Suby One is a Franco-Vietnamese graffiti artist based in Ho Chi Minh City. Suby One is a lover of graffiti and all aspects of urban culture. After a childhood growing up in France, he opened a gallery to promote this art in the country of his origins.
Suby One started writing and painting in Paris when he was 13 years old; at 15, Suby One moved from painting the surface of Paris to the underground … subways. For him, graffiti has many perks, adrenaline, a group effect, and a feeling of unity and belonging. Agile with both letters and characters, after some time, his style developed, and he kept offering his art to everyone in the street. “The street art is from the streets, it belongs to no one, or it belongs to everyone”.
Now well settled in Vietnam, he is the ambassador of graffiti and urban art in the country and truly believes Asia will become the next epicenter of contemporary art. He opened his gallery, “Giant Step Gallery” and from graffiti, Suby One follows his path by crossing the borders of contemporary art with abstract pieces, which he exhibited in museums.
Taking inspiration from the graffiti movement emerging in the USA, Suby One was influenced by Mode 2, born in the USA, but who moved to France later on.
He considered Mode 2 ahead of his time because of his characters, compositions, and murals.
I define myself first of all as a graffiti artist. I discovered graffiti when I was 12 years old and I’ve been practicing this art for more than 20 years. It also made me discover art in general.
As an artist I am rather eclectic, I never confine myself to one medium, I like to learn, to discover.
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. P. Picasso: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it”.
I paint, I sculpt, I also do installations. I don’t have a specific style, I’m always evolving.
What is your story? What are the reasons that pushed you to paint?
I am the child of immigrants, my parents fled the Vietnam war and found France as a host country. We landed in the Paris suburbs, in Vitry sur Seine.
In Vitry, I discovered Hip Hop and graffiti, media of the urban culture which first developed in the United States. I turned to graffiti, it’s what represented me best.
I’ve always drawn. My father was an artist, but because of the weight of tradition and the war, he gave up. Even today I am unable to draw realistic portraits as he did.
I used to follow the big kids in my neighbourhood during their nightly tagging parties, where I learned quickly, I had a facility. I joined the Crew, then I tagged the city, then very quickly graffitied the Parisian metro. I must have done a hundred trains and subways in Paris and its region.
The adrenaline, the adventure, the risk, it was the best drug.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by everything, wherever my eyes land, my gaze is lost. I mix, I get inspired and I regurgitate it all in my own way. It’s a medley of my experience, my roots, my desires.
What is your favourite “playground”?
My playground today is no longer illegal. So I’ve learned to paint slowly, to take my time.
I like to make walls where I live.
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It all starts with a good pencil and paper. Then, of course, the spray paint. And nowadays I can paint with oils as well as sculpt artoys (editor’s note: small figurines generally representing the world of graffiti).
What is the most important project you have worked on? Why do you ask?
I would say my first exhibition, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of my crews.
I’ve always painted, even canvases. But I never kept them, I gave them to friends.
At this exhibition, I presented my Abstract Graffiti work and my sculptures for the first time.
The reception was not great, nobody understood what this graffiti artist was doing.
But I got good feedback from art insiders, which pushed me to continue.
Who were the main artists that inspired you in the beginning?
My older brothers. Then names like Mode2, Bando, Skeme.
Who are the main artists that make you vibrate today?
The artists that thrill me today are more contemporary artists like Richter, Paul Kremer. And the old painters like Carravagio, and also the American colorfield school.
In your opinion, does urban art have an impact on people’s lives?
I often say that Urban art is the last great art movement, but because it is not academic, it is not yet considered as a full art.
But it is an art, which provokes, which disturbs, which generates emotions, which changes the urban landscape.
You don’t need to be an expert to love this free art, which can be seen on every street corner. You don’t need a school to practice it either.
Do you think your work questions society? In what way?
I don’t have the answer, but my work expresses my vision, my existence in this urban environment, my position in society. It’s very personal, I don’t have a universal message, except that of a painter who leaves his mark, the trace of his passage on earth.
The Drip’in concept is to bring urban art into the home. Our emblematic object is a white train, which we leave freely in the hands of artists. Why did you choose to collaborate on this “Cover It Project”?
The train is my first love, so it was easy, like a reunion.
The challenge is also to show our art on a train. When I was younger, the goal was to have, to see your painting on a moving train, rolling over Paris.
Having a piece of art painted like this train at home is like having the train at the station.