Veteran French graffiti writer FUZI UV TPK was a force on the Parisian subway system. On the streets, he pioneered a distinct, personal look—coined, "Ignorant Style." The same brutal approach employed with spray can and pen informs FUZI's unique take on tattooing. Like his outdoor painting, FUZI's indelible marks on skin carry ironic statements rendered in direct graphics.
In the last few months, FUZI's fame as a tattooer has grown. He took over The Hole Shop for his first appearance in NYC back in September. Last month, in Paris, FUZI caused a stir by tattooing Scarlet Johansson. With the Internet buzzing, critics wondered if the fashion cognoscenti had fostered a new love affair with DIY tattoo and naive imagery.
Complex caught up with FUZI for an exclusive interview about art, tattooing, and violence.
Where in Paris are you from?
In the suburbs of Paris, Val-d’Oise, 95.
My friends and I were wild and without rules, and I wanted to create a style that expressed something free.
How did you discover graffiti? When did you start painting?
My parents divorced when I was young, and afterward, I lived alone with my father, in a distant suburb of Paris. Our home was 100 meters from a train station, with big yards, and I explored it all the time, it was like a magic place for me, and this is where I discovered graffiti. I saw names written inside and outside of the trains, and it was the beginning of the end for me.
You created a form of graffiti called “Ignorant Style,” which goes against the style rules of traditional graffiti. When did you create “Ignorant Style”? What influenced you to create it? Can you describe its meaning?
My friends and I were wild and without rules, and I wanted to create a style that expressed something free. Ignorant Style was based on how graffiti looked in the beginning in NYC, and it was meant to look like it was made by a child who is just learning the art form—naïve but pure. Ignorant Style is a reaction to the standardization of graffiti. You write your name how you want, where you want, and fuck the rest. There are no rules.
Are you interested in other art or artists that are considered “outsider” or “naïve”? Even though you are self-taught, have you studied other artists to help develop your art?
My graffiti years were only about graffiti, I knew nothing outside of graffiti, and my style was developed through being instinctive and a vandal. Much later on, I discovered “traditional” art, and learned about self-taught art, expressionism, etc. It was crazy for me, because I realized I was not alone—there were other guys with the same feelings, throughout history, who tried to create the same experience in art, but with other mediums. I was really interested by it, and I read a lot about it, but I try to maintain my instinctive way, without too many influences.
I don’t give a fuck about it, that’s not my goal. I don’t try to make beautiful things or please people.
You are from the graffiti crews UV and TPK. Both have aggressive or violent histories. Can you describe what UV and TPK were about and how they matched your lifestyle at the time?
UVTPK was a young, thug crew with a common interest—graffiti. We were all really close friends and motivated to conquer Paris with paint and fights. Guys like RAP, TRANE, BABS, FREZ,EYONE and others painted more than anyone else on trains and subways, and imposed a strong presence on the streets. The name of the crew is legendary now.
Is violence an inspiration to your art?
It's not an inspiration, it’s a part of me. But now I control it and use it in my art. Through painting canvases, drawing, sculpting, writing, tattooing, etc., I can express my background on the streets and my writer lifestyle.
When and why did you start tattooing?
When I stopped painting graffiti as much as I used to, I had to find another creative outlet to express myself. When I started tattooing, I tried to make tattoos in the same way as I painted graffiti—instinctual and without rules. My tattoos are rough, like me, and I’m not interested in being precise or becoming a master of technique. My goal is to convey a feeling of freedom, which is far more important than being perfect.
It’s true, “Ignorant Style” does not follow the rules of traditional tattoos. Do you think the general public will accept or understand your style?
I don’t give a fuck about it, that’s not my goal. I don’t try to make beautiful things or please people. I am trying to take risks, do something different, and express myself. I understand why people are shocked or don’t understand my way, but I don’t make tattoos for them, I make tattoos for me.
You want a tattoo of a koi fish? There’s hundreds of people that can do that. You want a tribal design? Go to any tattoo parlor. What I’m creating is something totally unique, it’s instinctive, and based on my lifestyle.
More people are starting to understand me, and it’s nice, but if tomorrow I’m completely alone and no one wants a tattoo by me, then that’s OK. I’ll still continue to create because I need it.
You like to tattoo in unusual places such as galleries, metro tunnels, rooftops… Why do you like tattooing in places like this?
I’m not a traditional tattoo artist and I don’t want to make tattoos in traditional locations. I consider each tattoo unique, like a piece of art, and I like the experience to be unique also. I want to leave a mark on the memory, in addition to the skin.
But also, my background is in graffiti, and I spent a lot of my life on the streets. So now, naturally, I like to use the streets to tattoo.
Why did you start a clothing brand, Ignorant People?
Because I wanted to show my art in all mediums. I want to explore all; I want to conquer all. If you like my ignorant style, you can get inked by me, buy my books, my prints, my canvases, my drawings, or my clothing—it’s all the same to me.
What are you working on now?
I have created a publishing house with two close friends, and we will publish our own zines and books, beginning in 2013. Our goal is to show underground artists from all different mediums—photographers, painters, authors—who have something strong and wild inside them, and who share our state of mind.
What are your ultimate goals as an artist?
To be everywhere—on people’s skins, in newspapers, in galleries, on the streets and inside your brain.