Interview with Lord Hao

Due to a language barrier (Hao speaks broken English and I don't speak any French), wrote out a list of questions that a friend of Hao's interpreted into French. His friend then interpreted Hao's answers into English. I have made the best possible effort to clean up the English, but some things would be best left to Hao's own words. In an ideal situation, I'd get to ask him to clarify his phrasing, but it didn't go down that way.

SA: How long have you made stencils?

LH: I started to paint with stencils in 1985.

SA: How did you get into stenciling? Any influences?

LH: In the beginning, I was crazy about Punk/Hardcore music, and I wanted T-shirts from bands like Sick of It All, Raw Deal, Negative Approach, and Cro-Mags. In France, it was impossible to find them, so I started to spray band logo stencils onto T-shirts. During this time, I saw a lot of stencils on the streets, and they really influenced me to realize mine.

Influences: Music, movies, my life...

SA: What is the significance of the name you use (Lord Hao)?

LH: Hao is my real name. Lord is a joke. Don't think that I'm egocentric!! I never sign Lord Hao on my paintings, only Hao. Hao means bravery in Cambodian, blue in Japanese, and it‚'s the name of a small island in the South Pacific.

SA: Do you do other types of art?

LH: Yes, I do collages. At the present time, I'm also trying to paint with oils and acrylics.

SA: Do you do street stenciling? If yes, what are the risks in Paris? How do Parisians view street art and public stencils? Any tips or good stories? How do Parisian stencilers view other parts of the international scene?

LH: Oh, yes man! In fact, I spend more time painting on the streets of Paris than in the galleries or my home! I started to paint on the streets in the mid 90s. When I started stenciling in 1985, I customized T-shirts, records, and found boards, but I didn't consider them artistic works. Then, in the mid 90s, I decided to have an 'artistic way'.

Like everywhere, the risks of painting on the streets are high. Recently, the law against graffiti/stencil art is harder than ever. We are judged like criminals. Furthermore, the media always shows street activists or graffiti artists as vandals, violent people. So, a lot of Parisians don't really like graffiti/stencil art or post-graffiti stuff.

One time, while painting on the street, a guy and his wife caught me. After a violent fight, they took off my pullover and my jacket!! I was stripped to the waist in winter!! Bad 'souvenir'! Nowadays, times are tough, I do a lot of collage on the streets.

The majority of Parisian stencilers aren't really interested in other parts of the international scene. To tell the truth, when you talk with them about Logan Hicks, Dave Kinsey, or Shepard Fairey, they ask you: 'Who are they?'!! They are really narrow-minded and are only interested in French stencil art and French/Paris stencil artists. I can't discuss graffiti (frescos, tags, throw ups, etc.) with them. It's strange: the French graffiti artists know the names of the French stencil artists, but the stencil artists don't know their [graffiti artist's] names. I don't really spend time with them. I have more connections with graffiti artists than the stencilers. I can only say that I respect Blek, Misstic, Poch, and Sline.

SA: Paris has a long history of stencil art. Any thoughts as to why? Do you have any stories about Parisian stenciling before you got into it? What is the scene like now?

LH: I don't really know the reason why Paris has a long history of stencil art, but I think the reason comes from names such as Blek, Misstic, Le Bateleur, and Speedy Graphito. They were the first stencilers who gained worldwide recognition. I think their artworks on the streets opened the way to a generation.

Oh, yes man, I heard a lot of stories about Parisian stenciling. But, It's private, sorry! (ah ah !).
The Parisian stencil scene is bigger than ever now!! It's great, but as I told you above, they're too close with only stencil art.

SA: How do you choose the subject matter for your stencils?

LH: The subject matter for my stencils always follows my artistic way which consists of representing underground pictures as unknown artists, rebels, exotic stuff, Tiki, and hot rods. I’m not interested in representing mainstream shit like Marylin Monroe, Franck Sinatra, Coca-Cola cans, etc.

The artists who inspire me are Ed 'big Daddy' Roth (RIP), Robert Williams, Mark Ryden, Coop, The Pizz ('The Lord of Lowbrow Art'), and Edgar Leeteg (RIP).

At the present time, I'm starting to work on the hot rods stuff.

SA: What are the materials that you use: paper or plastic cut outs, knives, brand of paint, and material to paint on?

LH: My materials: I cut my stencil with a scalpel. Sometimes, like the old days, I take my cutter! I use hard cardboard paper to cut out. I never buy cardboard paper from my life, I pick them up from the shops for free (publicity cardboards). The same thing with the material to paint on; I collect wood/plastic boards, records, TV, and canvas from the streets. People throw everything away!! I like to give a soul to these objects. Kustom Kulture! Brands of paint: Krylon is the best, but it’s too expansive nowadays. I use Montana, True Colorz.

SA: What is your process for cutting a stencil? Do you freehand the images or do you use the computer to set up the art? (exact steps are always helpful for beginners)

LH: Yes, I freehand the images. I don't use a computer.

My process for cutting a stencil: I would like to explain but my English is too bad!!

SA: What was the most difficult image you painted? Have you ever messed up an image?

LH: Every image I paint is a challenge. Yes, of course, I messed up a lot of stuff in the beginning. But now, it's OK.

SA: What advice would you give to beginning stencilers?

LH: I'm sorry, I don't consider myself as an artist or a master. I couldn’t give any advice. I have a lot of stuff to learn too, because I’m always a beginner. I can only say 'keep the faith and be patient'!

SA: Do you have an agenda or manifesto? Maybe just a philosophy that your art embodies?

LH: No manifesto!! I’m not a intellectual! (hah hah!)

I just want to share and show my art with people, and say 'art is also on the streets, not only in the galleries. Just open your eyes'.

SA: What shows or projects have you recently been in? Any advice for curators or producers who are interested in setting up a stencil show?

LH: On September 2003, I was in a big underground stencil show in Paris with Blek, Misstic, Mosko, Sline, Poch, P4, Open your Eyes, Laszlo, and Iwan Le Terrible.

Advice for curators or producers: stay underground, keep the faith in your art, and don't sign agreements with the enemies of graffiti (Police, Town Council) who send our brothers in jail.

SA: How do you view the stencil art medium's social impact? Any thoughts on the international community that has found itself online?

LH: The stencil/graffiti art medium's social impact is an alternative to advertising, legal art, and the art sellers. Stencil/graffiti art shows our liberty and our existence. In a society that considers us a 'number', our art is also a way to fight against the system.

The Internet is a great thing for graffiti/stencil [artists] or other stuff. We can see that we are not alone in our art.

SA: Any hobbies or methods of relaxation outside of your art? Do you have any dreams or visions you'd like to share?

LH: Hobbies: Music: without music I die! (R'n'R, blues, Soul, Ska/Early Reggae, old Jazz, Exotic music.)
Movies (old ones like Tod Browning, Lon Chaney, and Hammer stuff, etc.)
Inspecting the prohibited places (Catacombs, old deserted factories, etc.)

Keep the faith in your art, and don't betray it for fame!
Graffiti is not crime!