The world might not be getting worse, but we certainly know more about how it is changing. Through our access to social media, events half the world away appear on our screens almost instantaneously. So how can we use it to bring people together?
One way is to utilise its power as a platform for exposure. People have managed to unite collectively to make great leaps towards change by harnessing the new media's ability for high-speed proliferation. It's whether deep substantial change been caused by our new found proximity to each other that remains to be seen.
It would be a stretch to say that Christian Guémy aka C215 has set out to change the world, but he's certainly creating work with such profound humanity at its base that it is capable of affecting the people that see it - this is a great place to start. At one point, a younger and more idealistic Guémy painted faces that were overlooked by society - the ones that we are happy to forget about and just walk on by. This list typically includes immigrants, refugees and homeless people. By painting them on the wall he was elevating them to being something more than nothing.
Like I said, this was a younger Guémy. Now his attitude has changed a little. His perception has been affected by his own journey through spirituality, mysticism and religion. These people that initially seemed like the 'overlooked' are only so on a relative scale. If you zoom out a little bit more - everyone that we pass is just as irrelevant to us, or at least overlooked, in there very own way.
Christian told me a story. It was about a blind man that shined shoes and the wisdom that his own life had granted him. He told Christian that we're all swimming in deep, dark waters. Only some people will tread it successfully and see the light. Most of the others will perish - to whatever their fate may be - obscurity, crime, ignorance or just normality and mundanity.
To think that most people aren't overlooked is to do them a disservice. Granted, some people find themselves to be in more difficult circumstances - but not all pain and not all anguish is visible. Everyone is equally something and nothing. We don't necessarily see everyone that we look at. Even if we could somehow see everyone, then we could in no way see, or know everything about them. Their lives as are mysteriously complicated as the young man or woman on the corner.
Faces are universal. There are external differences between countries, but a smile is a smile - no matter where you go. Guémy's idea of peace therefore is often communicated in this universal language. It's a transcendent idea - one that lends itself in part to his belief system. Faces might separate us by how we look, but they unite us in every way that really matters.
Spirituality is regarded as something that unconsciously connects us all, the innate human spirit that we all share - it's the intangible feeling, the words that are never said. It's also a driving-force in Guémy's work, and life. In the process of creation, he is at one with himself - peaceful and calm, an embodiment of the message his pieces emanate. Beyond the here and now, it plays an important part in his future too.
When I ask what he plans to do next, the answer is simple. He doesn't know. Not only that, but he doesn't decide. Fate is what will guide his path - the unseen is what will light the way. This isn't some gimmick to keep his life exciting, its the principle that means his work speaks the truth. In spontaneity it is the overwhelming mood and feeling of the moment that reigns supreme. This is unrestrained artistic creativity.
He was sick when I met him in the corner seat of a cafe in Paris. It inhibited his ability to think and formulate ideas as clearly as he'd have liked. That didn't matter though - here was a man trying to explain the inexplicable. Faith, religion, art and spirituality are something that remains predominantly within us. Articulating such complex thoughts is difficult at the very best of times - that's why he paints these thoughts.
It is a way to channel these feelings into something - explaining them best by making the audience feel the same things he did in the process. Cutting stencils becomes meditative, spraying them on walls is a process of contemplation - all of this energy is therefore transferred onto the audience. In most of Europe's major cities, there are problems on its streets. Violence and other crime dictate the daily paths that people take. To respond to this - a message of peace, especially when the medium of working on the street so potently influences the message, is one of the most important things to put out there.
Our conversation was short, but infront of me was an artist maturing - from youthful ideology to a more meditative approach to the transformative power art yields and how to most responsibly channel it. Seeing the influence of his own work on a younger generation of artists is something that has made him greatly proud - it's testament to all that his work has ever stood for.
Christian is not someone that believe we're all insignificant, rather someone that believes we are working towards a world where peace is the predominant feeling and that in this world - everyone will be significant. Just like Christian, as a human and an artist - we all have our part to play.
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