Didier Chamizo, “Rebel Soul” at D’Stassi Art

The first ever UK solo show of French artist Didier Chamizo has opened at D’Stassi Art in London.

Didier Chamizo, Rebel Soul opened on 7th June at D’Stassi Art in Shoreditch, the creative heart of London. Rebel Soul is the first UK solo exhibition of Chamizo, a French activist and former prisoner, who began painting in prison and advocated for prisoners to have access to art materials, and was later given a pardon by President Miterrand, former President of France.


Chamizo harnessed the power of art to turn his life around, and his paintings caught the attention of Alain Dominique Perrin, Founder and President of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. A documentary about Chamizo is currently in production with Arte TV in France, where Chamizo’s art is collected by art world insiders including the Cartier Foundation, French singer-songwriter Hugues Aufray, French rapper and actor Didier Morville (better known by his stage name JoeyStarr), actress Marisa Berenson, French singer- songwriter Renaud, and Taittinger President Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger.


Rebel Soul at D’Stassi Art features 19 of Chamizo’s figurative portraits in a vivid palette, inspired by ‘lettrism’, a unique alternative to graffiti and tag art, as well as a custom Harley Davidson hand-painted by the artist, which will be auctioned off for charity. Chamizo’s style is known as ‘lettric abstraction-figuration’, and is characterised by raw expression stemming from a colourful life of activism, incarceration, reform and creation. Chamizo epitomizes the blend of art and lived experience. His work is an emblem of his turbulent journey, filled with political activism, personal tragedy, and relentless creativity.


Didier Chamizo says: “I am thrilled to announce my debut exhibition at D’Stassi Gallery, a milestone in my journey as an artist. This opportunity has been made possible through a serendipitous encounter with Alex Kolster, founder of Henrik Alexander, whose instant connection and shared vision led us to this moment. Despite a tumultuous life marked by near-death experiences, brushes with crime, and time spent in prison, I’ve been fortunate to pursue my dreams freely. Yet, showcasing my work in the UK feels like one of those special bucket list moments I never dared to expect. As a lifelong fan of British for me. I am immensely grateful to Alex Kolster and the guys from D’Stassi Galerie, Ed Sanders and Mike Howes for their passion and dedication in organising this show. Their youth, ambition, and enthusiasm are truly inspiring, and I cannot wait to share my art with the people of the United Kingdom.”


Didier Chamizo was born into poverty in Cahors, France, on 15th October 1951 and his early life was marked by stark contradictions and intense transformations. He left school at 13 and pursued his passion for art through evening classes. His involvement in the May 1968 protests in France catapulted him into a life defined by rebellion and defiance. He participated in demonstrations against nuclear power, the Vietnam War, and advocated for women’s liberation. Chamizo’s activism led him to the arms trade and eventual imprisonment, where he spent time channelling his existential angst and very real experiences into his art and went on to sell out art exhibitions from his prison cell.

Chamizo was involved in a severe motorcycle accident in 1982 that resulted in serious injury, but despite facing numerous challenges, including multiple imprisonments, Chamizo’s art continued to flourish. Chamizo was released from prison in 1991, and since his release he has pursued an international career, exhibiting alongside notable artists such as Matta, Combas, César, Arman, Nikki de Saint-Phalle, Tinguely, and Jeff Koons. He continues to hold exhibitions in various French cities, including his hometown, and is involved in humanitarian and educational initiatives focusing on issues like AIDS, human rights, and projects in Africa and Indonesia.


Chamizo’s art, shaped by his chaotic yet resilient life, challenges societal norms and explores a wide range of themes from consumerism to social and political issues, his legacy continues to inspire, raising profound questions about redemption, personal transformation, and the role of art in societal healing. His vivid figurative portraits critique the human condition, reflecting the gritty textures of his past.

Despite his acclaim, Chamizo has always shunned the public spotlight. Interviews are rare, and public appearances are even rarer. His reclusiveness has only added to his mystique, fuelling speculation about the man behind the masterpieces. Some say his reclusiveness reflects a deep-seated discomfort with the art world’s commercialism and self-serving nature; others believe it is a deliberate choice to let his work speak for itself, free from biases and preconceptions. His close relationship with Alex Kolster, the owner of Henrik Alexander management agency, led to Rebel Soul coming together; their close connection also prompted Chamizo to step out for the London exhibition.


Didier Chamizo, Rebel Soul is a rare opportunity to experience the raw talent of one of the most intriguing, unexpected and collectable artists to come out of France in recent history. The exhibition at D’STASSI Art has been made possible through an introduction by Didier’s agent Henrik Alexander.

Alain-Dominique Perrin (Founder & President of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art) says: “Didier belongs to a category of artists who have a very strong and humourist look on society and the world of today. Sometimes he’s very sarcastic, even stronger, and that to me is his main interest. Technically he’s very gifted with hands, paint, brush or pencil. He can show anybody he has seen or met very fast, he’s really very good. Now, to conclude, if you don’t go to the exhibition, go to hell, okay!”


Ed Sanders & Michael Howes, Founders of D’Stassi Art comment: “Every once in a while, things seem to line up extraordinarily; having known Alex Kolster (Didier’s friend and manager) for most of my life, for him to bring Didier and his utterly incredible story to our attention couldn’t be more perfect. Michael and I started working in art to primarily act as storytellers through our passion for particular artists and their fascinating life stories. Didier is no exception. His artwork is awe-inspiring, political, thought-provoking, and still cool and fun. I consider it a privilege to host his UK debut and to have the man himself over to the UK to experience how D’Stassi Art put on a show.”

Didier Chamizo, Rebel Soul is at D’Stassi Art, 12-18 Hoxton Street, London N1 6NG.


See also: Chris Levine and the Subaquatic Netherworld

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