The work of French artist Franck Noto aka Zest (Montpellier, 1980) has taken a substantial turn since its inception, more than 25 years ago, when he started painting graffiti on the streets of his hometown. Graffiti understood not as a form of vandalism, but as a design-oriented expression and a self-discharge in its purest sense. He went from years experimenting on the street as a graffiti writer to developing a figurative mural and studio work where female characters appeared integrated with abstract and geometric shapes that little by little, and with the evolution of his style, came to dominate his compositions entirely until reaching pure abstraction, maintaining the aesthetic codes that have linked him with graffiti from early years. It was only recently, in 2016, that this turn in style became effective, with a first completely abstract mural on a stone cube. Since then the blue color, that he previously avoided, has become the protagonist of a work in which he investigates and experiments with the movement and energies he finds in different disciplines through the use of basic shapes and primary colors. Franck Noto has a special light and energy, a simplicity and a vital rhythm that makes him unique and that he manages to transfer to his work through the brush and the roller.
Your first memory painting… It was in the building of the gym at my school where I did my first graffiti. I used to live very close and every day I will pass by and look at it. That first day I did it I knew I was going to continue with it for a long time.
The last thing you painted in the street… It’s been a while now since the last thing I did illegally in the streets. I used to love to do graffiti but my motivation wasn’t to be a vandal, it was more design oriented for me. In fact, if we talk about a wall the last one I did was in Madrid last February for Urvanity Art 2020.
Street or studio work? Nothing to do, it’s so different. The studio for me is small and medium format where you have to concentrate to give the essential and the street is something more trashy, it has a different demarche.
Your color… Now it’s blue, but during the more than 20 years I’ve been doing graffiti I never used it, I hated it. I got to love it by mixing some other colors by the sides and all of a sudden I love blue!
A daily routine… Oh well I have two kids… that’s my daily routine! Apart from that I spend the whole day at the studio. It’s my safe place, where I feel good… it’s not only work for me. And then is when I take care of my children and family. I sometimes go biking to open up my head. I really have a very simple life.
Who would you like to do a collab with? With Soulages. A Contemporary French artist that paints all in black.
An artist you admire… I’m not a great fan of any person in general, I’m very critical and at the same time there’s a lot of people I like to just choose one. If we talk about graffiti I will say Futura 2000.
A less know artist with great projection… There’s a young generation of artists with a lot to say and a very good energy. Back in the day I remember when Aryz was 20 years old he came with this crazy style of graffiti and he brought something we didn’t know yet.
The work you’ve enjoyed doing the most? I remember a special project I did in the Montpellier University. It was a lot more minimalistic than usual. It was about highlighting the architecture of the space with blue, yellow… in a very simple way. I liked it because it’s as more integrated with the architecture, like the project I did in Zaragoza for Asalto, it was a passage. I love working on in architectural spaces more than on walls, playing with volumes…
And the work you feel the proudest of? The next one. Always the next one. It’s always hard to look back and I’m almost never satisfied.
A turning point in your career? I used to do figurative art, and all of these characters started becoming more and more abstract still with the graffiti codes. And little by little it ended up disappearing in my paintings. That was when I moved to abstract art. The first time I did it was a fresco on a stone square, this was in 2016.
Who was your mentor? I didn’t have one. I’m very critical, even on my work. It’s hard for me to be a fan of anyone. Not even singers!
Describe your work in three words… Energy, color and movement.
And your personality? It’s better to get to know the artist than the person. I’m very simple and have a simple life.
A city where to paint… A place I really loved out of all of the trips I made for work was Argentina.
A special spot for you… My studio, no doubt.
What do you hate? So many things (laughs)!! I don’t like people’s bullshit, there are so many things that I just don’t get. Just like racism, now that this topic is everywhere. I don’t get it why we have to treat each other like if we were different.
The last book you read… I’m like a child, I just look at images. The last one I read was one for my daughter, ‘Petit Ours Brun’. That’s it!
The last movie you’ve seen… I can’t even remember, I’m really bad with my memory but I always fall asleep.
Same same with series? Even worse! Because they are normally so slow!
What music inspires you? If it was for me I wouldn’t work with any music but I work with somebody that always plays something. I love the calm.
A Museum or Art Center… The Fabre Museum in Montpellier. It has a beautiful collection of Soulages, the painter I mentioned before. We achieved to do a project with them introducing graffiti in a traditional space.
A mural… I’m going back to Aryz. It has nothing to do with my style but I appreciate so much his work.
A bar where to find you… I don’t drink at all! So you will find me by the beach. I take my bike and ride to the beach and have a coffee.
What do you fear? To lose my inspiration.
Any fixation or obsession? I need to paint every single day! I need to come to my studio every day, and even if I don’t paint I just come to think.
Alone or in company? I always have a lot of people around me but I get to be inside my head with myself. I don’t even mind if there’s people surrounding me, I can paint like that anyways.
How do you waste your time? When I wake up to late! I hate to do that because I feel I lost the day.
A goal… More than a goal is to keep enjoying what I do. I try to find the balance in being comfortable with what I do. To achieve that I need to be comfortable with one self.
What are you working on right now? I’m working on an exhibition in Switzerland, in Montpellier and in Holland. These three will be collective exhibition. In November I have a big Solo exhibition in Paris at Le Feuvre & Roze gallery. I’m very focused on this right now.
Your ideal future life… If my future stays the way I am now, then it would be perfect. Always with an evolution, you know? My work it doesn’t have to stay where I am now. In what direction? I don’t know. If everything keeps on track as it is now that means I will have succeeded.
Your life mantra… I think a lot about the energies. If your energy is good you will send and attract good energy. If it’s bad… you should start off by being good with yourself.