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Olivia Paroldi: The Urban Artist Transforming Cannes

Picture of Jade Cuttle
Updated: 25 June 2018
The pop-up street-art of Olivia Paroldi, a Cannes-based artist, takes the ancestral technique of engraving on off-piste adventures. She crafts urban prints that shake up classic assumptions about art, whilst also reflecting on contemporary issues such as exile and immigration.

Olivia’s artistic style reinterprets ancestral artistic techniques through a contemporary prism. She uses the urban space of Cannes as her canvas, often to reflect on current events. There’s also a rustic charm as pictures are plastered across the cracked and cobble-stone walls of this ancient city. They’re a beautiful sight to stumble across down one of the winding backstreets.

Aiming to conquer new urban territories with her unique craft, Olivia shakes up the classic assumption that engraving as an artistic technique is reserved for ancient relics. It doesn’t have to just be showcased in museums, she believes. Her pop-ups claim back the city walls, lurk behind doors and drainpipes, and sometimes even window shutters. She makes the appreciation of this artform accessible to all.

Each artwork resonates with the surroundings with heart-wrenching significance, drawing inspiration from the troubled political landscape of today. Currently, she is working on several projects that explore the notion of exile and being uprooted from one’s home.

“The artwork that best represents my work, and that is the most important for me, is the big octopus that I engraved a year ago,” she says. “It symbolises the Mediterranean sea and what happened near us in the French Riviera, representing refugees being captured in the animal’s huge tentacles.”

“For me, it’s not really about sending a message,” she says. “It’s more about provoking an emotion and enabling people to look at a place in a different way.” Lately, Olivia has been working with homeless children and children in exile, teaching them how to engrave and to find a sense of home in artistic expression.

Her work is entwined with the urban landscape to such an extent that these spaces have now become part of the artwork itself. “I think that my work is complete only when they are in the streets. The prints without the street don’t really work,” she says. What she particularly likes is when passers-by, overcome with curiosity, approach her prints and actually touch them. “My prints are made to give the impression of escaping from the wall. And it’s this way of touching the wall and seeing the space in a different way that I like.”

Cannes is renowned worldwide for its link to the cinema industry, playing host to the most prestigious film festival in the world. But Olivia insists there’s more to Cannes than cinema, and enjoys exploring its history. “The streets of Cannes are a perfect space for my work because my prints tell the story of places. People don’t know much about Cannes and its history. Usually, they only hear about Cannes for the film festival,” she says.

“I like the challenge of proving that Cannes is more than just a town that hosts the film festival with yachts and celebrities. There are people that live here all year long, kids grow up here and there is a culture, life developing and changing,” she says. “Most importantly, there is a rich history.”