– Your sculptures can be characterised by a huge variety of materials, movements, shapes, graffiti-like traces and a big palette of colours. They invite the viewers to discover an endless and magic world. If you were to describe your artwork in three words, what would they be?
Let us make it two words: Natural Chaos.
– When we met at the inauguration of your sculpture called «Je ne regrette rien» (“I don’t regret anything”), you said that this phrase has special meaning for you as a characteristic of your life. Can you tell us more about that?
With the stilt house “Je Ne Regrette Rien” for Château d’Arsac in Bordeaux, I have embraced all decisions made in my life. All the paths I have taken, good or bad. All the moments, painful or joyful. All these events made me the human being that I am today.
As an artist, I consider it my duty to attract attention to the ongoing violation of our nature and the endless neglecting of its diverse beauty. Just to think about the scale – since I was born, we, as humans, managed to destroy 1/3 of the world’s flora and fauna. This needs to stop!
– Undoubtedly, one of the distinctive features of your artwork is that with the help of sculptures you can turn city spaces in exciting open-air museums. This is fantastic because it really blends borders between everyday life and art. How did you come to this ‘open-air museum’ concept for your art and what is your main message?
We often forget that public space belongs to everybody. This means that we are not making full use of what it can offer to us. If everyone becomes more aware of that, there would be more responsibility towards and care for our public space. Now we almost exclusively use this space as a pathway between private and work space. The social character has been lost and I think that is a real shame. Centuries ago our public spaces served an important role in our cities. For instance, markets were being held where people met multiple times per week to trade, to exchange information and talk to each other. Neighbors were sitting at their porch and got to know each other. Children ruled the streets and played together. Circuses came by and city fairs popped up spontaneously. Today we have lost interest in the public space. Everyone is staying inside, surrounded by four walls and behind computers. Public events are getting rarer and if you greet a stranger on the street you get stared at. Our streets made way for personal distance in the form of cars and envy. We no longer know our neighbors and are no longer aware of what is going on in the neighborhood. The social aspect has disappeared, taking away a very important part of our society: the social contact.
I want to encourage people not to be afraid to take steps into the unknown, to make mistakes, to learn from them and spark new ideas, as they will only make you stronger. Intelligent and diverse thinking will guide us towards a better society and a better future. We need to break through those gray barriers and encourage our cities again to diversify and unfold. Let us build our Cities as Open Air Museums.
This might indeed sound like an idealistic dream but I am nevertheless striving to realize it. Confronting the public by surrounding them with art every day. Art has a positive influence on people and their personal development – it broadens their horizons and makes them more tolerant towards differences in society.
– When I saw one of your sculptures for the first time, I thought that I looked at a real-life colourful 3D drawing. Does it come from your graffiti background? Is there a link?
Moving from working in 2D to 3D took a lot of time. In my eyes, the main element in my creative work was social interaction. For me, what was the most important was the reaction of people to the works I imposed on them. I remember how in the early 1990s, I received one of my first paid commissions. The owner of a discotheque asked me to paint his building. As he had given me very few instructions, I worked like crazy. I let my mad creativity flow and I projected an enormous amount of paint on the walls with the help of garden color sprays. In no time at all, I had repainted everything, from the floor to the ceiling – it was a chaos of colours and dripping paint. I thought the result was great up until the time the owner saw it. He was furious and I was promptly sacked.
He thought it did not look like anything. The following day professional painters came and repainted everything, they put one monotonous color on all the walls.
I quickly understood that if I truly wanted to change the urban landscape, I had to present my works better and leave illegality behind. I tried hard to convince the local municipal authorities to allow me to work legally, and I looked for partners who could really believe in me. I tried to see the bigger picture and to work in a more organised way. It was an enormous challenge which required several years of development. To start with, my ideas really did not interest anyone. But I never gave up, I continued the fight. Once I was able to start convincing people, I understood that creating works in three dimensions was the best way to help the spectator into my universe.
-You say that you dream is to create an ideal society where individuals live in balance with their environment. Where this ideal comes from?
You probably would not think so, but I must admit that I am a real romantic. In both my private and professional life, I can be a real vagabond. I am always seeking, always doubting – I break things to rebuild them, and my brain never stops. Physically also, I never stop. I travel the world, I look for the elements, I visit cities. I flee from monotony and inhumane coldness.
In my opinion, the 1980s and 1990s were without doubt the worst period in terms of urban development. Even today, our cities still carry the scars from the introduction of cars into cities. City squares are empty, the streets are glacial. As a romantic, I want to change all that. In cities, I want people to feel the changing seasons, to see nature in all its diversity, to be able to touch its shapes, and rediscover its palette of colours. That is what I want to see again in our cities.
– You support Fashion for Relief and collaborate with its spokeswoman Naomi Campbell. How did you become involved with them and why this initiative is important for you.
I support a lot of good causes, I think it is my obligation. Fashion For Relief, Human Rights Watch, Sea Shepherd, SOS Children’s Villages are all very close to my heart. I have seen what these organisations are able to do around the world and they are really a necessity.
© Zhamila Tampayeva