EpS, who is also an avid surfer and skydiver, was born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. He started drawing at a very young age. Using only pen, paper and markers, he began drawing sketches and gradually building up and mastering the outpouring of talent he now has today. After moving to Lebanon and studying science at school, EpS faced the choice of going into the traditional career path of engineering, or the more unorthodox field of graphic design. True to his artistic nature, he chose the latter.
EpS started out tagging the streets of Beirut in 2009. With the help of other graffiti artists, he completed his first mural later that year and he never stopped painting ever since.
Actively refraining from using political or religious messages in his works, EpS chose to follow the “traditional” graffiti path of painting names on to walls with his crew “ACK”. However, the “Power to the People” was the first mural to carry a socio-political connotation, and EpS credited the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop as his inspiration, describing the notion of “taking back the power” as a social concern that has become unavoidable.“When asked to sum up my life in a nutshell, I would call it a declared war on mainstream boredom. I imagine the world as a giant playground where the city walls are a blank canvas, a virgin page waiting to be written on. We are born to inevitably die someday. Some of us long to leave a trace out there, a mark, something for future generations to build on. For me this mark is in the form of a splatter of color, a signature, a message or an intricate piece. Let the walls speak what’s on our minds.I might not be able to change the world but at least I can make it better looking.” – EpS
Hi Eps, how is it going? Tell us a little bit about yourself: What got you interested in art?
Hello I am doing fine thank you J how are you yourself?
My name is EpS. I am a Lebanese Graffiti/street artist based in Beirut. I am also a surfer and a skydiver.
My passion for drawing and painting goes way back to my youngest age and today I am lucky enough to have evolved to a point where I can actually live out of this passion of mine.
Growing up in Ivory Coast, I have developed an interest in drawing faces and body parts, well mainly people. I remember how I used to watch people around me be. I used to focus on their facial expressions, how they talked and moved. It was only as a teenager that I first discovered what graffiti is and it was through magazines, as simple as that. But there was something so powerful to it that I instantly knew that that is what I wanted to do. I was so intrigued by this kind of art that I wanted to learn all about it. However, back in Africa, I never got the chance to learn the ways of graffiti. It was only back in 2010, in Beirut, that I really started painting in the streets.
Have you taken any art classes?
Surprisingly enough, I had started with a scientific path back in university. Actually, it was just what I thought would be best for me. But I used to register in all of the optional art classes. It did not feel right to me though, and this is when I finally decided to change paths and opted for a major in graphic design, as it was the surest topic that could get me closer to my dream.
Can you remember one of the first things you drew/sculpted/painted/photographed etc.? What makes it memorable?
Unfortunately no I do not remember, not really. I just remember that, as a kid, I would always ask for coloring crayons and pencils and that it would get me going for hours. Good times! Funny enough, friends of my parents used to call me “Picasso”.
What are you trying to express through your drawings?
I am not sure that I have a straight answer to this question, what goes around in my head when I am drawing cannot be summed up in one line. But what I can tell you is that I like having people reacting strongly to my work. I aim at provoking emotions and strong feelings to the art that I am offering. I guess that society by itself is what I try to portray the most through my drawings; nothing related to politics or religion, just the social way of existing and the pleasure I take in “giving”.
Where do you get your influences from?
Today, what inspire me the most are people around me, books that I read, movies that I watch and without a doubt my life experiences.
The work of other artists surely does also inspire me.
I understand that you are also an avid surfer. Do you identify as an artist or a surfer? And why?
Well, these are my two absolute passions and to me one cannot be without the other one. They sort of give me a sense of balance as to who I am. To me, they go hand in hand as I strongly believe that surfing has a kind of an artistic way to it. You can express yourself using your body while moving along with the water, drawing figures through the ocean.
Identifying myself as both a surfer and an artist requires from me to be able to go beyond my own limits and overcome the toughest challenges.
What’s your take on the street art scene in Beirut? Are graffiti artists supported and respected? Is Graffiti illegal like it is in some cities around the world?
The street art scene in Beirut is still a beautiful baby that is learning its ABC’s. It is still quite young but it is surely growing fast and becoming more interesting.
It’s a real privilege for me to be part of the graffiti community in our region. It is also a responsibility because we are tracing the road for newcomers. As artists, we try as much as we can to be supportive with each other.
Luckily in Lebanon it is relatively easy to paint in the streets. As long as you are choosing the spot wisely, you will not be bothered at all and you might even get people coming up to you to thank you for putting colors in the streets.
That being said, we have all had our shares of encounters with the police while repainting artworks that the law enforcement wouldn’t see as convenient.
What are your thoughts on the way social media is influencing the art world?
I think that social media worldwide is promoting well the art world. There is nothing wrong with having social media supporting graffiti, on the contrary, it helps us artists become more accessible to the world and it helps us connect with each other. One main concern would be that social media might not be portraying graffiti as the peculiar art that it actually is. And what I mean by that, is that graffiti is much more expressive and timeless than what it can be portrayed as online.
I have noticed your monkey pieces scattered all over the city (Beirut). Could you tell us why a monkey and what is the message behind it, if any?
Well, metaphorically speaking, the monkey as an animal and as a habitant of nature would be what is closest to us “human beings”. We live in a world where everything is evolving at such a fast pace, that we sometimes forget where we come from and why we are doing all this. Let us say “Caesar” is here to remind us.
Also, my monkey head is kind of my signature as it is graphically enclosing the letters of EpS.
E: for the crown.
P: for the head shape.
S: for the right ear.
I want to pick your brain with my next question: while some claim the physical danger of working outdoors makes women reluctant to participate. In your opinion, is it hard for women to compete is the street art world that is somehow dominated by men?
Graffiti is definitely hard work and physically exhausting, regardless of the gender of the artist. But nowadays, women are fitter and tough enough to handle such tasks J. Concerning the claims about the physical danger of working outdoors, I do not think that graffiti puts one gender more at risk of any danger or hazard than the other. Also, talent and passion are not gender related nor is art. I do not think that it is about being able to compete in the street art world, it is more about having the guts to put your work out there.
Is there any women in the street art community in Beirut?
Unfortunately not really, or not that you could compare to “one of the boys.”
Well, we have had many foreign women graffiti artists here in Beirut. However, no Lebanese woman has settled yet in the street art community. I sure hope that this will change! It would be interesting to see a woman’s way in graffiti. So if a woman feels strongly about graffiti I think that she would surely find her place among the graffiti artists’ community and become one of the boys J.
What’s next for you? What shows or projects do you have planned?
Well what is certain is that I am always aiming at improving my work, staying sharp while having fun and enjoying it. Local projects in homes, gyms and restaurants are my main bulk of work. But I will never stop painting in the streets, that is the fun part of it all.
I have got some potential work coming up abroad but I cannot really confirm anything yet.
Where else can we find you? (blog, website, twitter, facebook, etc.)
Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
I will give them the same advice that I repeat to myself daily which is to stay positive and keep on working hard no matter what obstacle stands in the way. If it is your passion then you will make it. I believe that there is always more room to grow as an artist and to improve your work.
Thank you EpS. We wish you the best of your future endeavors. Please keep us posted.