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Break the rules in art and sports with SupaKitch

Basketball, skating, surfing, tennis… Sports are Guillaume Grando’s muse

“In art, breaking the rules is the only rule.” We interviewed multidisciplinary contemporary artist Guillaume Grando a.k.a. SupaKitch. We talked about his inspired artistic philosophy and the endless sports influences that shape his art research and his emotions.

Settled in Biarritz, the European home of surfing, this multifaceted and renowned French artist draws on waves, vintage sporting items and a deep all-round sports culture to reflect on contemporary society.

Explore his words and works. Enjoy.

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How did your relationship with sport start? What sports fascinated you as a child?

I started swimming at the age of 6. I remember that I was super impressed by this huge pool in this huge alien’s spaceship looking place. It was another world where the sounds and the smells were very different. Then I’ve been doing a lot of different sports like Fencing, Tennis, Judo, Football, BMX, Basketball, skateboarding and surfing. Tennis was the first sport I was really into from 9 to 12. Then I played Basketball from 12 to 18 (and I still playing with my son). Beside basketball, I start doing graffiti and skateboarding, building skateboard ramp, doing some downhill races and riding the streets of every towns around. As a ‘multi-sport’ guy, I start surfing during my summer vacations as a teenager but it became a 100% way of life in 2012 while I was still living in New York City. Today, I still surf as most as I can, I’m doing workout and lately I started playing Pala and boxe.

When did you start combining your artistic philosphy with the sports theme and what was the spark that created this combination?

Skateboarding and/or surfing, even basketball, are a whole culture of style where there is no border between sport and art. I grew up immersed into it. It’s a way of life where music, fashion and illustration take part of the culture and art is what you do with it. At this time, I discovered the hip hop culture and it pushed me to get in action with my art skills like I was in action in sport. From that time, I used to paint everywhere I went for skateboarding or playing basketball. Even on my clothes and my boards. All my friends asked me to paint the back of their jacket or their baggy jeans. Do you remember that time? We had illustrations on our pants. Today’s fashion is bringing it back! I think about art all the time, from the moment I wake up to the time I go to bed included when I do sport. I love being in action and turning what I’m doing or what I see into art. As the ’90’s NBA tagline… I love this game!

Icon Collection Juventus
Icon Collection Juventus

You are now based in Biarritz, a well-known surfer resort. You are a surfer too. What kind of inspirations does this environment and this sport give you?

Biarritz is such a perfect place for me as a base. After living in NY and Paris for 8 years I really found a balance here. It’s obviously the surf that takes me here and from the surf experience I started working the matter, something like 7 years ago. Spending all that time in the elements makes me getting into a new period of work where I used surfboard manufacturing techniques to make water painting and work on what I think is the most essential in art: movement, gesture, light, color and matter. Through a kind of ‘figurabstraction’, I make sculpted paintings by using the matter to create light reflection which remind water movement. Taking the viewer to experience the beauty, the energy and the calm of the liquid element.

In the ‘Flooded – The Tennis Courts’ series, tennis becomes a means that communicates sporting and social concepts. Courts and lines become metaphors of ephemeral rules that can be broken, of imposed systems that can appear dysfunctional and illusory. Are there other interpretations of this work? What other thoughts are there behind these artistic creations?

Thanks for noticed that! In Art, first rule is to break the rules. The idea of breaking the uncompromising rules is not only applied to Tennis, but to the whole social system. Its alleged rigidity became dynamism only by changing the perspective. This flooded tennis court condition makes the practice of this sport impossible and therefore transforms the tennis court into something dysfunctional and in some way is useless, unless it’s given a second life as a pool thus appropriating them and making them unique. And to tell you everting about this series, the inspiration came up as I was invited by Lacoste for lunch and watch the game at Roland Garros. But the weather was so bad that it didn’t stop raining the whole day. The contest was canceled and the only thing I could watch that day was an empty flooded tennis court!

You accompanied this series with a surreal racket. What does this item symbolize within this artistic reflection and what do sports items represent for you in general?

Well, I love indoor or outdoor gears and sport items but in this case, sport items can be seen as metaphor of art tools. I wanted to go further and instead of labeling something as useless, you can repurpose it while also adapting its tools. In this series I illustrated this metaphor with a touch of humour by turning a racket into a racket-net!

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Speaking of sports items again… Is it true that you are particularly fascinated by vintage ones? What excites you about antique sport?

It’s true that I have a bunch of vintage sport items at home. I love the color palette, the materials and the outfits of vintage sport. It’s telling stories and history. It’s talking about time. I love to realize that back in the days, they where playing Basketball with a pair of Chuck Taylor or surfing big waves with a simple board made of wood. There were daring! Motivation level 1000! And it might be also some nostalgic and romantic feelings in my taste for it. But I’m also not afraid of living today for all that and enjoying technical progress too. It’s actually super interesting and funny to associate contemporary and vintage items in term of aesthetics.

Are you particularly connected to a sporting event/character that you have seen or met in your life?

Funny story, I played a game of billiards with Kelly Slater while he was in Hossegor for a contest back in the days. It was totally random. He certainly don’t remember that time but I was only 16 so I do! I follow the WSL and was so stoked on his recent win of the Pipeline Master the week of his 50. It was a great moment. I also did the tattoos of Benoit Paire and Pauline Parmentier and I met a bunch of professionals surfers and skateboarders too. I like to go to Roland Garros, to my daughter’s horse contest and my son’s basketball match. And when I’m overseas, I never miss a NBA championship match!

Icon Collection Juventus
Icon Collection Juventus
Icon Collection Juventus

Is there any other artist particularly fascinated by the sports theme that inspires you? 

Well, I don’t feel inspired by artist particulary. Even if I’m very touched by Pierre Soulages’s work and artists from the abstract expressionists like Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly or Jackson Pollock… I’m mostly inspired by my experiences and my feelings. Traveling and being outdoor inspired me a lot. Being in movement inspire me a lot. I don’t really know how to explain this, but moving, in a large term, like walking, riding a skateboard, running, being on train (where I am actually), flying on a plane, sailing on a boat and most of all, riding a surfboard really inspire me. When you think about it, surfing is about to be in movement on a surface which is in movement too. It’s the best feeling!

In ‘Same but Different’ and in some of your other works, water takes on a central value, becoming the protagonist around which the entire work revolves. What value does this element have for you and how do you try to decline it within your works?

I’m spending a lot of time in this element. I love being in the water. It’s a great source of energy and at the same time it’s relaxing me a lot. It’s a place where I can have fun and disconnect, think and meditate. I’m easily hypnotized by the sunlight reflection and refraction through the water which create that caustic light in movement. As a liquid matter, water is always in movement. It’s a free matter that going to spread out except if you contain it, which allows a lot of metaphors to do with. Because we are water at 65% and our planet is 70% water at its surface. And even if I don’t want my work to be politically or ecologically engaged I like the fact that it raises awareness among people. The importance of the ocean as real lung of our planet and it’s getting destroyed by the fishing industry or at least questioning about our future and the lack of water we’re about to get by. Water is life. It’s where it’s all started!

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Are you working on new projects? 

Well, There are some shows and great collaborations coming up next and I’m still working on pushing my work further!

SupaKitch
@supakitch_

Text by Gianmarco Pacione

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