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Didier Chamizo 'Rebel Soul' at D'Stassi Art

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Date: 
Saturday, 29 June 2024
Opening: 
Friday, 7 June 2024 - 7:00pm

D’Stassi Art Presents Didier Chamizo: Rebel Soul.

D'Stassi Art is thrilled to announce the first ever UK solo exhibition of iconic French painter Didier Chamizo, titled Rebel Soul. Didier Chamizo’s UK Debut show will be revealed with an opening night on 7th June, with a rare appearance by Chamizo.  

Opening on 7th June 2024 at D’Stassi Art in London’s Shoreditch, the exhibition showcases 19 vivid figurative portraits and a custom Harley Davidson hand-painted by Chamizo. Inspired by lettrism, a unique alternative to graffiti and tag art, Chamizo is renowned for creating lettric abstraction-figuration, a style marked by raw, untamed expression and deep emotional truths. 

To be an artist with expression is one thing, but to be an artist with a story is another. Chamizo is an artist in the most authentic sense, his art informing his life and life informing his art. His life is a life lived to the fullest. However, Chamizo is more than a living example of the trope of a suffering artist: his art was born out of experiences that most people wouldn’t live through in a lifetime, but he channelled these experiences into visceral narratives that jump out of the canvas.  As the saying goes, 'You never know what you know until you do what you've never been told.' This sentiment sets an artist on a path to iconism. Chamizo epitomizes the blend of art and lived experience. His work is an emblem of his turbulent journey, filled with political activism, personal tragedy, and relentless creativity.

Born into poverty in Cahors, France, on 15th October 1951, Chamizo's early life was marked by stark contradictions and intense transformations. His is a tale of extraordinary, often near-death experiences that could rival a three-season Netflix docuseries or form the plot of a Martin Scorsese film. Full of intrigue, pain, suspense, joy, and triumph, Chamizo's tale is as gripping as it is inspiring. Ultimately he channelled his angst, pain, activism, incarceration and protest into a completely unique artistic practice which germinated in prison, and led to recognition as an extraordinary and authentic artist whose work is collected and coveted by art world insiders including Alain Dominique Perrin of the Cartier Foundation, French singer-songwriter Hugues Aufray, French rapper and actor Didier Morville (better known by his stage name JoeyStarr), actress Marisa Berenson, French singer-songwriter Renaud, and Taittinger President Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger.

Didier Chamizo: “I am thrilled to announce my debut exhibition at D'Stassi Gallery, a milestone in my journey as an artist. This opportunity has been made possible through a serendipitous encounter with Alex Kolster, founder of Henrik Alexander, whose instant connection and shared vision led us to this moment. Despite a tumultuous life marked by near-death experiences, brushes with crime, and time spent in prison, I've been fortunate to pursue my dreams freely. Yet, showcasing my work in the UK feels like one of those special bucket list moments I never dared to expect. As a lifelong fan of British rock 'n' roll, from The Rolling Stones and The Clash to The Beatles, this feels like a full-circle moment for me. I am immensely grateful to Alex Kolster and the guys from D’Stassi Galerie, Ed Sanders and Mike Howes for their passion and dedication in organising this show. Their youth, ambition, and enthusiasm are truly inspiring, and I cannot wait to share my art with the people of the United Kingdom.”

The Rebel's Journey:

Chamizo left school at 13 to become a locksmith apprentice and pursued his passion for art through evening classes. His involvement in the May 1968 protests in France catapulted him into a life defined by rebellion and defiance. He participated in demonstrations against nuclear power, the Vietnam War, and advocated for women's liberation. Chamizo's activism led him to the arms trade and eventual imprisonment, where he spent time channelling his existential angst and very real experiences into his art and went on to sell out art exhibitions from his prison cell. His talent caught the discerning eye of Perrin, Founder and President of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Change was in the air for Chamizo, taking a turn toward recognition and redemption. Eventually, he was pardoned by François Mitterrand, the President of France during this period.

Despite facing numerous challenges, including multiple imprisonments and a severe motorcycle accident in 1982 that resulted in serious injury, Chamizo's art continued to flourish. His vivid figurative portraits critique the human condition, reflecting the gritty textures of his past. He gained international acclaim, going on to exhibit alongside luminaries like Jeff Koons, Arman, Niki de Saint-Phalle, César, Combas, the Di Rosa brothers, Kenny Scharf, Birk Dietman, Erro, and Antonio Segui. With sold-out shows under his belt, he solidified his status as one of the most influential French artists of his time.

Chamizo's art, shaped by his chaotic yet resilient life, challenges societal norms and explores a wide range of themes from consumerism to social and political issues, his legacy continues to inspire, raising profound questions about redemption, personal transformation, and the role of art in societal healing. His art is not just a visual experience but a thought-provoking journey that invites the audience to delve deeper into the complexities of the human experience.

Despite his acclaim, Chamizo has always shunned the public spotlight. Interviews are rare, and public appearances are even rarer. His reclusiveness has only added to his mystique, fueling speculation about the man behind the masterpieces. Some say his reclusiveness reflects a deep-seated discomfort with the art world's commercialism and self-serving nature; others believe it is a deliberate choice to let his work speak for itself, free from biases and preconceptions. His close relationship with Alex Kolster, the owner of Henrik Alexander management agency, led to Rebel Soul coming together; their close connection also prompted Chamizo to step out for the London exhibition.

Didier Chamizo: Rebel Soul will be a rare opportunity to experience the raw talent of one of the most intriguing, unexpected and collectable artists to come out of France in recent history. The exhibition at D’STASSI Art has been made possible through an introduction by Didier’s agent Henrik Alexander. 

Alain-Dominique Perrin (Founder & President of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art) says: “Didier belongs to a category of artists who have a very strong and humourist look on society and the world of today. Sometimes he's very sarcastic, even stronger, and that to me is his main interest. Technically he's very gifted with hands, paint, brush or pencil. He can show anybody he has seen or met very fast, he's really very good. Now, to conclude, if you don't go to the exhibition, go to hell, okay!” 

Ed Sanders & Michael Howes, Founders of D’Stassi Art comment: "Every once in a while, things seem to line up extraordinarily; having known Alex Kolster (Didier's friend and manager) for most of my life, for him to bring Didier and his utterly incredible story to our attention couldn't be more perfect. 

Michael and I started working in art to primarily act as storytellers through our passion for particular artists and their fascinating life stories. Didier is no exception. His artwork is awe-inspiring, political, thought-provoking, and still cool and fun. I consider it a privilege to host his UK debut and to have the man himself over to the UK to experience how D'Stassi Art put on a show."

ENDS

Artist ( Description ): 

Didier Chamizo's journey, born in Cahors (Lot) in 1951 and regarded as one of the pioneers of street art, underscores the transformative power of access to culture during incarceration.

Chamizo spent a total of 17 years in prison during the 1970s and 1980s for his involvement in bank robberies and arms trafficking. Despite his imprisonment, he continued to paint, having already gained recognition as an artist after attending evening classes at the School of Fine Arts in Saint-Etienne. His artwork, created behind bars, garnered acclaim from both the public and renowned artists, including Gérard Garouste and Alain-Dominique Perrin, President of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. While incarcerated, Chamizo dedicated himself to promoting art: he served as editor-in-chief of a prison magazine, established a painting workshop, created a 30-meter mural, and engaged with fellow inmates.

Released in 1991 but partially banned from certain territories, he was eventually pardoned by President François Mitterrand. Since his release, Chamizo has pursued an international career, exhibiting alongside notable artists such as Matta, Combas, César, Arman, Nikki de Saint-Phalle, Tinguely, and Jeff Koons. He continues to hold exhibitions in various French cities, including his hometown, and is involved in humanitarian and educational initiatives focusing on issues like AIDS, human rights, and projects in Africa and Indonesia.

Chamizo also speaks at conferences on the prison system, participating in debates organized by the Ministry of Justice and engaging directly with inmates to share his experiences and insights.

Venue ( Address ): 

D’Stassi Art, 12-18 Hoxton Street (Entrance on Drysdale St), London N1 6NG.

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