John Kviar interview • liz rice mccray
Hi John, will you please describe where you are right now?
Hello Blisssmag! I live in France on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. For some years I have been living in Toulon and I enjoy the pleasant setting of this southern city bathed by the sun all year. Stuck between the mountain and the sea, it’s really an incredible environment to go out to paint, drink a few beers and dive. It is a small Californian-French version but with much less waves.
Sounds amazingly beautiful. Now that we can picture where you are will you please introduce yourself to our reader, a little synopsis if you will?
I am John Kviar, French graffer and painter. I am part of the collective, The Thérapicturale, and the Parisian crew GH. I spent my childhood drawing and creating things, then a little later I was interested in tag and graffiti. In the Paris region, when I was going to skate in the street, there were many wall paintings and tags, it made me want to do that; I painted my first graffiti in 2002. Today I am known for my invisible characters that I stage in surreal universes, often related to my daily life.
When and why did you really start taking your art seriously?
I never took my art seriously. It is something deep inside me that drives me to create works. And painting is the medium that I prefer, even though I am also interested in photo and sculpture… But it is true that little by little this passion took more and more place in my daily life, and people began to take an interest in my work. The concrete projects came naturally to complete my personal work and it allowed me to participate in artistic events, exhibitions and it allowed the public to discover my creations.
You co-founded the artistic collective The Thérapicturale, please tell us about it?
Yes, in 2009 I created the collective with my buddy, The Thérapicturale. At the time we found ourselves among friends, graffers, painters and musicians in a workshop in the countryside, it was our rallying point. These moments were parentheses in everyday studies and work and we felt the need to put a name behind our team. The words Therapy and Pictural became La Thérapicturale (French). Cheipa and Simer immediately integrated the collective, then a little later Gezit and Raler joined us. The Thérapicturale is really a story of friendship created by a common passion that is graffiti and a gathering point, the workshop. Our logo represents this story through the caps surrounded by a small house. This collective allowed us to set up different exhibitions, and to evolve artistically. Today we are scattered all over France and the world, but it allows us to travel to one or the other and discover areas full of new spots.
Do you mainly work with oils and canvas these days?
At the moment I work a lot on canvas, it allows me to concentrate and deepen a little more my subjects. My works are done in oil; I like the rendering and the effects of depth that one can create with this technique. Walls are becoming more rare, due to lack of time, but I sometimes participate in artistic events that allow me to make great long walls. And then, from time to time I make a good wall with my friends in places a little more remote. In parallel, I go in search of abandoned places marked by time to embellish my universe. These very interesting places support to tell stories impregnated by the place and the textures.
Clothing represents the human presence while your environment tells the story, there are no humanly features, but yet visually it lacks nothing. Will you tell us about your invisible characters and the on-going narratives?
I started to make characters invisible in 2009. I wanted to represent myself without being able to recognize me. I erased the physical traits of the human body to keep its anonymity. It allows me to exist, thanks to the clothes, without being visible. This is reminiscent of the graffers that exist by their signatures but remain invisible the rest of the time. The appearance of clothing plays an important role in human life, showing a sense of belonging to an environment, a job and a lifestyle. Clothes open infinite doors to the imagination. Today, I try to plunge my characters in realistic and abstract atmospheres while maintaining a deep link with graffiti. I like to confront these two universes. My new series of canvases depict characters (perhaps my friends and myself) walking through abandoned and storied places. There will be scenes of graffiti and land discovery, and the whole will mix with more abstract things. I love to rhythm my realistic images with vivid colors, it makes it possible to enhance a dark atmosphere and the lines intervene like the line that places under a signature to emphasize it. It’s a pretty slow job, but it’s moving forward, and I’m looking forward to finding the venue to showcase these new works.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an artist? What have you learned from it?
My first solo exhibition “Invisible” at Backside Gallery was a real challenge in terms of time and production. I had to create a certain number of canvases to present a coherent series that represented me well in a minimum of time. Knowing that I am not a full-time artist, it was a real challenge to be able to meet deadlines! But that allowed me to optimize my technique and improve myself. Oil painting is an endless process in which one learns from techniques on canvases. My last mural in Marseille was also a real challenge, it was very cold and there was a lot of wind. We do not realize it, but it’s very physical as a performance. It is necessary to take the height and work the proportions effectively, so that it remains close to the initial design. And there are still deadlines to respect to guarantee the final result and that the spectators appreciate it. When I paint the façade of buildings, I paint not only for me, but also for the viewers, and I must keep that in mind.
Where can people check out your art?
Today, a number of my paintings are represented by the Backside Gallery in Marseille, France. This allows people interested in my work to discover them in real life. There is always a difference between a simple photo and viewing it in real life. But I also try to develop my work in other French regions and areas of the world with the objective of spreading my work. Otherwise, I try to maintain a link with the people who follow me by presenting the behind the scenes of my work and my news on social networks or my website.
Last question, if you were not an artist, what do you think you would be with all that life experience?
This is an interesting question, because painting today rhythms my daily life; it is really an activity of passion. I love to travel, so I think I would take more time to go and discover other countries. When I paint a canvas, I sit for hours, and it becomes frustrating because you know that during this time life outside continues to run at full speed. When I paint a canvas I get involved and I constantly think about all the little things I can improve. On the other hand, when I paint on walls I can be brought to move, meet new people and new cultures. For example, on my last trip to Peru, I met Yandy, a young graffer from Lima with whom I made a wall. I do not speak Spanish and we had to communicate with the gestures and a few words, it was a great experience. I always try to slip a little graffiti in each of my travels, whether it is artistic or purely vandal. Outside the trip, I think I would take the time to learn a musical instrument. I often paint with music, it gives energy to my work. The instrument I would choose would be the piano. I find it so magical as an instrument, even if it sounds very complex.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. It was a pleasure having the chance to interview you.
Thank you! It’s great to be able to share my experience on the other side of the world!