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Garbage soaring by Murmure

Murmure and the art of garbage

Could it be a vision of the future? One with plastic in place of feathers and fur, tie-rips instead of talons? The imagery in Paul Ressencourt and Simon Roche’s year-long garbage-themed series is equal parts dystopian and dreamlike. That the street art duo known as Murmure is finishing it off with an exhibition in Paris, doesn’t mean they’ve exhausted their creative options though. After all, if they’ve learned one thing from working in the streets, it’s that they’ll never allow anyone to box them in. Simon Roche: “It’s gratifying to not ask anyone for permission.”

“What if the garbage bags started to replace our fauna?” It’s the central question behind GARB-AGE, the series of works by Paul Ressencourt and Simon Roche, better known as the French street art duo Murmure. The tail of a whale rising up out of the sea — or is it an oddly shaped trash bag? A bird taking off — or is it a piece of plastic, catching a gust of wind? The world that Murmure paints is as whimsical as it is worrying. “Our ancient garbage, come alive, and taking up their own existence”, Paul says with a spark in his eye.

Les Amants by Murmure

“Our images are more poetical than dark”, he says. “Like a dreamlike vision”, his partner in arts adds. At the same time, seeing animals shaped like trash, or trash shaped like animals, immediately brings up certain associations. “It’s a way to make people think about what we’re trying to say. People can have their own ideas, but mostly, it’s talking about plastics and ecological problems”, Simon notes. He talks happily, openly and easily, but when it comes to explaining their work, he keeps himself in check. “We don’t want to use words to express certain feelings, but create images that make people feel those feelings. It has to be self-explanatory.”

The two met during their arts education at ésam Caen/Cherbourgin France. “In the beginning, Simon wasn’t that interested in street art, only drawing for himself. Me, I was a graffiti artist”, Paul says. Simon agrees: “He brought to the streets to what we do. I started following him, during our fine arts studies, and we did classic graffiti. Spray can painting. I learned about the graffiti scene and its codes from him.” Simon soon also learned to love its sense of freedom. “The one thing that’s gratifying is not asking anyone for permission. And everybody sees it. Don’t tell, just show!”

Paul: “I learned to draw better from him, he learned street art from me, and we’ve worked together ever since.”

Pillow Fight by Murmure

That partnership has been lasting for close to a decade. for close Nowadays the duo does paste-ups of smaller works, and paints their larger murals with brushes. How they decide what design works better as a paste-up, and what should be a mural, is informed by the wall itself. “We always try to understand the surroundings of the wall. In Vladivostok we put up the whale, because it is a harbor city. And it would be facing Japan, a country that still hunts whales. That makes it a perfect place for a ‘garbage whale’”, Simon states. “In Rotterdam we put up the bird, because the mural is elevated. To the right of it is an open space. We oriented the bird towards that, so it takes away from the building. And lucky for us, the sun stand right at that angle, at the end of the day.”

Ressencourt and Roche love getting their hands dirty, but don’t work in the streets to conquer new audiences. “It’s more that I love the wall; The texture of it, and how it affects the art, whether in paint or paste-up”, Paul explains.

It’s why Murmure prefers the wall as a canvas, over an actual canvas. “Walls offer more of a technical challenge. And we like to get out of our comfort zone. For our show in Paris, we also have a bronze sculpture. We’re always looking for new ways to express.”

Simon: “That’s the great thing about street art to me — you allow yourself absolutely everything. You don’t pull yourself back from something because it might not be received well. You want to do a sculpture? Go ahead! Everything is allowed. You want to build a sculpture out of a car in front of your house? Nobody will say ‘but you’re a painter!’ We want to move along to our own will, instead of what the public is expecting.”

To reinforce the message the duo is communicating through their work, they work in series. “This year was dedicated to GARB-AGE” Simon looks back. “It’s an exploration of that theme, but doesn’t mean we won’t come back to that theme during a different phase. It’s just that we want to dedicate a year to getting the most out of that project, and then go to the next one.” Paul: “For us, it’s interesting to explore a theme through different avenues. For one series, we we want to make paintings, sculptures, murals.”

“So much, we never have enough time”, Simon adds. “It’s a whole universe.”

That universe may now be wrapping up with its current exhibition at Galerie LJ in Paris, but Ressencourt and Roche have been preparing their next chapter since last year already. “It will also have an ecological theme”, Paul says, “but in a different way.” Simon elaborates, though not by much: “It would more of an event. It will take place at one point in time, and that will be all.”

Paul: “It’s a conceptual project. We can’t say more yet.”

Simon: “You’ll have to be there!”

Murmure’s <<GARB-AGE>> can be seen at Galerie LJ, 12 Rue Commines in Paris, from Saturday March 7 to April 18, 2020.

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