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About artist Saype who’s painting the Swiss landscape

Saype "Beyond Crisis" Painting in Leysin, Switzerland(Photograph copyright Valentin Flauraud/Saype)

Every generation sees an artist emerge from the underground. They draw in their notebooks, they sing in the shower, they paint on the walls. Until one day they explode into the world.

Artist Saype, a wordplay on "Say" and "Peace", has been recognized by Forbes to be one of the thirty most influential young people in the world in 2019. If you were a bird, you would never miss his art. He paints with eco-friendly, biodegradable inks on the very ground you walk on. Using landscapes as his backdrop, Saype's larger-than-life land art paintings come alive.


"Beyond Crisis" by Saype

Saype's latest painting took Switzerland and the world by storm. (Pictured above.) In the spring of 2020, the artist placed his project “Beyond Crisis” among the Swiss Alps and Lake Geneva.

With his art, Saype encapsulates a dream of positivity and unity among all people. The painting came at a time when we all had to live in our confided homes to keep our neighbors safe.

I had the honor to speak to Saype over the phone about his projects, about life and inspiration, and about living in Switzerland. French is his mother tongue and English a (limited) second language. But regardless, I was able to extract his passion despite the language barrier.

Saype "Beyond Crisis" Painting in Leysin, Switzerland(Photograph copyright Valentin Flauraud/Saype)

But who is the artist Saype really?

Guillaume Legros, which is his real name, was born in the late 80's in Belfort, France. Already at a very young age, he was consumed by history, humanity, philosophy, and art.

By the age of fourteen, Guillaume became a graffiti artist. And two years later, he already had his own exhibit in a gallery. In 2016, he took his art to the floor and painted the largest land art in the world.

Saype "Beyond Crisis" Painting in Leysin, Switzerland(Photograph copyright Valentin Flauraud/Saype)
Located in Leysin, Switzerland, the painting spanned across 10’000 square meters. This took Saype international. When I asked him about how he became an artist, he laughed and simply said in his French accent: "I didn’t choose to be an artist… do you understand?"

There are people who try to aspire to be an artist. There are people who pose as an artist. And then, there are people like Saype who are born an artist.

We speak about his last painting in Leysin, overlooking Lake Geneva. Saype says he wants his paintings to represent a symbol. Wait, is he a superhero, Superman, Batman, or Ironman? I get really excited with this reference of symbolism. He continues: "It's a symbol for kindness and living together. How are you living in the present? The energy of everything and everywhere."

He sounds like a philosopher. When asked about his source of inspiration, Saype replies that he reads a lot about philosophy, ecology and Buddhism. He watches lots of documentaries, and he constantly wonders how we are living together and surviving these challenging times.


About inspiration

I am curious about Saype's previous painting, "Beyond Walls" in Geneva, which shows interlocked arms. I ask about the arms and hands specifically, and he replies: "You know the hands. I could easily paint hands of famous people, celebrities, presidents, politicians. But I chose to paint hands of people I met randomly."

Saype "Beyond Walls" Painting in Geneva, Switzerland(Photograph copyright Valentin Flauraud/Saype)
"They are people I met on the project. People I met on hikes. I take photos of their hands. And when I start to paint, I don't know where the hand came from. *laughs* I really don't. I think it's more powerful not knowing where the hand came from. It could be anyone. What's more powerful than two interlocking arms together?"

Saype is my modern-day Batman. Instead of Commissioner Gordan using the Bat-signal to call The Dark Knight, Saype uses his “Beyond Crisis” project to call on people to be kind.

Saype "Beyond Walls" Painting in Geneva, Switzerland(Photograph copyright Valentin Flauraud/Saype)

About overcoming challenges

Saype's paintings are literally on the grass where people walk. I had to ask about the challenges he encounters. Saype replies that every single project has problems. People or dogs walk over his paintings, but his biggest challenge happened in Colombia in 2017.

It was his first international painting and when he arrived, none of his equipment worked. His painting equipment is so sensitive that if anything hiccups or goes wrong, he cannot paint at all.

Saype had two days to figure out a solution to finish his portrait in ten days. They finally found someone in Mexico willing to drive all the way to Colombia with a replacement. He was able to finish his painting on time.


About living in Switzerland

French artist Saype now calls Switzerland his home. As an emerging artist, he lived in France and commuted to Switzerland to work as a nurse. He did this for about three years until he met his now-wife.

He then married her in Switzerland and decided to live in Bulle. It is three years later and he is still in Switzerland. He says that every single time he takes the train to Lake Geneva, he can hardly believe it.

Saype "Beyond Walls" Painting in Geneva, Switzerland(Photograph copyright Valentin Flauraud/Saype)
Saype then pauses, finding the words in English to describe what he feels. He apologizes that he cannot quite find the words he wants to express about living in Switzerland. The only word he can find is “amazing.”

In his pauses and inflictions of his voice, I get the feeling of what he was trying to express. Because I feel it, too: it's like a dream. It's breathtaking. It's just that beautiful living here in Switzerland. The artist Saype says that watching the sunset over Lake Geneva is by far his favorite place in Switzerland to be. And with passion and vigor, he reiterates: "I love this place!"


And about the future

I asked about upcoming projects, but Saype hesitated with an answer because the future is unforeseen. I followed up by asking about his dream location to paint. I can feel the smile over the phone. He tells me that some of his dream locations are already in the works. We will be seeing his paintings in the very near future, fulfilling his dreams one at a time.

One of the locations would be to paint on Liberty Island in New York City. Can you imagine? His other dream location and most problematic would be in Egypt near the pyramids. I am waiting patiently in anticipation.

My last question to Saype is about advice for aspiring artists. His answer is directed to everyone: "I didn’t choose to be an artist, I am an artist. When I want something, I do everything in my power to get it… Always! I have no fear, I will move the earth to do it. What is important is knowing what you want, and when you want it. And now, do everything in your power to get it done. I had two jobs, I worked as a nurse at night and painted during the day. If you want, you can."

Saype "Beyond Crisis" Painting in Leysin, Switzerland(Photograph copyright Valentin Flauraud/Saype)

Rex Moribe

Rex traded his surf shorts for scarves, poke for prosciutto, year long summers for four seasons, the ocean for lakes, and poi for cheese. If you haven't guessed, he is from Hawaii.

Rex is an IT administrator by trade but is finding himself behind a camera more and more and immersing himself in social media and marketing.

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Rex Moribe

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