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“I painted my mural in November for the Day of the Dead Festival after Guerilla One invited me to do a piece in Fameyard,” he says of the piece that’s been the talk of LA. “I’ve always been interested in Mexican culture, specifically the Day of the Dead, or ‘Dia de los Muertos’, and the way in which it’s both fun and celebratory but rooted in a deep respect for ancestry and tradition. My mate Ernesto Yerena explained to me the concept that everything that happens in your life has a direct lineage to what your ancestors did seven generations ago and, ultimately, what you do will affect the future of your children generations down. I think that’s something everyone needs to be reminded of. I would say most people are scared of death, though, and the festival is about honouring the dead, honouring your family and recognising your life is a puzzle piece in a bigger picture.”
'What actually connects the human race is our own mortality', Blériot claims, which is why exploring death artistically in the heart of the most egocentric capital of the world seemed like an interesting and relevant idea to pursue.
“I think the more fine art, hand-drawn aesthetic of my piece also helped it gain attention,” he says of the Fameyard piece. “I think people find a simple integrity in hand-drawn work. They can understand the time and dedication that goes into something like that and they connect their own experience of drawing to it. I wanted to acknowledge within the work its own impermanence, with an extension of the idea being that the work itself had its own lifespan. I wanted it to seem as if the girl was contemplating her own mortality – hence the tear – both as a person but also as a drawing. All street art has to die, art is often about immortalising ideas, but this piece is about the opposite. The mural has already been tagged and will probably be long gone within another month. That’s all part of it.”
One of the reasons the artwork took three weeks to complete was due to some of the fascinating conversations Blériot found himself having with the Los Angeles locals during that time. People and their stories have a way of creeping up into your work and, especially in a place as diverse and eccentric as LA, it’s near impossible not to be influenced and inspired by the personalities you meet.
“And people really open up to you when you’re an artist,” Blériot adds. “People would tell me about their lives and what they did and one of the reasons I spent around three weeks working on the piece was that I was having so many interesting conversation with people in-between working. It gives you an insight into people and locals that you don’t usually get. LA is a strange place in terms of how it’s influenced and inspired me. It really gave me the confidence to pursue exactly the things I wanted to. People are very direct there and that definitely rubbed off on me. People in LA can be quite superficial at times but I would rather people put on a smile than were dismissive or grumpy. There’s a lot going on in LA and all of the creative scenes emerge in a very exciting, vibrant way. I’ve met a lot of great people that I’m still in touch with. And I was stoked to find Marie Claire doing a fashion shoot in front of my mural one day!”
It’s the kind of attention he should be getting used to, and fast – just ask legendary LA street artist Shepard Fairey who personally invited Blériot to make the big move back in 2012. During a visit to London which saw Fairey bring his Sound and Vision show to the UK – entirely inspired by his musical influences and featuring a collaboration and performance from DJ Z-Trip – Blériot recalls he ended up helping the veteran and his crew with bombing around the city, quickly establishing a relationship with Fairey.
“It was awesome! At the end Shepard invited me to LA, so I thought, ‘Right, I’ll go for it then’. I was working both in his design studio in Echo Park and his Fine Art studio, helping with making collages and screen-printing, so I had a really nice balance of the practical art production and the coffee fuelled Mac-based design work. I completed a couple of the designs for Obey Clothing, which hopefully will be released this year. It’s really easy working with Shepard, you could spend days on a design wondering what’s not quite right about it, then he’ll tell you exactly how to make it perfect in 20 seconds and you’ll cry. He’s stupidly intelligent and dedicated to what he’s doing. He’s one of the most important artists alive but remains true to his roots and I’m stoked to be able to hang out with and learn from him. All his crew are super nice, accommodating people. I always enjoy working with Obey.”
But Blériot was no stranger to collaborations by that point. As an occasional assistant to London street artist D*Face and a member of Yorkshire creative collective Best Joined Up, working with Shepard seemed like the next logical step.
“I met D*face in London for the first time during Shepard’s ‘Sound and Vision’ show in Brick Lane,” Blériot explains. “He’s a really down-to-earth guy and was one of my street art heroes growing up, so it’s really a big deal for me to be able to work around [D*Face]. To hang around the studio and see how it all works, to be involved with putting up shows and being around so many creative people is really inspiring. The atmosphere in his gallery and studio is really cool. For his ‘New World Disorder’ show at StolenSpace Gallery, which was his last show at the older space in Shoreditch, he opened up his studio so people could see where he worked. All the upstairs area was covered in graffiti and was a really cool space to work in. I remember we rolled his huge fucking motorbike into the upstairs gallery space and he decided to do doughnuts right in the middle of it. It was sick.”
The Best Joined Up crew, on the other hand, has been going as an independent creative and social enterprise since 2005, gathering together the leading lights in illustration, aerosol, street art, design and animation from across the UK and linking artists up at their live art events and exhibitions over that time. With an open-door ethos that has seen many of today’s creative pioneers pass through them, Blériot says Best Joined Up continues to seek out the freshest UK talent and provides young artists with a live space, the right platform and the means with which to create freely.
“I’ve always loved working with them. They’re a no-bullshit group of artists who like to hang out, draw and paint. From being around 15, they always encouraged me to join in and draw with them at events they’d put on and that feeling of being part of an art community has stuck with me. That do-it-yourself attitude and the feeling of creating live art while having a drink and interacting directly with people is a lovely thing to do.”
Most recently, however, Blériot has been focusing his attention on collaborating with clothing brands and featuring his designs on labels such as Become Antique and 47 Brand. Having previously been featured on a shirt by Urban Outfitters, he claims there are many projects in store for 2014 and beyond.
“I’m not looking to have some huge street wear band, I just like making shirts out of my drawings and I like the connection it offers with my audience,” he claims. “There’s something really personal about it. I like the idea that something I create, once reproduced, doesn’t belong to me anymore. I can create something and then move on. I just released as Hamsa design I originally created in 2011 on t-shirts. It was one of the first illustrations I created in this style. The image became really popular on blogging sites and social media and it got tens of thousands of reposts to such an extent whereby it now turns up on counterfeit t-shirts all around the world. I recently found the design on a shirt on Venice beach! It has inspired numerous tattoos, drawings and more designs of a similar aesthetic. It was even used on a shirt in Urban Outfitters, without my permission, if course... I suppose imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery. I’ve finally re-worked and printed the image as my own, though. I’m also going to be doing some more collaborations with clothing companies and brands such as Become Antique in London, then I’m going to be doing some work with 47 Brand, which is a really cool sports lifestyle brand that was set up by two Italian immigrants in 1947 in New York. I’m going to do a t-shirt for a denim company as well, and I’m in contact with a few brands in LA and Brazil.”
In the meantime, Blériot continues to search for inspiration and influences at every corner, from the fascinating human beings he comes in contact with and in every place he sets foot in. And he doesn’t limit himself to street artists, either.
“My parents are both designers, so they’ve been a big influence on me. People like Shepard and D*Face have been a huge influence on me in the way that they balance art and commerce but remain very conscientious and politically relevant. I remember going to an international youth peace conference called PeaceJam in LA when I was 15 and spending a week listening to talks from people like Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Jody Williams among others, and to this day, I’m very much inspired by these leaders. Also, people like the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi – even Fela Kuti and Marvin Gaye. I actually think Russell Brand is speaking a lot of truth at the moment, and I think Erykah Badu is a fucking goddess. I’m inspired by painters like Matisse, Picasso, Stanley Spencer and Basquiat, even though they’re all long dead. Anthony Lister and Conor Harrington are some of my favourite painters at the moment. Chuck Close once said, ‘Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work’. I over-think most of what I do, so I try to just get on with things.”
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