Meeting Kashink

Internationally committed street artist, Kashink disrupts aesthetic codes and pushes us to question social norms. His colorful works are a true ode to diversity. Artistik Rezo takes us to meet him.

Why the mustache?

It’s been 6 years that I wear it every day, all day, in all circumstances. Every morning I make up, do my hair, get dressed, then draw this mustache. It is part of my daily ritual. I had already been wearing it for two or three years before, but only for events, live performances, live painting, openings or moments when I was in an “artist” role, and then I realized that in terms of identity I really found myself through this type of makeup and in this way of presenting myself to the world, which is really the opposite of what one would expect from a woman. The mustache does not emphasize femininity, on the contrary, since we are pushed to remove it, to bleach it, to be ashamed of it as if it was not natural when it is.

Finally it’s very easy to turn the codes (traditional two symmetrical features on a face, eyebrows or eyeliner) the other way around. It satisfies me enormously to put this grain of sand in the gear by questioning all these standards. What is femininity? It is difficult to define in fact, and when we start to define it we often speak about seduction, about being sexy, attractive, as if femininity could only be defined on a notion of seduction and improved image of ourselves. It is my role as an artist to question social norms. To offer a personal and sometimes dissonant vision of the world, that’s art.

You question the feminine gender, but also the masculine, since in your frescoes your characters are neither men nor women, you upset all the codes. Do you defend the human being in general?

I defend a certain form of intersectionality. I could make paintings of strong women like we see a lot, and I asked myself this question a lot when I started painting. I had these questions about the representation of a female body and face with “feminine” attributes: long eyelashes, small nose, big mouth, long hair etc… when not all women have long eyelashes and a big mouth. It’s another way of formatting an image of femininity. I did not want to stick to this idea.

It is difficult to break the aesthetic codes, we are so full of sexualization of the female body in all its pictorial representations. So I preferred to stay only on portraits of faces to try to deconstruct all these codes of representation of femininity by proposing something personal that is beyond binarity but also of cultural origin. My characters are neither defined by a precise cultural origin, nor gendered, nor limited in their aesthetic. It’s really important for me to have a hyper broad and hyper inclusive approach. I don’t want my art to be reserved for a certain category of people.

© Isa Agert

Your office is the street, we hear everywhere that women must be careful when they walk alone, that it is not a place for them, how did you manage to impose yourself and evolve in this urban and masculine environment?

It took me a while to realize the impact of my decision to paint outside. I really wanted to disobey, it was the first thing that gave me energy. I wanted to give myself the right to do things that normally I wasn’t allowed to do. I didn’t want to be in the norm, in the mold, I didn’t want to stay in my place. When women see that I spent several hours/days in the street painting, they tell me that by seeing my art, they realize that yes, it is possible, we too have our place here. I find this very strong and it gives me a lot of strength because it means that what I do is understood, whether you like or not what I do in terms of style.

What is important is also the fact that I go against what is expected of me as a woman in this society, in which, as we all know, if you hang out in the street, you can be a potential victim of violence or harassment. We all know this, it is a given, an undeniable fact. It’s not something that we are taught, it’s something that we already live unconsciously, and that we transmit to ourselves in an unconscious way. We are in the process of putting words on what we live and that is super powerful. To speak is to take back one’s place, and it is a fundamental force.

What do you think of exhibitions exclusively for women?

That’s a real question. I’ve been involved in all-female events. For example, one of the first exhibitions I participated in that was a milestone in my artistic career was in Miami in 2013, I thought it was really cool, I met women who were more famous than me, who had marked their time in relation to graffiti, like Martha Cooper who was the graffiti photographer in the 70s in New York, or other painters like Lady Pink, I was really proud. Then little by little I asked myself if it was worth staying in this kind of framework that can be restrictive, there is a bit of a minority side when we are clearly not a minority, on the contrary.

The last projects of this kind that were proposed to me, I declined, for me it would make more sense to be half and half, or to mark the occasion, an exhibition in which there would be a minority of men, why not?

At the moment we can hear about “white feminism” and “afro feminism”, you who try to mix all the cultures and to abolish the barriers, what do you think of this dissociation ?

I think we have to remember that as white women we have certain privileges. You can have a total approach to feminism, but you still have to keep in mind that things can overlap and if you don’t know what it feels like, you can’t speak up for racialized people.

I’m all for inclusion, totally, I think it’s in the collective strength that we’ll get to change things in a big way. But I understand that black women want to talk to each other, it doesn’t shock me at all, there are things that you can only understand when you are a black woman. You really have to keep a total openness and tell yourself that as a white woman, you have privileges. Access to certain things is much easier when you’re white, but the intersection is essential, it’s in working together that we can make things go deeper. Supporting each other is super important.

Interview by Emma Mercier