The Wall Artist, Thierry Noir.
By Joshua Holland, 1990
In the months following the opening of the Berlin Wall, just about every political, beaurocrat, and citizen who has been directly affected by this historic act has been interviewed about their thoughts of and feelings on November 9th 1989 and in the months that have followed.
But the multitude of journalists that have invaded Berlin have not interviewed Thierry Noir who has been affected more personally by the removal of the Wall than most. Thierry Noir is a "Mauer Künstler" or "Wall Artist".
Along with fellow Frenchman Christophe Bouchet, Thierry has adorned the Wall with brightly colored murals since April 1984. Their giant, violent brush strokes depict harsh faces, mingling lovers and startling abstract renditions of such familiar sights as the Statue of Liberty in July 1986 at Checkpoint Charlie.
His work was regarded as a highly artistic political statement by tourist and West Berliners, and as vandalism by the East German Security Police. His inspirations were originally both political and personal.
Thierry Noir left France for Berlin in January 1982 because he wanted to "get the hell out of Lyons". He was attracted to Berlin's reputation as the "pop" city of Europe. "I said to myself, why is David Bowie and Iggy Pop and everyone going to Berlin? They sure weren't going to Lyons. So i came over to find out by myself".
Thierry's flat, the same one in which he lived at the time, is within meters of the wall. The primary motivation for his work was his offense at seeing the Wall in such close proximity. "It was right there, every day. I got so sick of looking at the ugly thing and knowing what it symbolized". His artistic style is completely self-inspired.
"It's really action-art. It's been like, you go in, and you have to paint quickly. You have to be ready to run. These guys, the East German Police, aren't joking. You have to paint only with one eye, the other looks after the guards. They jump over the Wall and they're carrying Kalishnikovs (assault rifles). The West German Police can help but there's diplomatic problems involved. And if one of these guys gets crazy and shoot you, I mean they can say they're sorry and it was a mistake, but you're dead"
Thierry Noir and Christophe Bouchet have been fortunate in that they have never been fortunate in that they nearly never had any substantial trouble with the East Germans as a result of their work. Christophe was arrested on the train in Friedrichstrasse, in November 1984 while traveling to Malmö, Sweden, after the east- police discovered postcards of the two men working on the Wall. Christophe Bouchet was held for several hours and than released.
Now, Thierry is quite philosophical about the end of the wall. He knows that a large part of his work will end up being displayed by galleries, some ending up even in private collections. Thierry is not sure what he will done to the future, but he is not worried. "I'll find something else to paint, there is a lot of thing to do, so much ugly walls all around the world."