French artist Arthur-Louis Ignoré, better known as Ali, arrived in the city of Rennes eight years ago to begin his art studies. Since then, his public murals and street art have become well known in the city—and beyond.
It was a year into his university studies that Ali made his first “ground painting” (or peinture au sol—the French may have a nicer ring to it), on a street he traversed every day on his way to classes. “What I liked about painting on this spot was the idea of interrupting routines,” he says, “the routines of people on their way to school or to work.”
As his artistic practice evolved and he developed his unique style, Ali drew inspiration from handicraft work, the ornamentation of Persian rugs, Art Nouveau architectural features, and French gardens. In time, he began painting not only on streets and sidewalks but also on rooftops, in abandoned factories, and in public squares.
WORKING FAST AND IMPROVISATIONALLY
Ali’s first works developed in a circular fashion; he describes them as mandalas or kolams. In the early days, he always worked without making sketches or plans, or using tools beyond his painting or drawing implements.
A recent example of Ali’s large-scale work is the more than 11,000-square-foot mural on the roof of the family welfare (CAF) building in Rennes, which he created for that city’s Maintenant festival. “For this project, I first traced out the lines that form the basic structure. Then, as with my smaller works, I filled in the shapes and added motifs and ornamentation, organizing everything in a symmetrical manner.”
FREEDOM TO CREATE
Ali tries to retain a great deal of creative freedom, even in the commissioned work he does. He’s doing a lot more legally sanctioned public art these days, but he says that this does not limit his artistic expression. “Even working on a commission or painting in an authorized space, I still love to paint in ‘an illegal way,’” he says.
A favorite project of Ali’s came to life—briefly—in the summer of 2018: a temporary peinture au sol on a basketball court. Ali explains, “I have long wanted to work on a basketball court surface, using the painted court lines to structure my design.”
That work is no longer visible because it was created with Blanc du Meudon, a form of crushed chalk that disappears with water—“erasing itself” with the first rain. Weather conditions dictated that Ali finish the 4,500-square-foot creation in one day. “I had to work very fast, and it was intense, but I was very happy with the result,” Ali says. “My designs and ornamentations mixed with the court’s painted lines to create something unexpected. I really want to do this again but create something permanent next time.”
Ali’s most challenging project? He says it’s the one he’s working on right now, describing it as “a moving piece consisting of carved wooden wheels”—circles of ornately carved wood that can be reorganized, adapted, and continually reinvented to suit new environments. He explains, “This is one of the first works that I’ve produced in a workshop and that is intended to be displayed indoors. I hope to create a large number of circles, made of ornately carved wood, that can be reorganized and adapted to multiple wall formats and displayed in different places—a moving, portable ‘fresco’ that can be continually reinvented.”
But while he’s investing time in, and learning lots of new techniques from, this project, he’s still doing his beautiful outdoor work—work that is meant to reshape how people think of outdoor urban spaces, to evoke unique memories and feelings in the people who inhabit them. Ali enjoys interacting with people as he works on the street, and then seeing how his work not only acts on others but is acted on by them. He says, happily, “Frequently work that I’ve done on the ground is subsequently colored in by children with chalk crayons.”