do that because a canvas is formatted. You have to fit your whole world within those four corners. With a wall, if you want to remove a line, you can. You don’t have to be as accurate because you make it so large. Painting on canvas is not just a matter of buying paint, bombing and then you get what you have on the wall, it doesn’t work that way. But I think these guys are going to realize that by themselves. Any graffiti artist that wants to work on canvas is probably gonna sell because this is the right time, it’s the phenomenon of the moment. But to put it simply, in 10 years, the doors will close. The big names we have them already, Cope 2, Messiah, JonOne, Seen, Bom K... The real advice I’d give to young people is “don’t get into graffiti for the money, nor into rap”.
J / You mean there is no future for graffiti ?
M / There will come a time when there will be too many artists on the market. The young people coming up will either need an incredible talent and then lots of elbow grease or a girlfriend who’s gonna get them through secretly, otherwise he may have to do his thing independently until he gets noticed. The problem is that there are too many galleries, too many auctions, too much everything ! We’re overfeeding people into an overdose. At some point, someone’s gonna go “that’s it ! Street art ? We’ve had enough, now let’s move on to this other thing !”. The guy who’s gonna bet it all on graffiti will have to do contemporary stuff. When I was a kid, I’d watch PSY 4, FF and I thought that these guys were loaded. Today they’re either butchers or bakers or they’re making pop music. What I’m trying to say is you get to a point where maybe you have a family to feed, and you realize that rap is changing and you’re forced to follow your time, it’s the same in graffiti.
J / For real, there seems to be a real contradiction with res- pect to that. We accuse these guys of abandoning their roots to continue to sell and simply following the trends whereas they need to, to survive. Is it the same thing with graffiti ?
M / It’s true that we often hear “Yeah, he was better before because he was truly himself and now he wants to do some other thing.” It depends on what you want to do with your life and how you see things. Either you’re underground doing your thing or so you see big, you want to rub shoulders, hang out with the elite, eat oysters and caviar. JonOne, today is pure communication. Banksy’s a business, Obey, an industry. There are many who criticize that, but before that guy got there, he was all alone, hustling in his corner. You can’t blame him for the industrial aspect because you have to admit, his work is beautiful. He left his little circle and made history. You talk about street art today, you talk about Banksy, and you don’t get that often !
J / You’re rather quiet on the Internet, it’s not easy to find information about you. Was that a choice on your part ?
M / Yes it was a choice. Because I think I’m still young and I have a lot to learn. I’m staying in my place and it’s important to not make a big deal out of it. I have always been respectful with regards to the elders. They’re the ones who built the roads, who paved them, who made a passageway for graffiti. And we get to walk on that road. Everything’s been prepared. In my opinion, there are stages. Discreet yes, but like a Russian submarine, I’m the kinda guy that gets deep in the water, below all the radars and then suddenly, he’s standing right there where you least expect him.
J / And finally, do you have any exhibitions coming up that you’d like to tell us about ?
M / I will be exhibiting at the Nicolas-Xavier gallery in Montpellier in June. As always, I have a theme planned. I’d really like for more people from the region to be there. I’ve been thinking about hearkening back to my origins in Sète and everything that revolves around Montpellier. What I want most of all is to create an emotion. I want my painting to exude an emotion, be it fear, anger.. as long as it comes from the heart. What I really hope for is that when you come out of this expo you say, “wow, there’s something there !”. And an exhibition in Paris to present my work to the Parisians. A little network got set up and there are some collectors waiting for me. This is a springboard into the world of art for me because Paris is a large nucleus in artistic culture.