Interview with Gijs Vanhee

Graphic artist and street artist Gijs Vanhee, born 1982 graduated in 2006 as product designer. But his passion for drawing choose a different path. Gijs is mostly known because of his big creatures on the streets of Belgium and abroad. Mutations of creatures from a different world with recognizable influences from oceans take over buildings. A lot of his work on the streets is doomed to disappear with the building, but due to the placement and the size, the murals find a place in peoples memory. His recognizable style, a playwork of lines, does not stop on murals. He loves to paint interiors for shops and company’s, make free illustrations and experiments with audiovisual. 

Originating from Mechelen, this young artist has been chosen to be the city’s official artist. His paintings of mutants and crossings between birds and fishes are very successful in his homeland and abroad.


Hi Gijs, today you'll be talking about your recent project 'Urban SketchBook" in Mechelen.

Photos by Marijke Van Biervliet

Can you start by telling MoW why you chose to create artworks inspired by music?

For this project I was painting in a neighborhood with a huge variety of people, lots of different ages and colors around. I thought music is something that brings all kind of people together. Also the graphical abstraction of music (a note) is a very positive symbol. Music also is works very inspiring to me. 

 Would you say there is a specific music that inspired your artworks?

I based myself here on Jazz music. Since I choose to work with birds, which are providing people free music, I especially focused on wind instruments



Do you have a favorite piece between the ones presented today? 

Hard to say. The composition is what makes it works. The walls are all aligned next to each other and therefore forming an orchestra. If I really have to pick one, i would choose the sax player, which is based on a picture of Charlie parker (aka Bird) where Parker is changed by a bluetit, a very common singing bird around here. 




Is there any other specific word you’d like to say about the artworks presented today? 

I called the work free jazz. In free jazz everybody plays their own instrument like they do best. If the listener takes his time he can start hearing a symphony. It is an active listening process. I choose this concept because the walls are based in a social environment. A lot of people just pass by there and do not take time to really get to know this place, quite often this results in prejudice. With these walls I hope to open this dialogue with the passers-by of this neighborhood.

 Do you have plans on creating new artworks inspired by music/musicians ?

No concrete plans for now.. But I love the subject

Can you tell MoW more about your techniques and how long does it takes you to make an artwork?

For these walls I used only Black spray can. It took me about one week for the four walls to complete. 

 Why is music important to you, in your life and in your art? 

Music can suddenly change a whole environment, and therefore has a huge impact on the senses and how to receive the world around you. It helps to relativize bad things, but also it helps sometimes to confirm deeper thoughts or directions in life.

Do you listen to music when you're working? What is the kind of music you would listen to ?

When I am on the walls, I don’t put music, since I need my deepest concentration. I do listen to music before. Mostly Jazz, Blues, Rock, Hiphop… anything actually 

What is the song you liked the most lately? 

Favorite song, I don’t really have, depends so much on the mood, the time, the environment. I can think of "Chicago" from Benny Goodman right now, which gets the autumn mood in a positive way. The clarinet playing robin on the wall is based on Goodman. 

What album ? 

I was really surprised by the last album of the Belgian band Black Box Revelation "Highway Cruiser".

What was the last gig you went to ?

The last gig I’ve went to was from my friend James Gerald Clarke of South Africa, who is currently touring Europe with Stephan Dixon.

Are you a musician ?

Unfortunately not

How would you see yourself as a musician?

I don’t have a clue on what instrument I would like to play, I love guitar and a saxophone.