Shoe interview


By Anissa |  Published on Sunday, April 26, 2015.

"Shoe's art harnesses the poetic tension between control and chaos in the most beautiful way" Shepard Fairey. Here's the FatCap interview of Shoe one of our favourite artist.

FC :  Can you tell me who is Niels Shoe Meulman ?

Shoe : Niels is the name my parents gave me when I was born in Amsterdam in 1967. Meulman is my grandmother's name, and Shoe is the name that I gave myself in 1979 when I started tagging the school's toilets.

FC :  How was your beginnings in graffiti ? Can you tell me more about the CTK crew "Crime Time Kings" ?

S : Amsterdam had a graffiti scene long before anyone knew what was going on in New York. Then we started hearing of big colorful letters, spray painted on subways. Images of this were scarce and this left a lot of room for imagination. Around the same time, some New York artists made the transition to the art world and were coming to Amsterdam to exhibit. I hung out with many of them : Dondi, Rammellzee, Futura, Quik. The scene started to get international, and not only transatlantic pacts were made, also within Europe I met some highly interesting characters ; Bando and Mode2. When The Chrome Angelz (London) and the United Street Artists (Amsterdam) joined the Crime Time Kings (Paris) we set out to 'convert' all of Europe from silly scribbling to all out bombing.

Black Book page

Emirc Emit Sgnik, Shoe & Angel. Spraypaint, enamel marker on canvas (1988)

 Shoe sketch (1984)

Delta and Shoe

Shoe at the jam " Le Jour J" (Saint-Denis - 2009)

Mural in San Francisco

FC : Your style is called "calligraffiti". May you explain it ?

S : I coined this phrase in 2007 when I was visiting Eric Haze in Brooklyn. We both had been working in graphic design and advertising and were looking for ways to create without any client's involvement. We decided to get a truck load of art supplies and give it a go in his studio. The passion I had for calligraphy back in the 80's came back with a vengeance and at that moment Calligraffiti was born.

FC :  How do you work your composition ? Do you have a special way to create ? Are these freestyles ?

S : A chess player has to think ahead but a grand master moves on intuition. I'm starting to feel that my experience is incorporated in my intuition. Like a baseball player throwing a ball ; you must never aim. Be loose, carefree and just throw !

FC : Do you have any others activities aside the graffiti ?

S : Graffiti is the art of getting up. I'll do a mural now and then but I rarely go out to bomb. I'm focusing on the art world now. Not only as an artist but also as a gallerist. My partner (in everything) Adele Renault and I run Unruly Gallery. Together with Job Sanders we host monthly exhibitions in Amsterdam. Many international and local artists have exhibited at Unruly. Check out the Facebook page or UnrulyGallery website.

 "High Pressure Shoe" (Amsterdam Noord - 2013) © Adele Renault

FC : What do you think about graffiti and street art ?

S : If you're a kid growing up and you feel the urge to create something visual, it's only natural that you go out and do something in the streets. Today, around 90% of all young artists have roots in the asphalt. The different techniques and subjects make the different movements within street art; spray paint, stencils, knitting, postering...

FC : Is there an artist you admire the work ?

S : Yes, there is an artist I admire the work. His name is Andy Warhol. Or Mick Jones. Or Marshall McLuhan. Or Rene Magritte. Or William Shakespeare. Or Liang Kai. Or Malcolm McLaren. Or Jim Jarmush. Or Robert Motherwell. Or Albert Einstein. Or all the nameless monks that were writing scriptures in the Dark Ages.

FC :  Ok. And what are your inspirations ? It seems like you mixes many styles, arabic, gothic...

S : From 2007 until 2010 I've been experimenting with different brushes, different papers, different inks. And what I found is that arabic, latin and oriental styles are different, mostly because of these things. The way a human writes is quite universal. Just like a cat jumps on a table the same way across the globe. Of course, the different ways of writing are part of a specific culture and took centuries to evolve, so I chose the one closest to me. I strongly identify with the medieval monks. Not at all in a religious way though, I think those monks -traveling around Europe, painting their golden letters- were the graffiti writers of their time.

"Safety Yellow Shoe" (Oakland, California - 2012) © Adele Renault

"Bird Shit Shoe" (Amsterdam - 2013) © Adele Renault

 "Unfollow", acrylic on linen, ± 145 x 95 cm (2013)

FC : Have you always wanted to become an artist ?

S : When I was younger I wanted to design typefaces. But when I realised how much work that entailed, I became a calligrapher. And when I realised how much work that entailed, I became a painter. Now I realise that abstract painting is the hardest work of all. I am a painter who uses the skills of type design, lettering and calligraphy.

FC : With this lettering work what do you want to express ?

S : Words are images, Writing is painting. Everything has an opposite, even 'everything' itself. It is 'neverything'.

FC :  What are your tastes in books ? If you were a writer, who would you be ?

S : I hardly ever read books. For me, letters are images and this makes reading a slow process. I got no patience for it. I get most of my knowledge from television and via Facebook. But that's not uncommon these days. My last two books (Calligraffiti and Painter) are the type of books that I like; mostly visuals that are open for interpretation with factual information.

"Unarchy" , acrylic on linen, ± 160 x 110 cm (2013)

 "Unalphabetized", acrylic and pigments on linen, ± 120 x 100 cm, (2013)

FC : What do you consider your greatest achievement ? 

S : My greatest achievement is being who I want to be.

FC : What is your final goal ? 

S : To go to Mars in about 20 years, then stay there until we find a way to get back to Earth and then die at age 200.

FC : Ha ha, thank you very much Shoe. Many thanks also to Adele Renault.

If you are in San Francisco this summer, don't miss Shoe's exhibition in July :

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