C215 - featured

C215 /   Christian Guémy

France 1973

Street Art, Graffiti, Stencil


Christian Guémy
January 17, 2014
Art somehow explains a lot that's happening in the world right now. Feel free to contact me at nikola.milosevic777@gmail.com

Many of the street artists have faced problems with the law in their careers. It’s up to each and every one of them to decide what to do when after those kinds of situations. Some change their MO, some simply give up, some come out stronger and with more determination. When you choose the number of a jail cell you were locked in as your moniker, you are clearly making a statement. Christian Guémy chose C215 as his moniker, and rose to become one of the most famous stencil artists in the world. Since he’s been active for more than 20 years, he is considered to be a veteran, and one of the top ones still in the game.

C215 - One Puff (detail)
C215 – One Puff (detail)

C215 and Portraits

Christian was born in Paris, and his first stencil work was put up in 2005, but he has been a graffiti artist for over 20 years. C215’s favorite topic is portrait, as faces have a universal message that everybody will understand and be moved by. But “In the end, behind the portraits, the question is always freedom and dignity in the face of a capitalist daily life system”, as he claims. His striking portraits of local people, children and especially his daughter Nina are expressive and distinctive in style. With his subjects always portrayed as proud and dignified, his images communicate on a universal level and draw attention to those that society has forgotten about. He paints, draws, and makes stencils, and he truly enjoys painting in the streets. The technique makes it possible to paint beautiful street art portraits in unauthorized locations. They are often enhanced through the use of graffiti markers. C215 also began using spray painting techniques in 2005. He believes that graffiti is focusing on a name by marking a territory and street art is placing art in the perfect location.

Faces have a universal message that everybody understands

C215 - Portrait of Jonathan Hill - Portrait of Seny Meftah
C215 – Portrait of Jonathan Hill / Portrait of Seny Meftah

C215’s Stencil Graffiti

Each of his stencils has its own story, and most of them come from his very own pictures. His primary medium for art is stencil graffiti or street art. In fact, his collection of works is so massive, primarily because he cuts stencils and paints almost every day. In October 2014, C215 visited Valletta, Malta, because of his interest in Caravaggio as well as 17th-century religious architecture. He produced various examples of street art on post boxes within the city, but MaltaPost removed the artworks after a few days. Various people have criticized MaltaPost for removing the artworks, including the mayor of Valletta Alexei Dingli. In addition to his street work, C215 also produces commercial artwork for galleries on wood and canvas. C215 has to date done a number of solo gallery shows to promote his work.

Shepard Fairey said about him:

“C215’s art captures a light, depth, and humanity that is difficult, and rare, using stencils, his chosen medium. Stencils tend to flatten images and make them static, but C215 has developed a style of illustrating and stenciling that yields an impressionistic illumination of his subject’s character. Even though his technique is meticulously refined, C215’s work transcends the formal and seems to get to the core of compassion and belief in the human spirit. Encountering C215’s pieces on the street always makes me happy.”

Each of the stencil pieces has its own story

C215 - Holy Cow
C215 – Holy Cow

Choice of Background

Although C215 has been writing and publishing poetry separately, the artist never adds text to his stencils, in order to give the viewer the full possibility of the interpretation. In his choosing of the backgrounds, layers of random, yet well selected found objects speak of the passing time, with an outcome that is both aesthetic and meaningful. His elaborate stencils – if outside a gallery – appear in the streets of various cities all over the globe, such as New Delhi, London, Istanbul, Fes, Rome, Barcelona, and Paris. Lighting up the urban spaces, they decorate; every stencil has a reason to exist in its specific, well-thought of place and all his pieces are hand cut and sprayed originals with a mix of found objects.

He is represented by Vertical Gallery, Artstübli, iDroom, Azart Gallery, 999Contemporary, GCA Gallery, We Art Partners and Hang-Up Gallery London.

C215 lives and works in Paris.

Featured image photo credits Claire Boucher.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Artistes à la UnePalais de Tokyo, ParisGroup
2015L'expositionRuinart's headquarters, ReimsSolo
2015Douce Francepierresvives, MontpellierSolo
2015Vitality and VerveLong Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CaliforniaGroup
2015Zéro de conduiteBerthéas Gallery, VichySolo
2015Memento Mori1AM gallery, San Francisco, CaliforniaGroup
2015Lost in TranslationBerthéas Gallery, Saint-EtienneSolo
2015Far CryBerthéas Gallery, ParisSolo
2015E=MC215Musée des Arts et Métiers, ParisSolo
2014Douce FranceMairie du 13ème, ParisSolo
2014Nina je t'aime White Walls gallery, San FransiscoSolo
2014Libertés, Egalités, FraternitésOpera gallery, ParisSolo
2014E=MC215 Centre CEA de Saclay Solo
2014Douce FrancePalais de la Bénédictine, Fécamp Solo
2014Douce FranceItinerrance gallery, Paris Solo
2014Back to BlackStolen Space gallery, London
2014StreetartFondation EDF, ParisGroup
2014Language of the WallLanguage of the Wall, Pera Museum, IstanbulGroup
2014Urban LegendsMACRO Museum, Rome Group
2014POW WOWHonolulu Museum of Art, Hawaï Group
2013Avant GardeFine Arts Museum, Tudela, SpainGroup
2013Ten Years of Wooster Collective Johanthan Levine, New York Group
2013 Les Bains / artists residency Galerie Magda Danysz, ParisGroup
2013StolenSpace Winter Group ShowStolenSpace Gallery, London Group
2013Zone de ConfusionShooting Gallery, San FranciscoSolo
2013 Nuart 2013 NuArt Festival Group
2012Pandamonium  Signal Gallery , London (England)Group
2011C215 - Smoke Gets in Your EyesThe Shooting Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
2011Borderline Signal Gallery , London (England)Solo
2011Paris Forever 100th exhibition of the gallery Galerie Magda Danysz, ParisGroup
2011Wallflowers Carhartt Gallery, Weil am RheinGroup
2011Shadows and reflections Galerie Magda Danysz, ParisGroup
2011Street Art Saved My Life: 39 NYC storiesC.A.V.E. Gallery, VeniceGroup
2010Midnight Dreams  Signal Gallery , London (England)Solo
2010Never Judge...?  Stolenspace Gallery, London (England)Group
2010"Community Service"Galerie Itinerrance, Paris Group
2009Shoeshiners Signal Gallery , London (England)Solo
2009C215 - Stencil History X ATM Gallery Berlin, BerlinSolo
2009Green Day Presents: The Art of Rock Curated By Logan Hicks Stolenspace Gallery, London (England)Group
2009Visual Slang 2009: The Modern Urban ImaginationAbrons Arts Center, New YorkGroup
2009Einstein on Witherspoon Street: Expressions for Social JusticeThe Bronfman Center Gallery, New YorkGroup
2009"Parallel Universe"Show and Tell Gallery, TorontoGroup
2009"Stepanska Street Art"French institute of Prague, Prague, Czech republic  Group
2009"C215"Galerie Pierre Cardin/ Studio 55, ParisSolo
2009"Shoe Shiner"Signal Gallery, London Solo
2009"Hummingbirds"CARF charity association headquarters, Bergen  Solo
2009"Justice"Bridewell police station, Long Arm Gallery, Bristol  Group
2008Junk Store Ad Hoc Art, New York City, NYSolo
2008The Cans Festival The Cans Festival, London (England)Group
2008Outside/Inside Carmichael Gallery of Contemporary Art, Culver City, CAGroup
2008Visual Slang 2008: The Modern Urban ImaginationAbrons Arts Center, New YorkGroup
2008Szablon Dzem Stencil Festival    WarsawGroup
2008Festival CosmopoliteBagnolet Group
2008UnknownOpen Space Gallery, New York Group
2008"Workers Day"Art'el, Bristol      Group
2008"Nina mon amour"Plastik Gallery, Sao Paolo  Solo
2008"Stencil History X Tour"Inoperable Gallery, Vienna        Group
2007TO:_____ FROM:_____ Carmichael Gallery of Contemporary Art, Culver City, CAGroup
2007Delirium Tremens Carmichael Gallery of Contemporary Art, Culver City, CAGroup
2007So many selves... Carmichael Gallery of Contemporary Art, Culver City, CAGroup
2007Grand Opening Group Show Carmichael Gallery of Contemporary Art, Culver City, CAGroup
2007UnknownNuit blanche, Paris          Group
2007"C215 masks attac" Wall Gallery, Orleans Group