Is land art the new street art? See for yourself in Paris exhibition

French graffiti artist, Saype, is creating an enormous biodegradable artwork on the vast lawns in front of the iconic Eiffel Tower for an exhibition starting next week.

Sprawling across the Champs de Mars park in Paris, the 600-metre-long spray-painted piece can only be seen in its totality by drone. The morning rush of Parisians continue to stroll over the grass, even as Saype carefully plants measuring steaks into the ground to guide his painting.

I’m used to all kinds of hazards to my work,” Saype admitted. “If it’s not the weather, it’s cows walking over it, or moles popping up, and here it’s dogs. I take it as a lesson in humility.”

Saype — real-name Guillaume Legros – is a rural graffiti artist who uses his own recipe of homemade biodegradable paint. His gigantic works often adorn idyllic landscapes, such as the ultra-realistic face in the French Alps and the grandad in braces on a Swiss mountainside.

As a young teenager, Saype began graffitiing in his local town “as a kind of adrenalin kick and a way of existing in society.” But soon he was disenchanted with the urban scene and began using his artistic talent to highlight global issues, such as the climate emergency.

I felt urban art had lost some of its meaning — there was so much visual pollution in cities that no one really saw graffiti anymore.”

Last month Saype made a return to cities, installing a 5,200 square metre artwork of a young girl doodling in Buenos Aires to celebrate International Recycling Day. “Here, the little girl symbolizes the future. Indeed, it is our children who will have the world of tomorrow in their hands,” Saype explained.

Despite the impressive scale and effort required, Saype’s artwork only lasts for a few days each time. Natural elements, wandering animals and trampling humans swiftly wear away the paint, leaving no trace behind of its existence.

Beyond Walls is the graffiti artist’s vast new project in Paris. A series of interlocking hands will unravel on the grass in front of the city’s main tourist attraction as a “symbol of togetherness” and “living together.”

Saype recognised that “right now, it seems like we’ve all got short memories, that we’re living in a kind of negative, pre-war atmosphere with economic crisis and people putting up barriers.”

The project will require over 1,300 litres of paint, yet the large, grasping hands will disappear within two days in what the inventive artist calls an “artistic performance.”

For this piece, Saype took inspiration from the humanitarian group SOS Méditerranée and its rescue work in the Mediterranean. The group has pulled hundreds of distressed people out the ocean, who were attempting to cross the perilous waters in hope of a better life.

The Beyond Walls exhibition will open on 15 June 2019 on the Champs de Mars, Paris.

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