Today we introduce you to an awesome artist of the spray can. She originally comes from Toulouse in France, but is now based in Montreal, Canada, and beautifies the urban walls around the city and actually the whole country. This article is about the fantastic WÜNA, her art and her projects.
In WÜNA’s works of art you can always find elements from comics, funny colorful characters. The lettering is just as intense and colorful. Cartoons and comics are important components of her art, as are the refreshing colors and energy that her works of art reflect. She is as well part of the crew FEW AND FAR WOMEN.
We talked to WÜNA about her work, her development path and the importance of working in a team and passing on impulses. As one of the few female artists in the scene, she is a role model for many others and fights for more diversity, respect and tolerance not only in art, but on the whole world in general.
When did your start doing art? How did it begin? Tell us about the first steps and how it started.
I grew up in a very small provincial town, in France, where graffiti was totally non-existent during my childhood. I first discovered graffiti on television. It only appeared in front of my eyes in the early 2000s. As a teenager, I started rollerblading in the skate park in my city and there was some graffiti there. It was an art that immediately appealed to me and it struck to me as obvious. I started doing graffiti sketches in 2001, and I started to paint in the street few month later, but without regularity. Then I became more active in the game from 2005 on when I moved to Toulouse, a big city in France where I did my university studies. Graffiti was very present in Toulouse, and the level was really high. It was easier to paint and meet other graffiti artists there. I quickly met people and I also met another girl who was doing graffiti. I’ve never stopped since that time.
What do you like about painting? Can you tell us how you feel while doing it? Because it is your passion. How would you desrcibe it? I think it is more than just “fun”.
I love the freedom that graffiti gives. Painting everywhere, outdoors, on different surfaces and on large formats. Besides that, I like the collective aspect of this practice. Being able to share a wall with others, to exchange ideas, to meet people is a very important aspect for me. It’s more fun than alone behind a canvas. There is a kind of energy that comes out of this practice that we find nowhere else, and no matter where you are in the world, you can meet graffiti artists to share a wall with. Your age, gender or social condition completely don’t matter. You can become good friends with people you would never have met without graffiti and this is the reason why this culture is wonderful. And the “fun” is really important too of course!
Here is a little video with some spray can actions from WÜNA and SLY2. That’s how they do it and you can see the masters in action.
Tell us more about the instruments you use. Do you use only spray cans or as well pencils and brushes? And how do you work? Which are you favorite “tools”?
I only work with the spraycans on the wall. I sketch very often on paper before painting, but a simple pencil and a wad of paper is enough. From time to time I make canvases with other materials, such as posca or acrylic. But my favorite instrument remains the spraycan
On your artworks you often integrate characters. And those figures are mostly made in comic style. So do you like comics as well? I am also a big comic fan and it reminds me a lot to different comics I know. Did you read comics or do you still read comics? And was this or is this an influence to your art development?
I love comics ! I read a lot of comics strips when I was younger and I saw a lot of cartoons. The world of comics has strongly marked my work. I actually prefer to make characters in a cartoon style because it is faster and more funky. I tried to do realistic reproduction at one point but I got bored with it quickly. I like dynamic and fun things and for that reason the cartoon style suits me better. In addition, I love to draw animals because I find that we can give them a lot of attitudes and for that the comic style is the best technique.
The graffiti you write, the characters you design and the whole artworks you make, they are full with strong colors and transport a lot of positive engergy. There is a really motivating message in it. That’s how I see it. What do you think about this interpretation?
You are completely right. I think I paint as I am. I have a positive and dynamic nature. Humans have made something really sad, hard and depressing about this world, so when I paint, it is to clear my head and forget about it all. I want to have a good time, and painting positive things gives me energy. It’s like a virtuous circle. And if I can motivate and bring a little fun to the other people who view my graffiti, then I have succeeded in my job!
On the Montréal Map with the collected photos by Patrice Loranger we have meanwhile some artworks from you included. Of course there are many more you did. Can you tell us which places you like the most for spray actions and for doing art in Montréal?
The fact that I have no car in Montreal is limiting the places that I can reach. Wich makes me to focus on spots in the Montreal downtown area and other spots around which I can reach with public transport. I’m in love with the little alleys of Montreal and the alley walls are really my favorite places to paint in Montreal. Otherwise I love going to the spot on the Island of Visitation at the water’s edge. Because it is very calm and soothing, we are surrounded by nature… there is space… and there is a good coffee place nearby… this spot is a little paradise.
One of your artworks we have on the map is from the event Canettes de Ruelle. Tell us a bit more about it. How it was to take part at this event and what it is about?
I attended twice at Canettes de Ruelle and on term of atmosphere it’s one of my favorite events in Montreal. We feel welcome and artists are always well taken care of. The event takes place in the small alleys of the Masson district and artists are invited to paint the walls of the houses from the local people. The atmosphere is very family oriented and very cool. I like the fact that street artists and graffiti artists are together, it’s interesting because it allows these different universes to be mixed and it’s a good way to meet new artists and discover new styles.
At which other jams and events do or did you like to take part? Which ones can you recommend? Which are your favorites?
I’ve been to many events and it’s hard to name all the right events. In Montreal, I really like the Under Pressure Festival because it brings together all the disciplines of Hip Hop culture, and as I am also a bgirl, so, it allows me to see all my friends on the both scene, means dance and graffiti. I paint at a lot of graffiti jams and my favorite event is the Meeting of Styles which takes place in different countries. It is difficult to name the one that I preferred. This event is really reserved for graffiti artists and the level is very high, it is always very inspiring. It is an event that makes you want to surpass yourself. I love this event because it allows you to meet graffiti artists from all countries. By participating in the Meeting of Styles event in several countries, I was able to meet graffiti artists from foreign countries and with a lot we became friends meanwhile. I have relations now with people who I may never would have been able to meet otherwise. It’s a great way to make connections. Even though we are speaking in different languages, we get together on a common language which is Graffiti.
You are originally from Toulouse, but since 2012 you have been living in Montréal. How was this change in types of doing your art? How would you compare Montréal to Toulouse? Could you do more now? Or less? Or the same? Or is it even comparable? Of course it must have been different. And actually it is all included in your life development as an artist of becoming “Wüna” in the end. Tell us more about this.
I left Toulouse almost 10 years ago now, and a lot has happened since then and that my style has evolved. I would say the big difference is first : the Canadian winter is too long. I paint less than in France. And secondly : the price of the spray cans is very expensive. In France, I could paint all year round, no matter the season, the material was cheaper and so we could use more sprays to make more elaborate frescoes. Then, there are not lot of spots to paint in Montreal – especially if you don’t have a car – compared to Toulouse. And spots are very quickly covered by others. You may start painting something one day and the next day someone else has already passed over it.
It’s complicated to paint graffiti over two or three days like I did in Toulouse. People don’t really do collective fresco, it is much more individualistic. Each one puts his piece next to the other without necessarily there being cohesion, theme and colors adjustment. As my favorite recipe is a lettering +a bboy. I had to adapt my style to have time to put both in one day, or even half a day. So I simplified my style to go faster, looking for a way to make it simple but punchy. In fact, this situation shaped my graffiti style. However, when I know I can have time to do graffiti, I work on my style more.
How is the urban art scene in Montréal? Tell us more about it. You said you like to meet other artists and do collaborative works. How is it in Montréal and Canada? With which other artists did you do creative projects and which do you want to mention? A few times I read “Aest” and other artists which you did artworks together. We can mention them here. And are you involved in any collective or part of any crew or team?
In Montreal, the graffiti scene is smaller and less dynamic than in France, there are fewer projects and events and I do more often large collaborative projects when I return to France or go abroad. I am not part of a crew in Montreal. I have several crews in France and United States and I am part of the Few and Far Women crew which is an international crew of female graffiti artists. However in Montreal I paint with graffiti artists from different crews. I’m a social person and love the collective aspect of graffiti so it’s rare that I paint on my own. I always prefer to share my painting moments with someone. I paint with people who have good spirits, regardless of their level. I hate people who think they are stars, it gives me a headache – lol. The people with whom I paint most often here is HEST1, SALTY, the LTG CREW or the 123 KLANS.
Which were your greates memorable spray actions? Which are the artworks which really stuck in your memory? Tell us about at least one of them, for sure you have severals. And of course all of them are special, but there must be some which are very special.
Indeed each painting has something special or a story behind it. I would say that all the murals with my NTC crew from Toulouse are memorable. Every weekend of graffiti with them was like a summer camp and we always choose crazy themes for our murals. We went to bed very late, we got up very early, we had barbecues on the spots and we laughed a lot.
Before I left for Canada we did one of our biggest frescoes for the occasion. We repainted a huge part of a canal located in Bézier. The atmosphere was great, the wall was huge, it must have been more than 80 meters long. Of course we had a barbecue and after the painting we went to the beach. During this last weekend, I prayed that our relationships would remain the same after my departure and that we could meet regularly each year to paint together. I have not yet returned to paint at the Bézier canal but I see my crew once or twice a year when I return to France on vacation and we continue to paint together despite the passage of time and the changes in our lives. The paintings I did in Chicago with my crew CMK during the Meetings of Styles are also memorable, because of the atmosphere. It’s always amazing for me, coming from a small place in the French countryside, to find myself there, in Chicago to do graffiti. Sometimes I wonder how life brought me here?
Another interesting and important event happened in 2018 when I was invited to Yerevan in Armenia to represent Quebec at the Francophonie summit. I did two murals on the Opera Square. It was impressive because there were a lot of people and I was the only artist painting on the square. It was very intimidating and I was not always very comfortable, because I prefer to paint in isolated places where there are no otherM. But it was a great experience because I met some unforgettable people. One of the frescoes was offered to a school and to thank me, chidrens offered me dolls that they had made themselves. I was deeply touched and moved by this. I also gave workshops there, to young people who had never done graffiti. Graffiti is not very present there, it is very hard to find spray cans and I found it funny to think that the first contact of these young people with graffiti was through a woman, which is relatively uncommon because we are a minority. I had offered some spray paint cans to these young people and some of them sent me pictures of what they had done with them. I also painted at the Meeting of Styles in Mexico City and it was one of my best jam experiences in graffiti, because I discovered Mexico through this event and I fell in love with this country. There is something magical about Mexico and I dream of going back there.
There is this saying in the scene and in the art world, I don’t know if you have this also, but it says “each one teach one”. It’s kind of a mission to enable others to do stuff. It’s about to give impulses to be creative and to think new ideas or same ideas from other perspectives. It is a agenda to motivate others. I wrote you already that I see a lot of positive energy in your artworks, a lot of styles and colors which are giving the brain positive impules. And because of that I just think you are also having this inner aims to help other people and the humanity in the whole by motivating them to do art themselves. Besides of making art, are you also active in the area of education or teaching about art ? Like giving workshops or somethink like that?
Each one teach one is a powerful message, which doesn’t only apply to graffiti but to all areas of life. I think I apply it even much more in my personal life than in graffiti. As human beings we should always try to elevate each other. Unfortunately we live in a very individualistic world where the individual takes precedence over the collective and everyone is looking to shine for their own interest rather than contributing to something bigger. However, I don’t give myself the mission to make others want to do art and I sincerely don’t think that my art can make others want to create. I don’t really consider myself an artist, I just do graffiti and basically I do it very selfishly just for my own pleasure. There are many other graffiti artists who are more talented than I am and have a much greater impact on people. However, if it inspires others in any way I would be very honored.
Actually, I’m quite bad at getting messages across in my graffiti, there are a lot of causes I care about and defend in my personal life, but I don’t have the talent to put them on the wall in a brilliant or creative way. My friend SLY2 for example is very good at it, because he manages to convey messages with great finesse and his productions are full of allegories and strong political messages. I don’t have that talent and as I mentioned, when I paint I always prefer to do something cheerful that gives energy. I convey my ideals in a much more naive, unconscious way and with less finesse. But I try for example to make my female characters reflect a confident and empowered image, far from stereotypes that are often found in female graffiti characters or medias. I try to make characters that surf through life with power, confidence, fun and flow. Maybe it’s a way to convey feminist ideas.
I also love animals and I have been a big supporter of the animal cause since I was very young. As a child, I used to drag my parents to protest against circuses and zoos because I preferred to see animals in the wild and I used to save my pocket money to give it to environmental associations. My love for animals shows in my graffiti, because I draw a lot of them. They are an inexhaustible source of inspiration and I love to give them attitudes. Otherwise I sometimes give workshops, but it’s something I do less and less. I never took any art classes, I learned everything on the field so I don’t think I’m the best person to teach because I don’t know any rules. I do everything by feeling. And I don’t give workshops to children anymore. I prefer to address adults, because for me, graffiti is not an art for children who are too young.
You lived in Toulouse, now in Montréal. That’s on the opposite side of the world. I’m sure you have been in many several other countries as well and I’m also sure you painted at many different places. Tell us a bit more about international places where people can find artworks from you.
I painted in many countries. I painted in Mexico, in the USA, in England, Armenia, Spain, Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Reunion Island, Belgium, Canada, France …. but I don’t think that my paintings are still present in all these countries. Graffiti is an ephemeral art so I think most of my graffiti has been covered by now.
You are a female sprayer artist and it is still a much smaller group compared to the male artists, but more and more women are doing art with the spray cans. You are promoting it very much and try to encourage others with a cool cartoon smile. Meanwhile you are a symbol for many others and a female spray heroine. Because you go in the front and make the first steps with a strong smile. But you also look back and try to show the others behind that it is possible. And you tell them: Just keep on doing! In your artworks are often little messages and bigger messages included especially for female encouragement but also for everybody. Tell us more about this.
As I mentioned above, I don’t think I’m a role model and I don’t pretend to be. However, if I were to do so, it would be an honor for me. Some women like FAFI and MISS VAN influenced me a lot when I was younger and even without knowing them, they paved the way for me because seeing the work of other women street artists indirectly showed me that it was possible. But I like to propagate a positive and empowering image of women. Far from the clichés sold by the media and advertising. My message would indeed be: Keep on doing. But keep on doing in all your projects, not only your artistic projects. Be yourself, keep on doing to move and to rise. Go for your dream projects and create the world as you want it to be!
Did you have any exhibitions yet? Or some events which you would call kind of an exhibition?
I’m going to exhibit in Miami in October 2021 thanks to my collective Few and Far which offers me this opportunity. I’ve done few exhibitions so far. The exhibition process is not the same as the graffiti process, although it is just as respectable. But it is something I want to explore more.
What would you like to tell the community? There are readers who are fans, and some just are new in this thematic. There are oldschool artists who paint since many years, and there are newbies who just started using the spray can. Times are difficult, but they are always difficult. And as well art can always help. Art gives impulses and opens your mind. My opinion is, do art, be creative, do it. Paint, create, make music, make a sculpture, take photos. Whatever, do it. It’s at least kind of a medicine, but it is so much more. I think that you belive similar? What do you think about my words and how would you describe it? What do you want to tell the other readers as a message?
I think that basically everyone is creative but not everyone is aware that they are. But in fact, we spend our lives creating things without even knowing it and we are all capable of doing great things. For me, art and creativity are not only about drawing, music or dance. Creativity can be expressed in different ways. In the creation of projects for example, abilit to cook, creativity to find solutions, to put things in place. Creativity represents all the ways that come out of our brain to put something in place to add something to this world. We also put a lot of barriers, because we want to create something aesthetic, but art is not always aesthetic according to, it is just the expression of our humanity. Indeed, art is an excellent medicine and I think that making art can help everyone and I think that art is the property of humanity since the dawn of time. You just have to find what turns you on and not put pressure on yourself. The most important thing is to have fun and to be in line with who you are.
ARTWORKS FROM WÜNA ON THE MONTREAL MAP
Crew: FEW AND FAR WOMEN
Photo Credits: Carla Guazzotti, Patrice Loranger, Wüna