THE ARTIST: EpS

Here’s a character whose work you must have seen dozens of times, most likely without even realising it. His name, along with a handful of others, can be found almost everywhere in Beirut—on walls, abandoned buildings and other sometimes unappealing areas. For Alfred Badr, mainly known as EpS, is not merely a graffiti artist, but also one of the main actors in the Lebanese street art’s professional arena. “I consider myself so lucky to make a living out of my passion,” the 29-year-old says, while painting a huge Indian chief’s face on a friend’s home wall. “One project after the other, I gather skills, techniques, ideas through new challenges…It doesn’t get any better than that.” The streets of Beirut have become his and his peers’ business cards, thanks to a largely positive public opinion of their art. “People appreciate what we do most of the time, youngsters and elderly people alike. There are no political or religious slogans; we aren’t affiliated with anyone although we often write messages about the current social situation of our country, amongst other personal ones. Lebanese people seem to be relieved that we paint in the streets for free and without an agenda, and sometime potential job offers from them occur while we are painting in broad daylight.”im1

Bringing graffiti to the public 

EpS himself has clearly benefited from that kind of advertisement, and he has been taking on several graffiti-related projects with firms, collectives and individuals. One of them is through his workshop at the Color Academy, near Tayouneh, where he initiates kids and adults in graffiti and art as a whole, teaching them about the history of street art, the different styles and the few techniques that will be needed, after a week’s time, to paint their own graffiti. “I fully know that most people who come to my workshop won’t proceed to become legends in the streets, buying material and covering neighborhoods with their names,” he admits, “but it’s always interesting to meet them and give them tools to better understand what they read on the streets of their city. As graffiti artists, we impose our art on others; it’s the nature of what we do. So explaining to them why and how we do it is something I find crucial.”

Last summer, as another example of the bridge that now exists between the graffiti world and the general public, EpS painted the entirety of the huge kids’ playground at ABC Ashrafieh, to the delight of visitors and children. His highest achievement to date, it is also one of the biggest projects of its kind done entirely by a Lebanese. It took some time to achieve such goals and success in living from his art, but as the saying goes “the journey is more important than the destination,” and his background and travels had a great influence on his work. “I grew up in Ivory Coast, and as a child I would mostly draw characters with African features, since I take inspiration in what I see around me. I arrived in Lebanon and sure enough, the Arabic culture strongly impacted my art. Characters are my specialty, and I ended up mixing the traditional b-boy style (that originated in New York in the early 1980s, at the dawn of graffiti history) with features, clothes and details that are associated with Lebanon and the Arab world.”

A unique kind of graffiti

Lebanon’s cultural diversity and the very history of Lebanese graffiti are what distinguish it from any other country. “It started really recently here,” EpS recalls, “during the 2006 war. And there are few of us ‘writers’ (i.e. graffiti artists) yet, maybe 10 to 15 active ones. This led to a graffiti culture that is until today exempt of most flaws you might encounter in Paris or New York. There is no violence, only healthy competition. Most of us are friends; at worst we are acquaintances, and we paint together on a pretty regular basis. We learn a lot from each other. I’m a latecomer to the scene, and from the beginning my friend Phat 2, who is one of the most prolific writer here, has taught me a lot. Since then, I have mostly been working with M3alim, since our styles mix really well, and we share the same vision and understanding of time constraints, material and organization. Overall, I think it’s the best atmosphere we could hope for, and if we keep making Beirut more beautiful while respecting other artists, there is no reason for this to change.”

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Even though in the past year work has been taking most of his time, along with surfing and freelance graphic design, EpS does not intend to leave the streets any time soon, and he and his fellow writers seem dedicated to turning Beirut into a major street art city. “I’m confident that the future holds only good news for us, if we keep working hard. On a personal level, I have recently developed a few characters that are both aesthetic and really quick to paint. My guess is you will soon know what I’m talking about…Watch out for the monkey!”

Paul du Verdié

Source: EKARUNA Luxury Real Estate Magazine
Link: http://www.Ekaruna.com

 

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