Roland Garros returns to the skies on Court 18

 - Amandine Reymond and Rhonda Campbell

Street artist Jace produces a mural paying tribute to aviator Roland Garros near the Stadium's newest addition.

Roland-Garros 2018, Jace, street art, graffiti, fresque©Julien Crosnier / FTT

The French Open is named after Roland Garros, a French aviator who died a century ago this year. To pay tribute to the war hero, street artist Jace has been asked to create a mural in front of brand new Court No.18.

When did you start painting graffiti? 

I started when I was 16, in 1989, in a village on Reunion Island, where I’ve lived since I was nine. I took art at high school, and the teacher had a book on graffiti in New York in the 1980s. It was like a revelation. I knew that was what I wanted to do. After that, I never stopped, I’ve always painted, even when I was studying biology.

How did you come up with the gouzous, the characters that feature in your work?

I first painted them in 1992 on Reunion Island. I started out tagging words, like everyone – my name and things. But I felt like that was going nowhere. My tags only mattered for a small group of people. I wanted to paint something more visible, characters I could modify and have fun with.

Was it easy to come up with their name and shape?

Strangely enough, yes! They were kind of a tubby shape right from the start. I think I was inspired by several sources, including comics, which I’ve loved since I was a kid. I used quite a few things from comics, like speech bubbles and onomatopoeia. And their name was invented by a friend from high school. He was from the south-west of France and called everyone gouzous. I thought it was funny and the name worked well. So that’s where the name came from.

What is this mural about?

The goal is to pay tribute to Roland Garros, who died 100 years ago, and celebrate the ties between Reunion Island and Paris. I’ve created a kind of aerial universe, where angels hit balls into clouds. Roland Garros is depicted as an aviator, and distributes balls with a volcano on one side and Parisian monuments on the other.

Roland-Garros 2018, Jace, street art, graffiti, fresque©Julien Crosnier / FTT

What preparations are involved?

Usually, I start by working on the mural’s composition, to make sure it’s right for the wall. I just do a drawing on paper, to save time, before doing the large-scale version. Here, I started out by using a roller to paint a blue background. Then I used spray paint to outline the shapes. It dries quickly, so I should be finished pretty quickly.

What does painting at the French Open mean to you?

When I was young, I watched the tournament on TV, so it’s amazing to be painting here. The French Open is a mythical event, celebrated around the world. It’s a real honour to have been invited here. From a personal perspective, my partner plays tennis so she’s even prouder than I am.

What other projects do you have on?

I’m going to be painting the front of a new multi-cultural centre opening in the 18th arrondissement in Paris. I’m also working on an exhibition scheduled for July in Le Havre, and I manage my own gallery on Reunion Island.

To watch Jace in action as he completes his mural and to check out his work, head over to Court No.18.