As a small boy, Raphael aka Seize Happywallmaker, was an only child - he had no brothers or sisters to play with. His reality was the one that he constructed in his mind. Using colours and patterns to create stories, his life became an adventure in creativity.
Art was never a choice he made. He told stories in his head, as many young people do. It might have been film or it might have been music, but drawing scribbles that seem indecipherable to adults, yet make perfect sense to a child's imagination, is the medium that took root and stuck. The same childlike awe that gripped his earliest work still inspires him today.
When you're so small and the world is so big, everything is an adventure. As we begin to grow into our surroundings, we also grow out of the spirit that inspired our younger selves to just do. Not think and plan, but imagine and create.
Boredom was the enemy and art was his knight in shining armour. A traditional background in graffiti was the progression that his youthful scribbles took. It made sense, but it didn't quite feel right. Always engrossed in works of science-fiction, Seize began to draw on the influence of parallel worlds to begin making his own unique mark in the graffiti world. It started with a simple, yet odd question to himself.
If an extra-terrestrial made graffiti, what would his style be?
All that has followed has been a quest to answer this question. The recent blockbuster hit film Arrival gave the world a new perspective on what extra-terrestrials could look like. They might not even take on a physical form - certainly not one that inhibits the senses we have developed as humans. It also showed us how they may communicate in their own language. The work of Seize is very similar in concept.
The pieces are constructed of abstract shapes and colours that take on the form of crop-circles, yet look like neural pathways as mapped by a city's metro system. His output is part of his idea of post-graffiti. It isn't entirely removed from the more traditional graffiti, retaining a similar sentiment and attitude, only it has lost the typical form, whilst still retaining the function of the graffiti throw-ups and tags we'd expect to see. As he says - this is the work of an extra-terrestrial mind and the paintings are its mark.
Where the form elapses most from the traditional idea of graffiti isn't even the 'lettering' as such, but the way that it seems to be malleable on the walls of the buildings. It's a strange interplay between colour and concrete, as if his work is constantly growing or evolving - it's a living organism that he channels.
In allegedly uninhabitable environments, life is forced to warp and manipulate its physiology into whatever form necessary - to first survive and then thrive. The survival stage is where Seize began - first his artwork had to find their footing and realise a physical existence. Now that he has become comfortable with his abstracts works, the next mission is to thrive.
Such conditions means that unpredictability and chaos reign. It's an environment where anything could develop, dictated only by the ecosystem of the place. The walls similarly influence what he creates. The pieces sometimes manifest over entire walls, at other times they meander through derelict concrete shells.
For Seize, his paintings are constructed from elaborate and intricate symbolic codes. Who can decipher them? Well, anyone if they try. Such is the nature of interpretation. The goal is to help connect. Not only people with his work, but humankind to their environment. We must realise that like his work, we too are adapting - evolving (or possibly devolving). We are certainly changing and we must realise that.
I wondered then, what would be the dream location for Seize's work? He tells me that it would not matter so much where it is in the world, rather what the location is like. In environments, like other planets, that force his figures to become challenging and unpredictable, forcing them to interact with their environment in news ways. This is the dream. Most recently that was Martinique. Next - Mars.
His work is all about "connections, encounters and colourful paths". His work is his interaction with the world, but also a peaceful offer for the audience to interact with their own.
It's a prompt to re-explore your surroundings in the same way he did as a child. So, ask yourself the question - If I were an extra-terrestrial, what would I think about the world? When you can answer this, you have a profound truth - you've just revealed to yourself what you'd like to change about the world, or more importantly how you need to change to make that happen.
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