French artist FUZI UVTPK’s tattoos, which often feature dismembered prostitutes and ambiguous beasts, are peculiar and thought provoking. They are also in high demand. In the last year, FUZI has tattooed at The Hole in New York, Salon Renate in Berlin (where his clients included Scarlett Johansson, Busy P and Xavier de Rosnay of Justice), SA Studios in Los Angeles, Faux Pas in Moscow and Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco. In the last month alone, he painted a four-story mural of one of his flash designs in Poland; tattooed Os Gemeos in New York; and Diplo in Paris.
This fall, FUZI will release a limited-edition leather jacket with clothing line Surface to Air, which will coincide with an exhibition in Paris of his wild, post-apocalyptic paintings. (The exhibition is being organized by Thibault Choay, who curated Peter Sutherland and Misha Hollenbach’s recent exhibition The Greatest Shitty.) Now in Taiwan for a tattoo residency at AMPM Studio, FUZI talked to us via Skype about art, ignorance, style and freedom.
In the mid-1990s, you created Ignorant Style, a child-like form of graffiti. How did that develop?
My crews [UV and TPK] were wild and free, and I naturally created a style that expressed that feeling. Ignorant Style was based on how graffiti looked in New York in the early 1970s, and it was meant to look like a child who was just learning the art form made it. It developed as a reaction to the standardization of graffiti, about what is beautiful or bad.
When you created this style, did you realize that other artists had done this in other forms of art?
When I was young, I only knew about graffiti. But much later on, maybe in 2002, I discovered other forms of art, like self-taught art, expressionism, etc. For the first time, I realized that I was not alone; that there were other people who tried to create the same experience in art, just in different forms. I was really intrigued by artists like Jerome Bosch, Otto Dix and Chaim Soutine, but I tried not to read too much about them because I wanted to create art in my own way, without the influence of others. I’m more open-minded now and can look at other artists for inspiration, while maintaining my own style.
What are some of the most interesting exhibitions you’ve seen lately?
Cleon Peterson’s There is a War at The Outsiders in London. His work is about violence and it is powerful in its simplicity. I went to LACMA last week, and there were some interesting European paintings on view. But I’m also inspired by things I discover on the street, like an abandoned building or a broken window. These things are art to me.
When did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing around 2008. It was another outlet to express myself, and I wanted to make tattoos in the same way that I made graffiti. I wanted to convey a feeling of freedom, which is far more important than making something beautiful or perfect.
How do you come up with your flash designs?
When I paint or draw, my brain becomes totally empty. I make designs like a robot, without thinking. It’s probably my subconscious. People are often shocked by the result, especially my fiancé.
You like to tattoo in unusual places. Why?
My tattoos are about freedom and I want to make them in places with that same feeling. I don’t ask for permission at the places I tattoo, like a rooftop or subway tunnel, I just take the spot. So it’s similar to graffiti in this way, it’s free and illegal.
You are preparing a new body of work for an exhibition in Paris in the fall. Do these works also convey a feeling of freedom?
Definitely. The works are on canvases made from the orange leather that was used on Paris Metro seats in the 1990s. We used to tag the seats or slash the leather with knives, and so using this leather is a symbol of my past and shows where my art originated. I am using the leather to paint really personal things, very different from my flash designs and more complicated with a lot of details. The curator and I are also making a book for the exhibition, un entretient, which will explain my artistic path, from the metro trains to now. It will be released at a special event at The Newsstand in New York in September.