Written By Jonas Guigonnat
The ability of the human mind to be triggered by remembered sensations never stops astonishing me. Memory is often seen as a question of remembering “images” and “thoughts,” but all of our senses are playing a role. Most of the time it is a strong, subconscious activation.
Take the creative process as an example and you’ll realize how much past experiences are often the driver behind your capacity to create. Each sense plays a part, from what you heard, or tasted, to what you saw, or even touched.
Never underestimate the power of your memory. Even great temporal distance doesn’t seem to restrict the influence of the experiences and feelings we remember.
Twenty years ago I discovered graffiti and practiced it earnestly for about 5 years, but from that point onwards the feelings and sensations related to it never left my mind. As every graffiti artist, or “writer”, experiences it, my obsession for graffiti is never very far away, even when it feels like a lifetime ago.
Shapes of the streets
Everything began with what was to be seen: letters, letters, and again letters. They quickly became a source of obsession and modified the way I saw the creative process behind calligraphy. The style calligraffiti fascinated me at once, to the point I was dreaming of it.
I worked for hours trying to create shapes which transmitted the same energy, the same vibration as the pieces I saw on the streets. The feeling of being able to create my “own” letters motivated me to always do better. From that point onwards, every type of letter I saw could slip into my brain and find its way to the next piece of paper, and finally to the next wall.
Nowadays, even though I don’t practice actively, I still look for the perfect letters almost subconsciously. Any piece on the subway, on the street, or on the highway makes me want to take the cans and spray my letters out again.
Sounds of the past
My vision is thus playing a crucial part in this process, but my ears have also their part to play.
The noise of spraying cans still hooks me, the sound of pens scratching paper has never stopped haunting me, and the cacophony of Paris by night calls for me to paint its walls.
The sounds of every season bring me back to a place and time where I was writing something on the streets. Rain on scraps of steel, a subway taking its last ride, the silence of a sunny day or birds singing early in the morning – all of it triggers my will to create, even before my consciousness itself is aware of it.
Tell me what you smell, I’ll tell you what to create
Then there is also a multitude of triggering smells. Particularly the one of ink and of paint from a spray can, which awaken my obsession with the same force.
The same way noises play with my perception of the present, smells can also, out of nowhere, bring me back to a street in Paris in the early 2000s. The smell of wet leaves on a dark November day, of hot asphalt in the summer, or of a dry cold winter. All refer to moments of inspiration or of despair, either way pushing my creativity.
Touch and smell also have an influence, but it is a lot more subtle and difficult to grasp when it comes to the visual arts. Nonetheless, some feelings, like the one of grabbing a can, also push my mind to look for inspiration in the past.
When it comes to graffiti, if there is one bodily feeling above all others that I would choose, it is the adrenaline flowing through my body. Every writer experiences it as an addiction and as an important factor in this specific kind of creativity.
Taking risks is necessary if you want to exist in this environment. Otherwise, you would not be able to understand the essence of writing and will instead practice it like any other visual art.
But what makes graffiti unique in the eyes of thousands for almost 50 years (the discipline as such is said to exist since 1969) is mostly the fact that vandalism cannot be separated from the artistic process itself, once again, giving a feeling never to be forgotten.
The complex network of feelings recorded by my mind allows me to be creative in a very particular way. Not even my own will has as much influence on my capacity to express myself through art.
Without remembering what it feels like to create, there would be no creating, or at least not consistently. It also means that every time there is creation involved, the connections between the remembered sensations allows it to take form, to become real.
We exist through our memory as much as we create through it.