"I love to work in places I don’t know because these locations allow me to get in touch with a new atmosphere, new lights, and new people"
One of the Godfathers of the European street art movement, Blek le Rat has inspired hundreds of artists around the world. Born Xavier Prou in Paris, 1952 he studied Fine Art and Architecture at Beaux-Arts in Paris, graduating in 1982. In the mid 80s, David Hockney was creating life-sized crayon drawings, this in turn inspired Blek le Rat to try out larger stencils. He is now often credited as the inventor of full-scale human character stencils. Prou began using the Blek le Rat pseudonym, derived from an Italian comic called Blek le Roc. The artist had soon painted hundreds of rats around the city using stencils. Rats were an ideal subject because “they create fear, they are synonymous with invasion and they are the only wild animals [apart from] pigeons that live in the city”. Choosing his locations carefully, his goal is to reflect the mood of the places where his art appears. Blek le Rat works primarily in black and white to “reproduce the ambiance of the street.” Blek created most of his stencils by hand to control the level of detail in each piece, although he occasionally started from Xeroxed copies of photographs.
In recent years, Blek has visited new cities, bringing his inventive art outside of Paris in order to inspire himself to experiment. He has had a great influence on today's graffiti-art and "guerilla-art" movements, the main motivation of his work being social consciousness and the desire to bring art to the people. British graffiti artist Banksy has acknowledged Blek's influence stating "every time I think I've painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek Le Rat has done it as well, only twenty years earlier." The two have expressed mutual desire for collaboration; in 2011, Blek was seen adding to a mural begun the previous year by Banksy in the Mission District, San Francisco.
After facing several arrests and substantial fines he decided to stop painting on walls, and from 1991 moved on to produce his art on posters and canvases. In 2006, Blek showed his works in London’s Leonard Street Gallery, and since then, he has regularly presented gallery exhibitions in cities around the world. He celebrated his 30 year anniversary as a street artist at San Francisco’s 941 Geary Gallery in November of 2011. Blek’s gallery works share some characteristics with his street art including heavy use of stencils, but they typically involve a heavier use of color to create an aesthetic more appropriate for the gallery setting. Today, Blek le rat lives in France with his wife and son.