With simple, stark lines made with minimal materials, Soemone hides private and cathartic messages to himself within abandoned spaces, writing the key to his work into the architecture of those environments. The French artist’s calligraphic stylings are a strong challenge to what’s often considered the standard for “good” graffiti or street art. Brightly colored, multi-story pieces may be the stuff of mural festivals and glossy magazines, but Soemone’s slender black linework makes a memorable mark with much less.
Soemone used to try and keep up with "classic" graffiti, but a few years ago realized it had gotten to a point that no longer interested him and was too expensive, so he took a break and reanalyzed his work. "I decided to go back to the beginning and found some new letters and I played with it on paper for about a year," he tells The Creators Project. He stuck with the idea of tagging, and played with solid linework and typography, ending up on something similar to calligraphy. When he went back out to paint his new style, he experimented in abandoned buildings, and everything came together. "I was totally unaware that ‘calligraffiti’ was even a thing. I discovered a few months later that there was a whole community of guys doing this kind of stuff."
While his letters have developed similar traits to calligraphy, his inspiration actually comes from a different place. Ancient Sumerian script, with its thin triangular grooves etched into stone, is a major influence. Other areas of interest include Cholo and pixaçao style tagging. "I don’t come from these cultures," he says, "but there's a kind of beauty that speaks to me deeply." Cholo style was an Old English-inspired movement that grew out of Mexican-American gang culture in Los Angeles, while pixo tags are a mix of Runic and heavy metal letters repurposed by favela youth in São Paulo.
At first, he just worked on the new style, finding decent places on walls to write on. But after some time, the spaces themselves became important elements in his work. Ivy, brickwork, and rays of natural light all work towards the final composition, which he captures with a deft photographic hand; his grandfather shot professionally, and his father did so in his spare time.
The search for the perfect space is a hunt for Soemone. After filling up all the available walls in his local town, he began researching spots online and traveling as far as Belgium.
Even though his first language is French, Soemone’s letters are also in English, and while their shape is of central importance to him, he's writing deeply personal messages to himself. Each letter has its own balance and grace that situates itself within the larger body of text. "The writing is a good therapy," the artist says. "Some people write at home in a secret book, but I decided to put my fears on a wall. But I have no desire to be readable."
See more of Soemone's work on Instagram.
Follow Mike Steyels on Twitter: @iswayski