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Video: Bowie muralist NOIR gets a Brussels solo show
When Sony Music commissioned Liège painter and muralist NOIR (aka Lucien Gilson) to create a David Bowie mural on the wall of the Galerie de la Toison D’Or mall in Ixelles last January, it unexpectedly became an internet sensation.
"A video of the mural was posted on Bowie’s Facebook page hours before his death, and it got over 2.5 million hits," Gilson recalls. "In Brussels the work swiftly became a memorial, and we gave people permission to write a last message to Bowie on it. It was meant to be a promotional stunt for the release of his new album, Blackstar, but then it became so much more. It was really incredible."
Now the mural, which made the young artist's name, is set to get a second life: last winter Gilson and his brother, who works alongside him, successfully raised enough money via crowdfunding to detach it from the Toison D’Or's wall and ship it back to Liège. "The goal is to restore it, frame it, and sell it, with profits going to a cancer charity in tribute to Bowie."
Paint it black
The Blackstar mural was an apt project for Gilson, who chose the pseudonym NOIR three years ago in reference to his monochrome palette (celebrated Belgian street artist ROA, who also favours black and white, is one of his influences). "I learned to draw in black and white, and immediately took to it. Every time I’d create works in colour I’d find myself naturally reverting to monochrome. Over time I decided to limit my palette to that."
NOIR, whose portfolio spans commissions for Microsoft, private clients and the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce, mixes baroque levels of detail with nods to consumer culture - resulting in something like Pop Art meets Generation 2.0. "In my work I like to integrate many different elements. You can look at one of my pieces and see details left and right that you wouldn’t see at first glance. It’s my take on the surfeit of information you see when you’re out - the ads in the streets, or on television."
After participating in numerous group shows at the family-run Mazel Galerie, which focuses on affordable contemporary art, "Fragments" sees NOIR make his solo début. "Above all it’s a chance for me to bring together all the savoir-faire I’ve acquired in the three years I’ve been exhibiting at the gallery," he says. "During that time I’ve played with various themes and techniques, and the show is basically fragments representing these recent experiments."
Alongside stencils, charcoal drawings and acrylic paintings, the exhibited works showcase skills like aerosol art, and textured, bas relief-style canvasses created with modelling paste.
"There’ll be several surprises, not least splashes of colour in certain works, although it will remain very much in my black and white universe," Gilson adds. "The public will be able to discover the original illustrations I created for the label of [Liège microbrewery] La Curtius’ new beer Black C, and there’ll be Black C tastings at the opening too."
10 February-15 April, Mazel Galerie, Rue Capitaine Crespel 22, Brussels