Meet the Artist: Guy Sebbag

Photo: Courtesy of Guy Sebbag

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My name is Gaille (Guy in English) Sebbag, aka Smig. “Smig” is the name given to the minimum wage in France – a little cue to artists … I was born in Israel and grew up in France where I lived between the ages of eight and twenty. Today, I work as a graphic artist and designer. During my youth, graffiti fascinated me due to its typography (tag or fresco), the characters, the colours, the size, the different styles, in short, I liked everything about it. Even today, the impact graffiti had on me is reflected in my graphic style.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I don’t know. I think it’s innate. I started drawing at the age of eight with some more or less active periods, but I have always been interested in art and design.

What is your specialty?

My speciality is to take traditional Jewish art and modernise it, to speak to a younger, more modern audience. In fact, in these times of anti-Semitism, it is also a way of making the community proud, to have, or to wear, Jewish symbols.

How and where do you work?

I mainly work from home and from time to time in the street when I work on street art projects. In my work, I use acrylic, sprays, charcoal, pastels, but I also work a lot on the computer. I like both.

What is the most indispensable item in your workspace?

I will say my brain. Beyond the drawing itself, I try to foster creativity as much as possible.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?

My inspiration comes from everything that has to do with art and design in general. Especially, pop art, street art, fashion and, at the moment, the Jewish Orthodox world.

Do you do bespoke work?

It depends on the request. I admit that I am quite difficult because the subject must speak to me in order to get a good result.

What projects are you currently working on?

My slogan is “Connect With Your Roots in a Modern Way”, which I try to convey through my designs. I recently opened my online shop – I take great care of adding new products and new designs and making it known to as many people as possible, including non-Jews. Art is a great way to bring different communities together.

What is your favourite item in your current collection?

The “I can laugh” drawing. It means a lot to me because of all the portraits of religious Jews that I have seen, it is infrequent to see smiles and even less so bursts of laughter. One of the messages in my drawings is that Orthodox Jewish people are like any other. You can find people who are wise, bad, funny, generous, stingy, etc. But did you know that they can laugh out loud, too? Hence this drawing.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

It sounds weird, but I have a kind of inner voice that tells me to stop, that it is done.

What was the first artwork you ever sold?

It wasn’t really a work of art but a T-Shirt. It was in Paris at the end of the 80s. I was 16 years old. There were only a few places available where you could find hip hop clothes because it was only at the beginning of its movement in France. I went to one of the few shops that could be found in the shopping centre, introducing myself, telling them that I was designing, and presenting a T-Shirt to them. After a consultation, and to my great surprise, they accepted the T-Shirt. I was very proud because it was a very well respected place in this environment. A few weeks later, I went back to see if there had been any sales. I was told that yes, people liked it and that there have been a few. It was a double victory! At the time, I was so shocked and so shy, that I have never asked for my money.

Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?

The one I am working on at the moment. It combines my first drawing style, mixed pop art and graffiti, with my Jewish identity. It is the first time that there is something more than just aesthetics to be shared, a more profound message. 

What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?

I want to propose an alternative to traditional Jewish art, which can speak to the new generation, hoping that through art, the schism between religious Jews, non-religious Jews and other religions can gradually dissolve.

I want to end with two things.

I often use the word orthodox, but people need to know that people are not just black and white on the inside, there is a lot of movement, and not everyone thinks the same. The anti-Zionists are obviously not my cup of tea. That’s why here and there you will find the Star of David in my designs.

The second one is a poem quoted by Jesse Jackson, talking about the discriminations of Afro-Americans called, “I am somebody”. A text that inspired me in my work related to Orthodox Jews.

“My clothes are different,

My face is different,

My hair is different,

 but I am Somebody.

I am black, brown, or white.

I speak a different language,

 but I must be respected, protected, never rejected.

I am Somebody! “

Where can we find your work?

Instagram: smigonline

Facebook: smigonline

Photos: Courtesy of Guy Sebbag

Rakuten Kobo UK

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