Talking with  ZABOU

by Stephanie Williamson ( Twitter: @artschoolzine @art_babe

Cover portrait by Ignacio Irisarre (
Cover portrait by Ignacio Irisarre (

Zabou is feisty female graffiti artist hailing from France, who has been creating captivating portraits, often with satirical and witty themes around London since 2012. Her work playfully toys with certain stereotypes on big, beautiful murals, which can be spotted around coveted spray paint hotspots across the city including; Brick Lane, Camden Lock and Dalston. Zabou relocated to London for her studies and soon began to fall deeply in love with the rich culture and appreciation for street art the city had to offer. Zabou's work is incredibly illustrative; she mainly creates portraits in alluring monochromatic black and white. Juxtaposing these darker tones with flashes of colour on smaller details throughout her murals, adding a contemporary edge to her work. Her technique involves a blend of stencil and freehand, as well as incorporating drips and slashes into her murals. Her work is artistic, whimsical and vibrant. Recently, to my delight I got to admire one of my favourite murals 'The Twins of Brick Lane' while shopping for summer essentials around Brick Lane. In this mural we see two female graffiti artists, shown wearing protective masks with their heads bowed and hands together in prayer, portrayed as two blessed Madonna's of the graffiti world! True to Zabou's effective style the black and white portraits pop against a multi coloured background, which is also somewhat reminiscent of religious art seen on stained glass in churches. We got the chance to catch up with Zabou in between her busy schedule to get her opinions on the graffiti scene in London and talk more about her arresting street art.

how you got involved in street art, what drew you to graffiti?

 I jumped into street art about three years ago after moving to the UK for my studies, I was very impressed by the quality and quantity of London's scene. I had been painting and drawing since very little so I thought I would give it a try. I first used to go to legal walls to train at spray painting and learn the basics. Then I got myself into stencilling.

You moved from France to London for university. Please tell us more about your experience at art school?

Before my Master's Degree at the University of Arts London I did a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts in France. Although you don't need to go to art school to be an artist, it was a real bonus: to experience different techniques, develop creativity, learn about history of art. I feel lucky to have been able to study something I am so passionate about.

What has you experience been as a female street artist? Do you find solidarity with other female street artists?

It's been a blast. Female artists are totally accepted on the scene (it would be frankly messed up to do otherwise!) and receive a lot of support and promotion from everyone. There is no need for solidarity, and I enjoy being in the company of male and female artists regardless.

Tell us more about your favourite street art in London, and why you think the scene in the UK is currently so vibrant?

I don't know if I have a favourite, but I follow the work of many London based artists. I think the scene is vibrant because there is a variety of very active street and graffiti artists, a variety of places to paint, a general acceptance and a growing popularity of the movement.

Please talk to us about the concepts and ideas behind your graffiti?

Sometimes I create work that plays with the environment and I use it as a real medium. Sometimes I play with funny or cheeky contrasting themes, or with the absurd, alongside beauty. It kind of depends on the project, the environment, my inspiration. If you look at my work right now you'll see a range of themes and concepts, and even varied aesthetics. I like the variety of it and the freedom: I'm not stuck creating one type of work only, I can always adapt, change and surprise.

Tell us more about your graffiti practice, and your preferred use of stencil and freehand.

I use a mix of stencil and free-hand technique. With the stencil work, I create sharp black outlines that contrast with soft shades created with free-hand. I'm happy with the balance I have found but who knows how my technique might evolve in the future.

Some of your work addresses the current political situation and be quite satirical at times. Can you elaborate more on the views behind this work?

I do like to send strong messages from time to time, especially about political and social issues. Art can be a powerful tool, especially public art. When something is not right, it's good to speak out. It won't change the world, but it might inspire people.

What artists (any genre) inspire you to create? Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

A lot do actually! I love music; it gives me so much energy. Collaborations just happen when meeting other artists, let's see what the future holds!

Tell us more about your participation in Chrom's TRIBE exhibition?

I'll be part of the Tribe exhibition alongside five other artists, to be seen in September. We will be taking over a big space in Bermondsey and also doing live art.

What else does 2015 have in store for you creatively and otherwise?

2015 is a really exciting year. I'm going bigger: I have some tall buildings in Portugal and Lisbon on the agenda. A lot of trips and a few exhibitions in Paris and London.

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