In the pavement business, failed pavement is normally a problem at best, and a disaster in the worst scenario that could cause injury and financial damage as well. However, we admit there’s more than one way to look at failed pavement, and many artists have creatively taken to the streets to turn potholes, fractures, and sidewalks into works of art.
From Potholes to Mosaics
(Ememem photos from ememem.flacking on Instagram)
Since 2016, a French street artist known as Ememem has brought the art of “flacking” first to streets in France and then across Europe. The artist, who goes by a pseudonym for protection against any potential illegality, started with a single pothole outside a collective art studio in Lyon, France. His website bio states, “Looking at this first work installed in the ground, noting the effect it produced on passers-by, Ememem had finally found meaning in his philosophical research: he was going to fill holes for the rest of his life.”
Ememem chooses potholes and pavement fractures in urban environments and first mends the holes before creating a design on top, usually with tiles, his favorite medium. These designs add splashes of color to the grayness of pavement, bring surprise and smiles to passersby, and actually correct neglected and problematic pavement. Although he first began his work without permission or collaboration from municipalities or property owners, Ememem’s fame has risen quickly. In 2023 alone, the artist will attend festivals in France, Norway, Ireland, and Italy, where he will make his mark on broken pavement. He’s also launching several training opportunities for other artists interested in his “flacking” technique. Follow the artist on Instagram to view his creations or read about his work at ememem.art.
Reading Between the Lines
(Photo from Davidzinn on Instagram)
Street artist David Zinn searches for cracks in pavement that fire his imagination and turn into creatures emerging from holes, whimsical drawings, and surprises for anyone walking by. With over 20 years of experience creating sidewalk art, Zinn published a book to share the craft with others, The Chalk Art Handbook. Zinn works mainly from his home state of Michigan, but his work has shown up around the world as well. While Zinn is a professional artist who works from commissions, he’s also just as likely to grab a box of colorful chalk and decorate a sidewalk crack on a whim. While most of his artwork is temporary, washed away by the elements, Zinn has some prints for sale in his online store. Follow David Zinn on Instagram and Facebook to see his latest creations.
Smooth Pavement Creates Stunning Illusions
(Photo from TheRealJulianBeever on Facebook)
While it’s fun to see what some artists create from failed pavement, smooth pavement really is better. At least, that’s what artist Julian Beever prefers to use when creating amazing 3D illusions on pavement. Beever is originally from the UK and held a number of jobs before working as a busker in pavement art, collecting coins for his creations. His early works were two dimensional drawings, often of famous people. His more famous 3D work must be viewed through a camera or mobile phone or screen, although those who stand at one particular point in front of the work can see most of the 3D effects. Beever uses pastel chalk and sometimes acrylic paint for his artwork, and it can’t be done on any paved surface. Beever notes on his FAQ page that “Many pavements are unsuitable. I need a smooth, even surface that pastel chalk will adhere to. This must not be shiny like polished marble nor must it be too coarse or with gravel protruding from the surface.”
Like David Zinn’s work, Julian Beever’s work washes away in four to seven days. However, the internet keeps the work alive. He also does commissions. Beever published his book, Pavement Chalk Artist, The Three-Dimensional Drawings of Julian Beever in 2011. His work can be found across Europe. Find some of Beever’s amazing 3D art on his Facebook page.
Although we’re in the business of keeping pavement in top shape, we appreciate the creativity of artists like these who bring bright colors and art to a typically gray space.