Indian by my father, French by my mother, living in Paris. I'm 37 and have been skating for about 25 years now.
You're a well traveled and recognized French skateboarder, how have you seen the skate scene evolve through all these years?
I've seen quite many cycles, it's pretty funny in retrospect. I've seen it rise and die and get reborn again, become stale then interesting again. I've seen it go from a rich diversity of styles to becoming more standardized and lose its soul a bit. I've seen it go from a street culture that no one knew about, to an organized sport broadcasted on major tv channels. I've seen small companies grow big and forget why they started, and dilute their message to try and please everyone.
Do you think you guys are doing things differently?
Well, we're definitely trying, we're trying to learn from those things we've seen over the years, so we can try to avoid the mistakes we've seen other people do. I'll be honest, after a while, i was losing interest in skateboarding. The direction it was going into didn't speak to me. But i think skateboarding is at an interesting stage again nowadays, because it has grown so much that it has left room for a rebirth from within.
A lot of skaters everywhere are feeling what we've felt, that their voices can't be heard in that sea of giant companies and mass media who dictates how they should skate, and it's good to see that more and more are starting their own independent projects. The richness of skateboarding comes from the total of all our individual personalities, of what we each want to share with others as to how we personally have fun on a skateboard; not from the standardization of a unique way of skating or thinking.
You're one of the founders of Magenta. What is your role in this project and why did you get involved in the company?
Like i said, for a while i was losing interest in skateboarding. Not in the act of skating, but in the world of skateboarding. I felt that the way i saw skateboarding was slowly dying to become just another sport. I was skating with Vivien everyday, who was living with me on boulevard Magenta in Paris, and we shared the same ideas as to what we personally felt skateboarding was missing. Then one day he said "Let's just start our own brand, fuck it, maybe it won't work, but at least we would have tried something positive". So we did.
He took care of all the business side of things, and since i was already drawing, i started making graphics, then ads, then catalogs. We learned everything from scratch. He had to learn how to start and run a business, and i had to learn the basics of Photoshop and to get organized. The former i'm still learning, the latter i find much harder.
You are also in charge of designing the board graphics for Magenta. Explain to us your vision of the artistic concept applied to Magenta.
I've personally always been fascinated by symbolism and hidden messages; i love it when people (be it through art, films, books, religions, myths, etc) are trying to teach me the things they've learned -and i firmly believe they all are, in their own language. And part of learning from them is to learn to decipher their hidden messages, because what you're proud to have managed to read between the lines you are less likely to forget. I love to look at things (or people, skaters included) and think: what is it (or he) trying to tell me, why, and how? And just like for skating, the more you train for it -the more you try to read between the lines- the more you realize how much fun it is; it's a little bit like watching Fight Club for the second time and making all the connections that were there all along.
The movie is telling us "if you had watched more closely the first time, you wouldn't have fell in the trap i built for you"; it's teaching us to look for subliminal messages, things that escape our attention. In a movie, falling in the trap is thrilling, but there are many traps in today's society that we need to be watchful for. To me the role of art is to train the brain to decipher messages so we can avoid falling in these traps. You can read 1984 and think it's a superb but far fetched novel, or you can read it between the lines and realize how accurately it actually describes the world we live in today. To push you to take a step back and analyze your surroundings from a distance to better understand it, that for me is the goal of art.
So that's what you want to do with Magenta? Have a hidden message? What message?
So yes, from the start i wanted all things related to Magenta to bear coded messages, to bear values that we are trying to put forward. Those values include the fact that we should all work together for the greater good, that we need to connect with other people and cultures and learn from them, learn from each other and grow together, because we are all one. With Guest Boards we pay tribute to the people who have influenced us; with Guest Artist Boards we try and support upcoming artists. With Collabs we try to link up with like-minded people all over the world because unity is strength.
From the start we wanted Magenta to be a growing family. As symbolized in our logo -a plant with a leaf of a different color: everyone in the world has something that is unique to him to bring to the whole -his own color if you will- something unique that we can all benefit from. This to us is a positive direction for the world to go into; a tree doesn't grow from shadowing its neighbors, it grows from getting light from the sun, and from a strong tree grows a beautiful forest. The same goes for humanity, we grow from enlightenment. We grow from learning what others have shared with us, and from sharing in return.
Different people have different ways of sharing, for me it's through illustrations and board graphics. It's the only language that i know that gives me the opportunity to share my ideas with people i haven't met yet. Art is like some kind of dress you put around the deepest ideas you want to share with others. This whole is what gives art its value in my opinion; the "beauty" of the dress, and the "beauty" of the ideas. These are the things that i'm trying to incorporate in the art direction of Magenta.
Could you give us an example of how you try to incorporate those ideas in the art direction of the brand?
Well, for example, the wood knock-off on the boards and the transparency on this webpage hold the same meaning, they illustrate the same idea: the fact that everything is made of layers and that we are not an opaque company, there is nothing we wish to hide. We happily show all the layers. Our graphics are not there to cover up cheap China wood for example. There is no "trick" or opaque disguise.
Skateboarding i feel has become opaque, you don't know anymore who's behind what, what company belongs to what other company, who's actually doing what, etc. For one, we wanted to bring back a sense of transparency, because everything that we do is done by the same people you see in our videos, people who are working together to try and make something positive.
This is the transparency we are trying to put forward; and in the aesthetics of the brand, this idea will come out as showing different layers of transparency, or letting you peep the wood underneath the board graphic. All this is also metaphorical, it's an invitation to look deeper into things -a visual way to say "behind what you see lies the real idea we want to share with you". All my graphics pretty much follow this same logic. It's all like a visual language where words are replaced by symbols so that hopefully it can be grasped across the globe.
A board graphic is like a word, a series like a sentence, and all series together form an ongoing manuscript about the ideas and values we think are positive for society. To fully understand something, you need to look at it from very close, but also from a great distance.