Spray it to say it: Thirsty Bstrd

French street artist Thirsty Bstrd has been using Kent as a showground for his work and the county’s creativity keeps him coming back for more


Julien Surdeau, better known as Thirsty Bstrd is a Parisienne visual famous for using spray paint and stencils to make powerful satirical statements about society, politics and consumerism.
As both a curator and organiser of numerous urban art exhibitions across the world, from LA to Singapore, Surdeau has brought his pieces to the UK, and in particular, the south east.

After exhibiting at the Lilford Galleries in Canterbury and Folkestone, ‘cene magazine got in touch with Mr Bstrd and became firm friends. There is even rumours of a collaboration on the cards in 2019. But for now let’s find out a little more about his work.

How and when did you get into street art, and what inspired you?

I’ve been drawing for all my life. At first I wanted to be a comics artist or a movie maker, I was fascinated by anything visual you could use to tell a story. 

I opened my own creative agency, working as an art director and graphic designer and during that time, I curated street art exhibitions in different cities. 

It allowed me to meet a lot of artists and to discover street art through them. We were only at the beginning of the hype and I was amazed by the richness of the movement. I just felt attracted and wanted to be part of the game. It started with sticker art and it escalated quickly to paste-ups and stencils. I had stories to tell and thoughts to share, so I stopped graphic design to focus on my art and here we are a few years later.


Where and what was the first piece you sprayed?

My first piece was a stencil of Minnie Mouse with a Playboy Bunny body, sprayed eight years ago, on my own building in Paris, which might not be the best idea. It was unsigned, which goes without saying!

How do you come up with the topics in your artworks?
I find inspiration in today’s world. I use stencils to reflect my point of view on society or every subject which I consider being worth to focus on. Some say it’s satirical, others say it’s fun. I guess it depends how you look at it.  

I design my artworks as logos in terms of ensuring that the message is perfectly clear and understandable. That’s why I use a lot of powerful symbols and popular images, but also because it’s part of my own visual language, having grown up in the 90s and pop culture. It is mainly about telling stories and generate a reaction from the audience.

How different is the Parisian street art culture to ours in the UK?

Street art is very popular in Paris. I think we have one of the most prolific scenes in the world with a lot of great artists, many specialised art galleries, and a really enthusiastic audience. The only reproach I would make is that it might start to be a bit too controlled by the institutions. 

About the street itself, I feel less protest in Paris than in the UK and that street art is more deeply embedded in the culture of English than French people. But I’m just saying this as a mere observer. I think every city in the world had its own specific relationship with street art, due to its own history.


What draws you to exhibit your art here in Kent?

I have been collaborating with Lilford Gallery in Canterbury and Folkestone for two years now, which led me to travel a lot in the region. I was impressed by the creative atmosphere here, especially in Margate. I like to be surrounded by creativeness. I’m always led by creative encounters, nourishing my work and contributing to others. It just felt like the right place to do something.


Do you listen to music when painting and what is your go to musical artist?

I’m listening to music during all the creative process, for instance when building a body of work for a show. I like to listen to music in which I can feel inventiveness, it actually sparks mine! During the creation of my last solo show, I was listening to Gorillaz over and over again. Gorillaz is for me one of the most creative projects ever. And creativity inspires creativity. I’m also obsessed with the art of sampling. I think music and graphic design are very similar when it comes to absorb references to create something new and exciting.

Favorite brand of paint: Montana Gold

Most inspiring artist: Picasso  

Best place you’ve painted: Wynwood, Miami

You can check out or buy Thirsty Bstrd work in the UK from: Lilford Gallery in Canterbury and Folkestone, Kent ; Reem Gallery in Camberley ; Generation Gallery in Manchester ; Subversion Gallery in Glasgow ; Print Club London ; Art Republic