The Parisian-turned-Angeleno’s very graphic, raw form of art draws from street art, graffiti, photography, fashion and the female form. He counts Alexander McQueen and John Paul Gautier among the fashion icons that inspire him, alongside designer Philippe Starck and artists like Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Salvador Dalí. And one of the era’s most major fashion/beauty idols has already taken notice: Kylie Jenner commissioned a large lilac butterfly piece from PunkMeTender for her recent Kylie Cosmetics x Stormi launch.
Love, beauty, sensuality and desire are major themes that PunkMeTender explores in his work, alongside a broader theme of unity. “There’s an aspect of beauty in everything I do, as seeing and appreciating beauty brings people together,” he says. He works based on instinct, never following specific rules. But there is one constant: Like the butterfly that has become his signature, the artist strives to create a transformative experience for anyone who comes into contact with his work.
Spin art is one of the major techniques the artist employs in the work displayed in A Battle Won. “The technique I use is itself a transformation: I lay down colors over white butterflies, and watch them transform,” the artist says. “The same way a butterfly is born, and how it transforms itself from a chrysalis—my whole body of work is based on that.” PunkMeTender is also known for his use of original photography, bold colors and high-gloss embellishments like glittery Swarovski crystals, diamond dust and glossy acrylic coatings that push his work right over the top.
PunkMeTender is also known for the air of mystery he maintains. He never uses his name or shows his face, and for interviews and openings, he’s even been known to use a model as his stand-in. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The artist’s response has been to start to visually identify himself, notably with glimpses of himself at work in his Hollywood studio via his Instagram account, @punkmetender. His reason? The heightened importance of human connections, now that we’re all practicing social distancing. “Before, everybody was out and I was hiding myself inside, now that everybody is hiding inside, I’m showing up,” he says. “People need to connect with a person. The artwork itself is not enough. So I had to let go of my anonymity. I want to do bigger things, and I can’t hide anymore.”
This pandemic is also a time when millions of people are under lockdown, rarely leaving their homes, and discovering the limits of their new normal. It’s an issue that has deeply resonated with PunkMeTender. “Art has no rules, no censor—it’s one of the last freedoms we have,” he says. “Artists need to keep making art to remind people of what freedom looks like. I think that’s the real role of any artist.”
- Shaun Thompson