PopUp Painting’s ‘artist of the week’ is Blek le Rat.
Blek le Rat (b.1952) is a French graffiti artist who has been described as the ‘father of stencil graffiti’.
Blek began his street art career in the early 80’s, stencilling images of rats on to the walls of the Parisian streets. The artist used the image of the rat because he declared it was ‘the only free animal in the city’, and one which ‘spreads the plague everywhere, just like street art’. Blek’s name originates from the comic book ‘Blek le Roc’.
By the 90’s Blek le Rat had started creating large scale stencils of human figures in black and white. After being arrested in 1991, Blek moved to using pre-stencilled posters which could be pasted to walls; giving a speedier and less risky approach to his work. In recent years the artist has focused on depicting homeless figures lying on pavements to draw attention to the global problem of homelessness.
Blek le Rat is known for his influence on ‘guerilla-art’ movements, and in particular for influencing Banksy. Banksy himself has noted:‘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.’