The Walls Are Closing In

Graffiti-inspired artist looks to clear his head with “Trapped in Thought”

  • Photo by Pierre Chauvin

Maxime Pigeon wants you to know what it’s like to be clinically depressed, and what it’s like to feel that depression’s absence. Perhaps his seminal art exhibition, “Trapped in Thought,” will help him and his audience better understand each other.

“I’m not a very good talker,” said Pigeon shyly. “I dropped out of high school very young.”

The series of paintings tell his story, filled with examples of how Pigeon had been spending his time for the past few years. The walls acted almost as a mural ode to Pigeon’s budding career; earlier work composed mostly of stylized graffiti tags and graffiti-inspired art into his recent, more ambitious work including a painting of an oversized Louis XIV hovering over a famous museum.

Grand, looping characters and popping, almost psychedelic colour schemes show where Pigeon came from, and his ambitious nod to Renaissance-era imagery shows where he might be going.

“My main influence starting out was mainstream street-art stuff like Sam Flores,” said Pigeon. “The first graf [graffiti] artists I saw were the obvious ones… Sabre, MSK, the guys from New York like T-Kid… the ones that if you go on YouTube and write ‘graffiti,’ they always pop up.”

Graffiti was a way for the introverted young Pigeon to interact socially with the outside world and to develop a reputation as an artist. Several former graffiti artists, like Flores and Mike Giant, have broken through into the mainstream fine arts world – which is both “fascinating and inspiring” to Pigeon.

This contributed to his decision to start publicly tagging buildings and displaying his art when he was a teenager.

“It was also just a really cool, hip thing to do,” said Pigeon frankly. “It’s a good way of socializing without having to say a word, you know what I mean? […] I have something inside of me that I want to get out, but I don’t always have the right words.”
Pigeon’s frustration with his inability to deal with his social surroundings contributed to his decision to drop out of high school at the tender age of 14. He wanted to be noticed, but struggled with school and found himself unable to socialize with his peers in a conventional sense.

“I never passed an exam. I was never good in school; not doing my homework, getting into trouble… later on, I was diagnosed with chronic depression,” said Pigeon. “It was like, ‘Bingo!’”

Pigeon’s paintings featured the recurring imagery of the brains and hearts of his characters being exposed to the viewer. These are meant to depict the physical pangs of depression as described by the artist. The brain is numbed and entrapped in many of his paintings, and the heart is squeezed in a vice in one of the more prominent works on display (fittingly entitled “Depression.”)

“What I want people to take away from my work is to get a glimpse at how fucked up it is to be depressed, because people always get the wrong idea about what depression is; they’re always gonna think, ‘oh, that means that person is sad.’ But it’s not sad, it’s just…”

Nothing?

“Exactly. It’s like a numbness, you know? Literally being trapped in your own thoughts.”

Pigeon’s first show was a success, and his development as an artist certainly looks promising. But still, his most important personal goal is still very humble.

“I would really like to feel better. If I could stop painting about depression, it would mean that I’m over my own depression,” said Pigeon. “And then I would really like to find a subject I can be passionate about and focused on.

“But my main goal is just to keep on painting and to keep on getting better.”

Photo Credit: Pierre Chauvin

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