Artist Interviews 2023

Saype Artiste  
By Julia Siedenburg

You probably know Saype from the many extraordinary gigantic murals sprayed on fields, mountainsides, and beaches that have been going viral. One of his biggest series is called “Beyond the Walls' which focuses on human connection and support by painting chains of holding hands. These impressive works do not only carry a vital message but they are also so beautiful to look at.

This talented Frenchman is not afraid to think (or paint) big! He is a man with an important global mission and he will continue to take our breaths away and open our eyes with his unbelievable work.

I am incredibly excited to be able to tell his story to you dear readers and I hope you enjoy learning more about this true artist as much as I did.

When and why did you start creating your breathtaking larger-than-life images?

I began painting my colossal artworks on grass in 2012.

What inspires/motivates you?

I had been painting for years in my studio and selling artworks in art galleries. I wanted to invent something I had never seen before. At that time, I was living in a house surrounded by grass. Coincidentally, I was reading books about ecology, and with the emergence of drones in Europe, I had the idea to paint enormous murals directly on the grass. I spent three years developing the process and techniques, aiming to make the painting environmentally responsible.

Your work is very much focused on community, family, and solidarity. Who are the people and hands based on in your beautiful landscape pieces?

It depends on the projects. For instance, the hands in "Beyond Walls" belong to the people I meet during my journey. Children or elderly individuals I regularly paint in the mountains are often used as symbols representing specific age groups or even humanity as a whole.

Can you explain your process to us? How do you choose which subject to use for that specific place and what are the steps that you take to get it finished?

The first thing I consider is the idea or story I want to convey. Then, I determine the best location to tell that story. I organized a photoshoot to have visual support for painting the subject on-site. Following that, there's a process of obtaining permissions and logistics, culminating in the actual painting stage.

How long did it take to create "The Sea Cleaner" and what was the inspiration behind it?

As with all my projects, it took about a year of work to create a project like "The Sea Cleaner". I've always been passionate about the sea and oceans, spending a lot of time there as a kitesurfer and windsurfer. Environmental issues surrounding oceans deeply affect me. This project was created in collaboration with the Lions Club of Delémont, Switzerland, to support the "The Sea Cleaner" association founded by renowned sailor Yvan Bourgnon, who strives to clean plastic from the oceans.

Which of your pieces is your favorite?

I am often asked this question, but it's quite complex to answer for various reasons. Some artworks speak to me aesthetically, while others are more about their meaning or the emotions they evoke. Sometimes, the experiences and encounters during the creation process give a different dimension to the work itself. Notably, I would mention the artwork in Geneva from 2018, the upcoming "Beyond Walls Step One: Paris," and "Beyond Wall Step 8: Istanbul."

Your work tells such powerful stories. In your opinion, how do you keep the ideas coming?

I believe that as an artist, inspiration comes from everything around us—current events, existential questions, spirituality, encounters, and discussions. It's an openness to the world that fosters inspiration, in my opinion.

Please tell us a bit about your childhood and upbringing.

It seems that my work as an artist today reflects my past and childhood quite well. I've always lived in the countryside, deeply passionate about nature and very curious about exploring the world. I later worked as a nurse for seven years at a hospital, and I think some of these influences and connections between nature and the creative aspect of my work stem from those experiences.

Your art series has taken you to amazing places all around the world. One of my favorite artworks of yours is "Beyond the Walls - Venice." How did this come about?

The "Beyond Walls" project was born after I watched a documentary about the wall separating Mexico and the United States, built during Donald Trump's presidency. This made me reflect on the separation between people. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we live in a hyper-connected world, and it makes no sense to isolate or divide people. We need to find common solutions to the various challenges around us. This deep conviction led to the idea of symbolically creating the world's largest human chain, which became the "Beyond Walls" project. "Beyond the Walls - Venice" emerged during the Venice Biennale, a significant art event. It aimed to highlight the city's vulnerability as it gradually sinks. Simultaneously, global sea levels rise, making Venice a poignant representation of the fragility of our systems and existence. This idea inspired the project in Venice.

What is next? What are your plans for the future?

I will continue to spray my messages all around the world...

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