10 November 2019 | duration: 1:30 | Besançon Fine Arts & Archeology Museum | France
I am a French New Yorker artist and have been working in Besançon since 2005. I present here at the Besançon Museum of Fine Arts, these large wall installations, in total, there are 72 paintings (80m2) and 18 panels in each corner of the museum. The title of the exhibition: The four pillars of the sky, which people can discover when they walk up these stairs. The title of the exhibition: THE 4 PILLARS OF THE SKY. It is a reference to all mysticism and to the Axis mundis
, those places where one can communicate with the gods or the spirits, My paintings speaks of life, rituals, rituals that are disappearing nowadays. We are talking a lot about biodiversity. But, at the same time, so many cultures are disappearing today! One can feel really lonely to face our destiny ! We can see Mayan, Egyptian and Inca civilization patterns. It's quite a mix! I work with anything that fills me with joy!
Filmed at the Studio on 29 July 2019
PART 1: INFLUENCES & FIRST WORK (France-Montreal)
JPS : Hello dear friend Thierry, it's a great pleasure to welcome you to the workshop. We had this interview project for a very long time and you came to the region to give lectures on Gustave Courbet. We are really very happy to welcome you at the workshop today. Thank you for coming. We will start these interviews quietly and I will answer your questions as much as possible!
TS: Yes, thank you Jean-Pierre! In fact, we've had this interview project for quite some time now and I wanted to ask you, it's true, a number of questions, probably with an art historian's approach, that is to say, I'm still very interested in chronology. It is a little bit about this type of orientation that I would like to ask you, in particular, starting with everything concerning your training, your first works, your influences too! There's a question that everyone always asks themselves when it comes to an artist, it's that we consider that an artist is someone a little particular and we wonder how one becomes an artist. So that's my first question: for you, how did you decide to become an artist one day?
JPS: It's not really a decision, it's a life path I think. Yes it's a path of life! It's not a decision, but you still need a lot of will to continue working as an artist, of course! And it's what fills me with joy and happiness. That's really what gives me the most happiness in life, being an artist!
TS: So, a path of life! So there was a time in your life, in your youth, when you thought that was the direction you wanted to go in?
JPS: At first I hesitated a bit. In my teenage years, as a young man, between writing and painting. Because both seemed important to me!
TS: We'll talk about writing later!
JPS: Okay, yes!
TS: Because you do have a whole part of your activity that consists of writing about your art, writing about art!
TS: It's very important because a lot of artists don't do it! That's true!
TS: And during your training, what were your main influences, the artists who influenced you, the movements and so on?
JPS: Yes, I'll always remember: I was on my farm in Charquemont and at that time I was breeding horses so I was out in the nature every day and I lived day and night with the animals. We had bought a book with my friend Sophie, it was Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein by Marguerite Duras and on the cover of the book there was a painting by Mark Rothko. And suddenly it was like a revelation: I thought, of course, these are positive, negative, neutral energies; or masculine, feminine and God! So you can also discover painting through a picture, a postcard, it can come like that! Well, and then I had other revelations, maybe we'll talk about it in more detail... In South America and Egypt... But the first click, to want to be an artist, is a bit like that, it's to talk about spirituality, about the vertical and elevating approach of man.
TS: Yes, so you mentioned Egypt. We see influences in your work, starting with pre-Columbian, Egyptian, Japanese and Indian art, which is quite unusual for a French artist. What are the reasons that led you to look for sources of inspiration there?
JPS: Yes, well, I'm French between quotation marks, I'm also American! So I acquired this open-mindedness by going to live in the United States, there's no doubt about it!
TS: Yes, that's where you discovered these different arts, for some primitive arts, for other ancient arts etc..
JPS: Yes, yes!
TS: So I have another question that has to do with Japanese manga, because you use it a lot. You incorporate them in your works. You know very well when you look at an engraving of the nineteenth century Japanese Kuniyoshi, Hokusai etc., you know very well that you're dealing with Japanese art, there's no ambiguity about that, but as far as manga is concerned, do you consider that it's a Japanese art or that it's an art possibly mixed with, for example, Western cartoons?
JPS: Yes, of course, it's comics, yes!
JPS: But the Egyptians were already doing comics and so were the Mayans! Because they mixed image and text. The Maya, on all the bas-reliefs in the temples, there are always figures with images and writings... It's quite old, we rediscovered this in the twentieth century, with pop artists like Warhol, Rosenquist and Lichtenstein, but it already existed! If you go to Egypt, in the tombs, it's mixed up: the writing is mixed up with the text.
TS: With the text, yes!
JPS: And for me that's very important, because of course, image and text don't work the same way in the brain. So it's more balanced to use both. And to come back to this theme of manga: I'm influenced by it, but I mostly recover erotic, trashy, you could say, or obscene texts. Because it should be a humorous trigger; people should laugh in front of my paintings, but most people don't laugh, because well, art is not happy in France, it's a very sad, serious and tragic art!
So in New York, people laugh in front of my paintings, here it's very rare that it happens !
TS: So your first works in the 1980s, are abstract art works and already based on the square? It's very interesting, because the square is the standard form that you adopt today. At the time, it was already based on the square, and when you look at them, it probably had aesthetic links with Barnett Newman, and you practiced this art in the eighties when, at that time, people were already abandoning abstract art for the new figuration! So what motivated you to this abstraction, when the trend was more towards the new figuration?
JPS: Yes, but you know, I've always been a bit out of the market, out of the artistic movements and everything that was going on, because I lived on a farm, I didn't go to Paris very often! So the new extra, I haven't seen it, I've heard about it, but I haven't seen it! And what interested me above all was to acquire, to find this spiritual path in painting. Of which Kandinsky speaks very well in these writings...
JPS: Yes, for me and for these American artists like Rothko, Newman or Pollock etc. I think there's a very, very important spiritual dimension that's a little bit (for me) missing in free figuration. But that's my own opinion and I don't want to denigrate anybody's work really.
TS: And when did you reintegrate the figure in your work?
JPS: Yes, I really started that in Montreal, because I had painted a big canvas that was almost three meters by three meters and I stood in front of that canvas for a couple of weeks, it was like a culmination, a completion, the top of what I could do what! And then I said to myself: I can make variations like many abstract artists do! But I found that abstraction was also a very solitary voice and I probably didn't feel like being alone somewhere! I'm a human being and I'm connected with others. So maybe I didn't have the strength to do an abstract work and I found that I was missing this very dimension of the body, which we'll maybe talk about later?
JPS: And that's when I reintegrated sentences, images of women or animals, that's it!
TS: And as far as the support is concerned, are you going to switch from a panel or canvas support to Plexiglas?
TS: So that's something very, very curious because it's a singular choice, there are few artists who work on Plexiglas! What motivated you to choose this medium?
JPS: Actually it was due to a constraint, since it's an anecdote I often tell: I had to work with a gallery in Toronto, the Moos Gallery, and at that time, so in France, I was working on Isorel, but it's a material that's poor (in quotation marks) and acidic, so the works don't last that long, since they deteriorate over time. The director Jerry said to me: Jean-Pierre, I want to work with you, but you have to paint on another medium! So I was annoyed, because I had found my ideal medium: Isorel! And I could make modules out of polyptychs. And so I thought about it long enough and did some tests on PVC, on metal strips, and at one point I found Plexiglas, but at first I was working on Plexiglas as a support material. First it turned out that I painted on the front, then on the back and it became my favourite material and so I'm happy to work on that material now, yes!
TS: Yes, and you don't have any plans to try other supports in the future? Is it really the medium that suits you best?
JPS: So far yes! But if I worked on a larger scale, I would probably have to work with safety glass, but you have to think about one thing, it's that I'm the one who makes things alone (in quotation marks), so I can't print larger formats than that alone and also make large formats in safety glass, it wouldn't be possible in this workshop! There, so I would have to have them made, so at some point, maybe I will change scale if one day I really sell, I could think about changing scale, but for now, I claim this artisanal tradition of the artist in his workshop who carries out all the steps of the work from A to Z!
TS: So in 1991, you leave France to move to Montreal!
TS: So was this choice motivated by the fact that you felt that French society no longer offered artists the conditions they needed to flourish?
JPS: I think so today in hindsight, but I didn't think so then. "Il faut aller voir" as they say, so I went and saw. No, I just followed my life's path, I followed my luck what! Yes!
TS: It's a spontaneous choice practically?
JPS: That's it! Yes! The director of the Moos Gallery said, "Yes, I want to work with you, but you've got to come and live in Canada!" I said, "Wait, I've got seventeen horses on my farm, that's a lot! Then I thought about it for a while, I said OK, I'm leaving and then I left! Really without thinking too much and really somebody would have come to my farm some time before and told me that I was going to live in New York one day, I had never even imagined that was possible! So in life, there are always new paths opening up, that's what's fabulous, I love it!
TS: And once you arrive in Montreal, what will be your artistic lines of research?
JPS: Well, that's open, firstly because of the size of the space (for the format), which we don't have so much in Europe anymore, since we're a bit closed off from each other, and secondly because of the open mentality (to do the work we want to do). Both in a positive sense, that is to say that everything is allowed, and in a negative sense, that is to say that no one cares! But now it's happened in France too, twenty years later! It's caught up with me in France. I mean, French society has changed a lot, the ties between us are gradually breaking down, so that shocked me a bit. But what opened my mind was also to do what I wanted to do, without having any critical value judgement, because we know very well that in France, judgement is quite heavy, even murderous.
TS: Quite heavy, yes!
JPS: That's it, yes!
TS: And so that's where you choose the mode of expression of screen printing? Because it's true that even on Plexiglas panels, you could have chosen paint? What's the reason why you choose screen printing, which is still a technique that requires equipment and so on. And which is perhaps not as easy to implement as oil or acrylic paint?
JPS: Absolutely yes! Well it's always a happy coincidence as they say, I used to live right next door to a shop where they printed T-shirts. At the time, I reproduced images by photocopying them and then pasting them into my paintings or behind Plexiglas. And at one point I thought: maybe it would be nice to reproduce them by silk-screening them! Because by making a colour photocopy, I could have a blue, a yellow, a red, but I couldn't have any shades, whereas with screen printing, I have the exact shade I want! So it's a freedom with shape and colour somewhere! After the screen printing screen defines a dimension, but if you want to print bigger, you take a bigger screen!
TS: Yes, it's more flexible!
JPS: That's it, whether it's photocopies or transfers.
PART 2: LIFE AND WORKS FROM NEW YORK
TS: So two years later, after you moved to Montreal, you move to New York. Was New York a city that offered more facilities for an artist than Montreal?
JPS: Yes, it was the city of artists when I was there. That's true! We were all going to buy our supplies at Pearl Paint (on Canal Street), it's a paint store that was five floors high with very competitive prices and it was artists who held the shelves... It's a city made for artists, there are so many galleries, gallery owners, important people from the art world. Everybody was passing through at that time! Maybe a little less now, I don't know? Really it was the place to be and I don't regret it at all, because it kind of gave me an international dimension.
TS: So you stayed in New York until 2005, during those twelve years, what were the links you kept with France? Did you come back from time to time, did you follow the French art scene a little bit, through the press or something else?
JPS: No, not at all, the French art scene didn't interest me at all! I wasn't interested in the French art scene from there! But, of course, I came back to see my family once a year to see my grandfather and my parents, my family was here so I was happy to come back to France. I came back to see my roots and nature too! Speaking of that, I wrote a little text that I wanted to read to you...
TS: Yes of course!
JPS: Because it's important to say what happened for me in New York, so I'm going to quote this excerpt from my Notes: My time in New York was a revelation to me, an initiation, a becoming... A bit as if I had previously been incomplete, underdeveloped, pretentious and stupid (I don't want to insult anyone, of course! That's what I thought.) Like those negative films that are revealed in photographic baths or those botticellian, virginal, impenetrable, undefiled virgins who suddenly and brutally discover the ecstasy of sexual rapture... That is to say that for me New York has really been a revelation: so much on the order of sexuality, art and spirituality. I really became someone else there! I acquired another dimension there! And it's this dimension that I wanted to talk about.
TS: Yes, and so this city of New York, which is indeed abounding, had replaced Paris from the end of the Second World War, can we say that?
JPS: Yes, absolutely!
TS: Had replaced Paris as an artistic city, so that's what attracted you for sure as well?
JPS: Of course!
TS: While they were in New York, precisely in this artistic milieu, your most striking encounters?
JPS: I will say on a personal level, it's my wife Olga, who is of Colombian origin and we had a really good time together, very, very strong and we had the chance to travel together to Mexico and Guatemala. And professionally, it was the meeting with Mr. Leo Castelli, who was the director of the Castelli Gallery, who made all the Pop Art artists known worldwide, such as: Jasper Johnes, Rauschenberg, everybody... Andy Warhol, all of them. And when I met him, (really, I called him and he received me)... I can't say that he became a friend, but he became a reference and a support and he was someone who had this simplicity and this great happiness to be with artists, for him Art was really essential! And to have had the chance to make this beautiful meeting, he was a little bit like my grandfather! My grandfather had experienced both world wars, when he was born (in 1907), at that time, there was no telephone, there were no cars and he had an innate sense of right things. Sometimes he would say of someone: "You are thinking all wrong!" and today I think we all are "All wrong!" That is to say that we no longer know how to live together, with nature with everything and I think that Mr Castelli was someone like that too, yes!
TS: And did you work with him?
JPS: Unfortunately no, because at one point I had gone to see him to show him my work (I was in Montreal at that time) and he asked me: "For how much do you sell this painting?" I told him about $800 and he said: "You know, a big gallery can't work with you, because that doesn't cover the cost!" And of course, there's this problem that's tenfold today, we'll maybe talk about it later, but there's always this problem of the right selling price of the artwork!
TS : Yes, it's true that we will have the opportunity to tackle the art market. So as you mentioned Latin America, the geographical proximity of New York allowed you to travel there, how did you discover in particular the pre-Columbian arts?
JPS: We had the chance to travel to Mexico City, with my friend Olga, also to Oaxaca, Yucatán and Puebla, where I bought those masks that you can see behind us in the studio and it was a true revelation because I had never seen such strong art works anywhere else!
JPS: And also in the pyramids of Uxmal and Chichén Itza... And also all the indigenous populations that are the Mayas. When you go to Chiapas, there are a lot of indigenous people who remained, who were not exterminated like in North America by the Westerners! So there is still about a third of the population that is still indigenous. And so, it gives an important and different energy from what we feel in Europe!
TS: So it's true that when we talk about Latin America and energy, we always tend to refer to Antonin Artaud!
JPS: Yes, of course!
TS: Antonin Artaud went to Mexico in 1936 to visit the Tarahumaras and it was presented to him as an initiatory journey, and he said he wanted to look for, and I quote: "A new idea of man." Was it also your goal to look for a new idea of man in Latin America?
JPS: It wasn't my goal, but that's what I found there! That's what I found!
JPS: That's it, it's a match, a connection!
TS: It's a discovery due to chance in a way?
JPS: Well, if chance exists, yes! It would be more like a coincidence!
TS: A coincidence! So Artaud has some very interesting quotes about his experience; for example, he says: "The rationalist culture of Europe has gone bankrupt and I came to the land of Mexico to look for the bases of a magical culture (the term is interesting) that can still spring from the forces of the Indian soil." When he says that, he is clearly defining a process that will turn his life upside down, but did you feel the same need in the end? A West whose culture was failing and a possibility to find a kind of intellectual regeneration?
JPS: Of course, yes! Yes! Spiritual as well!
JPS: That is to say that this relationship to the Earth, to Nature, to the Sun, to the Cosmos... They were still making human sacrifices to regenerate the Sun God! That's pretty strong!
JPS: Well, I'm not defending that at all, but as I often talk about in my interviews, they made offerings to the flowers, to the flower gods, to the rain gods! It's a respect for the whole world. Whereas our current approach is completely upside down, that is to say that we destroy and enslaves everything: flowers, trees, rivers, everything is polluted, everything is destroyed. We use everything! And so their approach was diametrically opposed. So Artaud undoubtedly found this approach going towards the world, whereas we (occidentals) do the opposite, we are destroying the World. But you're talking about Antonin Artaud, he's an author I particularly appreciate, I love Héliogabale or the crowned anarchist and his book on Mexico is very important! Afterwards, people often use the term magic, like Lévi-Strauss with his magical thought (pensée magique), for me this term of magic displeases me because we think that it is something which would be in the field of magic precisely, which would be outside the world, a particular identity. I think it's more in the realm of knowledge. It's not magic in the literal sense. You see, the shamans learn for twenty years to understand how the vibrations of the energy of the trees and of nature work, do you understand? That's a knowledge to me! For us it sounds magical, because: Whao! It's amazing! It's a term that we commonly use, but sometimes, it bothers me a little bit this term of magic, but hey, we can't use other words, unfortunately in the West, we don't have other words! For me, it's a different reality, it's like quantum mechanics! It's another level of reality!
TS: So it's interesting, you just talked about shamans and other realities. When Artaud goes to Mexico, so he goes to the Indians, he experiences the peyolt, this little cactus that allows him to go to another world.
TS: And on your side, do you talk a lot in your texts about shamanic trance?
TS: So, I'm interested and intrigued, what were those shamanic trance texts about?
JPS: A shamanic trance is a shamanic trance! That is to say that you leave with your spirit in a second or higher state of consciousness!
JPS: That's what people feel when they're on drugs, but I did it under hypnosis.
TS: Under hypnosis?
JPS: That's it, under hypnosis! Yes!
TS: With I can imagine a specialist?
JPS: Yes, exactly!
TS: And who undoubtedly also had this orientation towards a transfer to an artistic world?
JPS: Yes, that's it! It's the artistic world, the world of poetry, it's the world of shamans, it's the opening to the energy of the World somehow! The understanding, the fusion with the energy of the World!
TS: And that was in New York and not in Latin America?
JPS: Yes in New York, I had the chance to meet this beautiful person!
TS: And how did these trance-like moments transformed your approach to creation?
JPS: It allowed me to access a fluidity in my work. Because I have to say things clearly, painters do work that is completely frozen! That's what I name a "window painting"! But in trance, there are no windows, no limitations! That is to say that it is open everywhere in the cosmos! It is a multidimensional and spiritual opening!
JPS: And so my work, I hope at least, has this multidimensional dimension. That is to say that I can dare to show a Buddha next to an erotic text or next to a Mayan ritual! I can mix everything and that's what happens also in the trance, it's this perpetual, endless mixing... You transform yourself continuously into a whale, you transform yourself into water, you transform yourself into the sun... You merge endlessly, it's a perpetual merging, from the beginning of the trance to the end of the trance: you merge, you transform yourself; you merge, you transform yourself! And then you also have the animal spirits guiding you, it's a very, very strong experience.
TS: Yes, so you create in New York regularly, at the beginning of the 2000 years, you go to exhibit your art in galleries and Cultural Centers etc. What was the reception of your work by the public or the press?
JPS: Yes, I think my work was well received in New York, I think better than in France. Although my gallery owner in SOHO, Éric Allouche, said to me : "Oh the Americans don't understand anything about your work!", but they don't have any aprioris, whereas in France I am confronted against a strong systematic negative apriori of the public, which doesn't respect my work at all, there is an incredible gap ! So I like the New York public better, I don't know the public in Texas or anywhere else!
JPS: And the New York audience... And most of all, they have this humour and this joy, they're not impressed by all the European culture, like we are in here with the art in the museums! I would quote Bonnard who said, "The best things into museums, are there windows!" And so our culture is completely museified, ossified, sclerosed in France, yes! It's terrible! Our culture is sterile, there's no energy left in Art! That's what I'm saying, but maybe I'm wrong? Whereas in New York, we don't have this finality of art which must be art with a capital A, or culture with a capital C! They don't care, it doesn't matter!
TS: I had been struck in the United States to see a big difference between an American elite who have a very developed knowledge of art, who collect and so on. And then the middle class, who have no interest in art, who have no idea about it... And I had asked this question to American students at New York University, who had said to me: "Yes, but in France, you have access to art one by one, through free art for example, or through reduced rates for young people, whereas in the United States, if you want to have access to art, you have to pay each time". Do you think that outside of the New York elite, that's exactly...
JPS: Yes, yes I understand!
TS: Do you think that in the United States in general, the artist is considered?
JPS: Well outside of New York, excuse me, I was coming back to New York! Yes, I really don't know? I don't have any experience outside of NY, I didn't go to live in Miami, no! But I felt much more considered in New York than here, (especially as a creator of wealth !) But that's it, that's life!
JPS : But to come back to France and the situation of art in general, I think we've now entering a post-cultural society. That is to say that culture is no longer important, whether it's in France, the United States or anywhere else. Maybe in China they are using this cultural side to create a market artificially. Among the first hundred (most expensive) artists on Artprice, there are fifty Chinese artists!
JPS: So they arriving into the art market with financial arrangement! Art and the market is another problem, maybe we'll talk about it later on: the function of art and all of that! But is it easier to access art in France? And it's not true! For example at the Metropolitan Museum: You pay what you wish! That is to say that you go in, you pay a dime if you want to pay a dime ! Not all museums are like that, the MOMA is expensive, you have to pay, but there's always one evening a month that's free, Thursday evenings are free! But I didn't feel like that, I don't know, I haven't lived in other parts of the United States!
TS: If you had to take stock of your New York experience today, what would it be?
JS: It's 100% positive!
JPS: Yes, I don't regret anything!
TS: And then in 2005, so you leave New York to come back to Franche-Comté, to settle here in Besançon. What motivated this choice? Did you need to find your roots, was it for family reasons or...?
JPS: Yes, it was for a whole range of things, yes, yes! But especially rents were going up all the time in New York.
JPS: So it was becoming unmanageable.
PART 3: CREATION PROCESS, BODY & SPIRITUALITIES
TS: So now, Jean-Pierre, I would like to talk about the process of creation and then the relationship to the body and spirituality. You've already mentioned this very interesting theme of spirituality several times. I once asked Leonor Fini if when she started a painting she was sure of the final result? And she said, "No, the painting evolves by itself and I never know what the end result will be." Do you think, when you start a big Plexiglas, for example, do you have a clear idea of the result?
TS: Or, can things evolve there as well?
JPS: Absolutely not, on the contrary, I don't know at all what the result will be! Since I'm working upside down and the Plexiglas is masked with an opaque film, so I can't see what's going on there. I see it in reverse, upside down as they say, so before I put the final touch with the brush, I have absolutely no idea, but even when I put it on, I don't know what it's going to look like, so I find out when I finally take the photo of the art work, when the Plexiglas is finished! And that's very, very important for me because often the thought directs the artist's idea towards something like a kind of masterpiece thought, in quotation marks (masterpiece already existing!), and that's not what you have to find at all, you have to find unchained freedom; and total freedom is precisely not knowing what you're doing and being in the flow of the unconscious, my unconscious and the collective unconscious. And what allows this, this great freedom, is not knowing in advance what you are planing to do!
TS: Yes, so when one look at your works, one can feel a real closeness with nature, taken a bit like a mother earth, in a way, a nourishing mother earth and energy source and with which you feel in communion?
JPS: Yes, absolutely!
TS: Quite clearly and does that not explain why Western art, which comes from societies that are much more interested in dominating nature and for that reason the reference is biblical in the Genesis! Don't you think that your influences, which come rather from animist or pantheist cultures, can be explained here? Because there, we respect nature, we live in harmony with nature in these cultures?
JPS: Yes, absolutely, excepted… I was going to say within some artists "friends" paintings, with painters like Brueghel or Bosch...!
JPS: Who painted those incredibles hysterico-erotic-cosmic deliriums! In there, we're in the midst of a total "madness", in quotation marks! As in "magic", in quotation marks! They are artists that I respect deeply. Also Veermer, I have to say I have a great affinity towards his work, I find that a very important spiritual dimension emerges from his paintings, as an internal prayer. Or with some of Rembrandt's portraits like this one. I don't denigrate all Western thought. There are artists who have been able to find the inner dimension of things and who impress me a lot!
TS: Yes, it's true that when you talk about Brueghel and Bosch, they also interest me a lot! I don't feel this spiritual dimension in Vermeer so much. Maybe I'm wrong? Even if I do really like Vermeer anyhow!
JPS: Yes, yes!
TS: What surprised me a lot, with Vermeer works, was the very small size of his paintings. Whereas with Bosch, on the contrary, or Brueghel, we often have to deal with rather large formats! Yes, the relationship with nature...
JPS: Ah that's essential!
TS: Among the Flemish realists, it's very, very important, yes! So most of your works fit into the square format.
TS: That's your basic form (your module), it's a choice, but they're heavily filled and they leave little room for the void! In comparison, for example, I'm referring to Malevich's White Square on White Background!
TS: What is your main necessity to fill up the surface like that?
JPS: I have nature as a great master! And nature never leaves gaps! Although philosophically speaking, I'm really interested by the void of Buddhism thoughts, which describe eighteen or nineteen forms of emptiness, but I like to fill things, I like the abundance of things in my life! And in nature… as soon as there's a tiny empty space, there's a tree that grows into that space... A grass, a flower that grows, everything is in competition like that, to burst out into the world! It's gushing out to the world somewhere! Yes, I want my painting to be a gushing out to the world!
TS: Yes, it's a beautiful formula, a gushing out to the world!
JPS: Yes, well, yes, that's exactly that!
TS: So, in your interviews that you're recording, like ours, which are available on your website, you insist a lot on this aspect of spirituality and in fact, to make a parallel, religions, for example, that's a very personal opinion, but religions are for me the last place where you can find spirituality. Because I find that religions rely first on power, through injunctions or prohibitions imposed on the faithful, and then on money, because we can see it every year or at least periodically, there are financial scandals in the Vatican, not to mention the American televangelists or certain imams who build colossal fortunes at the expense of their believers. So finally, I don't think there is any spirituality in religions anymore. But, don't you think it's in art that spirituality can survive?
J-PS: That's a big question, the answer is probably yes! Because since the dawn of time, we artists have been talking about this relationship to the world, yes! Way beyond, precisely, social and religious structures. But at the beginning religions started from a good intention; it's always the same sheet, it's always going wrong afterwards!
TS: It got out of hand?
JPS: When you see Pasolini's movies, I saw Théorème again the other day and his questioning was often: where to look for and find spirituality nowadays? And the only person in Théorème, who finds his spirituality, it is the maid, coming from a peasant background and who at the end of the film goes up to her roof and accesses God! And all the others characters, from the Roman "bourgeoisie", in quotation marks, can no longer access spirituality. And you can feel it today that people can't no longer access their spirituality! Even through religions! Is it definitely lost? Yes or no? So maybe artists can access this infinite part of ourselves that connects us to the world, to the cosmos? perhaps? It's a chalenge!
TS: Yes, so you're often saying that spirituality is disappearing, that it has even disappeared in art! And I always think of Jean Carzou's reception speech at the Academy of Fine Arts where he accused Cézanne and Picasso of having more or less destroyed painting, of having been gravediggers of
Art! Yet Marcel Duchamp seems to me to have been much more, through his ready-made works, or through his interpretative relativism on which all interpretations are equal, he seems to have been much more radical! At what period in art history can you situate the disappearance of spirituality in Western art?
JPS: Yes, one can say that, in quotation marks, but for me it's the Renaissance, without any doubt!
TS : The Renaissance?
JPS: Because human philosophy then placed man at the center of the world. From that moment were man is located at the center of the world, everything is possible, that's what we can witness today!
JPS: Yes, and paintings from that time on, are always portraits, it's this character that's important, it's a bourgeois or noble woman who's important, that is to say that we have left this global, collective world, to enter an individual world. That's what I feel very strongly. For example, before, with the Italians primitive like Giotto or others, we still feel this spiritual dimension!
JPS: One can feel it in the colours, in the purity of the colours... It's a bit like the Egyptian frescoes… Where the blues (lapis lazuli) are magnificent, the ochres are magnificent! There's a sense of pureness (immaculacy) and this pureness has nowadays totally disappeared… Maybe with the invention of the oil technique (which darkened the colours) , who knows?
JPS: Because fresco is a much simpler and more beautiful art technique! I'm going to digress, but it's like in my painting, it's not oil, it's acrylic paint! The colors are very deep, also with the Plexiglas that magnifies them! For example, I would like to invoke Matisse; for me his most important works were done at the end of his life with his cut-out papers! Because his assistants used to paint bright colours on papers and then he would simply cut them out! And that's of an extreme simplicity, that is to say he just cut out the shape! You have to find simplicity in art, yes! With simplicity, I think you can access to a certain form of spirituality!
TS: So when we look at your works, we are struck by the repetition of certain motifs, such as the bird or the lotus flower, or here one see it, frieze shapes that sometimes cover the whole painting. Isn't this repetition a way of bringing the viewer into a spiritual trance, a bit like the whirling dervishes that dance in circles in a very repetitive way, or the Hindus or Buddhists who will repeat mantras until they are practically exhausted!
JPS: Yes, it's about the exact same approach, yes. You understood correctly what I want to do! That's exactly that! Through repetition, one can change the brain waves, to access spiritual ecstasy, yes absolutely! Yes, yes!
TS: It's practically a hypnotic approach in a certain way?
JPS: If hypnosis allows access to trance, yes!
TS: Yes, okay!
JPS: Thus, that's a path! Yes, exactly!
TS: So in your works, these serigraphs, you're going to superimpose successives layers, so much so that in reference to Jackson Pollock, I think we could call it a vertical dripping! These images express at the same time and often in the same work, a spirituality and an eroticism that is sometimes very bold, by the way. In our Western cultures, whether we like it or not, strongly influenced by Platonism and Christianity where body and mind are perfectly separated, one being supposedly elevated, the other being supposedly despicable, a hiatus is formed between the superimposition of the two, or at least the fact of putting both on the same level... How did you manage to establish this synthesis, coming from a Western culture?
JPS: Absolutely, yes! Well, that's Pollock's lesson, that is, he was in the middle of his painting, throwing paint on his canvas fixed to the ground!
JPS: And he had learned that from the Navajo Indians! That's what the Navajo do: Sand Paintings, drawings on the sand (the ground). They would put the four directions (axis mundi) and then add this relationship to the cosmos, this relationship to the colours. It's really... We can talk about verticality, but I am always painting flat, so I'm working on Earth somewhere! Yes, I'm working on the Earth.
TS: Yes, you work flat like Soulages works flat...!
JPS: Yes, absolutely! That's my body moving into the painting, yes, I'm in painting.
TS: It's quite physical, especially when you use the printing table, I suppose?
JPS: Yes, yes! It's very physical, yes! And sometimes tedious, all the steps of screen printing are interesting, but it's true that cleaning the screens with the Karcher, sometimes I could do without it, but it's good and all the steps are interesting, even the work on the computer to draw all the images, all that's interesting!
TS: So eroticism, as we see it in a certain number of your works, erotic art in our societies which are supposedly free, but where at the end we are confronted with a lot of taboos, especially since a relatively recent time, between religious or right-thinking pressures and then now even with anti-sex feminism. The heirs of Andrea Dworkin and Catharine Mackinnon! For erotic art it seems more and more difficult to find its room both in galleries and exhibitions and even among collectors! Your works are full of eroticism, what is the reception they have towards the public, the press, even collectors or the art world when you exhibit them?
JPS: That's a very good question and there's a lot to say about that! The press is concerned, in general it goes very well, because they like to talk about my work, except for a few rare exceptions. But for the public and collectors, it's another story... People don't buy my art, because, who buys art in France nowadays? The "bourgeoisie", in quotes! And they can't and won't put my art in their homes! I do have doctor friends who tell me : "Oh I talked to my friends and they can't absolutely not put that in their sitting room." They can't! It's prohibited! And so it becomes very complicated to survive as an artist! I just had lunch yesterday with Heidi, my gallerist from Zurich, who came to pick up some works for my next exhibition in Lugano, at Wopart, a contemporary art fair of works on paper, and she told me: "Jean-Pierre, you're out of reality, we can't sell your works!" She's desperate. Because quite rightly my works speak of this universal vital energy. It's all about sexuality, but in fact, it's the vital energy that concerns everyone of us! And honestly, people are completely dissociated from their bodies, totally apart from it! I have to find people who are a little bit "enlightened" or crazy, in quote marks, who might like my work, like Dr. Gachet with Van Gogh, you hear what I mean! I have to find some people like that! I had found a few people like that in New York and Montreal, but unfortunately in France, I have a hard time finding collectors, that's artists life!
TS: I saw for example that you're exhibiting in China!
TS: But the relationship of the Chinese to eroticism is really very ambiguous. I remember, for example, that the Chinese translation of my essay on the painting: "L'origine du monde", the publisher, so that it could be published, removed all reproductions of the Origin of the World in the book, including in the illustration in the book! So we have a book about a painting, but we never see the painting! How do the Chinese react when they see your works?
JPS: Listen, to tell you the truth, I don't know, because the people who exhibit me there and my friend Xiwen Yang don't communicate much about it, but it's true that I have a big solo exhibition in a Museum in Shenyang, China until September 15th and I don't get many reactions, I don't really know! The works are exhibited there, we'll see! Maybe they're going to burn down the museum or close it down? I don't know, I'm not there, so they won't murder me!
TS: I can imagine!
JPS: But I can't say I do provocative work, Pasolini said he was a agitator, I don't think I'm provocative, I just paint what I want to paint! Somehow I am like the madmans or the deviants, I say what I want to say and then you get it or you don't get it! That's it, I can't deal with the public's judgment, because that would be lying to myself!
TS: So Théophile Gautier in his preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin, we are in the 1830s, it's really very, very early, had laid down the principle of the empowerment of Art. That is to say, of an art which, in the end, should not submit to any judgement, except aesthetic judgement of course, but certainly not to morality, in the sense of the "moraline" (Christian morals) of Nietzsche and Baudelaire had the same idea since, when he wrote to his lawyer during the trial of the Flowers of Evil, that there are two morals: "One for poets or geniuses and one for the little rascals!" The expression is quite amusing! But how do you feel today about the attacks that are being made today against the freedom of creation, especially about erotic art, in the name of contemporary good sense?
JPS: I think yes, we were freer in the sixties and seventies, in terms of art and freedom of expressing ourselves! Freedom is narrowing again, unfortunately. But there are also a lot of contemporary artists who play provocation. So, well, some artists are doing well, even very well, playing provocatively of course! Like Banksy with his self-destructing painting that sold for two million pounds, well, he's playing provocation! So it serves a number of artists. That situation is harming me because I have a lot of trouble presenting my work of course, I've had several exhibitions that have been cancelled because of its erotic content. I can exhibit, but even so, every time I do an exhibition, I say to myself: "Here, I'm going to be able to sell one or two works!" and each time, it's zero paintings sold! So you go back home and say to ourselves, is it worthy continuing being artist?
JPS: It's true that you need a lot of resilience and you don't have to believe in yourself too much, but you have to have an incredible desire to live, you need to have an incredible dire desire to live and to be an artist in a society that is so contemptuous of creation! I find that European societies... but some countries have a different attitude and I think that France's attitude towards artists is terribly unfair!
TS: And which countries would be more open in your opinion?
JPS: I would mention Switzerland for example, because they have grants and foundations to help artists. I always remember, to quote what I know from Montreal; all my artist friends had grants at the time that were between ten thousand and thirty thousand dollars a year. So, they are considered as professionals artists, they do a job, they present their work to the commission, which says: it's a n interesting job, an excellent job, or you are recognized internationally, so they give you thirty thousand dollars to support you! Because one know very well that few artists sell, it's a reality!
TS: Yes, it's a reality!
JPS: I once called my friend Anita in Montreal and told her, I'm not going so well as I'm not selling anything! And she said really surprised and disappointed: "Ah, but there are no grants for artists there in France?" I just said : "No, there aren't any grants for artists here, in France!" So that's a real humongous societal problem. And it's the same for farmers, can you imagine that in this country, a peasant commits suicide every other day! The same for the writers also, you hear them talk, they can't live from their writing anymore! Did it ever existed? Could artists have made a living from their art at a certain time, I don't know! But it's a fundamental question? We should think about it all together. I really don't think that politics can do much about it, it's at the level of personal and collective consciousness! I often have dinners with doctor friends, which are going off-piste skiing and spend ten thousand Euros to go skiing at the North Pole (or buy a Porsche!) and it wouldn't even come to their mind to buy me a small print for five hundred Euros! Nowadays, we're really in a difficult and inextricable situation, even me, I can feel like Artaud's quote: "Exited from life!" Because we are no longer part of society! We're back in the time of Van Gogh and Cézanne! I saw the other day the film about Cézanne (Cézanne et moi) with Guillaume Canet and Guillaume Gallienne, and what a shitty life these great artists had! It's really sad and it's disgusting!
TS: Yes! And it's perpetuating, it's coming back today!
JPS: Yes, it's coming back today! I think that in the sixties, seventies, artists were able to make a little bit more money and then the "bourgeois", in quotes, were more educated and bought a lot more. They used to go visit artists' studios, artists were more integrated, but now we're totally out of the picture, we're completely ostracized, we're totally pestiferous! Yes!
PART 4: THE ROLE OF ART AND OF THE ARTIST IN SOCIETY
TS: So Picasso said: "Art is not chaste, it should be forbidden to innocent ignorant people, never to bring into contact with it those who are insufficiently prepared for it. Yes, art is dangerous. Or if it is prudish, it is not art anymore!" When we look at contemporary artistic today production, don't we have to deal with chaste art, that is to say, art that is destined never to offend the sensibilities and never to provoke any brainstorming?
JPS: Yes, absolutely, that's what I understood in New York, it's in fact what we call political correctness!
TS: Yes, exactly!
JPS: That is to say that today, ninety percent (you can say a number like that at random!) but you can think that 90% of art is politically correct, so it's not art anywhere anymore! Because artists make a product, which is saleable internationally. We can see the example of Damien Hirst, he had exhibitions in Larry Gagosian's seven galleries: in Hong Kong, New York, London, Paris and so on. So people who go to the opening have a passport that they get stamped, if they have seen all Damien Hirst's exhibitions, then there is a lottery and someone (a lucky man!) can win a Damien Hirst work at the end! It's a (luxury) product like any other, it's pure marketing. And so the spiritual dimension has completely vanished. And it is this kind of art that floods the market and the press, because the other art that speaks of true, true things, of the essential, no longer exists (or is never shown)! We see it with Jeff Koons, we see it with all the "great artists", maybe at the beginning, in the past, these artists made interesting works, but it really became a commercial commodity (a pure mystification!).
TS: A consumer product!
JPS : That's it, unfortunately, but we're up against it because the real market has been completely smashed, destroyed, because the only works that are selling, are selling from $50,000 to $100,000 and up to millions of dollars and the other middles sizes galleries are closing, the average galleries are closing, since nobody buys art anymore, except the very, very wealthy (billionaires). And that's the discussion I had yesterday with my gallery owner Heidi from Zurich, she told me that there were artists who sold works for 10,000 CHF. about ten years ago and now it's selling at the Zürich flea markets for 100 CHF. The middle market has completely collapsed (in twenty years) and it's hard to recreate a second market for the so-called middle career artists like me, for whom there is not any market at anymore!
JPS: That's a really serious problem and the art that's being sold is really a consumer good, it's like toothpaste!
TS: So, since we're talking about art and the art market, I wanted to ask you about the role of art and the role of artists in society, even if it's difficult to give a definition of art, I think everyone has one! But couldn't we, paraphrasing Fernando Pessoa, who spoke about literature, saying that: "art exists because life is not enough?"
JPS: Without a doubt, yes, yes! Well, it's true for artists! For creators! Yes, it's true that we like to have an enriched life... We artists of course, more in depth, more in richness, more in beauty, more in colour, of course! That was Gauguin's approach and wishes…
JPS: That's the typical example of Gauguin, who was really bored in Europe where life was pitiful and greyish and who went to the Marquesas to find happiness in the sunny Islands with the sensuous beautiful women. Yes, life is also about women, it's also about earthly foods, of course, that's what I like about the Mayan. Writer J. M. G. Le Clézio (2008 Nobel price) said in his books: La fête enchantée, that undoubtedly among the Embera of Panama, it was the place where women were the most sensual in the world! It's true that in France women... Well, I don't want to offend anyone, but finally sensuality has completely disappeared!
"The beauty of Indian women is luminous, it comes, not from within, but from all the depths of the body, just as the beauty of the skin of a fruit is illuminated by all its pulp and by all the flesh of the tree that bears it. Indian beauty is not noticeable. It does not seek to be noticed. It is neither disdainful nor provocative. It does not measure itself against any ugliness, it does not transfigure, it does not idealize. She is there, only, triumphant. alive, external brilliance that has no other reason than sexual attraction, then fertility." Haï, J.M.G. Le Clézio
JPS: That's a big problem though !
JPS: That's a big problem! Why would sensuality disappear? And why can't the "so famous" couturiers with their stupid dresses and despite all their means, can't they find back sensuality? I think sensuality has to do with spirituality! Someone who emanates spirituality, automatically has sensuality, it's connected somehow! And for art it is the same, art can't give out or offer anything and if there is none inner dimension deeply attached to it, it remains a closed and selfsufficiant object.
TS: So this is art in itself, let's look at the artists, we know that Plato wanted to banish artists from his ideal city, because he considered that they only offered illusions of reality! On the other hand, we had Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who we can really talk about here in Besançon!
JPS: Yes, yes!
TS: Who gave to the artist a role in educating people, but in the end, when you look at the method, it may have led to the totalitarianism of the 20th century, whether it was Stalinist neorealism or Nazi neorealism, what do you personally think is the role of the artist in our society?
JPS: Firstly a thought: to say what should be art or the role of the artist, it's very, very dangerous! Because it escapes any formatting to any idea, that's it!
TS : Yes!
JPS: So, from that statement, all I can say is that I am here to testify. We are a particular generation as we are witnessing the world disappearing, vanishing just in front of us. And maybe my role and the aim of my art is to testify, to show that I met such such flower, I met such ritual (at last through images), I had such and such experience, I met such and such a character... That's why I do record a lot of interviews; because it's an encounter, life is full of encounters and art is an encounter as well! And so at one point I met Barnett Newman's work, I met Pollock's work...
Now I rather encounter the spiritual dimension of Indian (from India) cultures, I read a lot of Hindu novels. I like Hindu thought very much! I like it all! And all that informations are aggregated into my work, it's testifying to all this diversity of the world which is now reduced, which is abolished: by the capitalistic one-track thinking, by the credit card, by the commercial world. All that frightens me very, very much, because people today are so formatted, so conditioned, that I don't even want to meet anyone anymore, it isolates me and therefore, necessarily in this loneliness, I try to find an opening through my art!
TS : So precisely, art history shows, with hindsight of course, that artists, and in particular the most important artists, felt the evolutions of the world, whether positive or negative, long before the others and even before they happened. I'll take about Guernica, Michel Leiris, when he sees Guernica says: "Picasso sends us our letter of mourning: everything we love is going to die." And his words, which he wrote in 1937, are going to lead to the Second World War and all the consequences we know, what kind of world do you think we're heading to?
JPS: Well, World War II was terrible, obviously, except that, we humans all together "We got over it!" in quotes. For example, German artists did a great job of regenerating the art world, artists like Richter, Beuys, Bazelitz or Kieffer did an important job. We're talking about artists here!
JPS: And Guernica, of course, told us that the modern world was over (barbarism was there!). Except that it has regenerated itself! Whereas now. Nature won't be able to regenerate itself, eighty years later, it's definitely over! Animal Species are disappearing, Nature is polluted and disappearing... So our generation is literally confronted with this huge problem of the "world's disappearance", in quotation marks. And then what will happen in one hundred years? I don't want to be apocalyptic, but even so, it's regardless really scary to be an human being today! This morning they said on the radio that we've already exceeded the quota of what the Earth could produce, we're always living on credit, on stilling and borrowing to Mother Earth, it's no longer possible!
TS: Is this vision of the future a bit dark somehow, does this vision have an influence on your creation, do you integrate it in your works now?
JPS: Not so much, I don't want to work in fear, I learned a lot from Jean Giono, who survived through both world wars and in most of his books there is a feeling of joy of being alive and hopeful!
And also within some connection between living beings! And I want to keep this notion of hope and communion between beings… or between colours, between forms... I really want to have a "Dionysian" spirit, I want to regenerate the world anew!
TS: It's a beautiful expression: to fertilize the world anew! Yes, it is!
TS: That's also the role of your art works without a doubt. There's a quote by Barnett Newman that I find interesting, he says: "that you have to go back to the origin of art, as if painting never existed!" That's a very radical approach, but does it fit with your conception of creation?
JPS: Absolutely, I understood that among American artists, because for them, painting was the European painting and they understood that they had to detach themselves from it, that they had to forget about it. Most of them were Europeans who had just emigrated after the First or Second World War, who had come to New York to meet this artistic effervescence and they very quickly understood that they had to get rid of the Bourgeoise painting! Here, Newman doesn't talk so much about the prehistoric origin of art, he talks about destroying painting as a painted object in museums. There are also many artists who said that museums should be burnt down. Of course, because the development of culture, are layers of thoughts that accumulate successively, become stratified, it's like philosophy! And so, if you start from a guy who has a false thought, like, let's say Pascal or Descartes or Nietzsche or whoever? This false thought accumulate itself over time, so you might as well go back to zero, do tabula rasa and create what you feel like expressing personally! Of course, you can never go back to zero, but be the closest to the absolute zero and boom! Then you can say: "I'm like that, I think this, I want to do this and I fuck you!" And of course it makes a lot of noise!
JPS: It's like Pollock, you can see he started from scratch, he would say: Fuck off, I paint on my canvas, I piss on it, I ejaculate on it and I even I fuck you! So... (chuckles) Ah... (Laughs) Yes! He even took a piss into Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace on a Christmas Eve! She invited him over and and he pissed in the fireplace! That's what artists are all about ! Fuck you! We do everything that we want to do!
TS: Yes, precisely on this role of artists and art I'm going to quote Picasso again, because I find it very interesting, so Picasso stated: "No, painting is not made for apartments decoration. It's an weapon of offensive and defensive warfare against the enemy." And when he said that, he wasn't necessarily referring to Guernica, he was referring to his entire body of work! What do you think of this conception of art as an instrument of offensive and defensive warfare?
JPS: He is absolutely right, yes! That's Life we're defending, we are fighting for it! Yes, yes! And I'll go back to an anecdote, I had a show at the famous Plaza Hotel in New York where I exhibited some large papers works and a lady who was very interested in a piece of art said: "Oh, that's really nice, I like it, but couldn't hang that in my kitchen!" I replied: "But you couldn't hang a Picasso in your kitchen neither!" Referring to your quote which is correct! And the problem today is that people, the newly rich, buy art to decorate their kitchens! And real art, you can't put it in your kitchen, it's not its place!
JPS: You can't put a white square on a white background (Kazimir Malevich, 1918) in your kitchen! Because it's something other than just decoration! Neither of course a Mondrian painting, unless you have a Mondrian poster, because one went to see his exhibition! But otherwise, one miss the spiritual dimension! You don't put a Giotto in your kitchen neither, because that's not the place! And so, the huge problem today is where is art located? What is its place, its role? Is it still in museums? Is it in the Contemporary Art Centers? No, certainly not! When one go to see exhibits in the FRAC, we feel like puking, we feel like committing suicid! Art isn't there!
JPS : So finding the right place of art for me, it's a serious and real problem! Nowadays, it maybe on the web? Maybe art has its place there now? It maybe a new way to spread ideas and works, even if we don't sell anything by this mean! But that maybe the only way to survive and be heard! Because artists always had found solutions to present and diffuse their work, so maybe it's there now on the web, I really don't know, but I hope so?
TS: On this subject, what exactly is your view on contemporary art today?
JPS: Yes, it's quite... I would say quite contemptuous, except for a few artists like: James Turrel, (Shirin Neshat and some German artists). But I don't know enough (or anymore!) about the contemporary art scene, because I can't go to the big fairs, but sometimes I go to Basel Art Fair and I'm completely flabbergasted by the sidereal, abysmal emptiness, the lack of content (total emptiness), the lack of courage and honesty of the works and the artists presented.
TS: Precisely as you're talking about Basel, so what is your view of the art market today?
JPS: Yes, for me the market destroys more artists than it creates dynamics and opportunities. The market is destroying things right now! Talking about my personal case, as I'm not in the market, I'd like to get into it because maybe so my material life would be easier, or not, we don't know? And you know, there are probably artists who are doing well economically and maybe their life is not easier after all?
TS: When one see the price levels that are charged at public auctions for example, it seems that this art has become highly speculative. What's your opinion on that?
JPS: Yes it's a reality! Yes people buy art to speculate!
TS: We even see banks or financial organizations buying a Picasso or a contemporary artwork to lock them in a bank safe, more or less!
JPS: Of course, yes!
TS: And at phenomenal prices!
JPS: But art is the best investment you can ever make! Because in a few years you can multiply your investment by ten times!
JPS: So it's good if it brings money to some people. It keeps the big galleries running, living famous artists have plethora of assistants (100-200...), there's a huge business around it. They are publishing books, catalogues, good for them! But in contrast, there are a lot of artists today who are starving to death, that's the back stage of this story!
TS: Yes, in your imagination, if you had to gather together a few works of art from all periods, all artists combined, to create yourself then, not an imaginary museum because the definition of Malraux is much more complex than the meaning of my question, but a small ideal museum in your home, what would be the works you would choose?
JPS: Yes, probably a Japanese Shunga erotic and in random like this: an Egyptian mural fresco, a Mayan vase, I think they're beautiful, the colors are magnificent!
JPS : An Aztec statue, ah yes, it has a great energy! A Vermeer, a Giotto, a Rembrandt: the Man on the Staircase (Philosopher in Meditation) which is at the Louvre, I really like this painting, yes! And probably a paper cutout by Matisse.
JPS: And then I don't know, the shamanic masks of the West Coast of the United States, yes! All the shamanic masks... Ah yes, I'm captivated by the beauty and greatness of this kind of works… By the way, André Breton collected them. They are masks carrying of incredible intelligence, yes! And then some drawings by Artaud, Yves Klein's blues, well, it's huge what I like (I forgot Frida Kahlo)... And then of course the drawings completed in the prehistoric caves !
TS : Yes, the prehistoric cave drawings!
JPS: For example, the drawings of the Pech Merle cave with its digital tracings on the ceiling, one have to think that this work was done collectively, that is to say that the drawings were made over millennia, during several years and by several generations and this collective work impresses me a lot, because I like what goes beyond the individual to enter the community. That's what you can feel in my work: I like to put together works realised by different artists and at different times.
THE IMAGINARY MUSEUM OF JEAN-PIERRE SERGENT
- Shunga, Sode no maki, Torii Kiyonaga, Japan, 1785
- God of Death Mictlantecuhtli, Terracota, Mexico, 16th century
- Isis in the tomb of Nefertari, 19th dynasty, Egypt
- The goddess Nut swallowing the sun, Egypt
- Fresco of The Bird Man, Tlaxcala, Mexico, 700-800
- Painting on classical Mayan vase, 800
- The Dream of Innocent III, Giotto, Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, Italy, 1280
- Mochica vase, Peru, 200-600
- Self-portrait on the Mexico-United States border, Frida Kahlo, 1932
- Deer Blood Drawing, Joseph Beuys, 1960
- The Fall of Icarus, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1558
- The theatre and its double, Antonin Artaud, 1938
- Sort, Antonin Artaud, 1939
- Digital tracings, Perch Merle Cave, Paleolithic, France
- Scene of the Well, Lascaux, Paleolithic, France
- Filippino Lippi, The Triumph of Mordecai, 1475
- Philosopher in meditation, Rembrandt, 1632
- Paleolithic Venus of Willendorf, Austria
- The Lacemaker, Vermeer, 1671
- Eagle Mask, Kwakwaka'wakw, British Columbia, Canada, 19th century
- Kuskokwim Mask, Alaska, USA, 19th century
- Bird Mask, Kwakwaka'wakw, British Columbia, Canada, 19th century
- Metacosmic Void, Pure Consciousness, Indian gouache, 18th, Rajasthan
- Goddess Kali beheading herself during coitus to regenerate the world, India
- Feminine divinity, Temple purana mahadeva, Rajahstan
- Yves Klein, Anthropométrie form the Blue Period, 1960
- The Sadness of the King, 1952, Henri Matisse
- View of Toledo, El Greco, 1600
- Totems Asmat Bisj poles, New Guinea
TS: So in fact, unlike many artists, you write about your art and these texts show that you have an approach that is intellectually very elaborate, why do you consider this writing work necessary?
JPS: I mean it's necessary sometimes, because sometimes it's a reality, I don't have money to create new art works. Like for example for two years, it was in 2014 and 2015 and I didn't have money to produce, so I wrote this text Influences, which is fundamental and I started writing because, once again, it's important to testify! I like to do both, but of course it's more fun to work with the colour and the images, you know! I like the materials of ink and paint, I also like to touch the paper! But I also enjoy writing and also adding images to my texts and then of course, we can talk a little about philosophy, different approaches, how men at a certain time were thinking! For example, Buddhist concepts, you can hardly show them into through image, apart John Cage, who made ink works on large papers scale that made five or six metres long, he inked a really large broom-brush and painted on the floor as if it meant the passage of life and at the end human presence is disolving, the presence disappears into the void and these are very beautiful works! But Buddhist thought, except for the Japanese who are impregnated by its philosophy, for me it's very difficult to implement it plastically, that's true!
TS: Yes, there is a real cohesion, for sure, between your texts and your art works and above all what surprises me in a certain way in your texts is that they are perfectly readable. So it may seem paradoxical, but we can see that artists, and even more so philosophers, critics and art historians, when they talk about the art of others, often have an almost esoteric, almost abstruse language which, by the way, repels the general public who would like to understand them. So why did you choose to escape this hermeticism or this temptation to hermeticism in your texts, by making all your texts easy readable by the reader?
JPS: I'm not trying to escape from anything or any thought, it's not in my nature!
JPS: I'm really an humble person, easy going and down to earth. You have to know that I've been raising horses for years and that every day I would train my horses and feed them; each day I had to take care of the foals etc. So I am into the objective reality of everyday life and my work too, it's the same with silkscreen printing my body is very present in the work. So if you are present with your body, you cannot go into delirious intellectual thought in denying your body. And I think that in my writings my body is also truly present, maybe it's the real presence of the body that is important, yes!
TS: Yes, and which therefore gives back to the writing, a great simplicity!
JPS: Yes, I hope so! I hope so! It's very nice what you are saying about my writings and I appreciate it very much. Because it seems obvious to me to write intelligently, I wouldn't like to write for people who couldn't understand me but maybe it's the case, I really don't know, one never know?
PART 5: BEAUTY & QUOTES
TS: So, Jean-Pierre, there is a question one might ask today, we also asked it in the past, but I think that today, even more so, both for artists and the public, it's the question of beauty! It's a question you've addressed, especially in one of your text: De la beauté etc., and in this text you call upon a certain number of authors, writers, especially 19th century writers, and Huysmans in particular. The question I was asking myself is: what are for you, on the subject of beauty, the founding texts?
JPS: Oh yes! That's a big question! I'm going to quote a few examples, it's my sentence, about what I think about beauty: "Beauty is a necessity of life: it's the quintessence of life itself!" That is to say, one has the impression, that in nature, everything is beautiful, in quotation marks! That is to say that it is a functionality! In order to survive, you need beauty! So it's beyond philosophy, it's beyond the aesthetic debate, yes, it's the sine qua non prerequisite for life. But I wanted to come back to the writer friends of the nineteenth century, who, more for me than the painters, were able to feel where this beauty hide. Because Huysmans talks about it very well but I have in front of me an extract from the Temptation of Saint Anthony of Flaubert and so this monk Saint Anthony stays in his cave and everybody comes to him and explains to him: "Look at the beauty of life and enjoy it!" Even the Queen of Sheba comes up to him and says: "Oh... Enjoy the life and fuck me!" But he refuses every single desire, he wants to remain in his ascetic dimension, between quotation marks, spiritual, monotheistic, where access to God requires the self-denial of the world! So Flaubert shows that it's the opposite: it's the acceptance of the whole world, of every desires, that gives access to God! So I thought of this: One must not miss one's life by accident or intellectual or spiritual misunderstanding. And I think that today, many people are missing their lives, perhaps I will quote a few excerpts from Saint Anthony, for example from Manes, the Bard:
"He makes his globe turn; and adjusting his words to a lyre from which crystalline sounds escape: Souls who come out of this world emigrate to the stars, which are animated beings."
That is to say, beauty is a cosmic thought; it's a connected thought. That's what we have to understand. Beauty is not on the outside, it's on the inside. It is within the body, when we see how the body functions, everything is marvellous everywhere!
JPS: Everything is beautiful somewhere, the eyes, the ears, it's incredibly beautiful! And all the functionality of it all, how it organize… Well, then you can think that it was created by a deity, or not! But it does exist and so beauty is a tribute to the living! Here is a quote from Krishnamurti that I like very much and I love to watch his lectures, he is somehow a wise man and he talks about beauty saying: "When we see a wonderful mountain, crowned with snow on a blue sky and the deep valleys that are in the shadows, their great splendour and their great majesty completely absorb us; for a moment we are completely silent because their majesty invades us, we forget ourselves. Beauty reveal itself when you are not present. The essence of beauty is the absence of "self". The essence of meditation is to explore the renunciation of the self."
So, it's to forget oneself somewhere, entering a wonderful world, it's like Alice in Wonderland, it's all about entering a wonderful world! It's about letting go, about being happy to be alive! Being alive: it's a joy!
TS: And you alluded to the beauty found in nature, and it's true that this brings you closer to Gustave Courbet who is, as you know, an artist who is dear to my heart, and we are here in Franche-Comté!
JPS: That's it!
TS: And Courbet defined beauty, as opposed to the beauty academic canons, which is a completely artificial, retouched beauty…
TS: He used to say that beauty is in nature! And I think that applies quite well to the approach you have and even to the text you just quoted, because indeed, beauty is where you are not! But he does make a reference when introducing this concept to a snowy mountain, there, we are in the center of nature!
JPS: Yes, we're absent somehow, but we're merging with nature, yes, it's really paradoxical. And Courbet, when he paints these women, they're real women, you have to have a relationship with reality.
JPS: It's like those artists who paint their flowers and think it's beautiful, but it's not nearly as beautiful as a flower!
TS: Yes, of course!
JPS: It's in that sense that I am claiming a bit to access the energy of the world. It's pretentious, but, well, Pollock had this pretension too, to enter the energy of the cosmos! So maybe I'm doing it or not? but it's my own way of accessing this soul of the world, between quotation marks!
TS: Yes, beauty as a result of the soul of the world! I think that's a good ending statement!
JPS: Yes, but I would also like to quote a Hindu book, which I am reading and I wanted to finish our interview with it.
TS: Yes, I would!
JPS: I read a lot of Hindu authors and this book is: The one who wore skulls in earrings (Kapalkundala
), by Bankim Chandara Chattterjee and it's two young heroes who meet; the hero is saved from a dramatic situation where a tantra adept wanted to eat and sacrifice him to the goddess Kali, to regenerate the world, in quotation marks, he says:
"That too, he thought, was written! He had forgotten what all Bengalis know: the art of let us being guided by circumstances."
So finding beauty is also to let us be guided by circumstances and not be influenced by dogma! It's also about being able to be free to make your own choices. That's what I found and completed in New York City! And then afterwards, the priest who saved them offered flowers to the Goddess Kali:
"He recited a sacred formula on her (on the statue) before placing this flower at the feet of the Goddess. Then he remained still for a while in contemplation. - You see," he finally said, "the Goddess accepted our offering. The flower didn't move and stayed in place, it did not fall off. The prayer I had expressed in making this offering was therefore received with kindness. So, you can go carefree in company of your lover."
And for me, my art is like an offering to the world, like this!
JPS: It's something that I place at the feet of a goddess, imaginary or real, to wish everyone a good path, a good life, it's a bit of an incantatory act somewhow!
TS: Yes, that's it, we're rejoining again spirituality!
JPS : Absolutely, yes! Thank you very much dear Thierry for coming, thank you for this beautiful interview, I hope people will appreciate it and good luck to all and see you soon Thierry!
TS: Thank you Jean-Pierre, thank you for having me in your workshop!
JPS: You're welcome, goodbye!
TS: Goodbye Jean-Pierre!
INTERVIEW BETWEEN ARTIST JEAN-PIERRE SERGENT AND DOCTOR JEAN-LOUIS GARILLON (bioquantum physician) -2 parts-
Filmed at the Studio on june 30th 2020
PART 1: LIFE PATHS (1/2) CREATIONS AND ENCOUNTERS (see the video)
JPS: Hello dear Jean-Louis, thank you very much for coming to the workshop despite this heat weave! It's really nice to see you with Annie, whom I met at the exhibition in Remiremont, that's where we met. Then we got to know each other a little, I wanted to do this interview with you because we had talked about interesting things together. So here we are, I’ll let you speak and ask me the questions you want to ask me.
JLG: Thank you Jean-Pierre! It is really a pleasure to see your studio after discovering your painting and especially, this man that you are. I was very touched by your approach but also by the man. It is important to link art to the human and the human to art and that is your whole mission. This is the whole meaning of your mission, adding a dimension of elevation to it; what you know how to do and which is not common in the expression of art nowadays! So, I would like to touch on three things: the first, of course, is the human being because you are not without questioning somewhere, by your originality, your singularity and that is important, because your approach, your path, are bearers of a dimension that is not common and which therefore deserves a little stop, if you will!
JLG: Secondly, it will be the whole aspect of your creation and then what underlies your creation, that is, your inner journey and that too, it seems to me to be something fundamental to feel, to live, to pulsate with you! And that's what I would like you to explain to us, to share with us. So, let's start with the human you are? What is your human path, let's say, your life path? How do you perceive yourself in life, especially in your life today, since your mode of expression is both a very contemporary mode of expression and yet you touch on archetypes, so lets say things that are at the origin, at the dawn of humanity. How could you describe yourself? Not define you, of course, but describe you? It is really interesting me!
JPS: Yes, that's a lot of questions, it's especially that I feel like I'm in continuity with and in line with artists. It starts in prehistoric times and long before that! People who have been witnessing. Especially today, I think about it more and more, I think it more and more vehemently. In other words, the artist's role is really to bear witness to his time and to the past. You have to go back, it's a bit like a plowman working the land if you want, working art is a bit like working the land (it's a living material); how to get to the bottom of things and bring back to the surface things that are a little buried, of course, but that I feel missing by many people I meet daily.
JLG: The roots!
JPS: The roots, yes!
JLG: And so your creation, because it is not only a testimony, you are a creative person and a creator. You are extending the work of the original initial creator of the worlds and your creation is therefore rooted in a whole heritage of humanity and a whole dimension of evolution and elevation of man, that is what I perceive. Can you say a little more about this path?
JPS: This term of elevation is the correct word because the artists I am interested in are all artists who have raised human thought a little bit, of course. Because not all artists do it, there are people who like to work with human misery, well, it's not a value judgment!
JPG: Of course not!
JPS: And that's why I had this particular revelation with American artists like Barnett Newman or Marc Rothko works, because we feel that there is, in them, this great dimension of spiritual awakening and a will to increase the dimension of man precisely!
JLG: All right! So it's a conscience! You have developed, through your path, a particular consciousness and this consciousness, you seek to express it through graphics, through colors, through what precisely?
JPS: I think it's just the joy of being alive! When I put a color on I like that color!
JLG: There you are, you're like Alexis Zorba, the Greek who said: "When I eat pilaf rice, I am pilaf rice"
JPS: That's right, that's Buddhist thinking, yes!
JLG: Yes, absolutely it is an universal thought!
JLG: This is an area I would say of the order of an initiatory consciousness! A higher consciousness that leads us to give meaning in every moment of life and therefore, in your painting, it makes sense in relation to you and your path, but it must make sense and also resonate with the human being! That's what I perceive!
JPS: Yes, yes!
JLG: In your path precisely, of which the USA has presented a large part of your evolution. Is that when you were in contact with other civilizations, or were you already in contact with them before?
JPS: When I was in France, I had the chance to travel to Egypt, so I already had this kind of cosmic revelation.
JLG: All right!
JPS: That I hadn't had before.
JLG: Okay, so Egypt opened your eyes? Indeed, Egypt is one of the almost obligatory passages of man's journey, in relation to his verticality, but above all to his cosmic consciousness.
JPS: Yes, yes, that's exactly it! The term is correct, yes!
JLG: So there you have it, what I have found in your paintings, let's say Nut's blues, you know that symbol of the starry sky...
JLG: What I also like very much about your painting is that no color repels you, you like all colors!
JPS: That's true, yes!
JLG: And you make them live fully, so that is really interesting! After your Egypt trip, that was when you were in France? and then, let's say, you traveled to other horizons?
JPS: Yes, of course to New York...
JLG: So, you went through the USA, New York?
JPS: So, when I went to these great museums, like the MET, or the museum of natural history... There is also the museum of man in Paris where I have already had revelations, but for example, the Astmats totems that were at the museum of man in Paris, it did not have the same effect on me as at the MET ! Because at the MET, they were all aligned, grandiose and I really had this kind of cosmic revelation. I felt this strength of tribal art, primitive art as it is called....
JLG: Primitive art, but not primitive!
JPS: There's nothing primitive about it!
JLG: We are the ones who are primitive in relation to this mode of expression of art! OK!
JPS: And I felt that strength there I that didn't know and that I hadn't seen anywhere else before! And so, it opened up a lead for me.
JLG: It questioned you?
JPS: Yes, but how to get there? And the Astmats were cannibals and I don't want to become a cannibal to make art! It's not my trip!
JLG: You can always try, there is no risks…! You'd be more of a vegetarian than a cannibal!
JPS: Yes, that's right, I'm completely vegetarian! Yes, but that does raise some questions?
JLG: Of course! So you were harpooned? You been subjugated?
JPS: That's it, yes, yes, yes!
JLG: And so, this revelation was immediately transposed into your mode of expression, or did it take a while to mature?
JPS: At first, I used strong images. One can say that the images of shamanic trances are strong, even without really understanding them!
JLG: All right!
JPS: Like, for example, the West Coast Yupick masks that André Breton collected. These masks that duplicate in two or tree animals, where there are three identities overlaying each other. When you see that, you say: it's interesting, even if you don't really understand what's going on there!
JLG: Of course!
JPS: However, the metamorphoses in shamanic trances are exactly what happens: transformations. By having experienced trances, I was able to understand those transformatives energies!
JLG: You have been experienced the trance yourself? It's very interesting because it's a human experience but at the same time, for the artist that you are, it's an opening to other fields, to other dimensions... And let's say, that gave you what feeling? What sensation at first? To exist differently or to perceive things and your inner dimension differently than before?
JPS: It's like another life! It's like discovering another life, augmented, brighter somehow!
JLG: Another part of life?
JPS: Yes, another part of life with stronger, brighter colors and spacial translations, which means that you can travel...
JLG: In space and time!
JPS: In space and time!
JLG: Yes, okay!
JPS: And that's cosmic!
JPS: This cosmic revelation that I had in Egypt, it was revealed again throughout shamanic trance.
JLG: I would even say it's quantum!
JPS: That's it, quantum!
JLG: This is what we call quantum today. Okay, yes, let's say that traditions have also affirmed it: space, time and density, so matter does not exist!
JPS: That's it!
JLG: So, it's true that through your mode of expression, we can perceive it very strongly!
JPS: Oh, I'm glad you say that, because very few people perceive this universal and cosmic dimension of my work!
JLG: If you want, it's because they just haven't been educated for it, you can understand that. Entering, penetrating into your work or your mode of expression is not easy, since, in your case, you have gone beyond the canvas and given it light and a certain transparency, through your Plexiglas, for certain works such as the one next to us. It is also that you give it a shine, which is not common and which enhances, say, which illuminates the work itself. And there are also different things that challenge me, it is the whole dimension of the symbols you use, the symbol and also the path of life itself, it is its strength. There is a power of the symbol. There is a symbol that is very challenging: it is the symbols of transcendence expressed in the human being and in the energies of life that are sexuality. It may also shock some people, but again, it would be good if you could explain what it means to have this genesiaque dimension of sexuality in your work. Let's say in your mode of expression.
JPS: Yes, it's true, it's genesiaque, but it's also the pleasure of being alive, it's also just that!
JLG: Yes, all right, absolutely!
JPS: I'm not so much for the overpopulation of the world, but sexual act is a lot of fun and it's also the encounter with each other.
JLG: Procreation goes through that!
JPS: Yes, I agree, but it's way beyond that! It is also man's enjoyment of being alive!
JLG: Absolutely! Besides it, I don't know if you know, but in our regions here in the East of France, the elders say that in life there is not only one life, there are three lives! And then, above all, there are three deaths: the first death is the death of every day, when you fall asleep with your head on the pillow, you die to yourself, you no longer know who you are, neither where you are! The second death, they say, is the death of love, that is, the little death called orgasm, the orgasmic dimension is also a death. We are completely losing touch with who we are and where we are. And the third death, they said once more, is the one from which we do not return! And they added something extraordinary: it is that these three deaths... and they made this sign of the three partners, proceed of the same nature. So precisely here, we are dealing with the reality of life and death, that is to say, surpassing of oneself.
JPS: Yes, that's it!
JLG: And then, let us say of this other dimension which is after the earthly life, that is to say that we enter into a dimension, a cosmic space, definitively cosmic. It's a dissolution of the body to enter a revelation of the spirit and the core of the soul eventually. For those who perceive the meaning of the soul. Precisely on the level of the soul, your works have a soul! How do you make them that alive?
JPS: Oh yes! Maybe I have this innate sense? Or maybe it's something that's acquired? Maybe?
JLG: Is it in your bundle?
JPS: Yes, that's it!
JLG: Okay, it's quite possible, totally possible.
JLG: Well, otherwise, tell me a little bit about your peregrinations in the field of traditions. So, you started from these totems that challenged you and then, you were touched by the Mayan, Aztec worlds and so, what is the connection between everything and how did it influence you?
JPS: The link is the human! It is always the human being who fights to stay alive to enhance life also through beauty! I think beauty is a willpower! Maybe it exists by itself? That's a philosophical discussion!
JLG: Of course!
JPS: But I don't want to get into this too much! These art works speaks to me because they have this deep presence. It's like people, who had faith, who met God. For them, it was obvious. It's like Italian primitives, you can feel that they had faith! Same for cathedral builders, they had faith! You can feel it!
JLG: It is a desire of the absolute!
JPS: That's it, yes!
JLG: It is a transcendence, a desire for the absolute, which is within us, which lives in us and which seeks to express itself!
JPS: That's it, yes!
JLG: And it inhabits you deeply!
JPS: Yes, it is owning me! Yes, because it's like acquiring one more dimension! As we discussed earlier. And I feel comfortable into this extra dimension.
JLG: Absolutely! And this dimension is not easily accessible to the world, to the general public. That's true, because yes, as we said at the beginning, we are not really prepared for it, either intellectually, culturally or spiritually! Man is nevertheless a little despiritualised in today's world and I am talking about spirituality, not religion.
JPS: Certainely not!
JLG: It is true that "primitive" man had this pure and rich relationship to the spiritual world, he lived in this dimension and his materiality, this incarnation, was not as material as nowadays, one can imagine!
JPS: Yes, that's right!
JLG: So, tell me about these Mayan, Aztec and other traditions. From the USA, you travelled, you went to Mexico?
JPS: I have been to Mexico and Guatemala several times yes, yes!
JPS: And of course, to have seen these works and even beyond the works of art, the daily life of the Mayans... It is so alive, full of colors, spices, different foods that it fulfils the senses. It's like in Saint-John Perse's books, it's a feeling of being in the world sensually and with diversity!
JLG: More fully!
JPS: Yes, more fully, absolutely! The term is correct!
JLG: You were able to connect with each mode of expression, each mode of culture, if I may say so, you fill yourself with all this information to create your own mode of expression?
JPS: Yes, that's was happened, I nourished up myself on it!
JLG: You've filled yourself with it!
JPS: And every day I still nourish myself with it!
JLG: You did process all this materials!
JPS: That's it!
JLG: That's what I perceive very strongly about you!
JPS: I do not have the idea that one culture is better than another!
JLG: Of course! There is no discrimination!
JPS; No, there is no discrimination!
JLG: It is not at all in your dimension to discriminate!
JPS: Yes, you are right!
JLG: You accept human in all that it can bring you in terms of beauty, goodness and wellness, that's clear!
JPS: Yes, that's correct!
JLG: Well, I also wanted to ask about your designs, because you have works that are like here, in a kind of symmetrical rigour, but with an inner life and an underlying dimension and then, you have much flashy, more contemporary dimensions I would say in the expression, so you are not selective in a way, you let your imagination get loose too?
JPS: Yes, but in some ways, I'm very eclectic, for example this pattern you see in front of you, it's a drawing I got from an Oceanian carved shell and I thought it was so beautiful! And for me it's a bit like paying tribute to the artist who carved it...
JPS: For him, it had a social meaning and that's what stated Lévy-Strauss and all these anthropologists who have studied the meanings of all these motifs…
JLG: Anthropologists and sociologists!
JPS: That's it, it's not decoration, it means something. I no longer know it, but by working on the artist's drawing again, I can get a little inside his "soul". That's what makes me rich too!
JPS: That's a bit stealing, but....
JLG: No, it's not stealing, it's an appropriation work, where you give it a second chance.
JPS: That's exactly what it is!
JLG: I think it should be interpreted as such! You didn't loot anything, you didn't degrade anything, you didn't steal anything! You have simply so steeped yourself in him that you can express him in this way today!
JPS: And somewhere, he (or she) is can relive a little through me today, in quotation marks!
JLG: It's completely a second life, a kind of resurrection!
JPS: It is the collective unconscious that survives thanks to the human chain of artists!
JLG: Yes, of course, absolutely, and then that's why there is this visionary and creative side within the artist insofar as history is an eternal restart.
JPS: Exactly, yes!
JLG: Except that we never stay at the same level, we're going up in the spiral, in the towers...!
JPS: Yes, but that's just it: are we going up? Or are we going down? That's the question!
JLG: We may be in one direction or the other.
JPS: That's it, yes!
JLG: It is so clear that there are artists who are inhabited by dark forces and who express their suffering, or the suffering of the world that has invaded them, this is not at all your case!
JPS: Thank you, yes, yes!
JLG: You are in a dimension of colourful and living bursting of life!
JPS: Yes, yes!
JLG: Of the artistic expression and that's very touching! As I am in your studio, it is always a joy to discover an artist's studio and therefore it is very, very alive! Your paintings are, but so is your studio! There are books, I see you're a great reader?
JPS: That's right, yes!
JLG: And content that touches all branches of being! From knowledge to philosophy and then, also, there are a lot of masks of different origins, how does the mask inspire you? What does it mean to you?
JPS: The first mask I bought is the Mexican mask, I'll show it in the video! It had four eyes! I was in Puebla with my friend Olga and I saw this mask and I said wow! It's like surrealistic!
JPS: It's to add ourself another personality and at that time, I don't know if I had already done the trances? But in fact in the trance, you can have four eyes! We can really... They make these masks to give themselves another dimension. I have many masks of the Tiger, El Tigre, which is the spirit of the tiger and in trances, we often meet the spirit of the tiger or the jaguar, or the falcon, or the whale... So, for all these civilizations, they were masks of incantations to the spirits!
JLG: Yes, to the spirits found in all the great myths!
JPS: That's it!
JLG: And so is all mythology!
JPS: Yes, so it's a presence, somewhere!
JLG: Presence of another order, another dimension, but which has an inner strength and power and which normally is called to communicate with the man that we are.
JPS: Yes, yes!
JLG: Is your mode of expression a passage between man and myth somewhere? The myth or the civilising elements since myths are the founding elements of civilizations?
JPS: The myth is more difficult for me to use, because I live nowadays in a society without any myths or beliefs!
JLG: It's demytified!
JPS: Ah...! Ah...! Ah...!
JPS: Yes, demystified!
JLG: Because myth and mystery go hand in hand! That's clear!
JPS: We'll leave it there for this first part Jean-Louis and we'll meet again for the second part!
JLG: Yes, thank you again!
PART 2: LIFE PATHWAYS (2/2) TRANSES & QUANTUM MECHANICS
JLG: Yes, indeed, we are in one dimension at a time, I was going to say divino-human, namely that transcendence emanates from your work and it joins, let's say, all this current science that we call the quantum world and which reveals to us that in the infinitely small of matter, the laws of physics are no longer the same as the laws of the constituted bodies and that many planes also reveal themselves to us, with other modes of functioning than in our ordinary world and your painting, let's say your mode of expression leads us to open our eyes on these worlds which constitute the infra-matter and not the sub-matter! It is also a dimension that we discover that deserves to be a little explicated.
JPS: Yes, of course!
JLG: And I think that it is the world of trance that brought you to reveal these different levels, these different worlds and therefore you lived them in an more intense way and I also think that it brought you a particular life force. Can you say a few words about that?
JPS: Yes, we're talking now, at this point in time, T, about the infra-worlds of the Mayans. The shamans had several levels of consciousness but so did the Hindu thought!
JLG: Of course!
JPS: We are talking about all that and it is a little difficult to explain because I didn't learn all those techniques, but it is true that in the trance, we meet other universes, other levels of consciousness. That's it!
JLG: And that completely changed your mode of expression?
JPS: Yes, absolutely!
JLG: Absolutely, it changed your vision of things and then your transposition of this vision into your artistic mode of expression, yes, it's obvious! So, do you think that in the creative act of the artist that you are, it can send back to the spectators that we are, something that will interfere in his life?
JPS: I hope so! I'm here to give good! I'm here to give joy!
JLG: You're here to give us something to see first!
JPS: It's really a gift, the act of the creator is a gift to life, it's an offering!
JLG: Absolutely, absolutely! It's an offering, absolutely! I think your kind of expression can bring viewers to enter into this dimension. It's a vision that's excessively dynamic! Whereas at first glance, you could go ahead and say, yes indeed! We're going way beyond "I like it or I don't like it!" But then, well, there are works that you could get tired of. And with you, there's such an inner life in the work that reflects your inner life, that one can penetrate into it and feed off it in a certain way. I would like to know already if you are in attachment to your works? Or is this gift something you are freeing yourself from? Because there are artists who find it hard to free themselves from their works, and who are attached to it, others are not! How are you functioning in relation to that?
JPS: It's more of an inseminator, spermicidal act! When you sell a work, you're happy! You inseminate the thought of someone else!
We give the witness! I'm transmitting memories! I always enjoy seeing a piece of artwork go! Unless it's someone who buys a piece of art for the wrong reasons in quotes.
JLG: Of course! It's not the majority, I think!
JPS: Yes, there you go!
JLG: In any case, I wouldn't wish it on you! So this creative act you think it is going to infuse in the person who takes it, if I dare say so! Something like an energy and life input somehow!
JPS: Yes, yes! It's like when we read Giono books, he communicates his joy to us. It's important, it's really the artist's primary role.
JLG: Absolutely, okay! You're very much in this tradition of the spiritual nature of things.
JPS: Yes, one could say that!
JLG: And how does this expression which is your specificity a little bit, relate to the world of health? you see in the field of health? Could your works be used in hospitals, in health structures or other structures as well, what would it bring back to people?
JPS: Yes, I hope it would give them back a need, a desire to live!
JLG: Yes, I do agree!
JPS: I had a friend who once said: "Your work should be reimbursed by Social Security!" Because a lot of people come to my workshop and they feel regenerated after coming! It's something that speaks to me because, somewhere, I play the role of a shaman, who somewhere regenerates life, without being a shaman. I am not!
JLG: Let's say you're completely steeped with this shamanism?
JPS: Yes, that's right!
JLG: It's true that your work brings us a certain resourcing. What you give to see and to experience brings a sense of renewal. So, it's also true that it's the fonction of art. Not only to witness, but to create and to allow you to give more life to life.
JPS: Yes, that's right, that's the right word!
JLG: OKAY! It's to give this dimension there! Otherwise, in your everyday life, how do you live, I was going to say your mission, not to say your sacerdoce? That's almost that!
JPS: That's almost true, but it depends on where you live! In New-York, I didn't have that kind of heaviness of being an artist because, in the end, you're more integrated into society. But it's true that in France, it's heavier, it's heavier because you don't meet the public.
JLG: And then there are far fewer artists and they're very scattered, very dispersed, and it's a tiny enclosed world, each to his own chapel. There's an individualism in France that you certainly don't find in New York, that's clear.
JPS: But there's also the spiritual dimension! Because it's really difficult to talk about a spiritual dimension to French people who think that art and painting are dead... it's difficult. It doesn't exist anymore for them, it's something outdated, whereas spirituality has existed since the dawn of time. To cut oneself off it is to deprive oneself of something important!
JLG: Absolutely, and yes, I think that art cannot be dissociated from the inner world, from the spiritual world. Besides, today we no longer speak as we did a few centuries ago, which was essentially portraiture or figurative art. Today, we have freed ourselves from this figuration, you are in a contemporary mode of expression, abstraction which can be very, very free or let's say more structured, but this abstraction is intended to bring the viewer back to his inner dimension. I also think that it is desirable to meet the man, when you meet the artist, when you meet the work, and vice versa, to make the path from one to the other and to be able to establish a link because not everything is in the duality between work and artist, but in this deal with the spectator who will steal a little bit of this energy: and of the artist and the work in order to impregnate himself with it and increase his life.
JPS: Yes, that's correct!
JLG: It's a little bit what we perceive through your work. And that's also something that struck me!
JPS: Yes, but people are so closed-minded that they don't want at all to increase their lives. It's a real problem, one want to stay in your neurosis (your own neurosis!). People around me want to stay in their neurosis, they are fine like that! They stay in their tiny dimension. They don't have any idea…
JLG: Of Enlargement?
JPS: That there can be anything else.
JPS: And I think today, more than ever!
JLG: I think that in a certain way, we are touching the end of a materiality, of a materialism, what was necessary, it's an obligatory passage to be able to go back up from the depths towards a profound sense of what animates us, the Anima, so this Spirit and this Soul are of course determining for the body; the body only expresses what happens inside. In a certain way, this is what is called somatization. Many people today somatize because they are in fear, in stress, and they have lost this inner root. They have lost this need, this serenity to live, to live fully. But you, you embody a little bit this dimension... Yes! In spite of the turpitudes of your life; you have been able to draw from the sources of life to be able to regenerate yourself and be what you are and what you live today. I'm a great admirer of your background.
JPS : JPS: Thank you, thank you!
JLG: It's important! So, after the USA, you came back to France.
JPS: Yes, I came back to France, yes!
JLG: Isn't it a Purgatory for you to come back here?
JPS: Yes, it's a bit difficult! I think I've gained so much strength and energy in New York that it's hard to stop me. Even if France is a country that tries to stops me completely! I'm facing a wall, not a wall like this one, but a concrete wall, a blockhouse!
Now, that's terrible for me!
JLG: Yes, Yes! A Berlin Wall! And let's hope that the energy which has broken down the Berlin Wall, can also break down this muraille!
JPS: It's terrible, because the rational French mind, I bump against it and BOOM! When you're in front of a wall, you don't really know if you should dig under it, if you should jump the wall, if you should go to the end of the wall? For me, it's really a limitation. The French mind is very, very narrowish and limited. So it's bound to pose a few problems of course!
JPS: Well, one have to deal with that!
JLG: And so you don't see the immediate way to make consciences evolve, towards an opening of sensitivity?
JPS: No, I don't think so, I don't believe in it too much! You know, it's educational. You teach people to count in a certain way, but if there were a thousand ways to count, they wouldn't understand them!
JLG: I think we're still in a time of paradigm shift. I introduce all my lectures in the following way: I take people back to what they learned in first grade, first year of elementary school, and the first lesson in calculation. The first math lesson is just addition and the first addition is one plus one and everybody says, yes, that's two. And I'm showing that one plus one doesn't make two anymore nowadays! To demonstrate so, I take a rectangular strip of paper a few inches wide from a letter paper size, 8.5" by 11" long and then I hatch one side of the strip of paper so one side is white and the other side is hatched and I ask people: "How many sides are there to my paper?" And of course there's one white side plus one hatched side, so that's two! I join the two ends of this strip of paper together to make a cylinder and I ask: "How many sides are there?" Of course, there are always two sides, we agree! And then I turn one end over, I join the two ends together…
JPS: A swirl?
JLG: It makes a kind of twist...
JPS: Infinity!JLG: So that's make what we call a lemniscate, a kind of eight in space, and I ask people: "How many sides are there?"
JPS: An infinite number?
JLG: And paradoxically, there's only one side, it's the symbol for infinity, but there's only one side left. The reversal brought just one side. And I say to them, you know, "you thought one plus one always equals two?"
JPS: Exactly, yes!
JLG: And then now it's over, today it's no longer two, it can be one too! And so, what's paradoxical is that we have this symbol in front of our eyes every day. We have this symbol in front of us every day. This symbol is quite simply the symbol of recycled you know, which is green like that! This symbol of recycled is a flattening of this same symbol, a kind of triangle and this symbol is very strong because it asks us to return to the unity that is within us!
JPS: Exactly, yes!
JLG: And I can see through your mode of expression this return to the unity within us, you see! So we're getting to the notions of archetypes and founding myths that have allowed us to become what we are even if we've deviated from them, and I think that there's an acceleration, if you will, in today's consciousness, to move towards this, not understanding, because it's not just intellectual, but it's tangible!
JPS: Yes, there is! Exactly! Yes and you can prove it!
JLG: So one have to touch this reality, and it's true that the accessibility to it, goes through initiatory processes, including shamanism, which is, for me, a mode of initiation, of opening the mind and the heart to other worlds.
JPS: Yes, there it is!
JLG: And which you've lived through and which you know, today, transpose. So, what I could say is that I wish everyone to experience, perhaps through your work and your mode of expression, to experience this other world which is no longer this rationality of one plus one.
JPS : Yes!
JLG: And to enter into this unity which makes us live. So, this life, outside of Art, how do you live it? Through reading? Do you listen to music? How do you live?
JPS: Obviously music! I do listen to music in the evening when I'm quieter. I like Bach a lot, also reading enriches me enormously, I'm very curious.
JLG: Yes, in my field, they say I'm curious about science, but you're curious by nature!
JPS: Yes, and Nature enriches me too. It's always a wonder! And it's precisely because we're faced with this other, multiple reality!
JLG: Of course, yes, you're telling me that when you go back to your family, you're going canoeing.
JPS: Yes, that's it!
JLG: So you're plugging into Nature, you need "your" nature?
JPS: But it's mostly that when you're sailing you're between two worlds: you're between the water and the air and you can travel like that, glide more easily almost weightless!
JLG: You're into the fluids!
JPS: That's right, the term is correct, I'm in the fluid! As in my work, I like to be in the fluid.
JLG: Yes, there's a dimension of fluid in you, absolutely!
JPS: Because nothing has to get in the way, everything has to work smoothly!
JLG: Let it all flow!
JPS: Let it all flow naturally!
JLG: Let it circulate!
JPS: Yes, one can't block the energy of the world.
JLG: Of course, and anyway, we're only messenger, that's clear!
JPS: Yes, yes that's it!
JLG: And you're a passer of colour and light through your art work. All right, well... Yes, it's nice to be able to live things this way and to return to simple and profound realities, which give themselves to be seen and which give us something to live for. I really thank you for that! What else comes to mind? Yes, your sensitivity! You have two polarities in you, I would say two polarities: a very male force in a certain way and a great almost feminine sensitivity.
JPS: Yes, that's true!
JLG: How do you combine the two aspects?
JPS: Good! It's going very well!
JPS: I'm very happy to be able to understand different energy systems. I often tell this: I once sold a Plexiglas painting…
JPS: Well, yes, so my friends came to buy a Plexiglas...
JLG: Plexiglas, that's your expression for saying it's a work on Plexiglas!
JPS: That's it, yes, it's a painting! And so the husband came first and chose four paintings from the wall and his spouse came later and chose four others. So I'm talking to people who have different energies levels. So I am all these energies altogether, so it is a great joy to be able to access all this!
JLG: Yes, okay!
JPS: Because of course it's delightful, it's a blessing! I don't know where it comes from?
JLG: Yes of course, it's in your background!
JPS: Or maybe it's a gift?
JLG: Yes, it's a gift absolutely!
JPS: A curiosity or a humility about life because I'm really interested in everything! That's great!
JLG: Okay, yes, your open-mindedness...
JPS: There you go, yes!
JLG: It's pretty uncommon, that's true.
JPS: And I can pass it on! It's a little gift I have.
JLG: A small gift, in all humility, thank you! There, I've taken the liberty of revealing some of what I perceive of you.
JPS: Yes, that's very kind!
JLG: Because it's true that we imagine the artist a la Rodin, you know!
JPS: Yes, but physically, I also work like that!
JLG: Yes, of course!
JPS: Because silkscreen printing is very physical!
JLG: Yes, screen-printing is physical, and more of that, you're working on large pieces.
JPS: Yes, you are right!
JLG: So somehow your wall inspires me, a cathedral work of art somewhere!
JPS: Thank you, thank you, thank you!
JLG: No, but we're in a diversity that's really surprising, because we can't say you're in one and only palette. I've been looking for what will be your palette? We're always trying to identify in relation to a painter's palette that has its own tonalities, but you're touching on a universalism.
JLG: It shines through and that's really what comes out in the first place. So that's it! And what else can I say? You've still got that, and that too, a tremendous rigour! You're almost in a monastic life, if I dare say so, and in a very, very rigorous mode of expression, which is not a rigidity. Is it in your deepest nature, or are you just decided to work like that?
JPS: Yes, I've framed myself, precisely because I work with so much energies, that if you don't have a particular frame... you know quantum mechanics very well: there is an electron or a proton that has a mass and its mass is defined. It's the same for art. I define a module (1.05 x 1.05 m), I work on that module.
JLG: All right, and you're multiplying it, you're multiplying it?
JPS: That's it, I'm replicating it!
JLG: By creating atoms that will make molecules that make proteins and that ends up making a body?
JPS: For me, the world is organized, for some others it's not! But I like to organize my work in order to have this greater freedom of action!
JLG: There as you said it, it's a rigour that's in you and that gives you paradoxically a greater freedom.
JPS: Exactly, yes!
JLG: It's very interesting and I see that very clearly. In your monastic life, you make life live in you and around you.
JPS: Yes! Ah, life has to burst out, spurts out, of course! Life is a cosmic ejaculation!
JLG: That's what life is all about!
JLG: Yes and indeed, that's what we find in the symbols you are using. Whether it's in the Hindu symbols as well, because you've obviously touched on a lot of traditions and, yes, let's say you're a revealer of the expression of life!
JPS: Thank you very much! Thank you Jean-Louis. Did you want to add something else?
JLG: No, I think we talked about a lot of things, it's not bad!
JPS: We've been all over the subjects? It's really a great interview!
JLG: I was able to translate and not betray, because to translate is to betray, but to translate an aspect of the perception that I have of your work and of yourself of course, and I think it's important to be able to communicate it to everyone of us because it's not easy to enter into this, let's say, not only in the cathedral, but in this dimension of art, as you express it, because it can be shocking for some people!
JPS: Yes, it's scary, of course!
JLG: Even hermetic and abstract, completely abstract and unusual, let's say.
JPS: That's it!
JLG: And I think that now maybe people will be able to look at your work with a slightly different glance. That's what I'm basically hoping for.
JPS: Thank you, thank you very much for that nice interview. It was really very interesting!
JLG: Thank you! And then long life and have enormous creatives ideas. You've got all the energy to do it so, I'm confident, there's no worries to have.
JPS: Thank you, thank you all! Bye, bye Jean-Louis!