I ask if there a particular message they wanted to get across, and Pasco shakes her head. "Well, we did do a lot of images of nature at that time because we saw the city becoming more and more concrete, but really we were just having fun". At first they worked almost entirely as a team. Each member had responsibility for one particular colour, enabling them to finish their creations and move on very rapidly. They then created a logo, meaning that team members could then work individually but sign their creations in the name of the group. The styles were similar, but each member was free to choose their own icons. Pasco has always favoured rock stars, whilst others have chosen jazz musicians or famous writers. "One member always created stencils of his girlfriends" smiles Pasco.
Several other well known artists began working in the city at the same time (Blek le Rat, Miss-Tic, Jef L'Aerosol, Epsilon), and the community was a very close one. They described themselves as the 'gang des mains noires' (black hand gang), and it is interesting to note that almost all still continue today. Miss-Tic is the one who has perhaps had the most success, and I ask Pasco what she thinks about her contract with a van hire firm (Miss-Tic has provided a logo and slogan for this company). She does not hesitate in her reply, "I'm very happy for her and I'm glad that she has so much success today. She struggled a lot, but she has always been someone who has helped others when she can, and she always helped us a lot".
She also wanted to offer something that other people could collect. The disc is decorated and stencilled then placed on a wall in a place which is tricky to access. “They are designed to be seen – and taken!” she tells me. Each one is signed and numbered and constitutes a unique work of art. This gives her street art a certain value, she feels, and also means that it lives on when it is removed from its initial environment, something that is very rare in this world. Posters get torn and damaged, but vinyl is sufficiently solid to resist when people pull it down from the wall. The decision to place them in difficult positions was deliberate, because Pasco believes that when people take them it is shows that they really wanted them.
She has created and displayed around 400 so far. She shows me her book where each of her creations has been carefully noted, and explains that she is careful not to make too many of each personality. “I’ve done 10 Preverts now” she tells me, “so there’ll be no more of him”. Her chosen icons are not just faces from the past though. She has recently produced stencils of Pete Doherty, Matt Bellamy from Muse and Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, with the latter being an interesting case. "We went to Glasgow this summer to place some of our art and I went to a Franz Ferdinand concert. After the show I was able to give him one of the discs with his picture on, and he seemed very happy with it". It is refreshing to meet someone who has not only retained the energy to create, but also the passion of a teenage rock fan!
As someone who has been involved with the Paris street art scene for nearly 25 years, I'm curious to know what she thinks about the scene in the city today. When I suggest that it seems to me as if there are more street artists than ever working in Paris today she rapidly agrees. "It's a real explosion" she says. "I think it's wonderful" she continues, "there is so much variety today, and there are really no limits to what can be done. I think people have been downtrodden for a long time now, and they really want to express themselves again".
What about Nice-Art -what is the future for them? "Oh we still have plenty of projects" says Pasco. "We're going to be involved in some gallery shows, and we're going to travel a bit more and spread our art, but what we really want to do is start bombing again". I wonder if the collective will grow again, and whether there is a new generation ready to take up the reins. Ariane Pasco smiles. It seems that there is another member of the family who has shown creative skills and who appears to be hearing the call of the city walls...
Note: Thanks to Ariane for agreeing to meet me and for letting me use some of the photos from her website. If you want to know about her work and that of the Nice-Art collective, visit http://www.nice-art.net/.
If you are interested in Street Art and would like to visit some of the key areas in Paris, download my Street Art walking tour.