Hey Leo! You're originally from Paris and have spent some time in the US. Are you currently based in France?
Hi, Kate. I am originally from Toulon in the South of France. I studied philosophy and aesthetics at La Sorbonne and lived a total of 10 years in Paris. I also lived in Louisiana, USA for a year and in Vancouver, Canada, for three years. Today, I divide my time between France and Switzerland.
Do you feel that the time you spent in the US influenced your work in a particular way?
Definitely, but the US art scene influences my work much more now than in the past. Today, I spend about a month in the States every year going from one museum to an other in LA, NYC, Boston, etc. This enriches my art.
You explain that you have been influenced by street art, and your work explores the idea of the surface, both canvas and actual wall, and crosses over from one to the other. When did you first start exploring street art?
My interest in street art began around 2000, through admiring the graffiti I saw around Paris. I had always been attracted to works that were kind of “mysterious,” that were unsigned, or had their own illegible signature. It was that dimension that first drew me to street art.
What first interested you in painting?
I liked the idea of creating something very personal and very unique, infused with my own culture, my own background, my own feelings…and of course, the possibility of bringing to the world my own understanding of it.
How does painting on an actual wall differ for you from painting on a canvas? Do you look at it differently?
Strangely, I approach it the same way. Obviously the size is different but I always wondered why we have to go to museums and galleries to see pieces of art. Ideally, art (in all its forms) should be on the surfaces that surround us, from city streets to the walls of buildings to the freeways we drive on. And not only art linked to advertising, design, pop art, or “beautiful” street art. I’m talking about expressionist art, abstract expressionism. Have you ever seen work like that of Pollock or Jasper Johns on public walls? Not really, and I think it’s a shame. There is still a lot of room for innovation when it comes to urban art.
Who or what are some of your biggest influences?
I have ecclectic influences, from “outsider” art to abstract expressionism with graffiti to new realism and street art…I really try to be inspired by whatever I find is good, whatever “category” that may be. I don’t like to be hemmed in by labels.
What is your studio like? How much time do you typically spend there?
My studio is very messy, with floor-to-ceiling paint, basically. When I get sick of the mess, that’s when I move my creating outdoors and into the street! No, more seriously: My studio is the only place where I don’t feel time passing. I like the sensation of being outside of time.
What was your art education like?
I first studied art as a teenager in the studio of a Canadian abstract artist who lived in my village. I think those lessons with him sparked my love for abstract art. I went on to study philosophy, art history and aesthetics at La Sorbonne in Paris. Studying aesthetics really helped me delve into the deeper meanings behind the art we create.
Were you formally trained, or did you primarily teach yourself and learn as you went?
Other than the studies I mentioned, I was and continue to be self-taught. My art, like my life, is in constant movement. I seek to always go deeper, to evolve, to find new techniques and new ideas, and not to repeat myself on and on. I stay curious about the world around me, and keep aware of social media which are a big influence on my work as well.
Is there anything that you find particularly challenging about working as an artist? What do you need most?
Artists are sometimes seen as isolated figures. But isolation is not ideal when it comes to the creative life. Being surrounded by artists and by a certain cultural effervescence are vital to the artistic life.
What about the most exciting or fulfilling thing? What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
Recently I finished my largest wall (about 50 feet). Since I am not a muralist, it was a challenge but I was proud to have done it and the result was pretty cool.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects coming up?
I will have my first solo show at Galerie Couteron in Paris between 13 December and 14 January. And I can’t yet share all the details, but a video about me will be released soon. It includes footage of me wandering around Paris, doing what I call “hash-tagging,” and discussing the way I see my art. Another project worth following is the opening of Street Art Museum in the French Jura region where my studio is based…Stay tuned!
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Find more information on Leo's paintings as well as outdoor work at leomordac.com!