PUMA Social x Keflione

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For the Autumn-Winter 2012 PUMA Social Playmates campaign, sportlifestyle brand PUMA commissioned French street artist and illustrator Keflione to create an art piece that best captures the idea of urban play and how to turn cities into urban playgrounds. The illustration with the artist’s emblem is featured in the PUMA Social Official Play Guide and will be available in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong in limited quantities.

We caught up with the artist at his studio in Shanghai recently. Meet Keflione.

PUMA: Hello! Please can you introduce yourself and what you do.

Keflouis: I’m Keflione, also known as Keflouis, French street artist and illustrator. I grew
up in France, studied in the UK, travelled in Asia, lived in Brunei, I now live in Shanghai,
China and I love it. I discovered street-art by the skateboard world with the streets as an
open canvas for any and all types of creativity. Since 2001, I have been painting on walls, in
several countries (UK, France, Germany, China, Belgium, India, Borneo). From small pieces to
BIG walls, including stickers and poster. Just after my Master's Degree in St. Martin’s in
London, I decided to travel, see new things and spread my work. It’s pretty much what I’m
doing now. With time, my style evolved, I created my own imaginary Keflouis world.

P: What materials do you use?
K: Wheatpaste glue, Spray glue & Spray paint. I use creativity, and posters, mixing medias
sometimes also.

P: Describe your thought process when making a piece or project. How do you begin? Does it start from studio to the streets or vise versa? What inspires you?

K: I get inspiration in the streets for sure, in the everyday life, smalls details, stories or
scenes. They can later be turned into art pieces. I guess I’m telling myself stories and
illustrating them also. In order to keep control, I work everything upfont in the studio my
computer, to make sure it will be perfectly executed in the streets. I like this unexpected
preciseness contrasting with the streets’ mess.

P: We’ve seen that your work is a combination of typography and illustration. Which came first? What do you love doing most?

K: I do love both really, I need them both also. Regarding which on is first, it depends, usually I get the wording in mind first, so it gives the direction of the illustration. Then I let it go with the flow.

P: Is there a reason why your work is mostly done in black and white?

K: Yes I do like them because there is a wide contrast between those two colors, it’s the maximum impact. Also my shapes, illustration and types can’t be weak and hidden by colors.

P: What do you think of the graffiti scene here in Asia? How does it differ from Europe and the Middle East where you’ve spent a lot of time?

K: I don’t really know if graffiti fits in the Asian culture. This individual movement came from the US in the 70’s, arrived in Europe in the 80’s and Asia in the 90’s. People don’t really use to think like this in India or China for example. Style-wise, with internet, today the international scene is quite similar to me. I was expecting something more influence by the local culture/Alphabets or characters.

P: Most of your work reflects the city where you’re currently in. Like in Shanghai, you recently created pieces showing your homage to the city. Did you intend it to be this way?

K: Shanghai is like a beautiful superficial spoilt girl but I do like her a lot. Architecture and cities atmosphere are an endless source of inspiration. Every city has its own personality.

P: For the longest time, we’ve seen graffiti artists like Mike Giant and 123 Klan infiltrating mainstream pop culture? What’s your take on this?

K: I think it’s a good thing to have nice works in the pop culture. It’s making things move forward.

P: What comes to mind when you hear the word “PLAY”? On a blank wall, how
will you spell or draw it?

K: I guess painting is playing. Especially on a Wall, everyone has a different texture, is in a different spot. There are always nice stories to tell after painting an outdoor.

To me playing is the way to find something creative and original. Trying, failing, trying again, doing something stupid, trying again. Unexpected good things usually come from this playful process. I tell myself stories, and create the image to make it visible for others.

I guess all my illustrations start with this process, playing with the concept, with words, shapes, optic effects, till the final result. As long as i am not satisfied, and its not what I have in mind, I keep playing with it.

P: You are, after all a city dweller. What’s in your bag? What’s the essential
gear that gets you through the city?

K: I usually don’t have a bag. When I do, it’s to carry a camera. A nice pair of shoes is
always needed.

P: How do you play in the city you’re in?

K: I like exploring abandoned places, trying to understand what happened, who was living there. There are always many elements and details to observe and to take pictures of. Finding roof tops or places where people don’t usually go is really what I enjoy. A both relaxing and exciting activity.

P: Do you go out with mates and have fun in the city? What kind of play mate
are you?

K: Most of my friends are related to the city as skateboarders, graffiti writers, architecture photographers, or fixed gear riders. I guess I’m the curious and observer one.

P: Have you noticed any trends emerging amongst young kids about how they’re playing in the city?

K: I like the planking concept, it’s just stupid, fun and creative. Everybody can do it, you just need a good idea. It can be described as a street performance in a certain way.

P: How do kids in Asia play in their city compared to kids in Europe?

K: Today trends are really global and international, which is nice, and at the same time I would advice kids to remember their cultures and turn it in local new school movements.