« I would like to paint on the wind »: the birdmen of Parvati

By Michel Fily,  May 24, 2019


Franco-Indian artist born in the Amazon, Parvati evokes through her bird headed characters a parallel between migrants and migratory animals. The plants that surround them echo the rainforest where the artist grew up. Onirism, an essential feature of her work, is reflected in her paintings as well as on her walls. Urban Street Art Urbain met her during Collisions urbaines, the warm up of the sixth edition of the Urban Art Jungle Street Art festival, organized by Superposition.


Hello Parvati, can you introduce yourself to the readers?

My name is Parvati, I’m a Street Artist and I’m half Indian and half French, even if it does not show at all. I look a lot like my dad, but I have the skin color of my mom who is French. My artist name is, in fact, my middle name. It’s a very common Indian name and it’s also the name of an Indian goddess. Parvati is the sacred feminine principle. I was born in French Guiana, in a hippie community, the heart of the Amazon rainforest. I have been working on the street for four years. I started exhibiting at the same time. But I draw since I was very little. I did not study art, I studied project management in sustainable development, a subject to which I remain attached. As a teenager, I took courses in academic drawings from a very good teacher who gave me a solid background, technically and artistically. I live today in Chalon-sur-Saône, I come regularly to Lyon, especially for my collaborations with Superposition, to meet artists friends and to paint.


What triggered your career?

I did not start on the street. After finishing my studies, I could not find work and friends offered to exhibit at a small festival. Most of them did not even know I was drawing before that and I myself did not really believe in my art. I was extremely surprised when I was told that I had sold all my drawings. It was in 2012. The exhibition organizers decided to print a first book of my works. One of the printers liked it and told me that the municipality of Chalon offered start-up grants. I applied and received a scholarship, which allowed me to finance a basic material, then, thanks to several successive partnerships, I exposed at the media library and in different structures of the city. These first exhibitions and the application file that I had to prepare for the scholarship allowed me to start a real artistic reflection and to go further than my simple desire to paint, to think about what I wanted to say through my drawings and about the « why » of my art.


How has your technique evolved?

At the opening of the third exhibition of this series, a couple of Street Artists, Chim and Za, proposed me to join their collective, the Larue workshop, allowing me to make the link between my exhibitions and my work in the public space. With them, I made my first collages on outside walls and collaborated on several exhibitions and events. Then I started to do things alone, murals, introducing myself to the techniques of the bomb and the brush, which remains today my main tools of creation. The Larue collective ceased its activities a year ago. Today, I work mainly alone, mainly by street collages and painting for « live paintings » and fresco commissions. I am quite slow in my work. The collage has the advantage of allowing me to take the time to paint my designs in my workshop. But sometimes I mix both techniques: the character with collage and the decor painted directly on the wall.


Do you collaborate with other Street Artists today?

I’ve worked a lot – a little less now because she’s less involved – with Za who initiated Larue. I have been working for a year with Autruchet, who is a graphic designer. He incorporates digital painting decorations around my characters. I’m also connected to the Street Artist Mani, which I already knew, but really met through Superposition. We became friends, we exchange a lot about our practices, we advise each other a lot and we have ideas of projects in common. At the time when we met, we were at about the same stage of our artistic career, in full experimentation of the streets, and asking ourselves the same questions, both technical and philosophical, and I think we found a real binomial one in the other. We will be leaving at the end of May to both go in residence in Can Alià and this will be our first real artistic collaboration. It’s a hybrid place in Barcelona that invited us to participate in a Street Art project and to exhibit in their showroom.


What are your techniques and media?

I work mainly by collage, on Kraft paper, painting in Indian ink for bodies that are black and white. I draw human characters with bird heads, on a large scale. Previously, I painted these heads, which are colored, with acrylic paint, but I decided recently to stop, because it is not in agreement with my ecological beliefs. Today, I use casein-based paint, an old technique that was abandoned with the arrival of oil and chemicals. In addition, I stick with flour glue that I make myself. This allows me to have the less destructive approach from an environmental point of view. I have plans to make my own paintings in the future. Today I work with primary and I master my mixtures by myself. The stencils I use to make my backgrounds and patterns on walls are inspired by traditional South Indian craftsmanship and patterns on women’s saris. I get these patterns, redraw them and then cut them to make my stencils. Regarding the media, I work mainly on paper, on walls and on canvas.


What are your influences and inspirations?

My influences do not necessarily come from the visual arts, but I had a huge revelation when I discovered, as a teenager, the work of Ernest Pignon Ernest, one of the first Street Artists to have worked black chalk and charcoal on paper, with silhouettes on a human scale. I feel heir to this great artist. Among the younger artists, Levalet has also greatly influenced my work. And I really like the works of Eric Lacan (Monsieur Qui). I also draw my inspiration from my readings, science fiction books and Heroic Fantasy. When I was a child, my mother read me many traditional tales from around the world. My universe is very dreamlike and my very first artistic projects were really oriented around the dream and how the unconscious could be a source of inspiration. I experimented painting under hypnosis and I reproduced in drawing some of my dreams. I still do it today. My first character with a bird’s head is a dream memory.


Why did you decide to make birds the central topic of your work?

I was born in the Amazon, surrounded by plants, wild animals and birds, and my relationship with nature has always been strong. The plants that surround my characters are a reminiscence of that nature in my childhood. Birds’ heads come to answer my upheaval in front of the problem of migrants. Because of my family history, geographically extended, I naturally identified with those people who are rejected everywhere they go. I am currently fighting in several associations to defend their cause. And in my art I wanted to draw parallels between migrants and migratory birds. I did not want to approach human migration in a sad or in a moralistic way, we live in a society that is already quite anxious. I wanted to imagine a utopia, where they could be perfectly integrated in our societies and where they could be passersby among the passersby. It is this idea that I try to reproduce by drawing them on a human scale before sticking them on the walls. When you take pictures on the street, it really feels like they’re part of the crowd.


What emotions, what reflections are you trying to convey to the public who look at your works?

I try to transmit a way to the dream, clearly. An open door. The dream is, for me, the space of all possibilities, limitless, and by opening the eyes of people to this space, I try to take them out of their daily lives, of their worries. My bird-men do not summon the audience; they appear by chance and cause surprise. There are people whom they leave indifferent and others whom they move. And these are always transported to their own imaginations, to their own dreamworlds… The first bird-headed figure I had stuck in Lyon carried a briefcase in his hand. I came back the next day to photograph it as a father stopped there with his two children. The little boy called the father and said, « Look daddy! Mr. Sparrow goes to work! « . I found it fantastic to see how he made a story from my collage. It happens regularly that strangers repair my collages, after the wind and the rain have deteriorated them. One of them is stuck under some ivy and there is someone who cares to carve it around so that it does not cover the drawing. I like these interactions that prove to me that the public really appropriates my works.


Can you talk about your meeting with Superposition?

I met the team of Superposition in 2017, after a call to artist launched on social networks for the second edition of the Urban Art Jungle. I answered the call and they selected me. It was an instant and reciprocal crush. I have not yet done a solo show at SITIO, but I participated in « One Shot« , « Mutations urbaines », « Urban Pop Up » and « Métamorphe« , in addition to « Urban Collisions« . And I’m going to participate in the next Urban Art Jungle festival, in June 2019.


Do you consider yourself an urban artist?

I think this word means everything and does not mean anything at the same time. I grew up in nature and I have no Street or Hip Hop culture, despite my great respect for this movement. My love for the street comes from elsewhere and that poses no problem. The Street Art community is free and open. I do not know if I consider myself an urban artist, I know that I am an artist. And I happen to stick sometimes out of the city, in little corners of the countryside… I do not differentiate between Street Artists and painters and, because I work with a brush and with painting techniques I feel as much as a painter than as Street Artist, even though my favorite medium is clearly the wall.


What do you think of the evolution of Street Art?

I think it’s a great movement, because it has no grandiloquence. And yet it has become an artistic movement in its own right and of great importance today. It has allowed many women to create. Beyond the common media that is the wall, Street Art has opened the possibility of expressing itself with different aesthetics, with many different messages. It’s a place of incredible freedom. We are far from conceptual contemporary art galleries with a need for complex and constructed artistic discourses. I do not reject this reflection, but the most important is, for me, the result work and what we see. Nothing makes me sadder than someone who says, « I can’t say if I like it or not, because I don’t know anything about the subject ». If a work touches people, I want them to be able to say it. In my opinion, there is no need to have gone to an art school or a faculty of art history to express ourselves on the subject. With Street Art, we returned to a direct relationship with beauty that had been lost with Duchamp and the contemporary art. It was necessary at that time of the history of art. With the advent of Street Art, a page turns and it’s a good thing.


What are your current projects?

I am now exhibiting at the Lavomatik in Paris. The inauguration took place at the same time as « Métamorphes » in Lyon. I also made a mural on the wall of the Lavomatik. In June, I will participate in a project called « Boards to be solidaire » for the “Secours populaire”. I also participate in the « Venus » project, which fights for the prevention of breast cancer. My next projects will take place in rural areas, two festivals in very small villages, in Saône-et-Loire and Berry, which have asked me to come and I am delighted to do so.


What do you think about your success and where do you stand from your dreams?

Where do I stand from my dreams? I would say « right in »! I have always tried to make my life fit with what I dreamed of being when I was a child. When I ask myself questions about life, I always ask myself this question: « Does your life look like your childhood dreams? » and I always make sure to respond positively. As for success, I would say it’s something relative. I am delighted if what I do touches people, I am delighted to be able to live from what I create. I don’t care too much about success…


If I was the genie of Aladdin’s lamp and you could raise three vows, which would they be?

I have a thousand wows (laughs)… But if I had to choose one, it would be to be able to draw on the clouds. It would be wonderful. Painting on the wind…





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