Petrol shortages, nuclear plants blockaded, daily riots, the worst floods in thirty years and now mountains of trash in the street following a walk out by municipal waste collectors. It’s been a hard few months for the stiff upper-lipped citizens of the city of light, forced by traffic strikes to walk, trendy umbrella in hand, up and down the rain soaked boulevards as gutters overflow and the streets turn into litter-laden streams of gunk.
Enter the Toqué Brothers, or les frères Toqué as they are known this side of the channel, paintbrushes and pots of acrylic in hand, determined to turn those perma-frowns upside down and the grimy Parisian streets in to glistening waterfront promenades, à la beaches of Bretagne. Born and raised in the seaside city of Nantes, the brothers parted ways briefly; Marin to study illustration at the Beaux-Arts in Poitiers, Felix to work with disadvantaged kids in Marseille, before reconvening in Paris where their shared love of art mixed with a fair bit of nostalgia for the Breton coastline led to the creation of Toqué Frères and the subsequent brightening up of some of the city’s shabbier streets.
Taking inspiration from famous French seascape painters Mathurin Méheut and Marin-Marie, the brothers wandered the leafy avenues of their north-Parisian neighbourhood, seeking out condemned buildings or bricked-up doorways and turning them into something rather more enchanting. Colourful maritime murals and reproductions of photos or paintings depicting idyllic scenes from the Brittany countryside, all painstakingly hand-painted in broad daylight to the delight of passers-by. Local schoolkids stop and stare, anxious looking business types take a minute out of their hectic schedule to watch the process in action, snapping photos on their smartphones to share with friends and colleagues. Even cops, according to elder brother Felix, have complimented them on their handiwork.
You see it’s the public, first and foremost, for whom the brothers toil. ‘Through our work we try to beautify the city and make people smile,’ explains Felix. And it’s working. So far the murals remain pristine, entirely untouched by tags or red tape, which in a city infamous for its bureaucracy and trigger-happy graffers is nothing short of a miracle. The secret perhaps is rather simple. The paintings allow us to escape. Not just the kids, the cops or the suits, but also all of us who pass by the abandoned shopfronts and crumbling apartment facades on a daily basis and find ourselves transported, if only for a moment, away from the noise, the rain and the diesel fumes to a quiet, little town by the sea.
Find more of the brother’s work at their website: https://toquefreres.com/