French street artist Blek Le Rat is arguably the inventor of stencilled graffiti as we know it, inspiring a plethora of street artists, including the biggest fish of all – Banksy. Now Blek Le Rat – A.K.A. Xavier Prou – is to have his own exhibition in London, reclaiming the style as his own by presenting a new series of works.
Blek Le Rat burst on the graffiti scene in the very early 1980s, and in 1981, he began stencilling his now-iconic images of rats across Paris, with which he became synonymous. The artist was drawn to the image of a rat as ‘the only free animal in the city’, and one which ‘spreads the plague everywhere, just like street art’. His name comes not only from his early subject matter, but is simultaneous a reference to the contemporary cartoon ‘Blek Le Roc’, as well as being anagram of ‘art.’
He is credited with being the inventor of the life-sized stencil, as well as the first artist to transform stencil from basic lettering into pictoral art. Has the all-pervasive rip-offs gone unnoticed by the Parisian don? Oh hell no! And he especially has a chip on his shoulder about Banksy. ‘When you’re an artist you use your own techniques’, Blek le Rat explained; ‘It’s difficult to find a technique and style in art so when you have a style and you see someone else taking it and reproducing it, you don’t like that. I’m not sure about his integrity.’
With a show in London’s Mayfair opening this month, the no doubt the gloves will really be coming off. Watch this space!
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