It’s my first name, quite simply. I have been a comic book writer for over twenty years and, in this medium, you are often called by your name, hence the choice of Tarek in order to avoid having this one slaughtered because it is difficult to pronounce. I figured if it was to call me by my last name (or something close to it) all day long, it would tire me out quickly. Very early on, I decided to use my first name for art in general.
When did you start painting?
I started graffiti at the end of 1985 and took part in my first exhibition with other painters in 1992 during “Paris Graffiti”, rue Chapon in the Marais. We were twenty to exhibit: there were ten Americans and ten French. It was the first exhibition devoted to graffiti on canvas organized in France. I was both one of the exhibited artists and one of the curators: this event was, moreover, linked to the release of my book Paris Tonkar. I forgot to say that I started painting on canvas in 1990.
What made you want to release this Paris Tonkar book?
One evening, we were in the metro, on line 10, near Boulogne-Billancourt. We were tagging the passing trains and the station in the station. At one point, I realized that there was no witness to what we were doing. From that crazy evening, the idea of writing a book on Parisian graffiti germinated. I started working on it pretty quickly afterwards, around 1988.
How did you go from books to Paris Tonkar magazines?
In 2010, I wanted to bring out my book that has been unavailable since 1998: I talked about it with Yann, the publication director, who works in the press. By discussing at length about the reissue of the book, he managed to convince me that it would be appropriate to release a magazine on graffiti to open a window of freedom for this very living art. The editorial adventure therefore began like this.
What is your favorite style and subjects?
I am influenced by comics, pop art, calligraphy… By a lot of very different things after all! Cubism, I love too, as do geometric painting, tribal art and primitive arts. It is a whole which gives very varied inspirations.
You often represent masks in your works. What does that mean to you?
We all have masks all day long. I like to work on the idea of the mask, a subject that I have explored for a very long time even in comics. I create my own masks too. I often mix this up with vanities, which I particularly appreciate. At the moment I am on a new series, with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic and totem masks.
What’s your artistic twist?
I love warm colors, which often comes back from the feedback from those who discover or buy my art. There are a lot of people who tell me that I have a very personal and happy style. I like to think it’s true.
Your story with Superposition?
I did an exhibition and I painted an entire street with Superposition when the gallery was located on rue Longue (Lyon). The feeling went really well with the team. From then on, I worked on several projects initiated by the gallery. I was able to invest walls during the great collective exhibition One Shot. I came soon after to paint at the Urban Art jungle Festival. I come back to Lyon very regularly to paint walls, bring new works and spend time with the team.
What are your inspirations, artistic or everyday?
Everything inspires me, there is no limit. To be an artist is to have many crushes in the arts in general. I am not going to give names of current artists but I would say Picasso, he is by far the painter who speaks to me the most. He worked all his life: when we expected him somewhere he went elsewhere. He has always experimented while asserting his art. He has always progressed and left a great pictorial heritage, more than 47,000 works. Looking closely at his career, we realize that he has done everything. He painted on many different mediums at each period of his life as an artist and he used the means of communication of his time. When TV becomes a vector, a medium, he uses it. He understood everything. He didn’t lock himself up
And what is your relationship to the means of communication of our time, such as social networks?
On social networks I post a lot of news and images, I find it important to share. Art is sharing. Social networks, by definition, are places where we talk like in an agora. I like showing lots of different things, it also allows younger designers to have ideas or maybe even contact me if they have projects.
And the Paris Tonkar magazine during the confinement, how was it?
The printers were closed so it was on stand-by. The magazine was finished but it went to press three months later. It was complicated but it’s okay.
Want to tell us about the latest issue?
The last opus devotes a portrait Rasko, which among other exploits painted more than 2000 trains. It’s an issue that deals with Russian graffiti that people don’t know much about.
What are your upcoming projects?
My next exhibition is a solo-show in Paris in October in the Kykart Gallery, then at the end of the year an exhibition dedicated to the Stade Français rugby club, with the We need art gallery. There are several projects under discussion, but to be confirmed given the current context.
Tarek was at Fort Superposition in Lyon for three days, his fresco is to be discovered during European Heritage Days on September 19 and 20.
Instagram : @tarekby