Blek le Rat
Born 1951 – France
Blek Le Rat (Xavier Prou) is a grand master of street art and considered by many to be the originator of stencil graffiti.
"Every time I think I've painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek Le Rat has done it as well. Only twenty years earlier." Banksy, 2005.
Blek has been adorning the streets of Paris with his hugely original and intelligent artwork since the early eighties, and has been a massive influence on today's graffiti and guerrilla art movements. He started decorating the streets of Paris in 1981 with a rat stencil, hoping to create an invasion of rats in the city. He was inspired to create this stencil after seeing graffiti in New York in the 70's, but he didn't want to copy the American style, he wanted to create a style that suited Paris.
After rats he moved onto life sizes portraits. Blek has now painted on walls all over the world and has influenced generations of street artists. He was a pioneer of stencil graffiti and one of the first artists to use a symbol rather than his name as his tag. Blek Le Rat created his name from a cartoon strip he read as a child 'Blek le Rock'. He changed the 'Le Rock' to 'Le Rat' because his first stencil was a rat and because you can find art in rat.
Blek Le Rat lives in an abandoned 10th Century castle somewhere in France with his wife and teenage son.