Stencil Art

Posted: 6th January 2023
Blek le Rat – Pioneer of Street Art

Blek le Rat (Xavier Prou) is a French graffiti artist from Paris. He has inspired generations of graffiti artists throughout the world. Considered to be the father of stencil art in the history of French street art.

He began his career in 1981 by painting stencils of rats. His name originates from the comic book Blek Le Roc, using “rat” as an anagram for “art”.

Blek chose to paint rats because they symbolise the urban environment as well as the marginalizsd members of society. On New Year’s Eve in 1981, Blek painted a bunch of rats all around the Pompidou Centre, a Modern and Contemporary Art Museum. 

He was inspired by the New York City graffiti art scene of the 1970’s. Artists such as Richard Hambleton who was well known for his involvement in the contemporary art scene. Who’s “Shadowman” paintings of the early 1980s resembled a life-sized silhouetted image of some mysterious person.

These “shadow paintings” were splashed and brushed with black paint on hundreds of buildings and other structures across New York City.

Throughout the 1980’s, Blek’s stencil art developed. From small pieces into life-size characters like the representation of famous Andy Warhol. He also painted Tom Waits, Jesus Christ and a portrait of Blek le Rat himself.

The use of stencils, whether for depicting rats or life-size characters, allowed him the opportunity for endless reproduction.

Due to his distinctive style and the ease of production that came with it, he has inspired many modern day street artists.

Such as Swoon, whose art consists of intricate and delicate paper-cut portraits. These are generally based on the people she met throughout her life. Check out her work here.

Logan Hicks who has developed his impeccable photorealistic style using up to 15 layers of stencil. Check out his work here

As well as Banksy who uses the rat stencil as a cornerstone of his own work, in homage to Blek.

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