A child of graffiti, member of the famous TER Crew alongside compatriots like Katre and Grems, Taroe is a name that matters in the urban landscape. After traveling the streets and learning the culture by the noblest way, Taroe is an artist who succeeded in making his place within galleries, and who, like many others, swings between canvas, ground and digital art. Originally from the Pays Basque, he returned to go green after ten years in the tumult of Paris. Now he works on several projects, one after the other, like the excellent studio “Anyway” that he started with Grems and Opéra, which has already made unanimity among the experts.
Jacker / Before you were exhibited in galleries you were mostly known for your graffiti work. Tell us a little bit about your first brush with cannons.
Taroe / I began the same way most people did by working on my lettering skills. It’s mandatory training when you come from the graffiti world and there’s an infinite number of ways to draw letters: block letters, burners, tags, flops... so many different exercises that help you define your identity, your style.
J / You were once quite the vandal, do you have any anecdotes you could tell us?
T / In 2006, I went on a trip to New York, with Metro from my crew. We hadn’t planned to paint anywhere in particular, so we just walked around to find spots. One night we decided to go paint on the heights above the N train line in Brooklyn, in the direction of Coney Island. I was standing on a 15 inch wide railling above the tracks, painting, when a guy stands next to me, and I don’t notice him at first until he yells: “Dope shit man!!!”. I nearly fell 25 feet down to the tracks...
J / You’re originally from the french Basque country, you now live in Paris. Why did you leave your home to live in the capital? Is it a requirement for anyone wishing to make a living as an artist?
T / I’ve always loved Paris. When I began painting, it was hard following what others were up to, there was no Facebook and Instagram, there were only magazines: “Paris Tonkar” in Paris and “33 C Fresh” from Bordeaux. A limited number of influences really. Whenever we went up to Paris, we got to see tons of different styles and writers. There was more access to culture and art in general in the capital. I lived there for ten years, but now I’ve moved back to the Basque country, with my young children. The quality of life is much higher in the South. I still go to Paris once or twice a month to paint...
J / Tell us about “Anyway”, the artist studio you founded with Grems and Opéra. How did this project come about?
T / Anyway is an artist workshop: I’ve known Grems since 2005 and we’ve often painted together since then. He introduced me to Opéra in 2014 and we instantly clicked both from an artistic perspective as well as a personal one. We all have our own artistic personality, wether it be on a wall or on a canvas and we have collaborated on countless exhibits and performances over the years. We got used to working and creating together organically and in a way that’s fun for both of us so we decided to collaborate more professionally. Anyway has taken a life of it’s own, like an artist other than Opéra, Grems or Taroe. Anyway is now a company in which we work with Myriam Kanou who’s our agent but also a partner. We work as artistic directors, as well as make murals or hold exhibits as gallerists.
J / Tell us about your latest exhibit, it seems it was pretty succesful.
T / We did two different exhibits in two weeks, it was pretty hectic. The first one, “Interférences”, in Paris with Opéra was really successful. We had rented the Oppidum space at the “Carreau du Temple” that we transformed into a temporary Anyway gallery. Grems had already done a solo show there around Christmas 2015, so we decided to use the same space again. I presented one aspect of my work with 5 hyperrealist pieces that represent subway doors, as well as 7 other pieces in a more illustrative style playing with the theme of stained glass. Opéra also showed a few aspects of his work, which allowed us fill the entire gallery with canvases. All this with only two months to prepare the exhibit and promote it. More than 500 people came to the opening, and we made a lot of sales so we were really happy about that. The second exhibit in Toulouse as a trio was also a success, nearly one thousand people came to see our work at “50cinq”. We had made 6 hands pieces and a 50 feet high mural.
J / It’s clear to see that you have a variety of styles, some more abstract and others hyperrealistic. How did you start working with a paintbrush, to transition from graffiti artist to painter?
T / I’ve been painting canvases with this realist style since 2006 but I don’t believe it necessarily works on a wall. I’ve developped an array of different styles for walls after trying them out for Anyway. Stained glass, an exploded style inspired by technical drawings, purely abstract murals. I often apply flat tints on murals. I try not to stick to just one style and let my creativity flow even if it means losing my characteristic identity, finding new artistic paths never gets old.
J / Scenes from the street, trucks, subways... I get a sense that this brings a certain graffiti spirit in the homes of people who are not from this culture. What is your clientele like?
T / Actually, my clientele is very diverse. People who are strangers to this culture as well as people who have the same background as I do and who’ve made it. Ever since I’ve become a family man I don’t get to go paint in the streets as much, so I make up for my frustration by projecting my universe on canvas.
J / You’re the father of a small boy and you must spend a lot of time working on canvases, but you still have a lot of visibility in jams or other events. Isn’t it hard combining the graffiti artist lifestyle and family life?
T / Undoubtedly, but I’m lucky to live in the Basque country and since my wife is also an artist we’re able to work our schedules according to our current projects. We’re expecting a second child in November, so we’re gonna have to juggle.
J / Thank you for answering our questions, what projects or exhibits do you have planned for the future?
T / Well thank you too! I’ve just entered a residency in Marseille along with Grems and Opéra, in the Alliv Villa and we’re preparing an exhibit that will be displayed soon at the Backside Gallery.