Paris street artist / Artiste Parisienne: BauBô (Part 2)
First of all, apologies to all for my long hiatus and my delay in getting up the second part of this exposé on BauBô (part 1 can be found here). But here it is, finally. I will take up where I left off, with BauBô’s Masks series, which will be the focus of this installment. As before, all photos are copyright either myself (if uncredited) or BauBô; please do not reuse them without permission (you can drop me a line at maratinage at g mail, and BauBô’s contact info is on her website).
This post represents the second in a series; while best known as a street artist, BauBô is an artist in other media as well (slam poetry, hip-hop, prose writing) and I’d like to discuss that aspect of her work a bit once I’ve given an overview of the several different “séries” of artworks she’s pasting up on the walls. But now – on to the street art!
At the end of the first part of this profile, I was talking about the flower patterns of masks that BauBô spent some time executing in Paris in the fall of 2012. I had just (briefly) discussed this image:
This particular collage has been identified by BauBô as the one that was truly the source of the mandala patterns that now dominate the Masks series. She writes (email, Dec ’12): “L’idée la roue est vraiment apparue là mais ce jour là cela m’a paru impossible à faire. Trop grande à réaliser (à l’époque), trop long et le côté fleur/éventail me plaisait. de plus je ne pouvais pas faire physiquement la roue parce que j’avais posé trop haut le coeur” [“The idea of the wheel really appeared there but on that day it seemed impossible to me to do it. Too big to execute (at the time), too long, and the flower/fan side [of this piece] pleased me. On top of that, I couldn’t physically make the wheel because I’d placed the heart too high”].
But make wheels she did, as her flower arrangements gave way over the course of the fall to the increasingly large eye-catching mandalas BauBô may at this point, in spring 2013, be best known for, though her various series continue to evolve. (Let me remind you that she was still experimenting with different mask arrangements last mid-to-late fall in her collaborations with Le Soldat Inconnu [See last post]).
In the above we have the beginnings of the mandalas, though on more modest a scale than the sizes BauBô would quickly reach. Each mandala — or “wheel,” to use BauBô’s own word for the design — is based on a central mask, the heart (often one of the largest masks), from which the others radiate out. Each is placed in the whole with great care (though BauBô tells me that she does the huge mandalas in about half an hour, which impresses me given how many masks are involved and the precision required to place them).
The wheels bring up questions of symmetry for me; I find the balance of symmetry and asymmetry both interesting and appealing. The masks themselves are always at least somewhat symmetrical in design (and often highly so), but their placement inside the wheels isn’t symmetrical except in the most bare-bones sense of there being an equal number of masks on each side; there’s no symmetry in color, for instance, or the same masks being used on one side that are present on the other. In the above image we have these very internally-symmetrical masks, placed in a unified pattern, showing this asymmetry of color and design — there’s a lot going on within that circle. It’s active even as it stays static.
I asked BauBô about the symmetry and placement of her work, and in particular of the big wheels, or mandalas. She writes (email, Dec ’12): “Pourquoi la symétrie ? […] je ne sais pas. C’est vrai que quand je les pose, je prends mon temps, je cherche à les poser pour que le cercle soit parfait et que la roue soit fluide. Une passante m’a dit l’autre jour que ces “mandalas” (nom qu’elle leur a donné) lui envoyaient beaucoup de douceur! je crois que je cherche, quel que soit le “dessin”, à faire en sorte que l’énergie circule, que ce soit vivant. En ce moment les roues me font du bien à moi aussi mais je ne suis pas enfermée dedans. Ce qui est pratique aussi, c’est que presque n’importe quel mur peut les accueillir, ce qui m’ouvre plus de possibilités que lorsque je cherchais des spots avec de la gueule!”
[translation: “Why symmetry? I don’t know. It’s true that when I place [the masks], I take my time, I seek to pose them such that the circle will be perfect and the wheel fluid. A woman going by told me the other day that these “mandalas” (name she gave them) sent her a feeling of great gentleness! I think I seek, no matter the “design,” to make sure that the energy circulates, that it is alive. At the moment the wheels do me good too, but I’m not trapped in them. What’s useful too is that almost any wall can welcome them, which opens more possibilities for me than back when I searched out spots with character.”]
BauBô quickly started making the mandalas larger — and they are big. I’m not great at estimating distances or size, but the first one I saw (the one pictured at the top of the post) was nearly as broad as the span of my arms; I’ll guess roughly a meter wide. The one pictured here, above, has as many rings of masks and must have been about the same size. Notice again the wild play of colors and designs inside this perfectly posed wheel of masks, as well as unifying elements like the subtle circle created by the eyes of the masks in the central ring.
And now for BauBô’s own image of the mandala that first caught my attention, the vast wheel in the little square on Rue de La Forge Royale, where I used to live:
Here we have the mandala as it was immediately after she put it up (if you compare with my picture, taken December 2nd, a day or two later, you’ll see that one mask has gone missing). This rightly dominated the square for all of the last month I lived in Paris, and was the last piece of street art I saw, yearning for a last glimpse, peering down the road into the lamplit square as I got into the taxi before dawn one morning. This is the piece that inspired my post on lacunae in street art, as I watched the wheel slowly lose mask after mask (a process to which I ended up contributing, again with BauBô’s explicit permission [seriously, kids, it’s good form to ask the artists before you do such things!]).
The second mandala I came across in December, soon after I found the first one, was this series of three interlinked wheels BauBô had just put up in a side street behind my building. I’ve published my photo of it in an older post. Here’s BauBô’s shot of it, taken just after it was finished:
To my surprise, BauBô, in an email (Dec ’12), singled this particular fresco out as a piece with which she’d been disappointed. She writes, “Je ne recherche plus forcément le mur « design » parce qu’il me faut surtout la place mais quelques fois je suis un peu déçue comme avec celui là. […] J’étais contente de l’idée de ces trois roues attachées les unes aux autres et je pensais que le mur était bien mais finalement je l’ai trouvé trop impersonnel, fade et j’ai posé trop de masques dans les couleurs bleues (mais c’était trop tard !). Heureusement j’avais réalisé en même temps la grande roue dont j’étais ravie.”
translation: “I no longer seek out “design” walls [those that are appealing because of fissures etc; see part 1] because above all I need space, but sometimes I’m a little disappointed, as with this one. […] I was pleased with the idea of these three wheels attached to each other and I thought the wall was good but in the end I found it too impersonal, boring, and I pasted up too many masks in blue colors (but it was too late!). Luckily, I had, at the same time, created the big wheel [on Rue de La Forge Royale], which which I was very happy.”
Finally (for now), we have to two vast mandalas BauBô created to see out the year 2012, both of them put up in the 10ème arrondissement, BauBô’s home, in the wee hours of Christmas morning (looking at these pictures, side note, has shown me the importance of taking an actual camera with me when I look for street art, instead of relying on my phone):
What a beautiful Christmas gift to the streets of the 10ème on that cold clear morning.
I’ll follow up as soon as I can with part three: wrapping up the masks, pacman vs tetris, and several other projects BauBô’s been working on.