Between the building bars of the Bois Cadet district, in Fontenay-sous-Bois (Val-de-Marne), three almost fluorescent green benches catch the eye. Covered with drawings of yellow, pink and purple flowers, they denote in the concrete landscape. Kneeling near a fourth bench on Wednesday in August, Papa Mesk pulls out a can of paint. With an expert gesture, the 51-year-old graffiti artist adds a touch of white to the large orange letters that form the words "Le Chardot", named after the slab where the benches are aligned. "As soon as I see concrete, it itches," smiles Julien Odic, his real name.
For nearly 35 years, this Fontenaisien passionate about drawing has been decorating the city by tagging its walls, flower pots and electricity meters. The green benches of Bois Cadet are among his latest achievements. This summer, at the request of the neighborhood association, Papa Mesk had fun repainting them with the help of residents. "I let the children do what they wanted," says the graffiti artist. "And in the end, I came to correct to make the whole thing coherent."
Fontenay-sous-Bois, August 16, 2023. According to a resident, these benches allow to plunge the slab of Chardot in a "garden atmosphere". LP/ Jeanne Toutain
Putting color where there is none, this is a bit the mission that Julien Odic gave himself when he started graffiti, at the age of 14. In 1989, the city called on him and other graffiti artists for a first project: a fresco representing friendship between peoples, on a wall 250 m long.
An abstract and colorful style
Three decades later, the artist created some thirty colourful and abstract works in Fontenay-sous-Bois. At the corner of a street, or hidden in an underground car park, they are never far away. A pride for the Fontenaisien: "I also graffiti elsewhere, but necessarily here, I put more heart and attachment," he confides. More pressure too. "I better apply myself, because I know the inhabitants. If they don't like it, they'll tell me! ».
But when they like it, the locals say so too. Like Anne-Marie Gonzalez, who has lived in Bois Cadet for 28 years. "That's exactly what you did on the benches!" enthuses the local resident. Before rightly pointing out that the choice of flowers harmonizes with the vegetable garden installed a few meters away. All this gives the neighborhood a "garden atmosphere". "Across the street, there's a big wall," says Anne-Marie. "Do you think it would be possible to make a mural on it?" Of course," Papa Mesk replies, "I will come and discuss the model with the neighbors."
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While waiting for this new project, the graffiti artist is already busy. Julien Odic has created two new participatory works for the intergenerational space of the Larris district. The artist also embarked with his brother in a fresco visible on the steps of the Espace Gérard-Philipe. What's next? "I don't want to see any more raw concrete," laughs Papa Mesk. "So why not continue, with the agreement of the Fontenaisiens, to make the city an open-air museum?"