Portrait of an artist: A black and white journey across Eastern Paris with architect and illustrator Clément Gy

Trained as an architect, Clément Gy plays with the shadows and lights of the urban landscape to bring Parisian streets to life. Paris Lights Up asked him a few questions, and is more than happy to share some of his artworks!

It has now been ten years that Clément Gy, originally from the Haute-Marne département in Eastern France, strolls around the streets of the City of Light, a “daily study ground” to fill his notebooks. “What immediately caught my eye and nourished my artistic practice is the diversity of colors, geometries and textures our city offers”, he explains.

“I draw like one keeps a logbook, while taking a walk or just around the street corner. In my illustrations, I try to share the extraordinary aesthetics of the ‘unremarkable’ through the use of lights, or by featuring views we sometimes don’t look at anymore as our eyes get used to the environment of everyday life”.

Rue de Ménilmontant, Paris 20° © Clément Gy
Rue de Ménilmontant, Paris 20° © Clément Gy


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Boulevard de la Villette, Paris 10°/19° © Clément Gy


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Rue Laurence Savart, Paris 20° © Clément Gy


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Paris 20° © Clément Gy


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Rue Laurence Savart, Paris 20° © Clément Gy
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Rue du Retrait, Paris 20° © Clément Gy


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Rue du Retrait, Paris 20° © Clément Gy


Rue Oberkampf, Paris 11° © Clément Gy
Rue Oberkampf, Paris 11° © Clément Gy
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Rue de Belleville, Paris 19°/20° © Clément Gy

The Parisian street is at the heart of your illustrations — with a slight preference for 19th century buildings. What fascinates you about this particular Parisian architecture?

What I am looking for and want to express in my work is the capture of light, or rather lights, in the precise moment when shadows cut the lines of Paris’ iconic architecture. This is indeed especially fitting with 19th and 20th centuries architecture.

You’ve now captured many Parisian neighborhoods, but it seems like you are particularly inspired by the districts in the east side of the capital, where you now live. Do you have any favorite streets?

I’ve been living in the 20th century for almost ten years, more specifically in the Belleville-Ménilmontant area. I love the small streets around Parc de Belleville; if I had to choose only a few to stroll and draw even more, I would pick Rue Laurence Savart, Rue des Cascades and Rue Julien Lacroix! Eastern Paris is an endless source of inspiration for me, and I think of this quote from Jacques Prévert that I really like: “Paris is very small, that is its true greatness”.

Can you describe your artistic process?

The technique is simple and requires very few things: some paper and pencils! The work begins with a walk through the streets. When my eye catches a detail, a shadow, an atmosphere that I want to capture, I sit down for a first sketch and then I quickly have to put the shadows, shades and brighter areas on paper. I don’t really count time: a few minutes or two hours, sometimes more. Of course, there can be some additional work done once I get home if I feel it is necessary or if the weather is not ideal.

Views from above are a recurring theme in your works: do you just happen to know a lot of people who have balconies?

I am fascinated by the rooftops of Paris! This landscape of zinc and chimneys offers an extraordinary potential of representations. I think Paris offers two very different atmospheres: there is the Paris of the pedestrian, of the streets and sidewalks, and the Paris of the roofs, of the skies and clouds! Let’s just say after much exploration, I managed to find some unique points of view to represent!

This year has been difficult for everyone, especially for artists. Nevertheless, what does the future hold for the months ahead?

What we are going through is indeed unique and sometimes extremely hard to experience, but I also see this crisis as a way of questioning our practices, the relationship we have with a confined Paris, more peaceful, less polluted. Optimistic by nature, I am trying to see how we can collectively grow out of this crisis. On a more personal level, I hope that the coming months will be a chance to meet new people, work on new projects and… commissioned artworks: a few collaborations will come to fruition in the fall!


Clément Gy
Email: clement.cgm@gmail.com
Instagram: instagram.com/ministere_de_la_rue_publique


Rue de Belleville © Clément Gy

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