It’s never wise to “grow up”

Project

The characters and concepts that emerge from the shared imagination of artists Ella & Pitr are unlike any you’ve seen before – unless that is, you also inhabit that secret world of Maurice Sendak’s, “Where the wild things are”, where “the walls become the world all around” and where we “let the rumpus start !”, only in this case it’s not just the walls that become host to a fantastical and rich family of characters, but also rooftops, tower blocks, open fields and …canvasses.

Much like their street work, the impeccably drafted characters that inhabit these canvasses can barely be contained within the frame, bursting with life and love and purpose, turn your back for a moment and they will undoubtedly free themselves from the limits imposed by the artists and animatedly take their leave through the nearest exit. No doubt leaving a trail of paste and paper and ink behind them as they go.  In one fundamental sense, this freeing art from the canvas (and gallery) is why street art exists, and without being too philosophical, why Ella & Pitr exist too.

These characters are not as first may seem, sleeping giants, to be coldly studied like characters trapped in a moribund art history, but those rare and mischievous aunts and uncles resting after too much port wine and a wild adventure.  Street Art (and the characters it contains) has freed itself from art history and no amount of critical theorising can drag it back again. This art is now striding purposely across the globe creating incredible narratives for anyone who cares to engage with it, and in many cases, with those who had no initial wish to engage with it at all.

Ella & Pitr understand one important thing about Street Art that is rarely noted in the sea of derivative pop art murals and the rush to monetize them, and that’s our intrinsic need for stories, for narratives that help us to make sense of the world and our place in it. Ella and Pitr’s work helps to create and sustain communities, they link the artist to the viewer, the storyteller to the listener and the viewers to each other, both online in their framed and oversized works, (both which need to be seen and interacted with), and in the real world through their family of wheatepasted characters. The power of these stories is even more potent when artist and viewer share the same space. In this case, the street.

When people discover and share the same story, whether the same TV show, the same book or have visited the same places, they share a piece of history, making each other less strange, less threatening, less the “other”.  These common experiences create a bond and it’s these bonds, based on narrative, that create strong communities. Everyone knows that for a good story, you need strong personalities, these are what Ella & Pitr excel at creating. It is characters like these and the stories they inspire when we come face to face with them, that is the driving force behind this incredible movement we’re experiencing in visual culture. This is why this movement and Ella & Pitr’s family of larger than life characters resonate so deeply with an ever-growing global audience.

Whimsical, innocent, hopeful, poignant, playful, funny, free and infectious are just a few of the adjectives ascribed to the characters that inhabit the world of Ella & Pitr, but there’s also danger in this story. The danger of being fooled by captivating stories designed to deceive and manipulate, the danger of being crushed under the weight of advertisers demands, or mortgage payment worries and insurance scams. The inherent danger of growing UP instead of old. Picasso once said “Youth has no age” a statement that if printed could be illustrated by the family of characters that Ella & Pitr have given birth to.

Whether mind bending anamorphic frames that explode the boundaries of the possible, or monumental gentle giants asleep atop rooftops dreaming the viewers into life, whether playful online interactions or children riding down the street on monsters created by that most joyous of tools in a street artists kit, the fire extinguisher, Ella and Pitr invite us to explore the world through the eyes of one untainted by the drudgery of a 9-5 life.

They invite us to become lovers, lovers of our streets and communities, of stories, of the underdog’s small victories, of each other and ultimately, of life. They celebrate our ability to be free from the constraints that contemporary society places upon us, they show us that the frame, the boundaries, the politics and advertisements, the expectations and limitations placed upon us are as false as the materialistic gods we’re encouraged to worship.

Ella & Pitr’s work is a call to arms, a reminder that freedom comes from within and that it’s never wise to “grow up” in spite of our growing old.

If “genius is the recovery of childhood at will”, as both Rimbaud and Baudelaire believed, then ladies and gentlemen…we must presume that we are in the presence of genius.

]Text by Martyn Reed from Nuart Festival]

Interview

What drew you to operate at the scale of the city?

We are always looking for new point of views or new accidents. In 2012 we started working on anamorphosis, painting wall, ceiling and floor to create an image visible from one place. when you move in the space, the drawing get distorted. We tried to do it bigger and we had to get higher to take the picture. We started thinking about taking some photos from the sky. The first-floor drawing was shot by paraglides in 2013.
Then, we began a collection of sleeping giants on roofs in many different locations in the world. It’s now a big family!

How and to what extent do the various interventions respond to the context?

We always try to be careful with the context and to create artwork linked with the place we work. Using the public and urban space is a responsibility, everyone must feel concerned by how you interact in the city. We don’t want to make decorative paintings but to create movement in the urban context.

What is ultimately the purpose of these images? What questions do they raise and/or address?

That’s difficult to answer because everyone must have their own questions. We want to create contrast and movement with our own ideas but if we give too much information about our thinking, it could change your point of view regarding our artwork. People must stay free to have their personal point of view. Now a day, the society guides you everywhere you want to go. That’s what we try to escape.

Some of your works can almost only be perceived by the tallest of buildings or a flying drone, what informs the scale and viewing angle of the individual works?

Yes, we must take pictures from the sky with drones or from a building. The scale is visible thanks to the cars, people, trees. Everything is so small on the photos. That’s a way to play with new surfaces which was not very used before. Usually you can’t see our floor drawings because they are to big. That’s the game. We like people to work on it without understanding on which part they are walking on. It looks more abstract.

How and to what extent do you approach the single surfaces differently, from facades, to roofs to wall etc?

There are no rules in Ella & Pitr company! We work, day by day, everyday without any plans. We just want to find new playgrounds and feel uncomfortable when we are looking for new ideas. We need to create accident and surprises.

Who/ what would you say are your greatest references?

Kids between 3 and 6 years old are our best references. They draw and paint with no distortion due to TV and marketing. They are free!

What is your work process, from conception to execution?

The main work is to organize the logistic regarding the painting. Preparing the administrative documents, insurance, permissions, visas…
Then to plan all technical needs, paint, lift, materials and look for nice volunteers to help us. The main part is to draw the outlines. It takes sometimes few days just for the sketch. Once the lines are ready, we do the colours, which is the “zen” part of the work because we just have to paint huge surfaces in white, red or black. That’s a very peaceful moment while you can think about life and philosophic questions regarding humanity and earth.

Do you ever document this through photographs, time lapses and videos?

We don’t have much documentation in terms of process but we have many photos and videos about their erasement.
We are more intrigued by the act of disappearance of the artwork rather than its creation

What tools do you use?

So many painting tools! We use the same tools for building construction. Buckets, brushes, boom sticks, rollers, scaffolding, lift, ropes, ladders, hammers, helmets, gloves… and sometimes dynamite!

How has your work developed since you started collaborating in 2007?

Nothing is very regular. We are not planning and organizing our schedule because we need to keep surprises.
Since we started, we just do the things and play. We don’t want to feel our art like a job, so we look for new experiments and questions.

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