Films Interviews transcriptions | 2017 & 2018
This page is devoted to the transcriptions of 3 videos interviews filmed at the Besançon workshop during the years 2017 and 2018.
"Sex, spiritualities, shamanism & energies", interview between the painter Jean-Pierre Sergent & the journalist Jean-Luc Gantner | 4 Parts | Besançon Studio November 3rd 2018 - Donwload the PDF
Cameras: Christine Chatelet and Louise Gantner.
1/4: SEX, SPIRITUALITIES, SHAMANISM & ENERGIES #1 - Watch the video (In French only)
Jean-Luc Gantner: Jean-Pierre, what has always interested me in your work is what you call you, energies, cosmic energies. I'm interested because if we go to the end of what you say about these energies, we can see a lot of different things. Energy in a western culture refers us to a certain philosophy and I have the impression that this is not exactly what you mean about energy in your work, energy in life! What do you particularly mean by these cosmic energies?
Jean-Pierre Sergent: For me it's more what we would call: vital energy, more than an energy of a technological force. We often think about energy, we say people have a lot of energy because they run fast or they climb the Mont Blanc! But it's not necessarily this energy that I'm talking about. In fact it is more an energy that is related to the Universe or animal thought.
JLG: Something spiritual?
JPS: Yes, as soon as we feel connected to something, we can talk about spirituality.
JLG: There is a certain form of ambiguity precisely when you speak of spirituality, of cosmic energy, so why not spirituality, a relationship with the beyond?
JPS: Not necessarily! It can simply be a relationship to the present. Spirituality doesn't necessarily speak of the beyond. It is the monotheistic religions that always speak of the beyond, of the afterlife, but it is not necessary.
JLG: Archaic cultures, ancient cultures have a real relationship with unreal worlds, these imaginary worlds, these beyond.
JPS: They speak of another reality that is their own and which is the reality of quantum mechanics. When you look at how a shamanic trance is described, it's about the same as what happens with elementary particles. So it is their reality, which they have learned by experience and we have lost this reality, this knowledge. Precisely in large part because of the doxas imposed by science and Montheist religions.
JLG: It's a bit of a paradox because today everything is getting mixed up again.
JPS: We're rediscovering that there are universes and energies that we didn't suspect and that we despised for centuries. I'm trying to reintegrate these energies, with my very modest means.
JLG: Do you think that science has finally been a brake, this modern science in particular, this Western science in particular, has been a brake precisely on this simple relationship to the things of life? Things that we've forgotten, so we would have forgotten these simple things because of science.
JPS: Yes, Western science, but Hindu science knew about these cosmic energies and cosmic cycles. We didn't discover that until much later. So we have to reposition ourselves, we have to change the culture. And I think that science has destroyed a lot of things. And that's why Westerners were able to kill most Amerindians tribes, why : because they were considered as animals, no more and no less. They had no more valuable than an object or a slave.
JLG: So it's science and religion. And yet science has allowed us to get ahead of ourselves!
JPS: Yes, but in the meantime technology in accordance with science is... (I don't want to play devil's advocate but). Today you can see that 60% of the species of wild animals have disappeared! It's the industry, it's all that... And what scares me is that the personal human energy is disappearing. Just being able to spend a little time with a friend or just smiling, it's disappearing. Because nowadays people are totaly selfcentred and neurotic.
JLG: For you, that's what energy is all about in the end, those little things that finally pass between the earth and us, between animals and us, between humans and other humans, is that what you're talking about when you talk about energy?
JPS: Yes absolutely, it's a flow!
JLG: Because we could be wrong. You might think you're delusional with the cosmos in an esoteric way, it's actually much simpler than that!
JPS: Yes, I don't care about people who think I'm delusional ! I've passed the age of compromise. My work is there and it speaks for itself! Afterwards we can discuss it, but one can't explain things to people who don't understand anything, that's a big problem.
JLG: Who doesn't want to understand?
JPS: They can't, it's not that they don't want to... In fact, they don't have the tools.
JLG: What are the tools to understand precisely these simple things of everyday life in your opinion? and your experience? According to what you've been saying in your painting for decades now?
JPS: You already have to be humble in front of color, in front of form, and above all you have to be curious and you have to be attentive to things and to be kind! This is something that is missing a lot these days.
JLG: That's what you're trying to convey through your paintings, is that what you're trying to do, is that benevolence?
JPS: Yes! Life is fragile and it deserves our attention.
JLG: I remember that one day you told me in an interview, there was a lot of emotion in you when you said it during an exhibition in Switzerland: "The public always need to know that an artist when he creates, he does it for others, he does it to transmit something that he has into him!", is that benevolence precisely?
JLG: It's something good!
JPS: Exactly, yes, I think so. Not all artists are working in that way, but for me that's what I feel, yes, I feel benevolence...! Towards the Earth, and then it's a gratitude towards life.
JLG: Isn't that a defense too? To say I'm going to do good to you, I'm going to send you good. Because maybe you haven't always received that good?
JPS: Oh no, but maybe...?
JLG: What creates in you the need to tell others through your art: Look, I love you?
JPS: No that doesn't mean: Look, I love you, but: Look! I love life! So I don't want to go that far! I'm not a Jesus, no, no! Everyone has their own destiny. I'm not a saviour and I hate people who want to save the world ! I'm speaking from my own experience, period.
JLG: There's also something interesting here, you've just said Jesus no, I'm putting that aside, etc... So, your relationship to religion is precisely that. If we take up your work again, it still uses many of the codes that have been used by peoples who are their relationship to the cosmos. So relationships with spirits, relationships including with God, with what we call Gods, and somewhere you dispute it? No, not what I just said, you are contesting this society, this history, this culture... which has God as its final reference point. What's your point?
JPS: But it's better to have a thousand Gods than one! I think it's more, intelligent, (that's not really the right word!), it's more sensitive to the multiplicity of things! Things are created in a whole, a collaboration, and that's a bit what you feel in my work. Because I really want to get out of the single work and arrive at a kind of collaboration, yes! And I think polytheistic societies or animist societies have a more interesting and complete view towards life. For me, and iconographically speaking too... because when you are painting, or if you are not allow to paint a single god, you're very limited iconographically speaking.
JLG: You said that here in the West, we painted death, because the icons, because the images that forged us are images of death, morbidity. The Judeo-Christian world, the Christian world in particular, is morbid, is that how you see it?
JPS: Yes, to systematically paint a Christ on the cross is to paint a dead god! And when you see the Aztec artists who painted living gods, who ejaculate, who touch snakes, who touch skulls of death, who drink blood... These are rituals of Life! And I'm more for honoring life! Once things and people are dead, it's dead!
JLG: But it's scary what you just said to people in general, here in France! You're talking about people who drink blood, people with many arms, many eyes, many mouths! It's scary things that can make you feel uncomfortable. Which are taboos, which are things we don't talk about?
JPS: But the Westerner is fearful by nature. And I don't paint for those people! If they don't get into my work and I don't want to fight for them. I don't have to fight about that. I often think about this one thing... which is: why do I keep working? Because it's still a difficult life here, being an artist! It's because I feel that I'm not on a path... but on a journey, and I just keep going, that's all! And of course it's hard, because we've often discussed it together: these are energies that few people accept. Even if sometimes the public could find that the colours are beautiful, the harmonies of the colours are beautiful! But it always remains on the surface of things. Because people no longer know how to be at the centre of themselves, they no longer have this vital energy, so it's very difficult to talk to this uneducated and non-curious audience, very difficult indeed!
JLG: How did this journey begin for you? Where did it come from? Do you remember how it started? This story of questioning yourself about these energies, about the fact that peoples may have existed, some even still exist today, who have a relationship to different things, how did it come about?
JPS: Because I was missing something in this society and in this painting, the Western art and painting. Apart from Picasso's Les demoiselles d'Avignon and a few paintings like that in art history, but otherwise Western painting bores me a lot! I wrote this little sentence the other day, let me read it to you, while walking in the street, I was thinking about our interview and I thought about this:
"Unlike traditional easel painting (it's often the window framed painting you see in museums), which is almost always a window open from the inside of you to the outside, to the world...! Conversely, my painting is rather an intimate and sacred painting, placed on the inside of the being like a new projection of inverted images quietly projected in the matrix of our dreams."
I claim a little bit this dreamlike side, because precisely the dream has this direct relationship with death, with sexuality. We can talk about the beyond because when we dream we are beyond the body, well it's the beyond of the body, I'm not talking about the beyond of death, we don't know anything about it!
JLG: Is it also the artificial paradises?
JPS: If you like so, yes! Maybe, yes! It's also the question of the māyā (world of illusion in Hindu philosophy) the philosophy of the māyā thinks that reality is an illusion. That is to say, that we live in front of a cinema screen (a theater play) and everything develops as if we live our life in an illusion. But where is the ultimate reality, we don't know, nobody knows? We really don't know!
JLG: So I come back to my question about the origin, about the beginning.
JPS: Yes, excuse me.
JLG: It was interesting, you're necessarily deviating on questions of the dream, on dreamlike questions about archaic societies, ancient societies. Pre-Columbian societies, the Mayans, the Eskimos, the Inuit, and so on... So we're in that field when we talk about dreaming. It's surprising because it's not always our references when we talk about dreams. I was quoting Les paradis artificiels, by Baudelaire, Rimbaud... We have this type of reference in our culture and in art. But you're going to move the spiritual, dreamlike terrain, always to these archaic societies... Where does it come from and why?
JPS: It's very difficult to answer your question. As I often talk about it, in Egypt, I had a kind of cosmic revelation. That is to say that until that time, in Europe, I had a relationship, one could say, linear to (horizontal) reality. Then, when you enter into an Egyptian tomb or temple, you have this vertical experience and within the infinity. And this is exactly what happens in shamanic trances. That is to say, you can enter the underworld, or the world of the spirits. And this vertical journey, is the journey that all archaic societies talk about (in quotation marks). Going to this vertical journey, I was already working on it by painting large vertical columns that I painted on the ground (a bit like Barnett Newman), because I think that American painters like Rothko, Newman or Pollock understood this cosmic energy, that they learned from the Native Americans. And that's the energy I'm talking about.
JLG: Pollock had indeed started working with Navajos inspiration, because he had seen with his own eyes, felt in his own flesh with the Indians.
JLG: That's almost a small part of your story. You've more or less been through a process like this in the United States. That's what I was getting at, did it start like that? Was it by searching that you finally came across people who had already lived through this kind of experiences and who you were passionate about it, who interested you?
JPS: Yes, those are the coincidences of life! Of course, where does it come from? Are we really like they say in English: "old souls", and that old souls are finally meeting with each other? Maybe we are and we meet? Yes!
JLG: "There are old souls who cross our paths!" said André Gide...
JPS: That's it, yes that's it! Yes, yes, yes.
JLG: Without really understanding why? Let's find out.
JLG: Without us knowing where it's coming from?
JPS: Yes, yes, yes. There's an archaic time, a deeper time. And there are some people who are aware of it, others not, we don't know why?
2/4: SEX, SPIRITUALITIES, SHAMANISM & ENERGIES #2 - Watch the video (In French only)
JLG: Is it that somewhere you're not like that, you don't think like that, you don't make this art because in the end this material life (in quotation marks) bores you? This life of everyone, of every day, industrious, bores you?
JPS: I'm going to answer you very clearly: no! Life doesn't bore me, it's a great adventure! What bores me is to live perhaps in places where precisely these energies are not honoured. Yes, that bothers me a lot! I'd much rather be in a place like New York, where precisely these energies are taken into account, more easily. And no, daily life doesn't bother me at all, but then not at all! I love life, I take great pleasure in working, reading books, meeting friends. And I don't have a depressive side like that! I like it, and I like the colour! It's true that sometimes my life lacks important, essential encounters. That's right, yes, it's true! And French contemporary art bores me a lot!
JLG: Do you have things inside of you that you experience, that you want to pass on?
JLG: In the end, it's not always very simple to have exchanges, to be able to communicate? Exchange these things? And you need to?
JPS: Yes, but I communicate through my work.
JLG: So it comes into your work, it becomes your art! Is it a lack perhaps?
JPS: No, you can't say that. It's my life, it's parallel, my life is parallel to my art-life as an artist, yes.
JLG: I've never really seen you do it, but I've seen photos where you do it... At home, where you were born, in the Haut-Doubs, on a lake... With a boat, a rowboat, a canoe.
JLG: You paddle, you take photos, you look at the nature around you! And I've seen that you've got photographs that represent pieces of cliffs, pieces of trees, pieces of bark, pieces of nature... And these pieces of nature are shapes, as if you identify something special in these shapes. That explains a lot of things about your work, about your life, about your history, about the way you feel the world? To see these shapes of the world, isn't there something...?
JPS: Yes, I'm the one who puts down a symbol, of course!
JLG: Are these the symbols you're looking for?
JPS: Yes, the meaning of things, their interiority, yes! I don't pretend to know the meaning of things, but yes, it has to be meaningful! yes!
JLG: Do you want to understand through signs, throughout symbols?
JPS: Yes, the beauty of the world, quite simply, yes!
JLG: Do you think that this whole world is coded somewhere?
JLG: Is it a spiritual code?
JPS: Yes, but it doesn't matter, what it can be... it's mostly codes of beauty! Well, I think it's beautiful, period. You can't disarticulate things like that and trying to understand everything! There are some things that call out to me more than others, yes.
JLG: We're sticking to that terrain. These forms that you identify yourself and in which you see symbols, signs, things that speak to you? And then, if we look at your work, they're just signs, but signs, not just any signs! Signs that come from civilizations, from human groups, that make sense to each other?
JLG: They are the witnesses the world, they interpret it, they make cultural codes out of it. They're signs of culture. You, these signs of culture, you take them, you mix them up, you superimpose them and you mix them up!
JLG: What's that story? You can take all the cultures of the world, whatever the time period, whatever the geography, and turn them into what: your own world, your own universe, your own culture!
JPS: Yes, you could say that! Yes, you could say it's a pictorial invention. It's another language!
JLG: You're inventing your own language?
JPS: Yes, well, it sounds very pretentious to say that, but in a way it is!
JLG: No, but as an artist perhaps?
JPS: Yes, that's it, I'm an artist, I'm inventing my own language! I feel comfortable in that language.
JLG: It can provoke a certain solitude. When you say that others don't understand you, after a while it can actually cause some problems!
JPS: No, but it's just an overlay of information. Afterwards, it may be harder to understand! Maybe one have to decipher it, one have to find the Rosetta Stone!
JLG: What makes you choose this sign over another? Why do you choose a sign from an Aztec culture, for example, rather than a sign from the current consumer world as Warhol could do whithin PopArt culture? Or even from a great filiation of Western culture, or Christian signs. Why choose specifically these signs, from these archaic cultures?
JPS: Because they are, or have been, sacred, quite simply! for the most part. Well, sacred, we really don't know anything about it?
JLG: Also in the Judeo-Christian culture it's sacred!
JPS: Yes, but sacred... in a different way... I wouldn't see myself putting some Christian crosses into my work. It wouldn't make any sense to me at this moment T., it wouldn't make sense at all. Maybe when I'm turning eighty, I'll paint crosses? I don't know, do I? Christian crosses, yes!
JLG: I have the feeling that you're saying that you can't put up crosses when you talk about death, in the end it's because it refers to immobility? This Judeo-Christian religion, this Judeo-Christian culture, it says: we're dead, it's over, it's immobile, it's frozen all that! As your work has a particularity, we're talking about energy, it's that it's explosive!
JLG: It's an explosion of energy! Even in death, which we could imagine in archaic societies, there's a very strong energy!
JPS: Of course, yes!
JLG: As strong as life itself?
JPS: Of course, and when you read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, for the soul of the dead to pass into the other worlds, it takes three months, or I don't know how long exactly! And these are incredible adventures, so obviously for these people, death is an energy, it's a sequence of energies, a fabulous journey. Already when you enter the tunnel; I had this experience in a shamanic trance, this energy is incredible of course! Yes, yes, it is.
JLG: We're currently talking about a phrase by Victor Hugo, it's in the news nowadays, it's: "The force that goes forward!", it's in Hernani: "I am the force that goes forward!" It also reminds us of Nietzsche: the amor fati, the will of power. That's what we're talking about. You, I think that looking at your work, you're in this relationship to things. To feel this force, to let it blossom in you, to let it exist and make something out of it... Transmit it, pass it on through your work.
JLG: It's still something special, it's something for an artist, a special individual, to spend his life trying to pass on this energy, to transmit it like that! Once again, I come back to the starting point, where does it come from, why do you specifically have this strong need to talk about this energy, to take it within you and to make something out of it, to make an art out of it? Don't you have any more answers?
JPS: No, I don't have the answer to your question!
JLG: But do you feel this vital energy? You don't know why, but do you feel it very strongly? Or how would you explain that?
JPS: Yes, I do have this life energy within me, yes of course! But then where does it come from? It's not something that has been built, it's my destiny!
JLG: This energy: it necessarily refers to sexuality. To talk for a moment about your work, he uses many, many of the codes that refer to sexuality... Even if we stay in the West with our own codes of values and taboos, it's almost pornographic!
JLG: People say that your work is pornographic. We see sex, we really see it. We see sexual acts! It's pornographic?
JLG: You, you are saying, but it's nothing to do with pornography?
JPS: No, but I have no comment on that. Exactly, I'm talking about energy, but I don't have any comments. I take pornographic images to talk about this energy, of course. Of course, copulation is... especially what impresses me the most in sexual acts are the ecstatic faces and the cries and shoutters of women who are sexually climaxing. So I always download videos and save the soundtrack. Because that's the first sounds we ever heard. If you're born out of an act of copulation where people climaxed... It is the first memory, the one of mankind copulation.
JLG: The first sound in the world!
JPS: Yes, the first sound in the world, that's right, it's our very own big bang. So why don't we talk about it? I'm really delighted to be alive and I want to talk about that undescribable pleasure.
JLG: When we talk about energy after all, including simple things, as we used to say at the beginning, that's what it's all about too, is energy maybe that's what it's all about for you?
JPS: Yes, of course maybe!
JLG: That first thing, that first sound of the world is sexual energy!
JPS: Of course, yes, absolutely!
JLG: And you think that in our society, in our culture, we have a problem with that?
JPS: But I don't have to judge our society. I meet a lot of people, most of them are depressed (or even suicidal). Unlike in New York, people have lost that kind of sexual energy... that intuition of life. And also this collective intelligence! There is something missing, but hey, you can't criticize things like that!
JLG: Oh yes, you can! You can always comment on them anyway!
JPS: We can comment on them, yes we can.
JLG: And you comment on them a lot, precisely because I know that it makes you at least uncomfortable to feel that people, at least with regard to your work, sometimes don't have the capacity to feel things, the world, simple things! Towards your work, or other artists works? I know it's a problem with you, you talk about it often, it's at least annoying?
JPS: Yes it's annoying, yes, because even people working in culture don't get into my work, I think it's because we don't talk about the same cultures, at the same culture level, period, that's all! But you know the other day I had an exhibition with Chinese artists, they were speaking Chinese and I don't understand Chinese, but you have to listen to it like music... So if people come into my studio and look or listen to my work like music, maybe they will understand better than if they look at it like a painting if you want. It's all about scale in life, or angle of perception.
JLG: Energy and then poetry, you love poetry. How do you inscribe this poetry in this work, which is pure energy to begin with? Where, at what point does this poetry intervene?
JPS: Yes, painting is energy: PAINTING = POETRY = ENERGY!
JLG: So poetry and energy are synonymous for you?
JPS: Yes, as soon as a work of art gives us access to another dimension at another level of consciousness, it's a transcendental energy.
JLG: Poetry, it's true, can transport us beyond ourselves, make us come out of ourselves, or on the contrary, make us go very deeply into ourselves. Questioning us through beauty?
JPS: Through beauty, yes, that's it. In poetry there is the same thing, there is beauty too, yes.
JLG: Okay, so energy is beautiful?
JPS: Energy is beautiful!
JLG: It's beautiful and poetic!
JPS: Yes, it turns out that the Universe is beautiful and poetic! Why it is that? We don't know? It's just the way it is!
3/4: SEX, SPIRITUALITIES, SHAMANISM & ENERGIES #3 - Watch the video (In French only)
JLG: On your work, linked to energies, there is one fundamental thing that characterizes you: it is finally what we can call shamanism, the relationship to shamanism. It's in all your work for a long time now, something that almost drives it, it's the very essence of your work. Try to describe shamanism to me, what it is for you, where you stand in relation to it and where it came from?
JPS: For me it's like an augmented reality, as they are different energies. We were talking about energy forces earlier at the beginning of our interview, and it's true that in these experiences, I encountered energies that are much stronger than what one can experience in one daily lives. Even in dreams, it's even stronger than dreams! So in a fews words, that is to say that whithin our brain, or whithin the collective unconscious, or within our mind? We can go to places where we can travel geographically. That is to say: at one moment we are living in Siberia and the other next moment we are in Africa, then at some point we are in the middle of the ocean, all that during the same trance.
JLG: And never in Paris, never in Biarritz, never in? It's more like always in Africa...!
JPS: I think that Beigbeder, would think he was at the top of the Eiffel Tower! If you know what I mean!
JLG: And you end up in Indian or Nepalese jungles?
JPS: We're more guided by and with our Animal Spirit, so obviously we're more over the Himalayas, that's it...
JLG: Why, because it's more beautiful? Or are the energies there?
JPS: The energies are overthere. The energies are there, of course.
JLG: So they're there where finally the West, the industry, the science isn't?
JPS: Yes, yes. Anyway, maybe when you fly in the Concorde one can feel the energy, I'm not saying that you can't, I haven't had that experience. You can't devalue everything either! And taking a plane from Geneva to go New York is magnificent! And being able to talk to people on the other side of the world is good. But then, there are also other energies and I like to cultivate and honour them.
JLG: How did it happen to you, how did it come to you, do you remember when you started to realize, to understand that there was something interesting, something you could perhaps learn from this side? What seduced you? When it happened?
JPS: Most of the works made by the artists of these ancient societies have somehow this shamanic dimension. That is to say that it is always a transformation into something else. Shamanism is transformation! The transformation, the gift of ubiquity and it's a bit like, yes, going from one state to another, that's it! Transmutation is alchemy!
JLG: Is that what you like? You like transmuting? Do you want to be someone else?
JPS: No, not for my own body, but in my cosmic travels, yes I do! Why don't you become a stone once? Or a river, yes! It's beautiful!
JLG: That's beautiful! And that's what you're trying to explain in your work?
JPS: Yes, that transmutation! Yes, that movement!
JLG: It's a testimony?
JPS: It's a testimony, yes!
JLG: From what you experience in these sessions, one might say, in this questioning...?
JPS: But we also often meet animals spirits, so we come out of our (bodily) solitude a bit, because our body is quite alone somewhere, excepted during sexuality. So we find spiritual guides somewhere. It's a great to find people who accompany us during our journey!
JLG: Even if they don't exist?
JPS: I strongly believe that the collective unconscious, as Jung would say, is something that does exist. We can say that when humanity will not exist anymore, it won't exist anymore ofcourse. But as long as humanity exists, it will be there!
JLG: You're an idealist, in the philosophical sense!
JPS: Yes, maybe?
JLG: That is to say that you can be something other than what you are there materially?
JPS: Of course! Yes!
JLG: You can be many other things, you can finally be what you want to be?
JPS: Yes that's true, but it's the gift (privilege) of the artist, of being almost schizophrenic. Because, well, you can be anything. There are even painters who decide to paint everything black during all their lives? It's a choice!
JLG: Soulages says it's the light!
JPS: Yes! And Robert Ryman painted with white all his life! It's a choice too! It's a transformation!
JLG: You had these experiences yourself in New York, at least in the United States when you were in New York, you left France, you met people who could allow you to do that. Was it a coincidence, were they encounters you had at the time, did you run into them as one say? Or did you finally talk about Pollock etc... These are people who went through that... And even at the end of the nineteenth century, there were French writers, painters, poets etc., who also lived through things like that. So what led you in that direction, on that path? Is it rather readings? Are they people who fascinated you, artists? Like Pollock. Or was it chance, finally being in the United States, do you remember that?
JPS: Yes, first, I read a lot of Mircea Eliade's essays, he wrote his big book on the history of shamanism: Shamanism and the Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, and I also like Georges Bataille's book: L'Èrotisme, where he talks a lot about trances. And of course this state of trance interests me. Personally, I have never taken drugs, I'm not interested in it at all.
JLG: So no artificial paradise with you?
JPS: No, no! Because that's how it happened to me! It's chance and coincidence! It's more like life's coincidences. Because in front of shamanic works, you can feel that something is happening, something that doesn't happen in any European painting. Well, there are examples of European paintings that can take us into a state of trance, but never to this point.
JLG: Because it has a more direct relationship with nature?
JLG: It's something simpler again. Nature itself, the animals, the air, the sun?
JPS: The body especially!
JLG: The basics!
JPS: Yes, of course, yes.
JLG: Whereas we're very, very far away from that in the West today!
JPS: Very far away, yes!
JLG: You're the antithesis of what Hegel, for example, describes... he says there can't be beauty in nature, there's no such thing as beauty in nature!
JPS: Yes, I'm the antithesis of Hegel! Absolutely!
JLG: There has to be a man for there to be beauty in fact? There has to be a human nature for there to be beauty, because there's no such thing as beauty in nature?
JPS: Maybe he's right, I don't know? I really don't know? It takes a conscience to see beauty maybe, or maybe not. That's not a question I want to answer.
JLG: You actually don't care about that?
JLG: In fact, you've never been interested in that, and besides, it sends you back... that is to say, to intellectualize life or art too much, in fact it pisses you off!
JPS: That's quite true!
JLG: And that's to be found in the fact, how could one say, in the fact of this problem you're facing: who are the spectators of your art? from which you feel very well that they're not feeling anything at all facing your art! So that's what your job is, to make them feel something strong! Almost through a body experience! While they will try to decipher, to understand, why we eventually have an erect sex in front of a lotus flower, which itself is rather blue than yellow? What does that refer to, what does it refer to? We're going to talk bluntly: fuck it!
JPS: Yes, because there's no reading grid for my work! You can't decipher it like that, no. It's not that it bothers me, but everyone does what they can with it's own means! You can't systematically criticize things! That's just the way it is!
JLG: And yet you love great intellectual texts. We often talk about literature, about beautiful, great literature: Salammbô, (The Temptation of Saint Anthony) by Flaubert, that inspires you a lot, whereas to adhere to those texts, you still have to make something very intellectual rather than a very physical work!
JPS: I'm fortunate enough to be French and American, which means, I'm both intellectual and pragmatic at the some level. Maybe you can't really use the word pragmatic for Americans, but in tune with life; yes, I am both!
JLG: More in tune with nature, simple!
JPS: Yes, yes.
JLG: Did you really feel the difference between these two cultures?
JPS: Of course! Yes, I think I did.
JLG: And which one do you prefer?
JPS: I like both, but my body feels much more comfortable in the United States! My body, yes! And maybe my intellect is more comfortable in France? Maybe, yes!
JLG: Then you should leave your body in the United States!
JPS: Yes, that would be nice!
JLG: And you'd go back to Europe from time to time to visit us!
JPS: Yeah, why not!
JLG: To offer us new works!
JPS: I'm passionate about both ways of living, of course, but I don't want to force my intellect to think about things for which I don't have the solutions.
4/4: SEX, SPIRITUALITIES, SHAMANISM & ENERGIES #4 - Watch the video (In French only)
JLG: We've talked about your inspirations, but I'll come back to that at that point. They aren't necessarily the usual source of inspiration for the artists we generally come into contact with today, who work more by historical influences. With this great history of European artists, particularly of course the Great Classical Art, the Renaissance, etc.... So you don't deny it, you don't deny this art; but you, your source of inspiration once again is to look elsewhere? It's to look in imagery like this: magical, archaic, tribal! Is that your source of inspiration?
JLG: Why aren't you finally interested in going beyond the problems of religion, of reference to death, of a Judeo-Christian culture? Why aren't you interested in going to Caravaggio, Titian, Michelangelo, Raphael, Piero della Francesca works? ...signs and symbols and.... you really don't you feel a filiation there, or is it more complicated?
JPS: I felt I belonged to this filiation before I left for the United States (in 1991), but ever since then, a fundamental break has been created between Europe and me. This rupture has allowed me to go towards other horizons... And besides, all the American painters wanted also to get rid of European culture. They came out of it by the format, first of all, the large format. And one of the problem in Europe is also Picasso, because many painters (were annihilated) by Picasso. In fact, there are two problems for us artists in the contemporary art of the 20th century: it's Picasso and Duchamp! So either they make copies of Duchamp, they make... readymade. They take an object, they take this table for example, they make it at ten times bigger scale, and it's a work of art! Well, good for them! In New York, I saw bathtub casts in galleries, there were three bathtub casts that were 4 meters long staged ... Okay, but personally, I don't get anything out of it, it doesn't talks to me at all. And the second problem is Picasso, because he has precisely and fortunately recovered this original energy (after centuries of disappearance), which we see and find into his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon painting, almost for the first time. So we really have to get rid of art history... And the European artists have a lot of trouble, especially the French ones, who were completely knocked out by Picasso, it's normal since it's a work of great energy! So, fortunately living in the United States, I was lucky not to be stunned by these old cultures. And for example, as we were talking about by Michelangelo and other painters of that time and so on. So, me, I was knocked out by all the Native American cultures! And also by the Asmat cultures of New Guinea... These works challenged me in the sense that I often telling with this anecdote : often, when I go to the Met and I am in front of the Asmat statues, the Asmat poles! I thought to myself at that time, there were perhaps 100,000 artists in New York and that no artist was capable of doing such a strong art work! So there is a problem! Because I like strength in art ! We talked about it: energy, strength is what I like...! After, we can find this energy in Basquiat works, you see for example ! But an art without energy, it doesn't speak to me ! Anyhow, everyone has their own experience and does what he can do. I don't discuss people who like Soulages' paintings for example. There are some things I like and some things I like less. Because I've been through it, I was happy to see that kind of art, and then one move on to like something else. Because it seems to me there's an extra dimension to it, for me. But for other people, there will be one dimension less! Because I'm boring you with your Western culture! I think that other cultures are creating stronger art and from far ahead! But maybe the audience is right? Maybe Jeff koons is the new... great shaman of contemporary art? Maybe he is?
JLG: Who knows?
JPS: But the day you're in front of a real Amazon shaman, he won't fit the bill! Because these people still possess knowledge that is thousands of years old. And it's this millennia-old knowledge that is disappearing in our daily art! That's what I want to reintegrate.
JLG: By dint of acquiring a true anthropological knowledge, one could almost say of these practices, of these peoples that we know very little, or very poorly. Finally, can your work also be read as a form of anthropological work on the question of the energies, the beauty, the lives of these peoples, these cultures? Can it be seen as a form of anthropology?
JPS: Yes, rather a curiosity! It's like a curiosity cabinet. But not in a bad sense, because I don't want to be European-centred. To say that because I'm an European artist, I think that's good, no. If I like this image, if it speaks to me, then I use it, even if I don't know its deep meaning.
JLG: You're not necessarily looking for meaning?
JPS: I don't know it!
JLG: Are you interested, or not?
JPS: I'm interested, I have some leads, but no one can have the experience of a shaman until they've lived the trance. We can talk about it, but it always remains superficial. I'll give the example of George Catlin (1896-1872), he's an American painter and thanks to him, we have his writings and letters (The North American Indians). He wrote a book about his experiences during his travels on the Plains in the years (1830-1840). And so he painted a lot of paintings of Indian scenaries, but the most important are his texts describing Indian rituals (The Sioux Dance of the Sun etc...), some Amerindian activists say of Catlin: "He pisses us off, he didn't understand anything about trances, although he witnesses them! But he didn't understand anything!" Of course, he didn't understand anything, he couldn't as he didn't belong to the same culture! But in spite of everything and thanks to him, we have traces, testimonies. Because if he hadn't passed there, by the Indian's territories, we wouldn't know anything about there daily lives and rituals today! I pay tribute to him because he took his easels, he almost got killed... Because at one point, he had painted an Indian chief by profile, with just half his face, and some Indians saw that and they wanted to kill him because the Indian chief was not complete, whole (from the front and from the side)! So there's a whole relationship to the picture that's completely different! I am grateful to him because he said in a way: I lived that and I talk about it, I testify!
JLG: They would have hated the cinema, because we cut up bodies and so on...
JPS: Yes, that's it. But these are anecdotes that show that each culture is particular and you can't share strong experiences. Like the experience of death for exemple, we can't talk about it. Even Tibetan monks who spend sixty years thinking and learning about it; you don't know anything about it until you're dead!
JLG: Perhaps one last area where we can try to see your work is something to do with identity. I'm trying to explain. Since you use signs in your work, which are actually sacred signs for people. Which correspond to specific cultures: lotus flowers are specific for a people. And that you superimpose them, the imbrications, the mixes... with other sacred signs of other cultures, maybe we could call it postmodernism?
JPS: Yeah, if you want?
JLG: In the end, these signs have no value in themselves, at least for us who use them today!
JLG: And then you make it your own language as you said, your own form, your own story, you tell your own story!
JLG: I'm talking about identity, because somehow that can be a problem? When you say, we don't necessarily understand what these people were thinking, their relationship to beauty, it was magnificent and so on... So these people had a precise relationship that made sense in their culture. And the question I want to ask you is by superimposing all that, by creating a new language of all that! Doesn't that bother you? Do you finally support the idea of this post-modern world in which the past is not too interesting, it would be better to put it aside. And then do something new. Use what was good a little bit like that and make each of us... What's your idea? Maybe nihilism somewhere? Could it be unchained freedom? We do what we want with signs, we do what we want with stories, we do what we want with cultures?
JPS: No, it depends on how you do it!
JLG: And we make an art, a language, a new thing, a new world? Each do something else with it?
JPS: It depends on how you work. I think and hope to work in a respectful way, but then you never know how your work is perceived? You can get that impression from my work, I'll give you that!
JLG: In any case, how do you see this world today, which almost refuses these relationships with roots, the past, the sacred, etc. to make a new world out of it? Do you feel you're part of this flow? Do you find that there is a positive, interesting, revolutionary meaning that your art can draw inspiration from? Or be an object of it? How do you perceive that?
JPS: No, I don't know?
JLG: How do you perceive this world in which signs no longer make signs in the end, whereas you use signs every day in your work? In your own way, but you use those signs! There wouldn't be any signs anymore, your work wouldn't exist! The lotus flower, it wouldn't be there!
JPS: Yes, but I use it precisely because it has a precise meaning. I'm like the guardian of the temple somewhere. Yes, that's it and that's all! I think we have to keep this knowledge. And to know that there are millions of languages, well, hundreds of languages that are disappearing nowadays, hundreds of artists that are disappearing, it drives me sad! Because what's beautiful in life is diversity, of course! Yes!
JLG: So we must continue to make these signs having senses!
JPS: Of course!
JLG: Even if we use them differently, we have to make them exist, that's what's important!
JPS: The problem is that culture turns into folklore in all these first societies. Does that still make sense? Yes, it does!
JPS: Kitsch, that's right! But with the way I work, I always have this feeling of doing a sacred ritual. Maybe it can look kitschy to some people, that my work is just kitsch, as you say? I don't know? We don't know!
JLG: But not for you, anyway?
JPS: No, because I put a lot of integrity and respect into doing it!
JLG: Thank you, Jean-Pierre.
JPS: Thank you, Jean-Luc.
"Impromptus Interviews" between artist Jean-Pierre Sergent & philosopher Marie-Madeleine Varet | 3 parts | Besançon Studio | Thursday September 27th 2018 | English translated by Linda TeStroete Bassard - Download the PDF
1/3: ABOUT THE SHAKTI-YONI SERIES IN GENERAL - Watch the video
Jean-Pierre Sergent: Hello dear Marie-Madeleine, thank you for coming to see me at the Studio. you were passing through Besançon and I said here, maybe we'll shoot this little video.
Marie-Madeleine Varet: Thursday the 27th, a date to mark! Blessed! Jean-Pierre's workshop is a sanctuary! It's a blessing to be here! Explain us this beautiful title a little bit? Please explain to us what are the themes behind this beautiful title a little bit? Which is maybe not so obvious to most of us?
JPS: Shakti is in India the female energy, it is all that recreates the world. The Yoni is the female sex, the opening, the cave, the place where Life simply springs forth.
MMV: And the place of all the meetings...
JPS: Birth, life, death... In the Book of the Tibetan dead, it is necessary to choose the new vulva by which one reintegrates his next life.
MMV: And for continuity. All the themes that are in your recent works where have you taken them from...? Where did you find the iconography? Do you have like a corpus of images?
JPS: I get a lot of images on the internet, pornographic or erotic images... But also images of flowers, birds, stones... Hindu yantras
MMV: This is for the image and in relation to inspiration? Is inspiration related to things you have read? This desire to promote this philosophy..., this art of living...
JPS: Yes, it's more an art of living, rather than a philosophy.
MMV: Because you get your inspiration from the text!
JPS: Yes, that's right, often.
MMV: In order to feed, to feed your art. And then you have this momentum, this movement towards the image.
JPS: For it is more an art of living than a philosophy. This is the philosophy of many pre-industrial societies.
MMV: So there are these two aspects that are interesting. Yes it's often true! Then you have this impulse, this movement towards the image. In order to feed your art.
JPS: It may be a comment, it is the memory of all that is disappearing.
MMV: Yes, that is also an other dimension!
JPS: We were just talking about desire at the moment and we feel that in our societies desire is exacerbated by the consumer society. But somehow, the human being's desire to be alive disappears. As if we were washed out!
MMV: Washed out....
JPS: As if our vital energy had left.
MMV: Do you have the feeling that it is unique to the West?
JPS: As everyone has said, there are many books that have been written about the decline of the West. Nietzsche was of course talking about it. We must find back Dionysus, and the life forces.
MMV: Do you have any idea what is causing this decline?
JPS: It's complicated, it's multiple. Undoubtedly Industrialization, the overproduction of materials, cars... We are drawing on all natural resources, but also human resources. The men are exhausted today. And the body also? That's what's still...
MMV: Because all this work, Shakti, is a kind of glorification, an apology of the body in all its glory. For in his ecstasy, in his trance, in his access to another world in pleasure and in the whole. A way of attaining transcendence through the body and not through ideas, through the intellect.
JPS: Yes, exactly!
MMV: There is this kind of connection. And I still think, since I've known you, you have this will to express the richness and durability of being through the body! Through desire, through pleasure, through climax, all these elements...
JPS: The body is the only thing that can be controlled. Yet it is necessary to have the intelligence to understand these mechanisms, not all can be understood. To respect, I believe it is a matter of respect!
MMV: To have respect, yes!
JPS: As the Amerindians respected Nature, we must respect our bodies. And afterward, one can live in harmony. Because many people that do not respect their bodies are not in harmony with their surroundings.
MMV: Of course! And do you think that there is this fear, a kind of disavowal of physical pleasure, which can be related to this disrespect of the body? This kind of fear that makes that…? In all that you show, there is an exaltation of pleasure. I have the feeling that today we are below, behind, backwards, in relation to this immense domain that reaches a beyond. As you just said before. I have the feeling that today self-realization is done by the material and no longer by this object that we all carry around, which is our body.
JPS: You can't call it an object!
MMV: It is a subject object, of course! I have the feeling that it is put a little bit in brackets. By both great sexual freedom, which, by a strange phenomenon, is translated into... a regression of pleasure and desire.
JPS: Yes, it's paradoxical. It is above all a regression of love. It is a non-acceptance of the other also. I do not advocate for hedonistic pleasure, I advocate for pleasure in fusion.
MMV: In fusion, of course...! And this radiates through all your work.
JPS: Yes, Thank you !
MMV: This fusion there, because one cannot take a piece, one is irradiated!
2/3: ABOUT THE SHAKTI-YONI SERIES ON YELLOW WANG 80G PAPER - Watch the video
MMV: So, if you'd like to introduce us to these wonders. There are two types of support?
JPS: Yes, there are two types of support because the colors react completely differently. On this yellow paper, I manage to have a kind of tonality like one finds on pottery. By adding several layers of paint. Paintings made on pottery are what impresses me the most. Because there is a subtlety. I like terracotta because it is of the clay! I really like paintings made like this.
MMV: Magnificent, you comment a little bit on them at the level of the... Are you still working on the Patterns?
JPS: Yes, yes, yes...! This is a prehistoric image. It may be a Hindu drawing, it is the presence of a goddess, or a divinity. It is true that many images are erotic, sexual images. They show the trance, the body in trance, the body that rejoices, the body that is climaxing.
JPS: Before you came, I chose some.
MMV: Beautiful, Very saturated colors, one has the impression to see precious stones in transparency. Look at these blues! I am fascinated by the mystical blue that is always present in your work.
JPS: But this is the first year I have used colored inks.
MMV: That's so beautiful!
JPS: This is Indian ink, in general, I print one or two layers of images. And then after the evening I put a little Indian ink or green ink. It is a work in progress that builds.
MMV: Of construction and metamorphosis also. I like that aspect, which has a kind of evolution. According to your mental state, spiritual. It is the stratification of the elements, it accumulates like that over time.
JPS: For example, these small flowers collected from a Japanese manga. This is a Peruvian drawing, you see! A textile, that's it, we find it there about...
MMV: And that's it, on this paper, the effect is not the same at all! It's very weird, you'd have to confront them! Beautiful, yes, yes, yes, yes, really interesting as a result!
JPS: There is this kind of fragility, this kind of ephemerality in the works on Wang paper, which I love very much.
MMV: You can almost see the texture, it's very strange. You speak of the ephemeral side.
JPS: Of course our life is totally ephemeral, so we must also speak of the ephemeral.
MMV: Knowing that beauty survives us is very reassuring.
JPS: Not quiet sure of that ! At least there was beauty! There are so many things that no longer exist nowadays!
MMV: Yes, it's true, continuity anyway, there are substrates like that are...
JPS: It's beautiful in the green tones too. This one is white. There I wanted to paint with white Indian ink, but it didn't work, so I printed it white, straight away.
MMV: And there you were able to continue, to enrich, to find very, very innovative things in your work technique?
JPS: But technique is mastered. It's been since I worked with Indian ink.
MMV: There is always behind it this inventiveness, of which you spoke about a moment ago. From the moment you see a work, you can extend it, you can transform it... That's why I was talking about metamorphosis, I think it's beautiful.
JPS: Yes, it's a nice word!
MMV: With regard to technique, it made it look noble!
JPS: This grey is beautiful!
MMV: Oh yes! Very, very beautiful!
JPS: In fact, I want to talk about the presence: whether it be a flower, a tree, or a woman. Perhaps it is one of the most forgotten notions, the presence in the world? To be present in the world.
MMV: It is a very important philosophical theme! Even in relation to objects, not only to living beings,
JPS: But the paradox is that I speak of ecstasy, and ecstasy is the only time when we are no longer present in the world!
MMV: It is very paradoxical.
JPS: It is very paradoxical. As in death or in birth. It is a little bit like the divine presence. It’s very paradoxical.
MMV: At the same time, it is perhaps an increased presence in the world, like increased consciousness. I believe in that a lot, on the contrary. It is not, this feeling of having passed a higher stage, it is not an absence, but on the contrary, it is a strengthening of the being. I firmly believe in it.
JPS: Yes, you are totally right. See, with yellow ink!
MMV: Ah, it's beautiful! It seems as if it makes you feel like you're gushing out! What is the view of our contemporaries on such iconography?
JPS: A lady came to see me at the Wopart fair in Lugano, and she told me that my images of bondage bothered her.
MMV: Just recently?
JPS: But I understand that because we understand sexuality with our personal history, inevitably, someone who has had suffering in his sexual life or who has never known pleasure, can hardly understand these images of ecstasy. That makes sense!
MMV: I have difficulty understanding them. Because there is a refusal, almost of... That is to say, a person who is confine with his own frame is still very dangerous. For me it is a form of refusal to open up to...
JPS: Yes, but we cannot ask everyone to be open to art!
MMV: Yes and no, it's totally obvious. Since it is the most natural and primitive thing, that is why I am always amazed that there is this intellectual retreat.
JPS: Sexuality can be hurtful as well.
MMV: I have no doubt, as life itself is a wound. It is a fact of experience to be wounded. There is no turning back from... The human body is like a..., and the female sex is the first wound, primordial. Which you have shown so well, moreover. It is beautiful!
JPS: It's a drawing of a shaman who wears wings like that!
MMV: Very, very, very, very beautiful. Has it occupied all your summer?
JPS: Yes I worked all summer long.
MMV: With joy? There is this kind of sharing between the artist and his work, this circulation of energy.
JPS: We feed one another. It is very rewarding! I'm going to show you now the small works on BFK paper, it's quite different... As I told you before.
3/3: ABOUT THE SHAKTI-YONI SERIES ON RIVES BFK 250G PAPER - Watch the video
JPS: We were talking about the support.
MMV: The two types of support you have selected.
JPS: The red is beautiful too!
MMV: Red is very, very beautiful! It has an intensity, a velvet.
JPS: Almost Cardinal purple.
MMV: Yes, that's right, I didn't dare to talk about it in terms of the themes.
JPS: But in fact the church has understood the value of colors well. Like lapis lazuli blue. Giotto's works are very fabulous... all the primitive Italians.That is also beautiful!
MMV: It is very, very beautiful. And always this side... like a piece of precious cloth laid so carelessly... With all the edges, the irregularity. Chance. A form of fragility, as you said earlier.
JPS: Yes, it is very important, someone can’t paint flowers without knowing that it is ephemeral, that is what makes them important! And likewise as for of women’s beauty. It is also a Hindu yantra.
MMV: It's so beautiful!
JPS: Yes, I really want to give the impression that it is obvious, that we should not feel it laborious.
MMV: Exactly, yes, yes, yes. That's very fair, what you just said, it impresses me. Like all your work has, as it did the first time I came in and saw this wall. At the same time there is the coexistence, the cohabitation of all these Plexiglas paintings, and at the same time, there is this incredible unity that is obvious. That I find fascinating about your work. It's a real tour de force, a king of magic trick!
JPS: This blue one is also beautiful!
MMV: Blue is beautiful. It is as if it were the skin of an animal, the bark of a tree...This sensual touch is very physical. The hand is naturally attracted. Even without gloves!
JPS: For it is true, my work must be sensual.
MMV: Scales, it’s very, very beautiful.
JPS: It's a little like the Caryatids.
MMV: The silhouettes, yes, it's very Greek!
JPS: The Parthenon! It's a bit darker, but it's also beautiful! It is almost like a presence in a dream.
MMV: Yes, chiaroscuro.
JPS: Something that returns to dwell in us, as in the Rembrandts paintings. Moreover I have sold a work to Lugano, black on black, an image of a bondage.
MMV: Beautiful too! I worship these positions... of grace.
JPS: But, I incorporate erotic images that many people consider trashy.
MMV: That's it, Trash, that's the the word to say it: garbage!
JPS: While I find in some of them, not all of them, a certain serenity.
MMV: The poses of these women are... That's why I was so fascinated by the “Large Blue”, which is a pure wonder, both of eroticism and of greatness. There is something truly spiritual and very elevated in the way in which you have dealt with this magnificent work. Glorious!
JPS: "Human, too human". Welcome to Nietzsche! It's beautiful this blue, a little Klein blue.
MMV: I am fascinated!
JPS: Often while working on the images on the computer, I mix firstly the erotic image with patterns. That the body may be integrated into a kind of matrix.
MMV: In fact, it need a long work of preparation what you are completing? It's not only just a direct throw!
JPS: There is a lot of preparation for the screens...
MMV: Well, I am very grateful, as always and more and more. To discover your work step by step, I think we are discovering you step by step. It's something very.... There is both slowness and deepness at the same time. Such are the dimensions that you pass through like this with great ease and happiness, moreover.
JPS: Marie-Madeleine, did you want to add anything?
MMV: Thank you! And also for the discovery of the new mural, which I had not yet had the joy of discovering. It is sublime, sublime. It is a dream, to have the space to fill it with this form of both immanence and transcendence. There is reall immanence, because we are there; and then there is elevation, that happiness of being in Jean-Pierre Sergent's space-time. Thank you again!
JPS: Thank you Marie-Madeleine, thank you very much.
"Endless Discussions In The Studio" between artist Jean-Pierre Sergent & philosopher Marie-Madeleine Varet | 8 parts | Besançon Studio | Friday November 3rd 2017 | English translated by Linda TeStroete Bassard - Download the PDF
1/8: STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION OF MY PAINTINGS (1/2) | PAINTINGS IN FRANCE (1984-1991) - Watch the video
Jean-Pierre Sergent: Hello everyone, today is Friday, November 3rd 2017, and we have the great honour to welcome our friend Marie-Madeleine Varet who came especially by TGV from Paris this morning. So we could discuss the history of my works. Handling sound today, we have Christine Chatelet, and Lionel Georges filming on camera. We're going to start this interview by talking about the:
THE ORGANIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE FORM AND STRUCTURE OF MY PAINTINGS
JPS: I realized during the development of this crazy artistic adventure, I started to work on the square format about thirty years ago and it turns out that currently, I still work with the square. So, we'll look at some old pictures from the portfolios and add them during the editing of the video. So that people may see what it is all about. Marie-Madeleine, I'll introduce you to this! And then, of course, you join in whenever you want! In 1984, I worked on small formats like this rectangular, where I compared two colours, for example a cadmium yellow with a black. Or a vertical blue line, then at some point I started working on small square formats, which we see here in the portfolio and which of course we will show in more detail...! These were small formats that were twenty-two by twenty-two centimetres. It's pretty small, it's about the same size as my new silkscreen prints now! But I also worked on large formats that were 1.30 x 1.30 m at the time. And it so happens that I am currently working on formats that are 1.40 x 1.40 m, so it has changed very little over time... And so it's been more than 30 years!
Marie-Madeleine Varet: So this is work from New York?
JPS: No, these are works that I was doing on my farm in Charquemont (France).
MMV: Was it in France?
JPS: Yes, so I've been working on the square format for thirty years. After this square format, I worked on panel paintings (polyptych).
THE POLYPTYCHS PAINTINGS
JPS: I have never been satisfied with a simple (one) work, with a simple masterpiece and always wanted to gather different energies, for example, here we see: white, yellow and in the middle a red, it is a little phallic like that! It was always a confrontation between two spaces and a third space, it is a bit like the trinity.
MMV: In verticality?
JPS: In verticality, there you go, absolutely. So these are really my first abstract works. And then after that, I continued this abstraction and verticality by working on columns.
THE COLUMNS PAINTINGS
JPS: Here we see the columns which are made up of five modules. My inspiration was of course American painters like Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko and of course Pollock in gestures. In the ejaculation of the painting on the canvas. These are the last works that I did in France. I also started to reintegrate press clippings and painted on them.
THE PRESS CLIPPINGS
JPS: With letters, some symbols like that! We'll show this in more detail in the video. I want to talk now about the Montreal paintings: I moved to Montreal in 1991.
MMV: Ah there you go, progress....
THE COLUMNS ON PLEXIGLASS PAINTINGS (1991-1993)
MMV: We find the columns again!
JPS: So, I worked on the columns and the anecdote made the Toronto gallery owner who wanted to work with me and didn’t accept that I worked with Masonite. Because I was working on Masonite at the time. So, I had to think long and hard to find a material that was as stable as Masonite (same thickness) and that was also acid-free. I thought about Plexiglas, so at first I really worked on Plexiglas.
MMV: Yes, yes, yes, yes...
JPS: And then the idea came to me to paint the back side and now I paint only behind the Plexiglas. So there we see these great columns which are 2.50 x 0.50 m. I also continued to work on abstract paintings on canvas.
MMV: Oh, there, there!
THE LARGE ABSTRACTS PAINTINGS
JPS: And in four parts there were numbers. It is a bit like a spiritual dimension, a spiritual awakening of consciousness. They were also spaces where one can enter with his body, because they are really large canvases (2.80 x 2.24 m). Now we see that too, it's also a great series!
THE GATES OF HEAVEN (1991-1993)
JPS: So I still have the red-blue, black-white confrontation. And after that, I started to reintegrate the press clippings This is the last abstract painting I made in Montreal, which is about: 2.76 x 2.76 m.
MMV: Always on the same support?
JPS: No, it’s on canvas! I worked with the contrasts between the thick, rough, heavy, matter and the plane, smooth, painted surface with some matte wax. And I remained in front of this paintings for approximately fifteen days…! And I said to myself: I can work like that on variations ad infinitum, but that's not what I want to do! From this painting on, I reintegrated some images and figurative elements like press clips.
MMV: So that's what I'm so passionate about, this kind of movement that you've reversed a little bit from the more classic tradition. From line and abstract to much more figurative forms.
JPS: But, while keeping the framework of abstraction.
MMV: You integrate more figurative elements into this structure which is very geometric. Which stays, which remains.
JPS: Yes, absolutely! It is square shaped already, you see that.
MMV: Can you say a few words about what led you to evolve in this way?
JPS: Well, while living in Montreal I was confronted with a totally different culture, of course far from my family, far from my friends. And then I was also missing the physical presence of others, I felt alone. Maybe the absence of the woman's body also. As a result, I was missing a reference point. Abstraction was a lonely way, very lonely.
MMV: Yes and more difficult!
JPS: Yes, more difficult.
MMV: Barebones a bit in any case!
JPS: Barebones, and then I knew the life of many abstract painters, and Rothko for example, at the end of his life his paintings are superb, but he still killed himself. So for me, abstraction is a non-issue, for me personally.
MMV: But it's related to a kind of despair, dereliction, isolation?
JPS: Yes, undoubtedly, yes.
MMV: And as a result this desire to reintegrate more organic, more human forms is the result of this personal experience.
JPS: Yes, quite so, yes, yes!
MMV: All right, I had no idea.
JPS: And, add also contemporaneousness and press clippings. I was gluing pieces of newspapers. We see one here!
QUESTION INEVITABLE QUESTION
JPS: So, I bought the New York Times on Sundays and cut out the articles I was interested in. Now we see a supermodel! And I put Scotch tape on it and I painted with acrylic on cardboard. We can already see the Velcro that I will use a lot afterward. So I did all this work there. And then we'll get to the series with figures and press articles. I was going downstairs to 40-60 St Laurent where my landlord had a press shop where they could make photocopies. I enlarged the photocopies to the format, sometimes I made them in color. And it's a great series with numbers. Here we also see Leo Castelli, he was a friend, a New York gallery owner. So that's it, and I worked on these large formats where the body took its dimension in the painting.
MMV: Yes, there is a reintegration of the organic and the human!
JPS: Yes, because in Montreal I discovered the immensity, the space.
MMV: Yes, wide open spaces!
JPS: It is rather strange that we no longer feel that at all in Europe. But, that you can feel in the United States. Then I really understood American painting when I arrived in Montreal. So there are the patterns that we have already seen together. Then let’s talk about… It's also paintings in Montreal where I started to mix the aluminum and lead or copper strips on which I silk screened images.There we see top models again, mixed with prehistoric drawings of the Valley of the Wonders of Nice. So, that's it, and I worked on these large formats where the body took its dimension in the painting. And so on these plates which were very smooth, and around that, I integrated thick paint with construction nets. It gave me objects, it is the beginning of the Sculpture-Objects.
MMV: We go from the absolute plane to the matter that emerges there!
JPS: The matter emerges, yes! There we see images of horses, that is a band of lead and it is on unmounted canvases. This is the beginning of screen printing, as it is in Montreal where I started the screen printing process. These are also great canvases, which are probably two and a half meters high with copper bands and skulls. And these are the first assemblies of work on Plexiglas on the walls. Here is a plane. And after that I made the collumns, form Plexiglas waste.
JPS: Of Plexiglas and that's when I started to screen print in a very playful way, press articles that I transferred by screen printing. So I hand these up on the wall with pins. And sometimes I put it all the way up on a wall. This is the beginning of the assemblies on the wall, these paintings on Plexiglas. And then here it is, so after that we see other series with cardboard and then we come to New York. There are also assemblies of Plexiglas with pictures of paintings, trees, and water.
2/8: STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION OF MY PAINTINGS (2/2) | PAINTINGS IN NEW YORK (1993-2003) - Watch the video
JPS: The Object-Paintings which you love so very much.
MMV: Yes, the use, coexistence of different materials with completely different densities and reflections.
MMV: And I think it's wonderful because there's the magic of the totem pole, in these very magical elements, magical objects.
JPS: I have one that I will go and fetch. For these are many things which I was gathering in the street. And we find this system of solar swastika that rotates, and the silkscreens that are integrated on the Plexiglas. And there I had a stapler, so I put the stapler in and bound it with a strip of lead, which holds the whole thing together. It is indeed a desire for cohesion, as we have spoken a little about before. I want to make a cohesive system where everything is part of the whole!
MMV: As we find elsewhere... Absolutely, there is a kind of permanence of this need in you.
JPS: Yes, to be cohesive. Of course my influence at that time... I really liked Jasper Johns' work, especially these Targets. I found that they had a very primitive presence. And, of course, all the objects I saw at the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Natural History in New York, influenced me a lot to do this work. So there is this and we're going to arrive at my second workshop in New York. This was my studio in DUMBO, Brooklyn, where I even painted on fridge doors! They were mostly recovered items, most of the time. We'll start to see how the Plexiglas got together. I began to assemble small panels like this on Plexiglas and assemble them into a shape, a square structure the assembly of the Plexiglas modules on the wall. So, there was also emptiness spaces that interpenetrated like that. And I decided one day to put these squares together, to put them together on the wall to form a greater whole. This was an exhibition I had made in Paris. It is the beginning of the work on Plexiglas. And from that time on, I only work with Plexiglas and silkscreen prints on paper.
MMV: And my question is: from that moment that you created the first module, perfect, the perfect square? The magnificent structure you are still developing today. This passage from unity to cohabitation, confrontation, the intimate proximity of these different modules next to each other. With very discordant, very dissonant, very screaming and very contrasting themes and motifs. That really amaze us all. Is it this discordance itself that calls and generates unity and harmony? Did you feel in your mind, originally, when you made these first modules and wanted to reproduce them, that you could afford this audacity? Extraordinary which is to make pages cohabit like in a big book, on the left I have a Proust page, on the right I have a pornographic manga? With this audacity you had to present this vision of your world to us?
JPS: Yes, I think my body intuitively looked for a system in which it could develop, because I am the one who makes the paintings. It is very adapted to my body, the modules are 1.05 by 1.05 m, I am 1.72 m, so it is really the golden number of my body (1.05 m at the navel). And I wanted absolutely a neutral system in which I could put anything.
MMV: That's it!
JPS: I can put all that I desire, all my desire in there, into the structure.
MMV: That's right, you're pouring out all your energy, it's something that flows like a stream that has no barrier and no dam.
JPS: Yes, indeed, exactly.
MMV: And the other question that concerned me a lot is that in the previous works, the Small Papers, there is a frame, a border, a limit, you were talking about it earlier. And in the expansion of your work on the large murals, indeed, we realize that it makes the frame and the limits explode, and therefore this work, we have the feeling that precisely it is absolutely not finished!
JPS: Absolutely, it is a work in progress!
MMV: It is totally expanding in space. And that's wonderful, but it's voluntary in you?
JPS: Of course, yes, because I do not like finished things, I do not like masterpieces, I want it to continue in time!
MMV: On the other hand, if you want to isolate one of the modules, you will present it with...
JPS: The sacred frame!
MMV: The sacred frame which is the perimeter actually very ancient, in the Indian tribes we find this sacred perimeter. Which you also symbolized by checkers.
JPS: Checkerboard yes, alternative colours: yellow-red, black-yellow...
MMV: That's it, so it happened in New York, this will to blow up everything?
JPS: Yes, it was in my DUMBO workshop that I developed it. Because I wanted to find a system that could be as strong as that of the "primitive" artists in quotation marks. Their works impress me the most. And I asked myself, Why? At that time, there were perhaps two hundred thousand artists in New York and yet no artist is capable of doing something so strong? So I had to find a formal structure, which could allow me to speak of sex, death, colors, ejaculations...
MMV: Totally, in a totally free way of expression! It's like your body, your human being, your mixed feelings, which are intertwined, which clash... Because there is a lot of violence in this cohabitation!
JPS: This is the violence of life!
MMV: That's it!
3/8 ABOUT THE SILK-SCREENING TECHNIQUE - Watch the video
JPS: We are now entering the third part of our discussion, and I would have liked to mention the process of screen printing that I use on a daily basis to print either on Plexiglas or on paper. So I wanted to talk about... and make a statement that I feel like a painter more than a silkscreen printer, because painting is spreading a color on a surface, and that's exactly what you do with the silkscreen printing process. And it's often a pejorative term, because one says: the guy is a screen printer, so he's not an artist really. Or I really do feel like a painter and claim this notion of being a painter, because I use painter's inks, acrylics. So I wanted to explain this process a little bit: screen printing is that: we have a fabric like that, a nylon fabric, very solid. Of course you have to be careful not to drill it, but it's very strong and these meshes are mounted on frames, frames like that where they are stretched. That's what I did at work in New York, I stretched frames! Once these meshes are stretched on the frame, they are coated with photosensitive emulsion. And then we use positive films that block the light. So there we see, for example, a large film for the large silkscreen screens. This is a different technique for the small formats, I print the films directly with my printer.
MMV: So it's two different approaches?
JPS: For films yes! But all images are initially designed on a computer. With two software programs called Photoshop and Illustrator. Of course, the images must be black or transparent, there is no grey to print.
JPS: So these are all the silkscreen films and all the films I used this summer to print my new series, the Shakti-Yoni, Ecstatic Cosmic Dances. So then, once you have these images on a screen, well, I use the table over there, it's a table I brought back from New York that belonged to Andy Warhol, who printed his silkscreens on it. It goes like this: you put the paper underneath, or the Plexiglas, you put the card like that, of course you have to adjust and fix the position with the film. And then we take a color, put it there and pass it like that with a squeegee. It's really the stencil technique. I find this process a little magical in every step. The films must also be exposed in the light table. There is a magical side to developing images. There is also a sensual side, because having to touch it is very sensual and in addition I use erotic images!
MMV: So you have like an image inventory? From which you regularly draw, according to your inspiration....
JPS: Yes, I collect these images as I discover them. Either it's pictures I've taken before, nature or things like that. Or drawings that I collect. I also work a lot on patterns, geometric patterns.
JPS: I love to work in seriality.
MMV: I really liked the series of videos you were able to film with our dear Christine, from the Artist at work with all these gestures. There is a kind of ceremony, it is very beautiful to see, there is a ritual, it is almost liturgical. There is something very fascinating, and I think there have been a lot of them, you have made a lot of video series of the Artist at Work.
JPS: Yes, quite so.
MMV: And we see this face which is totally concentrating, the intensity of the gesture and the pleasure, and you were therefore talking about the sensuality that there is in this gesture. Which also corresponds well to what your work is, which is still an ode to sensoriality I would even say. Because all the senses are called upon in this work. There is smell, there is sight, there is breathing, contact, touch. So, that's why I was very interested in this series of the Artist at Work.
JPS: Thank you!
MMV: To show to what extent there is an implication of matter, inspiration, of the whole body, and it is true that sensuality shows through.
JPS: Yes !
MMV: And there are also some very nice pictures of you, thanks to Christine for giving back how much you have... this role, finally there is something very internal and very organic in these videos. I think it's a great way to show us what you've already given to us see.
JPS: Yes, but I think that the act of creating is a cosmic act, a demiurgic act! We will talk about it a little in the next parts. But I really feel connected, precisely with Nature, with the Universe.
MMV: And it shows! I think that's what these videos do very well, this kind of unity of the artist, the world, the flesh and the spirit.
JPS: Yes, absolutely!
MMV: There is a very, very beautiful symbiosis. I like it very much!
JPS: Thank you Marie-Madeleine! That's it!
4/8: THE FIRST SILKSCREEN PRINTS ON PAPER FROM NEW YORK (1994-1999) - Watch the video
JPS: So we're now going into this fourth part, where I wanted to introduce you to the first serigraphs I made in New York. Where I really integrate some rather sexual things and I wanted to start by quoting some excerpts from texts, for example this sentence by Henri Michaux who says :
"Ecstasy is cooperation with the divine creation of the world."
It's in The Turbulent Infinite. This book is very interesting. And my work is based mainly on ecstasy, whether sexual or spiritual ecstasies. And then I also wanted to talk about the book: Eroticism and the sacred, by Philippe Camby:
"To enter the divine world, which is his true homeland, the soul must be drawn by love."
It is true that desire and love are really what leads us to another place and makes us live, both make us live! And I also wanted to end with this quote in L'Èrotisme from Georges Bataille, it is a very interesting book to read, he says:
"On the contrary, my intention is to consider in eroticism an aspect of the inner life, if you will, of man's religious life."
It happens that the West has completely dissociated sexuality from religious life, it considers it in complete opposition. And I don't really know why, in New York, I started to integrate these erotic images back into my work. So I'm going to present you with some serigraphs, and then we can discuss them.
MMV: And all your work connects these two parts which are arbitrarily dichotomous and which you bring together in a unity that is totally important.
JPS: Yes, so at first, I was working on the Art News Paper, for example. I printed two or three images like this and gave a little felt on it. To get the today news and then the image of the female model. These are serigraphs of photos I took in churches, here in France I think? with Japanese graffiti drawings. And then I thought it was beautiful: Adam and Eve like that with a big dick in the middle! I thought it was funny! This is on Japanese paper, it's also very erotic images, sometimes even pornographic. At that time, I also started working with erotic texts. On paper, it is printed backwards, but as it was printed on the back of the Plexiglas... With images of erotic Greek vases also, very ancient, old images. It's a drawing I made like that... The goddess Durga dressed with a bone lace that she wears on her belly like that. With a vulva and a penis. The same here in white. We'll talk later about the joy in the erotic act. And already at that time I was incorporating images from Indian civilizations. That's a time pattern. I put fingerprints and then nets. This is the beginning of the work on the patterns too. My willingness to integrate and always mix the spiritual with the body is felt.
JPS: Likewise, it is a very erotic image with a labyrinth. These are really the first serigraphs, in 1995. There it’s also a labyrinth with a pre-Incan drawing, a tapestry.
MMV: The symbolism of the mystical spiral.
JPS: Yes, it is true that it is very mystical. These are drawings of aborigines from Australia. And this is the beginning of my work on Plexiglas. Here it is! Where I started to integrate around the image, the coloured Plexiglas frame.
MMV The frame, yes, yes, yes... That's fascinating then I find. In what year?
JPS: It is with a text from Ovid's Metamorphoses. I had made an exhibition at the Alliance Française of New York with this text!
MMV: Ovid's Metamorphoses! Of course! Of course!
JPS: So these are the first serigraphs, do you want to discuss them?
MMV: I simply end with Auguste Rodin who says: "In art, there is no immorality. Art is always sacred".
JPS: Yes, it is true!
MMV: So it was to honor what you just said about the cohabitation of these universes apparently and falsely distinct by our modern mind a little too much.
JPS: Thank you, thank you for this new part.
5/8: THE SMALL PAPERS SERIES IN NEW YORK (1998-2003) - Watch the video
JPS: I worked on a format which are ten inches by ten inches, in centimeters that is: 25.4 centimeters by 25.4 centimeters. I bought sheets of paper Rives BFK 250g (76 x 56 cm) and cut them in six parts. Since then, I have continued to work with the same format !
MMV: For the Small Papers series?
JPS: Yes, For the Small Papers. There it is on Rives yellow paper. I will show you them like that on the table, so that people can see what’s going on! acrylic silk-screened on Rives BFK paper, this series is entitled: Dionysos (1988), it is a series which I wanted to be highly erotic. Here are seven prints on display.
MMV: Can you please give us some information about the pieces, their contents and the title under which you gather them? You know how much I am in love with the titles of your works, and so here are the Dionysos and Dragon Ladies series?
JPS: Yes, that is called: Dionysos, or the organs of life, It was really sexuality in all its magnificence.
MMV: Very festive at the same time.
JPS: Orgiastic! Here yes, absolutely! Our contemporary societies have constrained more and more the individuals to earn money, to work more and more, and finally the orgiastic side, the joy, the will to regenerate the world, does not exist anymore, it’s gone for ever. The rituals were used to know when we will have rain, to know how to make it rain! We had lost this cosmic magical side and I think it can remain nevertheless today in sexuality, to reintegrate…
MMV: Thus this kind of vital explosion through these works! It always strikes me, especially the saturation of colors, which is so deep, endlessly, someone can really feel the blood flowing!
JPS: Yes, yes!
MMV: I have the feeling to see circulating blood…! Vital!
JPS: Yes, yes, you are absolutely right!
MMV: Something of very, very carnal again. Very beautiful. Thus Dionysos?
JPS: Yes, Dionysos or the God Pan in Europe, all the demiurgic Gods!
MMV: Once again, and in an explosion at the same time of this vital dash, of joy and of all what today, seems to be lacking a little bit to everyone of us!
JPS: Yes, absolutely! Then I will pass to a second series. That was my first series in 1998.
MMV: That is the series of the Dragon Ladies (2002). It is very important to know the titles because they gather the works in a more synthetic way.
JPS: Yes, Dragon Ladies, it is exactly that series! There again, there are seven serigraphs.
MMV: Very dense!
JPS: And these are works with a Maya drawing.
MMV: It’s Maya?
JPS: It is Maya, yes! It is a drawing which I copied from a Mayan vase. And it turns out that… Certain people thought that the Maya vases depicted different sequences. It was a kind of Book of the Dead, somehow! All these potteries were buried with dead bodies to accompany them in the other life. Thus one can say that these beautiful women, accompanied the dead soul in the other life.
MMV: They were very lucky!
JPS: Yes, it is true that today, nobody accompanies us in the other world!
MMV: In another manner, but perhaps less efficiently?
JPS: And it is what fascinates me in all these old civilizations like Egypt, India or Mexico: it is the will to continue with the human being alive (not accepting death).
MMV: Yes, death is only a passage and thus it should be accompanied with dignity, rituals and this kind of profusion, magnificence and beauty surrounding it.
MMV: But the woman is not excluded at all!
JPS: I wanted to show you this small Maya vase which I bought in Guatemala with my friend Olga and you can see a solar symbol and hieroglyphs… This vase was undoubtedly buried with an important king. Specifically to feed him in his second life.
MMV: To be with him in spirit!
JPS: I would like that the art I am making, be a bit like that: to accompany, not in other worlds, but in this world here, to accompany people in their lives.
MMV: In their lives!
MMV: There is no rupture anyhow between the two states. It’s really interesting, there is no break of continuity.
JPS: And then afterwards I continued with this series named: Ladies Of The Ants, (2003).
MMV: Which I am fond of enormously!
JPS: It is a mixture of patterns with a Janus figure (mirrored image), and I worked on this image after having experienced shamanic trances. When the spirits came to rebuild my body. Thus it is an homage to the lights in which I was bathing during this trances, as there were four women: a black one, a blue one, a yellow one, and a red one. And as in each cosmic trip, one dies and one is rebuilt by the spirits. And thus, these four women regenerated my body after I had been like a dead skeleton. I just wanted to speak about it, and I also wanted to talk about this powerful light and the tremendous beauty of these women who accompany us in infra-worlds.
MMV: And this death and this rebirth transform you, regenerates you forever?
JPS: Yes of course!
MMV: And that must have been one of the highest moments in your life as a man and artist?
JPS: Yes, shamanic trances have transformed me so deeply. So much with the energy, because it is an energy which one meets nowhere else. Perhaps during birth or death. But anyhow, death is something that we haven’t experienced yet! We don’t know!
MMV: But this passage, this breakthrough, is it irreversible?
JPS: Yes, no return!
MMV: You are somebody who carries in you this shamanic experience, which spurts out in all that you touch and in all that you create. I think that you may have this aura, this extraordinary dimension, which makes your work perhaps more difficult to perceive for regular people?
JPS: Yes, perhaps, but I am not a shaman, I was not raised in this tradition. The shamans always fit into a tradition, a culture.
MMV: I did not say that, but I think that the mark is deep. And it is an irreversible experience, that you can’t forget, it does not belong to the regular space-time frame, it is well beyond!
JPS: Yes, it is true!
MMV: And I believe that you are a witness, and it is a responsibility at the same time!
MMV: You testify!
JPS: I testify and I wanted to precisely give evidence of the purity. It is a word which shows up like that: the purity and the sanctity of the feelings, great love and compassion, which one can meet during those trances.
MMV: Yes, while also testifying of the diversity of the world through the erotic mangas, the bondage… A full set of topics which are a little uproarious!
JPS: Yes, but the mangas, finally the bondage, it is also a kind of ecstasy. It is another ecstasy!
JPS: One comes to the beginning of the Bondage series.
MMV: It really interests me! And you had your great art show in Besançon with the Bondage & Freedom piece, which means that the link is also a freedom!
JPS: Yes, completely!
MMV: That’s why the Large Blue Nude is so beautiful! We should try to exhibit it again!
JPS: Why not, let's see what will happen!
MMV: We will do it!
JPS: Here, it is this series: Bondage & Freedom, which goes back to 2003. It is one of my last series I printed out in New York!
MMV: Splendid! Very suggestive!
JPS: Here, it’s always bodies of women in bondage, tied up, and constrained. And here is a blue one! But we can feel here the ecstasy, the woman's pleasure! And how the body is completely forgotten, missing, but still completely present at another level! It is rather ambiguous! The body climax within a complete disappearance of its ego. It means that we enter into another world, it is named ecstasy!
MMV: I do refuse this concept of constraint which you just used. Although obviously the presence of the link tends to suggest a constraint there! But the link it is also what can be untied, and thus which is freeing us, and I find that ecstasy, it is… precisely the body is always a finished object which does not belong to…
JPS: I am not sure we can call it an object!
MMV: It’s a subject-object! And only the ecstasy and the pleasure which you do show there very well, make it possible to leave the body, it is what you just said right now?
JPS: Absolutely, yes!
MMV: Thus the link, is finally just very symbolic to say that: it is only one very light hamper, in order to go further! To go further, yes your are completely right!
JPS: We will end with that point and then I will show you more silkscreens!
6/8: THE SHAKTI-YONI SERIES | FRANCE 2017 - Watch the video
JPS: We are now reaching the sixth part, I wanted to present this work that I completed during the summer of 2017, on these small formats. Printed on two kinds of paper: Rives BFK 250g and yellow paper Wang 80g, which gives a kind of ephemeral effect, a little freer than on the BFK paper. I layered over many images while painting over with Indian ink before overprinting it. Thus, there is always an erotic themes as well as yantras, which are sometimes the Bindu point, the starting point of the Universe (Cosmic Big Bang), as well as the sex of the woman, of course! You see it there! Would you like to comment on some of the works?
MMV: I do not know, they are so strong! You had also spoken about the sacred dance, you perhaps have some representations, which illustrate the body in delirious movements? In that dance, it is marvelous, there is an extraordinary symbolic system.
JPS: In fact, the title of these artworks is: Shakti-Yoni, Shakti it is the female energy in India, and Yoni is the vagina, the female sex, and thereafter it’s named: Ecstatic Cosmic Dances! It means that it is a cosmic dance!
MMV: That’s why I return to the title to say that it is wholeness!
JPS: Yes, and on the net, one finds many Japanese women who do these striptease trance dances, half naked… And I found that it is something as powerful as the mystical whirling Dervishes, they also connect to the Universe, like that, simply sexually.
MMV: Around the axis mundi, turning around this sacred pivot. Yes, that impressed me, because one can think that it is a vulgar dance (trashy), but I do believe that the crazy musical beat gives access precisely to another sacred world. We find again the orgiastic dimension, Dionysus with the bacchanals and all this tradition which expresses at the same time the life force, joy, sex and all what there is of…
JPS: The desire! The desire too!
MMV: The desire, and this life force which organizes the Cosmos. Yes, it is very, very beautiful!
JPS: That had fascinated me to see that, and besides many female images that I use in my work come from Asian women, I really don’t know why?
MMV: A last question please: is it your particular will to saturate these colors so densely? Is it something that you wanted and which has a particular signification? Especially these mystic blues, very, very deep…
JPS: That is true, but… it appears that the color of the soul should be very close to a dark blue purple.
MMV: So, it was your intention to do so?
JPS: Yes, yes, because apparently, there is more or less spiritual degrees in color shades. But for that it would be necessary to speak about it with some Tibetans Monks who know the color much better than I do. But it feels as we are approaching the ultramarine blue or purple blue like that one, that it becomes more spiritual.
MMV: the Large Nude In Bondage in those shades of blue purple, I think that gives a spirituality even stronger, in its dimension and its color too!
JPS: In fact, it is a work that I had industrially printed on paper which is 3 meters by 1.5 meters!
MMV: Three meters! Yes it is absolutely… Well, I believe that it is our meeting starting point!
JPS: Exactly, you had a flash on this work!
MMV: Around this absolutely sublime woman, at the same time in a context which today can be a bit shocking and which carries an extraordinarily sacred power.
JPS: Sacred and ecstatic! Yes!
MMV Thank you Jean-Pierre!
JPS: You are very welcome! So, I will present other work on paper like that. Sometimes I also print on cardboard, because the paper sheets come between two cardboard sheets, like that! It is beautiful, this red with a black sex and phalluses, and also that, with flowers, Japanese chrysanthemums. And there, I mixed the same image with a diagram of time from India. There its something very, very porn-graffiti with a flower design. This erotic image with a Selknam Indian from Tierra Del Fuego. And that it is also a Mayan diagram of time. I attach a lot of importance to cosmic diagrams. One can think that they are the pathways of the sun and the moon. We can also feel in that one a kind of ecstasy.
MMV: It reminds me of Buren’s work, which wanted with his Buren’s Columns in Paris, to represent also the Mayan Calendar.
JPS: Really? I didn't know! And there are things a little more abstract. I was much impressed by a small Hindu gouache (18 century) titled: The Meta-Cosmic Void, Pure Consciouness. And for me the Void is as important as the Full, and I wanted to state it. MMV: With the sacred perimeter!
JPS: Yes, but that it is a perimeter from a Mexican drawing.
MMV: That represents so much.
JPS: And they are drawings from Prehistorical Caves, undoubtedly of Africa, Zimbabwe. They are hunting animals.
MMV: Is it always from the same series?
JPS: Yes, yes, it is still the Shakti-Yoni! But I printed out so much, more than 1,200. So, I am happy to have worked on this series! And that it is Pakal, he was a king-god Maya (Large Sun - K'inich- 603-683). It is the lid of its sarcophagus. And I found that he was so much into ecstasy in his death like that, in another world. He floats in the Universe, simply like that! While regenerating himself, and then… he is serene, as into a womb somehow. I liked to use this beautiful image. The revival to life!
MMV: The return to original water. It is so beautiful!
JPS: That it is a Bondage also, very sexual.
MMV: A Bondage, similar in blue-violet, very evocative. I am concluding with some reds, I found them beautiful these red! One sees less the images (only by transparency), but the intensity of the color is felt nevertheless. Would you like to add any comments?
MMV: No, I am a little overwhelmed by so much beauty, and it is true that it is a particularly strong series!
MMV: And which I do believe it takes you to heart and which is of a very great richness of iconography and of symbolic system.
JPS: Yes, and of colors.
MMV: Of colors, one is stricken by them!
JPS: Well, thanks a lot!
MMV: Thank you to have shown them to us first… Nobody has seen them yet?
JPS: No, I did not even scan them!
MMV: You printed them during this Summer time? I do believe that you have been working a lot?
JPS: Yes, in Spring, Summer, and Autumn.
MMV: And you also made some photographs and videos of you at work?
MMV: Thank you!
JPS: No, it is me who thanks you!
7/8: BEAUTY IS ENERGY (New York 2002) & SKY UMBILICUS (France 2006) - Watch the video
JPS: We are now at the seventh part, where I would like to talk about beauty. Because, nowadays it is a forgotten concept and people don’t speak about it anymore. So, I wanted to present this new series… First of all, I will read you the the Night Navajos Song. Once, in a gallery in New York, I met with a friend, we had a nice discussion, and this friend had a kind of strong spiritual aura, and I asked were she comes from? She was half Amerindian from the West Coast of Canada. We had a good time together and two days later, I received postcard from her with the beautiful Night Navajos Song. It was perhaps a sign telling me to be more curious about the beauty? So, I will read this prayer:
"With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
It is all finished in beauty.
It is all finished in beauty."
And to have received this Navajos prayer, that encouraged me to think about what beauty really is, where it is located? And also to think of the attitude which one adopts towards his life. As one can decide to live a life within beauty or not! Usually, I find beauty, in the cultures that I call preindustrial. Because these men and women had a sense towards beauty which seems, to me, a little lost, forbidden. Western art seems, to me, desperately vain and futile, except for some exceptions, it doesn’t speak anymore about beauty, of this purity of beauty. Of this cosmic purity of the beauty!
MMV: A beauty which does not have codes and mocking all the boundaries. I like it when you said: in front of, behind, around, on the side. It is true that it is very evocative of your work which has also this universal dimension: which is in front of us, behind, on the side. Beauty it is a kind of environment!
JPS: Yes, yes, you are right!
MMV: It is something which surrounds us. And I find that the Indian song is completely revealing of this whole dimension, of this universal beauty in which we bathe and that we do not see very often anymore.
JPS: Exactly! Yes, completely! You are right! And there, I wanted to present to you a series which I began in New York after the attack of September 11th, 2001, (several months afterwards). This attack was so terrible that I could not work for a long time. And I restarted to integrate photographs: for example this Selknam Indian of Tierra Del Fuego. I also used one in this years’ series. And, these men fascinate me, because they used to live without any goods in the extreme cold weather. They just had their willpower and presence, the willpower to be a human being standing up!
MMV: Really impressive indeed!
JPS: Thus it’s a photograph which I copied from a book.
MMV: Really totemic!
JPS: Totemic, yes! And, I wanted to think about beauty, but also about violence, I will talk about it later on with the African women. That, it is a memory of a shamanic trance, about which I mentioned previously. Four women can be seen: a yellow, a blue, a black, and a red, which reconstructed my body during those trips. With different lights… And I wanted to speak about it, freely like that!
MMV: Is it the image from this trance?
JPS: Yes, because I felt these four presences of different aura of colors around me. And as I was a skeleton. When one dies, one becomes a skeleton, well it sounds a bit unreal, but this is what occurs during the trances! And, there precisely, one sees the pure beauty, a presence: it is an Egyptian statue which is at the Louvre were I shot the picture. This statue has always fascinated me because it is rather mysterious, one doesn’t really know what she is doing?
MMV: She is carrying water?
JPS: Perhaps water, but perhaps funeral urns?
MMV: Yes, maybe funeral urns!
JPS: One knows nothing of it, she is naked, I drew it naked anyhow. Finally she has a light dress, but she is very sensual. At that time, I was deeply in love with very beautiful African woman, therefore it is a little her body that I wanted to draw. As I was fascinated by the body beauty of my friend.
MMV: Very solar!
JPS: Yes, very solar!
MMV: With this bright yellow!
JPS: And I printed it in four different colors. So, there it is the yellow, here is the blue! It was a way to pay tribute to the spirits I had met during those shamanic trances.
MMV: Similar, very totemic!
JPS: Yes! And there, on the other side, I wanted to show the most human unbearable violence! This sculpture is at the Natural History Museum of New York. It is a small Terracotta which is not very high, approximately a meter twenty. It represents an Aztec priest who committed a human sacrifice and which is wearing out the skin of the sacrificed one.
MMV: Yes, it is what I was going to say, it’s like a flayed.
JPS: Yes, it is exactly that: The Flayed One!
MMV: It is incredible! And each time I am in front of this statue, I feel an enormous energy! Because it is the life which one takes away and which is given back again…
MMV: Because we are in the cyclic!
JPS: The cyclic-cosmic.
MMV: We get back to the subject, they didn’t have the linearity which we have today, dialectical.
JPS: And, so, the priest carried this skin for a month, until it decays, through rituals and dances.
MMV: One recognize animal spots, as on a skin of…
JPS: Therefore, this is the male energy, they make human ritual sacrifices. But I wanted to speak about it in opposition of the Egyptian goddess (it is not really a goddess), but it’s the Egyptian woman.
MMV: It very important because one sees few masculine representations in your work?
JPS: You are right, yes it is a good remark. You are completely right, yes. Perhaps man is too violent? Perhaps? I don't really know? And there, it is a fusion of two drawings of Japanese kimonos, with half-circles designs and a Mayan woman with a deer! And in addition, all the vases we spoke about previously, are depicting the soul of the death which was reincarnated into a deer body, then it returned in the body of a woman who strips herself to welcome again the soul.
MMV: It is that which is marvellous: the way in which you manage to superimpose, to entangle all these data components to give… It is what we can really call a metamorphosis, in your work.
JPS: Yes metamorphosis.
MMV: Very magical.
JPS: And then there it is a bit more abstract, but there were images firstly printed, and one can see above images of Japanese cherry trees flowers.
MMV: There is always a symbolism in the number?
JPS: Yes, there is a symbolic system to the number! Yes, that's true! Here is the woman you like a lot: the red one. You have to see it that way!
MMV: I find it extraordinary.
JPS: With different kind of pinks, you see! This series is named: Sky Umbilicus.
MMV: Very, very, very beautiful!
JPS: It is the umbilicus of the limbo, it is the connection with the Cosmos…
MMV: You speak, and you spoke, and you always speak again about beauty, I would like that you mention the text that you wrote on this subject, which is on your artist’s website and which is so amazing! On your approach, your vision and your interpretation. Beauty is always very personal, very subjective. And I would like that you read us a few lines, a few sentences.
JPS: I wrote this text, about two years ago, and it was a reflection on beauty in history, yes but it’s difficult to speak about it now?
MMV: Yes, I understand very well, it is a little complicated!
JPS: It is a text with full of pictorial references… But I want to say that it is a reflection which is deep and which is related to your artistic expression and your writings too!
JPS: Yes, of course, yes!
MMV: Can you name it?
JPS: This text is called: De la beauté et cetera... (2014).
MMV: So everyone should go to read it, because it is a really beautiful text!
JPS: Thank you, but you see, I haven’t published it yet because I am afraid I could get some hostile reactions.
JPS: Yes because I speak there about beauty in sexuality and eroticism.
MMV: Yes, but it is really the expression of what you incarnate, in your own way, therefore you are the witness of that dimension.
MMV: Of your idea of beauty! And I think that it is important to establish the connection, the link between your artwork and your more theoretical writings.
JPS: Yes, of course!
MMV: That we can enjoy the two sides!
JPS: But I like this text a lot, because precisely, there are many historical references.
MMV: Yes, as you draw from the classical iconography of some very famous paintings. Your choice is splendid, it is for that that I think it’s worth mentioning it to the viewer!
JPS: Yes, yes! You see, it is also with flowers, a Peruvian drawing! This figure is so surprising! It’s very phallic and he carries a child on his hat!
MMV: Which is phallic, yes, this kind of eight, infinite, yes.
JPS: And here is a last abstract serigraphy, it is just waves and small dots… I like Japanese iconographies, I find that they are excellent designers…
MMV: There is no symmetry?
JPS: They speak about infinity, if you like in this work there…
MMV: Starry sky on top of our heads!
JPS: Yes, thank you, thank you for…!
MMV: Thank you Jean-Pierre!
8/8: JOY AND WILLPOWER IN CREATION (Upanishads & Giono) - Watch the video
JPS: Then we are now at the eighth part where I would like to speak about joy in creation, the will to create, the connection between the female body and pleasure-desire. That’s a lot to cover! But firstly, I want to quote a few texts: the first one is from the Upanishads:
"The infinite is bliss. There is no bliss in anything finite. Only the Infinite is bliss. One must desire to understand the Infinite." Chandogya Upanishad
And I wanted to read some extracts of Jean Giono in: Que ma joie demeure:
"There is, here on Earth, some really beautiful and quiet moments. [...]
The joys of the world are our only nourishments. The last small bite still make us alive again."
And lastly in Les vraies richesses, from Giono again:
"It is more easy to acquire an interior joy while being deprived from his own body. I believe more honest to search for complete joy, by taking this body into account."
One should not forget the body as part of joy, unlike most people do! And then, I finish this with a short sentence from the Râmâyana where Sîtâ quotes:
"Even after a century, the joy catches up with the man who survives!"
It means that during our long life, the joy can always catch up with us at every moment. And after having read Giono, (I discovered his books rather recently), I found that it was so essential to integrate joy into my creative process. Because joy is contagious, it is not something egoistic, like many of other human feelings.
MMV: And it’s active!
JPS: Active, yes, it is an active process! And a positive attitude towards life. Just like color, it is similar, the color is also active! That depends, of course, on the colors which one uses! But if one uses them, as I do, colors inspired by ethnical groups from warm Countries, that brings us human heat and sensuality. It is like spices (chilli pepper), and all that: the pleasure all together, here we are!
MMV: Thus there is a dynamic venturing into joy which favors the creation and the work of an artist?
JPS: Yes, not with everyone, there are many artists who are into and stay into tragedy. And, the Occidental art is deeply tragical, which precisely displeases me. I like to work undramatically! I really hope that my work is not tragic at all. Perhaps it is speaking about the ephemerality fleeting of life.
MMV: And, you think that there are paintings which are tragic?
JPS: Of course!
MMV: Written work, Yes!
JPS: But painting also: Picasso it is rather tragic!
MMV: There is also a joy which emanates!
JPS: There is a joy, yes, it is perhaps a bad example! But I find Western art rather tragic.
MMV: Thus the joy, as you mean it, is similar to the vital impulse Bergson is talking about?
MMV: This kind of huge breath which lift us upwards! Which gives us an extension, who makes visible the links we are sharing with the artwork. There is this fact also: an artist who works in joy, acquires a kind of visibility even more intense, isn’t it?
JPS: Oh no not really! But perhaps yes?
MMV: Joy exteriorize itself! We can see it! It is something very expansive!
JPS: It is true! Yes, yes!
MMV: And I find that all your work, especially the one on Plexiglas in particular, is breathing this joy, there is truly that dimension there.
JPS: Yes, and some other artists, for example the work of Egon Schiele, are nevertheless very…
MMV: He is in the distress, yes, the representation of the emaciated body, the physical decay.
JPS: That was done during times of mourning, of war. It should be said that us, we are lucky to live during peaceful times, so I can work with joy!
MMV: Thus it is nevertheless also related to a historical context and there are some periods…
JPS: Of course, there are artists… But Giono went throughout the First World War and despite his horrible experiences, he decided to fully dedicate himself to joy!
MMV: Yes, it seems to me that the joy is an insider mechanism, it is something which is stronger than adversity.
MMV: Even during tragic circumstances one can live.
JPS: Yes, it is true!
MMV: It is an internal impulse, it comes from the guts. It is something which is self-created, and which precisely exceeds all that can be in opposition to it. Thus this preponderance… And, it is maybe connected to willpower? You spoke previously about willpower?
JPS: Ah yes it is true! I wanted to speak about it! Yes, yes, absolutely!
MMV: And what does the author say… also that there is a personal approach which should be nourished! And, there was a dimension of interior creation?
JPS: Yes, for beauty and joy one needs the willpower!
MMV: Will of perpetuation!
JPS: Perpetuation, exactly! And I have just read: Vivekananda Life, from Romain Rolland, who also wrote about the life of another Hindu wise man and I like this sentence:
"The will is stronger than the Word. Everything must give up when facing a strong will. Because it is of God. Pure and powerful will can do everything!"
And as I am getting older and further into my artist life, I realize that a strong will is very, very important, especially here in France, because an artist life is not very easy here! So, it is necessary to decide to continue to create and exhibit his own work despite all the difficulties!
MMV: And to work nevertheless in a context of joy, surge and optimism!
JPS: From life altogether! And I wanted to quote Antonin Artaud: “You exited out of Life!” And the more I see my fellow citizens, the more I have the feeling that they had left Life completely. And this really makes me sick, as so many people have left life and given up!
MMV: Removed from Life because they do not breath anymore this oxygen which is related to (breathing), breathing Joy!
JPS: Yes, correct!
MMV: Probably that there is this dimension of strangling, surviving alone.
JPS: Yes, the lack of joy, pleasure, desire and exchange…
MMV: Of exchange?
JPS: Here people do not interconnect any more, it is a real disaster!
MMV: "Joy always announces that life succeeded, moved forward, won a victory: all great joy has a triumphant overtone." Said: Henri Bergson!
JPS: Yes, it is a very beautiful sentence for ending our interviews!
MMV: For the artist that you are!
JPS: Thank you Marie-Madeleine! Thank you all!