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In the spotlight with Blek Le Rat

Xavier Prou aka Blek Le Rat is something of a legend in the street art scene. Hailed as the godfather of stencilism, with icons such as Banksy stating they were heavily influenced by him, Blek has been leaving his stenciled work in the streets for over 30 years.

Today we were privileged to ask the master a few questions…

Where did your name ‘Blek Le Rat’ come from?
From an Italian comic book called “Il grande Blek ” translated in French to “Blek le roc” which was a common comic for kids in the 60’s –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Il_Grande_Blek

The inspiration for Blek’s name

As someone who is regarded as the godfather of Stencilism, how did you get started?
I studied art and architecture at Ecole des Beaux arts de Paris. I made a trip to NYC in 1971 and I discovered the early graffiti in the subway. It was something really strong because nothing similar was done in Europe. I remember to asking my friend Larry Wolhandler  “Do you know why people are writing their names everywhere, something like a signature? Larry said that he did not have any idea, “some crazy people probably”. All those things gave me the idea to do the same thing in Paris, although I did not want to write my name but rather to paint images in Paris.

The graffiti tags of 1970’s New York had a profound impact on Blek Le Rat

From the vast amount of stunning work you have produced, do you have a particular favourite and why? For the record ours is ‘Last Tango’.
Thank you Paul, I like it a lot as well.  but I also love my rat as this was my first work done in Paris.

The beautiful ‘Last Tango’ by Blek Le Rat

You work predominantly in black and white. Do you prefer working in monochrome and why?
Yes, I prefer black and white because everything is in colour in the cities. I found that if I left a black and white character in the street my eyes were attracted to the image.

For over 30 years Blek Le Rat has been leaving his beautiful work for people to admire

Banksy famously quoted you as being the inspiration for his rats. Firstly, how did that feel? And secondly, what inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I feel honoured, although I have never actually met the guy. Many other people inspire me. Ideas come from a long list of work behind me.

Before Banksy, there was Blek

Did you ever think you would become so famous and did you think street art would ever become such a popular art style?
I am not really famous I have some notoriety and yes when I started I knew that graffiti will be something huge one day . It took a long time for street art to be recognized, 50 years since the first graffiti in Philadelphia with Cornbread. It’s a kind of revolution in the art world which is good!

Cornbread – regarded as the original graffiti writer

Do you prefer the excitement of creating in the streets or preparing for a show?
I prefer the street although I am still stressed when I work in the streets even when it is permitted .

Blek explains why he was compelled to fill Paris with his rats.

What do you think of the current street art scene?
I see hundreds of thousands of street art, especially with the internet and some people are really good.

What advice would you give anyone trying to make it as an artist?
You need to work every day. Practice is the key, like learning to play an instrument.

What’s next for Blek Le Rat?
A trip to China in January…

For more info on Blek, here’s a couple of links for you…

Wikipedia on Blek Le Rat
Blek’s website

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