In fact, he made many marks – illegally, across miles of the Berlin Wall.
His aim was to ‘perform one real revolutionary act: to paint the Wall, to transform it, to make it ridiculous, and ultimately to help destroy it’, according to the organisers of a new retrospective exhibition of Noir’s work.
The show opens next month at Howard Griffin Gallery in east London, and will present original works on a concrete wall across the space, along with photographs, interviews and films.
French-born Noir was part of a group of artists, musicians and creatives in 1980s Berlin which included such luminaries as David Bowie and Iggy Pop, who set out with a rebellious streak to create work like no one before them.
Noir had arrived in the German capital in 1982, ‘with one suitcase’, according to Howard Griffin Gallery, and made home in a squat overlooking the Wall at the border of East and West Berlin.
Two years after his arrival in 1984, he set about painting the Wall – which he did every day for the next five years, taking scavenged paint from construction sites as his medium. He made his living by selling small paintings on cardboard at local restaurants.
‘Noir’s aim was not to embellish the Wall but to demystify it’, says the gallery.
Since the 1980s, Noir’s work has come to be celebrated for its unique and brilliant use of line and simple shapes, frequently using a monster motif – a style born of working quickly outside in potentially hostile environments.
‘Noir reacted to his environment and his monsters are a metaphor for the Wall itself, each one relating to his experiences or feelings of what he calls a “killing machine”’, says the gallery.
‘His enormous murals in vivid colours represented both a personal response to the oppressive environment he found himself in and a poignant political monument that is just as relevant in the 21st Century as it was at the height of the Cold War.’
Thierry Noir: A Retrospective runs from 3 April – 9 May at Howard Griffin Gallery, 189 Shoreditch High Street, E1