Interview Series: MAMBO

Santiago de Chile-born, Paris-bred and now L.A.-based contemporary artist Flavien MAMBO Demarigny has made quite a name for himself in the street art community as a muralist and is best known for monumental, emotional and colorful ephemeral works. His fine art portfolio includes a variety of drawings and a large collection of celebrity portraits. We had a chance to sit down with the man behind the cartoon, and here’s what he had to say:

“VVZPT” (viva zapato) – détail – 2011 – acrylic on canvas

LF: Tell us about your latest big piece, a tribute to Johnny Weissmuller at the abandoned Piscine Molitor swimming pool in Paris.

MAMBO: This swimming pool means a lot for several generations of Parisians. All kind of events happened there, from bikini and hats contest in the 40’s to topless in the 60’s or disco parties in the 80’s. Since the 90’s, it’s been a hall of fame for the graffiti scene but also a place for all kinds of underground parties and concerts. I did that piece just a few weeks before it closed definitely, to be destroyed and kinda rebuilt as a five stars hotel. I wanted to make a bridge in time between 1929, when Johnny Weissmuller was invited for the inauguration of that wonderful art deco building and today, as this place has really been an island of freedom, creativity and spontaneous expression.

“defragmentation” 2011 – 130*165cm – inkjet and acrylic on canvas

LF: How is video complementary to street art?

MAMBO: Street art won’t be the same without photography, video and internet. It gives the opportunity to hidden and ephemeral pieces to stay forever and to be known around the world.

LF: We love the videos you’ve made of your sketch book! Such a personal and fun way to showcase your more private work. What gave you the idea / purpose for making those?

MAMBO: I was looking for a way to share my sketchbooks with the audience. I first made this video to put it into my shows, next to the artworks, to allow people to get closer to my state of mind. It’s important for me as these sketchbooks are made when traveling, and traveling means a lot to me. I get tons of inspiration when I travel and it comes back to my mind when I paint at home. There’s an African proverb that I love: “if you haven’t studied, go traveling.” Actually, that’s what I do! I haven’t studied after high school, but you still learn so much when you travel. This sketchbook was made in Rio de Janeiro, during carnival time.

“pedro navaja” – 2008 – 100*130cm – painted live at centre pompidou, paris.

“jour de fête” 2008 – 2X81*100cm

LF: Your characters embody an emotion felt by everyone at one time or another. Do you create more for the view to connect with or for you to vent through?

MAMBO: I think everything i do is for the people to connect with. I love to share feelings this way. And that’s why I love my openings, just to hear what people have to say about it. I don’t have control on what it expresses, I just let it go out and see how it feels. It is spontaneous and instinctive.

“dupons ou dupont?” 2011 – 56*76cm – acrylic on paper

“mambolisa” 2011 – 56*76cm – acrylic on paper

“eternal vigilance” 2011 – 56*76cm – acrylic on paper

LF: Who in your life inspires you the most?

MAMBO: hum… hard to tell. My father for sure. He was a writer and diplomat, but talking just the same way with an ambassador or a homeless. Also Jules Édouard Moustic, a writer and comedian who hosts the tv show “Groland” on Canal Plus France. Groland is a satirical show, quite close to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I’ve been working with him for 10 years doing all the artwork for the show and we became great friends. Moustic taught me a lot about being open minded, critical, humble and creative.

LF: Is it the canvas or the emotion that trigger your ideas?

MAMBO: Well, if we talk about my more complex pieces, those I call cognitive paintings, I make them in two major steps. First one is really quick and spontaneous, which I’ll say is motivated by just canvas, colors and lines. then the second one takes several days, that I spend watching it, letting emotions go out, words, souvenirs come to my mind and then adding them to the painting they linger on through my fingers. So, in the end, emotions and the mood of the day trigger my ideas.

“positivity” mural made at agnès b. gallery, paris, 2009

“le sucre” 2010 – 240*350cm – willem speerstra collection

“el gaucho” 2009 – ink on paper – 24*32cm

LF: Has there ever been an emotion/ scene that you’ve felt or sensed that you chose not to recreate with your work? And why?

MAMBO: Not really, there are dark feelings or repetitive nightmares that I’ve been able to fight by painting them. So mostly, every feeling is good to paint. And I still work on being more and more honest about it. The only thing I try to not talk about is my wife and my private life, but i said i “try”!

“my wife’s new pradas” 2010 – ink on paper – 24*32cm

“paintball wizard” 2011 – 130*165cm – acrylic on canvas – izumi watanabe collection

LF: Explain your creative process in 5 words or less:

MAMBO: Swing, touch, flavor, rhythm, light. I’m not sure it makes sense! But I always thought my creative process is quite similar to a choregrapher’s vocabulary. Or a chef.

LF: You’ve collaborated with such incredible creatives from fashion, fine art, street art, and television all over the world – what is one genre of work that you have not yet explored yet would like to?

MAMBO: I’m currently working on cartoon animations as art pieces as well as interactive applications on touch screens. I would also love to collaborate with an architect or in relation with architecture. And also with a movie director, to do a very aesthetic movie. I love “Atame” by Pedro Almodovar – every scene has red and blue in it – the whole movie is like a living painting. This guy is brillant.

untitled –  2011 – 56*76cm – acrylic on paper

untitled –  2011 – 56*76cm – acrylic on paper

LF: What do you enjoy about the art scene in LA? // What brought you to settle in LA for the time being?

MAMBO: I’ve only been here for a short time, not enough to have strong opinions. But my first impression, when you come from Paris, is that galleries and museums have really bigger spaces and very good architectural qualities, which really makes me want to do great shows in this city.

LF: How fast do you live?

MAMBO: It is great to live fast, travel a lot, meet tons of people, but if you only live that way, you won’t learn very much. you also need to take time to watch where you are and listen to who you’re talking with. That’s when it becomes really interesting! I’ve been pretty extreme in the past and now I’ve become more mellow, because I don’t want to miss opportunities to meet great people and see great things.


prints, original drawings, tees and more. worldwide delivery.

Urban Contemporary auction, February 15th, 2:30 pm
lot #189: a rare piece from 2008, alongside with Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader and more

solo show at Watanabe Fine Art Gallery and Festart Fair. April 9th to 21st
live painting at the gallery on April 9th.

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