Blek le Rat is King of Urban Art Materials
Most people think that Banksy is the king of urban art materials but that title really belongs to Blek le Rat.
Paris-born Blek le Rat, real name Xavier Prou, paved the way for the elusive Bristolian when he brought popular political graffiti to the walls of the French capital in the early eighties.
Known as the godfather of stencil graffiti, Blek le Rat was inspired by the New York graffiti scene but created his own style by painting stencils of rats across the streets of streets of his home city before expanding nationwide.
Blek Le Rat was famed for his satirical view of society which resulted in him exploiting Parisian paranoia of a Soviet invasion by stencilling soldiers on walls and this guerrilla use of art materials inspired a generation of urban artists.
One significant member of the new graffiti generation was Banksy who has been keen to acknowledge the influence of Blek le Rat and celebrate his longevity in the fickle world of art.
Banksy told Daily Mail supplement Live that Blek Le Rat is responsible for creating street art with art materials that has often indirectly inspired him to create similar work.
He said: “Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek Le Rat has done it as well, only twenty years earlier.”
Prou has credited Banksy with raising his profile which has resulted in greater commercial success as the Parisian has started to exhibit his work in British galleries in recent years.
He told the Sunday Times: “I consider him like my descendant. He took some ideas. But he changed them. And he took the movement to a huge level all over the world.”
Blek has also exhibited “Le Ciel Est Bleu, La Vie Est Belle” (The sky is blue, life is beautiful), a retrospective look at his career in international destinations such as Melbourne, Australia.
While Blek has expressed a desire to collaborate with Banksy, the duo have political differences as the Frenchman has conservative leanings and the Bristolian is famed for his anarchic and revolutionary views.
This disagreement may not prevent the pair working together because they both view street art as a way of democratising art and bringing street culture to the general public who would not usually have the opportunity to visit a gallery.
Blek was once arrested and faced court procedures in 1991 when he was caught by French authorities when working on a full-size Madonna and Child borrowed from a picture by Caravaggio.
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