ArtBlitz LA had the opportunity to talk with New York street artists and painter John One about his work and collaboration with Perrier for their new limited edition bottles.
How did you get involved with Perrier?
Perrier has worked closely with artists for the past 150 years, including Colette, Carlu, Villemot, Dali, Savignac and Warhol. They approached me as one of three international artists to collaborate on the brand’s new limited-edition “Inspired by Street Art” collection. I was born and raised in New York City, but have lived in Paris for several decades. For this latest project, Perrier was seeking an artist like me who shares the brand’s daring and contemporary spirit and also its French heritage.
What was it like working on the project?
Amazing. Totally amazing. It was an honor to work with such a prestigious brand like Perrier, particularly one with such a long history of working with artists. It was a great collaboration. They had done an Andy Warhol bottle a year before. From Andy Warhol to street art, it was very courageous for Perrier, but at the same time, very logical. Perrier is a company and a brand that’s international, and street art is an international art form. Looking at the artists who participated in this collection, from Brazil and Japan, and myself from France and the U.S., it made sense because this art touches a lot of people. So, it was very interesting as far as a project.
Do you approach a collaborative project like this differently than one you might do on your own?
Yes, of course I approach it differently. First of all, I am working for a company that has a long history to take into account. The brand has its own identity, just as I have my own identity as an artist. For this project, I worked to make the bottle itself look good and to make it something that people are attracted to at the same time. Working on a collaborative project can be very difficult, but the Perrier team’s enthusiasm and respect for this art form made it a great partnership.
How long have you been painting murals, how did you get started?
I didn’t start by painting murals. I started by painting trains illegally. I started in NYC in the 1980s. Interestingly enough, I just had a big conversation with my mother last night about the whole train thing and the whole illegality of painting trains. My mother was very against the fact that I was painting trains because she saw it as something illegal. I was trying to explain to my mother the importance of what I was doing and the necessity to look beyond what is legal or illegal, just focusing on painting to spread the message. I wanted to let people see what I was doing. Trains are a moving gallery and so it made sense. From trains, I started to paint murals. From murals, I started to paint on canvas. So my work has always been an evolution which has been going on for 35 years.
What/who inspires you to create art?
I think that it’s the need to create. It’s the need to be seen. I think I have a natural talent for painting. Life inspires me and my necessity to paint.
Have you had any interaction with any of the other artists involved in the project?
Yes. I was really really happy when Sasu was picked to do this project because I had known her artwork for a long time before. I used to go to Japan years back and spend time there. Sasu was an artist that caught my eye and I always enjoyed what she was doing because it was so different and at the same time breathed the spirit of Asia, and that’s something that inspired me. Sasu has always been an inspiration for me as far as being an artist is concerned. Kobra is an artist that I am starting to discover and this project has opened me up to his big murals. He’s from a younger generation than myself but he is very very talented and I’m very proud to be sharing this project with him.
Do you think art has to be exclusive to galleries and museum? How does taking your art outside of traditional setting affect your work?
Well, I see doing artwork outside of the traditional setting as being some sort of challenge for me and a way of me learning and a way of me expanding my art work. So, for me, it doesn’t cause any issues or problems. I’ve always seen my work as being something that has evolved. Let’s suppose I was still painting trains, I wouldn’t have been able to paint as long and have the career I have today, if I wasn’t open to other possibilities and other feedback. One of my ideas was always to take it to the next level. From doing all my mural work and train work, the obvious next level for me was painting for museums and painting in galleries. I wanted to have a different type of exchange with the public and have a different audience. For me, it holds no problem. I don’t see it as something exclusive but just think that art should be everywhere. Art has to be something universal. It’s a beautiful medium to transport. Whether it’s in galleries or on the streets, the minute your message is being told, it’s a great thing.
Where do you like to see art?
I just came back from Canada from the Perrier project and was fascinated by all of the murals they have in Montreal and Toronto – it’s like an open street museum. I was walking for hours on the streets of Canada looking at all of these talented artists. This art form (street art) has evolved in such a way that people are taking it to the next level. The streets are an interesting place to see art because you’re not enclosed in a space and it’s something that can be inspiring and motivational, especially if you are in a certain city. In Florida, in the Wynwood section there is a whole district full of street art. I think that has changed the district completely and it has made it into a lively energetic district. It’s very interesting to visit because it has its own identity. But, of course, I am also a very traditional guy and I say, ‘Hey, you have to go to the museums, museums, museums.”
All images courtesy of Perrier.