This Street Artist is Stirring Controversy With His Thought-Provoking Work
Parisian street artist Combo hijacks familiar imagery from pop culture and alters them to carry new meanings that are thought-provoking, humorous and confronting. Early in 2015, he was beaten by a gang for his street mural asking for religious harmony at a time of immense tension in Paris. He spends his days finding ways to access forbidden areas to paste up his clever posters, stirring controversy and opening people’s eyes to new perspectives on world issues. We caught up with Combo for some insight into his sometimes dangerous practice.
Could you walk us through your day?
I start at 8am with a coffee. I take a look at my email and Instagram account. I paint on my canvas until noon and in the afternoon I prepare my paste-up. I go out around 6pm, pasting up until 10pm.
Could you describe your work to someone who has never seen it before?
I use different techniques so it’s hard to say, but it’s always about social issues that you see in the media. I try to make fun of that or offer another point of view. I create mashups with cartoons or just paint something funny.
Which has been your favorite project to execute?
Working in the street is easier now than when I was young. I enjoy danger, that’s why I like to put myself in dangerous situations: to get out of my comfort zone.
For example: when I pasted up posters about nuclear in Chernobyl, or in Hong Kong about the censorship of Google by the Chinese government, or when I painted on a submarine in a navy base in Denmark. I really like this kind of action.
Which has been the most challenging?
My work in Chernobyl in Ukraine was hard. I had to go there many times to find a way inside the restricted area. It took me 6 months to find a way to do it. It was tough.
What is your favorite medium to work in?
Posters. You can prepare something in your studio and paste up more quickly in the street than using other things like stencils.
Could you walk us through the process of creating one of your street works?
I have a lot of ideas stored in my sketchbook, waiting to be used. When the right time comes and the media talks about a subject, I just have to release one of them. I prepare the poster and print it in the size of the wall I have in mind. After that I just take a picture and wait to see the response on social media.
Is there an overarching message or feeling you hope to give your audience?
The subjects change but it’s always the same message. I want people to read between lines and understand how images can be used to manipulate us. How the media works and how politicians trick us.