Clara Basoni is a visual artist and poet, specialising in collages which are dedicated to all things punk, released under the name Raw Cuts. Inspired by a lifetime of punk music and attitude, Clara has paid homage to her passion with a series of collages – ‘Fury Noise Angry Voices’, ‘DigiHell’ and more recently the stand-alone piece ‘God Is A Woman’. Based in Paris, Clara is an advocate of freedom of expression, non-conformity and diversity; and has taken the time to chat to The Punk Lounge to discuss her work, inspirations and the importance in shaping your own individuality and living life to your own rules.
Your work seems to incorporate nature, life, death, culture and poetry, all whilst paying homage to all things punk. How would you yourself describe your work to someone new?
My collages are explosions of colour that reflect punk music’s inner explosion of sounds. Since I started my collages in 2013 my intention has always been to transfer visually the emotions perceived whilst listening to music. Colour and sound are interrelated and shape our emotions.
In the first series of collages – ‘Fury Noise Angry Voices‘ – I illustrated 40 Songs to celebrate the 40 years of Punk. The colours I used for my collages are those from the original vinyl record covers. Cover designs have always played a determinant role to satisfy our curiosity, guiding us when choosing a record and listening to its music. They are fascinating. We open the doors of a dark back-to-black fetal world exclusively made of A & B-sides. Design has such a sex appeal that it determines the music we adopt or reject by principle.
A very subversive and immersive kind of agit-prop; art is definitely the best propaganda! I have collected and cut thousands of images from all sorts of magazines, flyers and newspapers. I then transform them into dismantled raw pieces to stick them together in a totally different order and background, until I fall asleep on the kitchen table in a chaotic mess of press articles, altered images and paranoid visions. School scissors, white almondish perfumed glue with out-loud music and late nights! Noise in the surrounding silence.
I used very bright colours for ‘Fury Noise Angry Voices‘ to make it raw, crude and to break classical graphic codes and proportions. The series is a tribute to surrealism, punk revolutionary design and graphism; created using a mix of cheap, recycled DIY and avant-garde technologies and materials such as fluo pink & yellow new paint colours. The basics are still black, white and primary colours; blue, red, yellow. I added text and cut letters to reflect the lyrics or title songs in steno type letters such as in fanzines.
For ‘Digi-Hell‘, the second series of collages, I illustrated the new album of the band Little Bohemia. Their songs are pretty eclectic musically, reflecting the wide scope of rock heritage from the 60’s to The Fall, but with an identity of their own. In a very fruitful partnership with Duncan Pope (songwriter and lyricist) I launched a series of 10 collages that illustrate the song lyrics and explore both personal feelings/emotions and external situations or ideas and concepts.
‘Digi-Hell‘ covers nature, life, death, culture and poetry as you earlier mentioned but also events we witness every single day in global politics and economics, impacting us directly emotionally and socially with an obsessive questioning; how to manage to keep sane in an insane fucked-up world?
This series is darker by essence. I’ve chosen a palette of deeper colours with amplified red and blues that have been iconic since the Middle Ages and used in early and primitive advertising and propaganda. Dark greens also echo Devon’s hardcore and mysterious atmosphere.
I would describe my work to someone new as a visual extension and expression of punk’s disruptive and destructured sounds as to illustrate all of its vital force. I consider cut-outs as the best way to express the creative destruction process; to cut, destroy and recreate a new order from scratch or from ground zero.
Every collage is a journey. I know where I want to go but not which path I will go through to reach my ultimate destination. I am guided by the lyrics, musical vibrations and their emotional printing on my skin like invisible tattoos.
Tell us your story. How did you get started?
As you can guess I am passionate about punk rock music, having been so since my teenage years. I began creating my collages three decades later in 2013 as to initially illustrate my poetry but quickly realised that I had to do and say something about the music that radically changed my life for the best. Collages are for me the best medium to illustrate the songs I love whilst questioning our society, creating an inter-generational dialogue and opening minds on what punk heritage is all about.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from the punk scene by going to gigs and festivals mainly in the UK, and also by meeting graphists in France who have been very much influenced by the events of 1968 and the artistic movement. It was while driving back home from Blackpool to Paris in 2015 just after Rebellion Festival that I decided to launch my new project “Fury Noise Angry Voices” to celebrate the Roaring Forties of Punk.
I started Raw Cuts in late summer. In October 2015 I shared my work-in-progress with Spizzenergi and he then introduced me to Martin Stacey from the band Chelsea. Martin was organising his annual Punk’N’Roll Art Show in London at the time with The Bermondsey Joyriders. I received an extraordinary support and emulation from them and I will always be thankful for that. I worked hard each night after work to achieve this series on time and had the immense honour to present my art work in 2016 for the first time ever at Blackpool Rebellion Punk Art. I had to learn everything from art logistics to whatever!
Today, I am currently working on a new & third project related to Street Punk, Ska, Skinhead Culture & SHARP (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) movement for 2019.
What is your works meaning to you? Is it an expression of your own rebellion?
My artwork combines poetry and collages directly influenced by sub-cultures, punk music, underground scenes and the events of May ’68 in France and the artistic legacy of that time. It reflects my Punk Commitment.
How does punk life and attitude help us to remain vigilant with regard to mental and mass manipulation from the media, propaganda, the imposed standardised “normality”, and new technologies? How does punk music and art help us to feel connected to our own humanity and our need to question ourselves and everything in such a fast-changing environment?
If we consider that our society profits from our self-doubt then liking ourselves and expressing ourselves becomes a rebellious act. In that context my art can be considered as an expression of my own rebellion as “joie de vivre”.
Through my artwork I want to visually express the inner vision of punk to push our own limits via self-questioning and driving all of our energy to think and act as individuals. To share an engaged perception of our society across generations, respecting our respective tempos – the past, present and future. I also want to promote punk and art engagement everywhere and anytime, making it a never-ending cultural and musical experience.
My project is by essence anti-totalitarian as it denounces the language uniformity, the think labs and processing, the ruling by fear, the shock doctrine effects on masses and all kinds of mind-control and experimentation. My collages illustrate lyrics that all refer to either political events, economic impacts on social and civil movements, and/or the sexual revolution – raising voices from minorities and alternative communities since the late 60’s.
The place of women and mothers is also central in my work, as well as the working-class heroes and anti-heroes. It analyses intergenerational conflicts to show how each generation tries to find out its own paths to answer its current challenges, needs & dreams to reinvent a world disrupted by new cycles, new technologies and ideologies – finding the resources and inspiration to fight for our rights. This is why for me punk is not dead and will never die.
Do you draw inspiration from other artists, whether this be visual or musical artists/bands?
Yes I do. Sound and vision mainly from the 60’s to the late 80’s.
You will find in my collages a lot of memorabilia with emblematic objects, places and figures of these golden years, embedding cult lyrics or keywords that shaped our generation and beyond.
A lot of artists whether this be visual or musical from The X-Generation have recycled the late 50’s/60’s heritage, including: the French New Wave in literature and cinema; existentialism; the American Beat Generation as against Vietnam War; and the consumer society, but roots are deeper from the 20’s-30’s including Soviet Graphism.
The Ex-Generation is a huge inspiration for me. The No-Sex but Sex Generation resonates even more in 2018:
- 2018 is the 100th Anniversary of First World War & the rise of Anarchy as an answer to a never-ending mass-killing mascarade.
- This year is also the 50th Anniversary of May 68 Events in France which was a period of civil unrest punctuated by demonstrations and massive general strikes as well as the occupation of universities and factories all across the country. The protests spurred a very deep musical and artistic movement with imaginative graffiti, posters and slogans that were against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism, traditional institutions/values/order and colonialism. Youth raised its voice after 2 World Wars, dramatic events in Indochina (1946-54) and in Algeria (1954-62) which provoked absolute disarray, forgetfulness and revolt in later generations. Surprisingly (or not), there is NO much celebration of this movement today in France that still irritates the Conservatives.
Punk culture has always explored in its music and attitude the full scope of anarchy; the fall of ideologies, nihilism, sexism, sex and violence, injustice and death, with a certain touch of trash romanticism.
Punks for me are exemplar. So far away from these clichés and lieux communs about drunk punks, vicious muppets and untalented bored teenagers. No – punks with nearly no means have always been very creative and demanding with themselves, very open to all and everything. Curiosity. Appetite for life. Punk energy, determination and consistency are unique and admirable. Punks are elegant, dandies on the pavement but fighters. They question. They play the fools but are their own kings. Purely magnificent. Brave hearts.
We have sadly lost too many giants over these last years such as Lou Reed, David Bowie, Lemmy, and also Vi Subversa from Poison Girls. My work is a tribute to all of them but I have a very special admiration for Iggy Pop & The Stooges with their vital energy in a pure jazz and rock spirit – absolute proto-punk gem.
Punk community is still nowadays very much involved in denouncing dramatic events such as the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis, the state and mafia violence, the killing of our fundamentals. Punk music, culture and the crowd are fighting daily against programmed and manufactured hate and wars, the killing of our working-class culture under the Conservatives in the UK and also under other ultra-conservative governments elsewhere in the world.
Punk has always pointed out ideological distortions, this is why it has been forbidden at odd times and places. Punks demonstrate. Punks know how to disconnect from the ordinary propaganda. Punks refuse to be shot by both sides anyhow and keep their eyes wide open.
I dedicate all my work to all working-class heroes who have given their blood, sweat and tears for our rights, and to my Punk heroes, family and friends, but also to today’s kids as an act of permanent Resistance.
Does the current French political climate and French punk scene have a place in your work?
Not directly at the moment despite a very strong punk and alternative movement from 1979 to 1989 that influenced me, artists such as: Trust; Bérurier Noir; La Souris Déglinguée (LSD); Parabellum; Asphalt Jungle; Gazoline; Métal Urbain; Stinky Toys; Les Garçons Bouchers; Les Wampas; Ludwig von 889; Les Sales Majestés; and Reich Orgasm.
In March 2018, I went to the Montpellier London Calling Festival in Southern France, where Punk and Oi are still vivid. I saw Komintern Sect there and I had the great pleasure to see them perform – alive and kicking – with my crowd and friends. For once in France, the minority of the punk rock family became the majority. Safety in numbers.
I also just saw Pigalle in Paris – late April. It was rejuvenating, amazingly politically engaged against the new Government. Musically very rich; mixing punk and ska in the purest French tradition of impertinence. François Hadji-Lazaro as a vocalist and talented instrumentalist was full of passion, vivaciousness and cheerful banter – giving voice to the down and outs, those we call precisely in French “les sans-voix” who are the most vulnerable voiceless members of our society. The Sounds of the Suburbs. Our Suburbs.
I think there is a fantastic opportunity today to use the current explosive situation in France to create and inspire the new generations. The French rap scene has embraced this opportunity and in a way it is the spiritual son of the French Punk scene that was very virulent back in the day.
My work though is much more deeply influenced by French punk graphism that derives from the May ’68 artistic movement and is shaped by the French Punk graphism, cinema, fanzines and free radio movement.
Punk in France has been particularly active against the rise of the National Front, denouncing our social crisis such as poverty, unemployment, police and state violence that is even more accurate today in a context of student and worker’s strikes.
I associate the Punk wave to risk taking, the fight for freedom and social justice. Individual empowerment against state control as it fully mirrors our society.
French fanzines – such as Bazooka published in Libération newspaper that was read secretly – and graphism have played a huge role in my generation counter-culture mixing comic strips, science-fiction, film noir, dystopia and poetry. All my collages reflect this for sure. I can’t escape from it. I grew up with it.
French iconoclast F. J. Ossang is a punk musician (of MKB group), poet and also a cineast who revisits and perfectly masters all codes of the film-noir genre, post-war thrillers and sci-fi flicks. His latest cyberpunk movie “9 Fingers” has an anarchistic style which triumphs. Pure delight!
French comic book creator, comics artist and film director Enki Bilal who began through the ’80’s as a frequent guest in Heavy Metal Magazine has graphically inspired my work too. Nikopol trilogy, amongst others – dark and surreal tales from medieval to SF are stunning.
But so far my work has been mainly focused on UK Punk.
Although you live in Paris I understand you have a strong connection to the UK and the punk scene here…
I have a strong connection to the UK & punk scene as I am working with musicians to illustrate their songs.
When I launched #Digi-Hell in partnership with Little Bohemia I’d been living in full-immersion mode. To explore Little Bohemia’s musical background I visited haunted and ‘spooky’ places and buildings that inspired the band. I accompanied lyricist and singer Duncan Pope with musicians Nick Polson, Simon Hill, Jason Dean Polson to their rehearsals, studio recordings @ Plymouth Music Collective and their gigs to support them.
Punk life in Plymouth is great. The weirdos rule! We met up with other bands and people and we all shared the complexity of our modern life and how it resonates both musically and visually. It is all underground and experimental. No perfection. But Raw Fun & Punk Madness. Purely great. The particularity of the Plymouth punk scene is that it is very active, intergenerational and supportive (fundraising events etc). Pubs and small venues are hosting a lot of gigs and for the new generation it’s really ideal.
You’ve been displaying your work at Rebellion’s Punk Art exhibition the past few years under the name ‘Raw Cuts’, Will you be attending this years festival? If so, what can people expect to see from you at 2018’s festival?
Indeed. I will be attending this year again Rebellion Punk Art exhibition.
People can expect to see a mix of original art collages from ‘FuryNoiseAngryVoices’ and ‘Digi-Hell’ and also; gig and exhibition posters, limited edition Raw Cuts art prints, t-shirts, Tote Bags and also unique jewellery.
At Rebellion’s PunkArt exhibition this summer under Raw Cuts you will also be able to find a new (from March 2018) unique collage named “God is a Woman”.
Of course I will also be there for a catch up and to share ideas.
Any advice for young artists? Motto’s? Rules you live by?
Self-confidence and stubbornness are today absolutely vital. My advice for young artists is to be curious. Explore. Fall down. Get up and walk. Don’t be afraid. Be brave and crazy. Your life belongs to you. Dream Big. Make it happen! Be unique. LIVE FOR NOW. Believe in yourself. Reject media, social media alienation and TV shit. Create your own rules and stick to them. Be exemplar. Shape your own identity out of fashion trends and disposable stuff. No excuses. No apologies. No self-pity but solidarity.
A motto I particularly like is “Work for a cause not for applause. Live life to express not to impress” and a rule I live by is to live my life for now and to the full. Joan Jett’s quote vibrates still: “other people will call you a rebel, but I just feel like I’m living my life and doing what I want to do. Sometimes people call that rebellion especially when you’re a woman”.
To make it simple: “DON’T DICTATE”
Clara will be presenting her work at Rebellion Festival 2018 as part of the PunkArt exhibition. Visit her there to see her collages for yourself and have a chat. Alternatively you can follow her work here.