Films Interviews transcriptions (2019)
Interview with Jean-Pierre Sergent with the Diversion Magazine for talking about his exhibition at the Besançon Fine Arts Museum | December 18th 2019 - Watch the video
This exhibition is entitled: The Four Pillars of Heaven; it's a bit in reference to all tribal societies that always have a center of the world somewhere, they are the Axis mundis. The places where one can communicate with an elsewhere.
We live today only on one horizontal plane and other cultures also live on a more vertical plane, (in other dimensions). We can also feel this in cathedrals, but this vertical plane is much higher within shamans for example.
The scenography was imposed by the architecture of the place, that is to say that there is four angles in the museum stairs, that the director Mr. Nicolas Surlapierre, proposed me to install my paintings there. So I thought a little about the works I wanted to put there. But this idea of spiritual elevation interests me particularly.
Each corner panel includes nine paintings, most of these paintings are from a series called: Entropic Suites, that is to say that in my work, I like to put as much information as possible, because I think that each culture has its own limitations. So what shocks me a little is to be limited in my thought and in my imagination. So to add a lot of things into an artwork, that's what interests me! When I do large wall installations like this one, what's important is not to repeat the images too much, because I work in a serial way, so the images are found on four or five paintings in a row, so I try not to assemble the same image side by side and eventually, not to have a a colored stripe, that is to say that if I had, in these panels placed three yellow paintings side by side, it would make a yellow band, so it would not be a whole, the notion of wholeness interests me particularly.
I have just exhibited in Lugano at the Wopart, it's a contemporary art fair of works on paper only, and I'm working with my gallery in Zurich with whom we just had an exhibition with the works shown in this fair, and this year I'll be working with the Nouvelle Laurentine, which is a contemporary art centre located in Chaumont where they have a large industrial space in which they'll probably present a huge wall installation on the theme of voluptuousness, voluptuousness! So I'm looking forward to working on these themes, because all my work is a bit based on spiritual ecstasy and erotic ecstasy!
Jean-Pierre Sergent interviewed by FR3 19/20 Franche-Comté TV for his exhibition at the Besançon Fine Arts Museum | November 3rd 2019 - Watch the video
Maxime Meuneveaux: The Besançon Fine Arts Museum welcomes Jean-Pierre Sergent this autumn, who presents a monumental work of 72 paintings of Plexiglas, a kind of recognition for this artist born in the Haut Doubs and passed through New York, before returning to live in Besançon. Meeting with this passionate person who is interested about all the cultures of the world, whom some have nicknamed The "shaman". Report by Jean-Luc Gantner.
Jean-Pierre Sergent: There you can see that she's piercing her heart with a knife into her chest! (Suicide of Lucretia, Cranach). We can see her sex here, it looks like there's water sprouting out of her sex too, it's like a spring (In front of the Nymph at the Spring, Cranach). It looks like a woman masturbating, I think it's great! It is the desire and the imagination that have remained intact. We can still feel the artist imagination there, we feel an imagination that has not been too influenced by the dogmas of religions or morals. (in front of Suicide of Lucretia, Lucas Cranach). I like painting done before the Renaissance, like the Primitive Italians. That's a great period, as they didn't have much idea of the perspective, which bothers me a lot! Because, when you create something into perspective, it is an intellectual construction, there is no such thing as perspective in real life... So necessarily, it is a framework and I often I want to get out of the framework in my work. And so, the perspective has destroyed human imagination somehow! If I hadn't been to New York, I would have stopped being an artist a long time ago, because I learned to do my job there, to fight endlessly. It's true that it's a perpetual struggle; and above all, you must believe in yourself, because artists can find solutions in New York, that's right: there are international artists, so we do have examples to follow and we want to become succesfull like them!
I always talk about different cultures in my work, because we see here, in these works, drawings that come from India... There are also many Mayans drawings, there are some Japanese mangas, there are Aztec trees, there are Hindu yantras, that we see right in front of us! There are Japanese sakura flowers, Japanese cherry blossoms... For me, what is important is to respect cultural diversity as a whole, because we often talk about the disappearance of biodiversity, but human cultures are also disappearing! It is so pleasant to live together and to be able to live within different cultures.
INSTALLING THE PAINTINGS
JPS: Put it down gently... How des it looks? Is that okay?
Assistant : That's perfect!
JPS: I always remember the Navajo Indians, in their adobes, when they painted a deer (which they had killed), they always drew on a wall or on a tipi; the Sioux on their tipis; they always added a line, an arrow of vital energy. And here, we see a Courbet deer (Deer Hallali), the deer is cornered, the hunters kill it, and where is the energy remaining? Where is the vital energy gone?
I am very proud and honoured to exhibit here in my home Town, because people may not know it, but I have been living here in Besançon for fourteen years, and this is my first solo exhibition in this museum. So it is a great honor and privilege to exhibit here! And then, you saw it! It's a monumental installation, it's a bit my Sistine Chapel! That's amazing!
A few words about Jean-Pierre Sergent's exhibition '4 Pillards Of The Sky' in 90s for the Est Républicain News Paper | Besançon Fine Arts & Archeology Museum | November 10th 2019 - Watch the video
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!
Interview between the artists Jean-Pierre Sergent & Claudie Floutier | 3 parts | Besançon studio | September 29th 2019 - Download the PDF
1/3: ART, WISDOMS & COMMON SOUVENIRS BRIBES #1 - Watch the video (In French only)
Jean-Pierre Sergent: Here we are today, Sunday 29th September 2019, I'm here with my friend Claudie Floutier, whom I met at the Besançon School of Fine Arts, who was my colour teacher, which is quite rare, it hardly exists in the world now?
Claudie Floutier: It doesn't exist anymore!
JPS: So Claudie, I'll let you introduce yourself and then we're going to talk a little bit about our adventure please!
CF: To introduce myself, it goes back a long time! It goes back forty years!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: So that's something you have to know, you have to know that it's something that's quite wonderful for me because we've remained friends during all that time, despite the empty times and the different space-time etc. But hey, distance doesn't abolish thought, so thought was there, there and there and it was there very quickly! Because I had spotted you at school, because you were already a bit eccentric. You weren't obedient, you were attentive, but you weren't the one who wanted to hear everything without thinking and then you left school (after a year and a half) and then you left me your details and we met again when you were out of school. Because in fact, me at art school, the ones I liked the most were the boys and girls who finally escaped the art system. As Alain defined it. Because me, when I was at the Beaux-Arts, I had the Beaux-Arts system as a system and therefore given my deep nature and the knowledge that I had of colour... Colour is not normative, it is not like form, geometry etc... Colour is not a normative system. Colour you go in all directions, in all senses and you are already in a different sensitivity and emotion, although there are theories about colour. And so, I had spotted you and then it started, I went up to visit you, I discovered... another Jean-Pierre.
JPS: On my farm!
CF: But then, which completely surprised me... because you were a bit silent, a bit on the side, etc., but you were so quiet. And there, you were someone who completely corresponded to the elements where you were actually. You were in an incredible youthful energy. You were really in amazing health. You had this incredible relationship with the animals, with nature, with your horses... And the setting, for me, who was from the South and the garrigue, was breathtaking too! I must say! Because really the Ladders of Death, I have a memory of its places with its deep forests and ravines and even the term of the Ladders of Death... You used to tell me the stories of the smugglers' paths and all that! Oh dear, I was quite amazed! And then it didn't stop there, because there was the boy who looked after his goats and horses and then I fell in love with what was going on behind it, because you're always very double, very ambiguous... In fact there was, behind the hay piles, lots of stuff in a very large barn, there were stairs that were not very cheerful, a bit wobbly and behind the stairs there was a kind of curtain like this, a grey linen curtain ; well I have this memory there and behind the curtain, a door and behind the door, a workshop and it was almost a workshop already in New York!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: Absolutely, that is to say that the walls were immaculate white! There were already some kind of incredible New York temptations and there was also, what was very, very rare at the time: an issue of Art Press! I still remember it! Because reading Art Press at that time, that earned a Fine Arts student a disciplinary board! Well, I'm not going to go into the life of the Fine Arts, but reading Art Press at that time was absolutely forbidden by the school! Well, of course I read it, but there were very, very few of us reading Art Press at that time. Art Press, it already meant a departure, you were already almost gone! You had already left for New York, because Art Press was all the American artists, it was all those who were already stars in the United States, that we knew very little about! And who have now become stars in the great museums! And there, you had this experience of painting that was close to it, you made attempts to be very close to these artists! Of course, you didn't know you were going to leave yet, it must have been in your head, but you didn't know it! And then, little by little things happened, I think the temptation was too strong and then you left, you went to the Americas!
CF: In the Americas and there was... and this I take it in your text Influences, which is very, very, interesting and where you tell about your first years of work and so on, this meeting with Rothko through the cover of a book by Marguerite Duras which is Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein and so you knew Mark Rothko through Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein, not through the book, you said you didn't remember it!
CF: I remember, it's a book that I extremely liked, but you don't remember! But I looked again at the cover, and it's true that there was there, the whole beginning of your eventual work! There was this deep red.
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: There were these two lines that were finally vertical, which were trembling, still, they're not lines...trembling and there were two... I looked at it for a long time last night! And then there were two horizontal lines and so on. And these lines were levitating!
JPS: That's it, yes!
CF: And it wasn't abstract! It wasn't abstract! It was already almost a man and a woman. For me, it was almost a love encounter, but not really, because it was the meeting of lines that attracted and at the same time repelled each other in this big red!
JPS: Yes, in a system of energies! That's it!
CF: Yes, that's it, an energy system in this great red! So there you are, so it's by Rothko, finally, that you left! And then it's true, that afterwards, you had friendships with the American painters who were extremely different, because going from Rothko to Rauschenberg, it's you, it's already you! That is to say: searching, searching, searching, in something that is ultimately about adventure, about collage, about superimposing images and also ultimately about an active imagination, full of energy and full of encounters. Meetings, Rauschenberg is that, I liked Rauschenberg a lot, because it carried us a lot, because it's a poetic pop...
CF: It's poetic, it's not a pop... You see, good Lichtenstein et cetera, it's great comics anyway ! He's poetic and there are always these passages... So Rauschenberg, Rothko, you're talking about Jasper Johns who also brought you a lot ! So these great, great American artists. That's why one day, you took your luggage, you sold your Appaloosas and you left, left, left! And I really liked finding this text again, because I was very interested in this text (Influences 1I-V, 2012) which is for me extremely marvellous, which is long, very, very long. You speak there about everything you like and you finally do it in an extremely well written way. It is very well written this text and you also speak, finally, of when you were little; because I always think that the important thing is still the beginning, it is the childhood and the childhood, what we have from this childhood and which remains to us, the deep memory and what you lived. That is to say that childhood for you was also a very, very great period of difficulty, of solitude, with deep asthma attacks, which finally brought you to Briançon...
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: And in Briançon, the thing you did there was meeting people, you said to yourself: these three years were not negative for me.
JPS: Of course!
CF: And the encounter with the mountains, the stones you picked up!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: And collecting stones, collecting stones, but already collecting stones, it's already finally getting into a quest! It's a quest for something! If you pick up a stone, you pick it up because you begin to love it, you love it, you see something in that stone! It's like Roger Caillois.
JPS: Yes, a match!
CF: The stones, Caillois, you have a correspondence with you! So already you weren't wasting your time. You say: I'm doing something that will bring me joy! Picking a stone is like picking mushrooms, it's picking and that, gleaning, it's extremely important!
JPS: Yes, yes it is!
CF: And so you started with these stones and then you also said that when you were even smaller, to occupy yourself, you chose images of animals etc. you made collages and that it was to occupy yourself, as you were very lonely and you had these asthma attacks that isolated you, you started to do, what you called the beginning and that we find in your images today!
CF: These are things that we find again! And then you left, you went to the United States and to the United States, you started to pick up images again, in fact!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: Because your extremely abstract period didn't last very long. At one point, you asked yourself the question anyway, you said to yourself: what am I going to do, I'm going to get bored! But you don't have a temperament to be bored! It's true : what am I going to do, ah there, there! You see, it's good to contemplate Rothko. It's good, you can contemplate Giorgio Morandi, you can contemplate all these greats! But you yourself wanted to do something that was going to make you do the picking again! Picking, picking!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: And so, you've gone back to picking and picking until now. And your influences are countless, very, very, very countless and I won't only talk about the Maya, because it's much more open! You, you talk a lot about the Maya now, because you are here! But it is so much more open! That is to say after having reread your text and that I know you, I know very, very well that you also have a lot of love for the Primitive Romans!
JPS: Yes, of course!
CF: You have a lot of love for writers too, you have a lot of love for musicians, you're not only in this Mayan civilization, which for me is a bit barbaric!
JPS: (TOTAL DISAGREEMENT: THE MAYAS ARE BARBARIANS?)
CF: That's it for me! You have much more delicacy, than just the Maya! Now, if you don't like it, it's not important!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: You're not limited to that! You're not limited to that! And when I see the people we talk about, Because we often talk on the phone anyway, and when you were in New York we wrote to each other and so on. We also have very, very strong common loves in terms of literature and I remember the first time we went to New York and I came to New York with you! The surprise, because you had already read a lot...The surprise was when we went for a walk, at night, with an incredible moon that lit up the East River, we went for a walk and we came across Walt Whitman's house! And that was a pleasure, because Walt Whitman is already all freedom, poetry is all freedom, it's this magnificent book Feuilles d'herbe, etc. The surprise was when we went for a walk, at night, with an incredible moon lighting up the East River, we went for a walk and we came across Walt Whitman's house! And there was something that came with the poetry, because it's true that you read a lot of poetry! And which was at the same time, the energy of New York and then the energy of the grass. Because he wrote some remarkable texts about grass and so on. So, affinities are also poetry, it's also Giono...
JPS: There you go!
CF: Yes, Giono, that's what brings you closer. Giono is at the same time the happiness of living, it's the happiness of nature ! And the great spirituality there is in his books and it's also the possibility of being both in life and in death! Because there are books by Giono that are very fearsome, that are hard... And I brought back: The Hunt For Happiness by Giono!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: And also The Notebooks of the Bow of Giono! So these are marvels for me, who am from the South, well it's not the same South, this one is Manosque, it's little Provence, so there were also affinities in relation to Giono, in relation to all these authors. I think I'm going to let you talk a little bit, because we also have other readings in common... And if you want to say something about yourself?
JPS: Yes, I have to say that somewhere you really initiated me with your color classes, because it's true that the practice of color in our society has to be learned (it's like an initiation), since it has disappeared completely. These are codes that have completely disappeared from our societies! And I can only thank you for that! Because it's true that when someone triggers something in you, a click, you have to say it and you have to be grateful for that! Because when I arrive at the School of Fine Arts, I'll remember the only colourful harmonies I liked: it was white, brown and black! And so you can see my work here, that's open ! It's like a can opener! Colour is very important ! It's really the most important part of my work!
CF: Yes !
JPS: We're talking about the image but the colour is very important! Because it conveys energy! I wanted to go back to when you came to New York, you remember, we went to see the Egyptian temple, I don't know if you want to tell the anecdote?
CF: No, tell it !
JPS: So we were looking at this temple and suddenly there was a kind of Egyptian priestess dressed all in white (Isis) who came to make her prayers and ablutions to the sun god Amun-Ra!
CF: I know!
JPS: And that wouldn't be possible in France!
JPS: You have to understand this open-mindedness, which I was able to acquire while living in the United States! And me, now, I do what I want to do! I pay a high price of course! Because the French society is completely compartmentalized, but all that gave me a great freedom of action in my work!
CF: But anyway, New York, you see: New York, New York! It was still Matisse's favourite city, he would have liked to go and live in New York.
JPS: Yes, I didn't know that?
CF: Enormously, he was completely impressed... and then I brought back, thinking of the Metropolitan Museum, I brought back the books I'd bought there!
CF: And which I've kept preciously, and you're going to see Matisse's patterns?
JPS: Ah, yes, it's beautiful!
CF: Look how it fits!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: Also you see! So can I show them? These are Matisse's patterns with these colours, this joie de vivre and so on. This ease of cutting, because this is remarkable if you want. The space between the white and the colors, he has a sense of space, whereas he's a very, very great colorist. But color only exists in relation to its relationship to space.
CF: So that's extraordinary, so I brought this back and then, remember we went to see Frida Kahlo!
CF: We went to see Frida Kahlo, this time at the Brooklyn Museum and I was so impressed because it was actually the first Frida Kahlo exhibit that I could see, because it was only in New York at the time, it was only in New York at the time, it was so many years ago, I don't know how long ago, so many years ago... And there I discovered an exceptional woman! So now, she is much better known in France, but I had a shock, because nobody knew her !
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: And I had a shock and really, I brought you her documents.
JPS: It's very strong that!
CF: It's a book that is in English! What an effort for me! It's not my natural language!
JPS: She's an artist that I appreciate a lot, because, contrary to many artists, she comes from a strong culture: the Mexican culture! That's the big difference between Mexican artists and French artists, for example, whose culture comes from ancient Greece and Egypt, but it's too far away, so the energies are lost! It is still in the energy of nature, the energy of the great pyramids of Teotihuacán and others. It is this energy that is important!
CF: Yes, and I believe that she had this energy, there was also the meeting with Diego Rivera and the fact that she wanted to survive at all costs with her illness!
JPS: Of course, yes, yes, absolutely!
CF: You have to see that she is a remarkable woman in all her relationship to the world. She is a very beautiful woman too, but she was always in pain. So...
JPS: She's very sensual too! She often talks about sexuality.
CF: Very, very beautiful!
JPS: She often talked about sexuality.
CF: She had a lot of lovers too!
JPS: Excuse me, I'm cutting you off, but when someone commissioned a painting of the lady who had committed suicide, she painted the American (Suicide of Dorothy Hale, 1939) who was jumping out of the window of the building! That's strong!
JPS: That's what you find in retablos, I have a retablo here, in traditional Mexican culture, when someone dies, they do a little painting to tell how he died or passages of his life. We couldn't do that in Europe anymore!
CF: I believe that there is still a heritage, it's the exvotos !
JPS: That's it, yes!
CF: Because when I go to the churches and I see the exvotos, you still find things of a naivety, but at the same time?
JPS: That's right, it's just as strong!
CF: Exvotos are strong, it's something...
JPS: It's folk art!
CF: It's popular art, but popular art does exist!
JPS: But it's strong everywhere!
CF: Yes, you see, it's strong everywhere! So, we still have popular art here.
JPS: Of course!
CF: And then the second women's meeting was, for me, Nancy Spero. So, I show the book of Nancy Spero, because there, even the cover tells Nancy Spero, that is to say that she's a woman who has this extremely powerful sense of contrasts and opposites, which is both in angelism, since she makes an angel, and in sexuality with the phallus. She is in the angel is in the phallus and she has at the same time a technique and a culture .
JPS: Yes, she's very cultured!
CF: An incredible generosity and there are a lot of things that are not so far from your work...
JPS: Of course, I know her work very well!
CF: Of course, we went to a gallery to see his work in New York. Whereas she was absolutely not known in France, but then not at all, not at all known! And I had loved Nancy Spero so much, that I cut out this article in Le Monde, a few years ago, they had announced her death. It said that they regretted that there hadn't been any exhibition of Nancy Spero in Paris in 2009. There had been some in Madrid, Barcelona of course, I now know Madrid and Barcelona and I understand that Nancy Spero in 2009 existed! Existed in her strength, in her joyful, generous contradictions. She was a very great feminist and at the same time she fought for many things. She had a great passion for Antonin Artaud!
JPS: Yes, absolutely and well she made the Artaud Codex! It's magnificent!
CF: The Codex Artaud is wonderful! On the other hand, of course, one day, that year, it was in 2009, just after his death; they did in Beaubourg, a very big retrospective! So obviously, I was so happy to see this retrospective, that I couldn't help buying the catalogue !
JPS: Of course!
CF: Because it was a great pleasure to be with her, with her, with her!
JPS: Yes, it's beautiful, it's magnificent!
CF: So that, it's also thanks to you, that I could meet the great Americans in New York, it's thanks to you, if you made me share... I gave you a bit of colour and you gave me, you gave me the joy like Matisse to know this city of New York. It is true that, really, this city of New York is a marvel! But what is the most marvellous thing about New York for me is the water! That is to say that we are in these museum spaces which are extraordinary, because there, they are the biggest museums in the world all the same!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: The most beautiful museums, the greatest museums, remember we went to the Cloisters.
JPS: Yes, that's right!
CF: Oh dear! We went to the Cloisters and it was up the Hudson River, up, up, really up Manhattan! And there, they had anyway, as they are very, very rich these big American billionaires: they had bought back the Romanesque cloisters?
JPS: Yes, that's it and they had rebuilt them!
CF: That they had rebuilt in the hills! That's the money... That means that it's the Rockefellers and all that, that's what finally made him have things like that, incredibly beautiful! And yet, God knows I'm not for American billionaires, but when sponsorship allows things like that, it's magnificent!
JPS: That's good, so thank you Claudie, because we're going to stop there for now.
2/3: ART, WISDOMS & COMMON SOUVENIRS BRIBES #2 - Watch the video (In French only)
Jean-Pierre Sergent: So in this part, I wanted to evoke a little bit the art, the language and the importance of art; because well, we are in a society, which I think we could call post-cultural now! I think that art is disappearing completely! That's my humble opinion! For us, in our contemporary societies. I was in Lugano last week (at the Wopart) and I realized that the only people who stopped at my stand to look at my work were either architects, designers or artists! That is to say that art now only speaks to a certain elite, maybe it has been like that all the time! We don't know? But I meant for example like this Inuit woman (Kenojuak Ashevak) who says:
"There are no words to name art. We say it's a transfer from the real world to the unreal world."
And for me that's kind of what I do. It means that I start from a raw material and I enrich it and make something else out of it. And Le Clézio says in his book Haï :
"For the Indian, there is no useless creation, there is no art for art's sake. There are only functions."
And I like this idea of function. To create the way we eat, the way we pee, the way we shit, the way we fuck! I think we have to desecrate a little bit this idea of art that we have in Europe with the great masterpieces in museums... I think art is still something simple and spiritual.
Claudie Floutier: So I'm in a somewhat doubtful position with regard to what you say in an extreme way; because I think that in any case, the second sentence of Le Clézio is very, very beautiful! There is no useless creation, there is no art for art's sake. There are only functions." It's true, it's true! But in fact art, if you want, exists, exists, exists... That is to say there are different forms of art.
JPS: Of course! JPS: Yes!
CF: They continue to exist. It's not because there's an art market, it's the market! That there is no more art. That is to say that I had a grandfather who was a gardener, but he was the greatest artist I ever knew! Meaning that you have... There's only functions!
CF: That is to say that you can be an artist without ever exhibiting and be in an extraordinary unity by cultivating your garden!
JPS: Of course, yes, it's a state of mind!
CF: By growing dahlias, you can be an artist by making a kind of magnificent cake etc.. There are only functions. What's a pity is that now, if you want, we put hierarchies in it. We're putting hierarchies!
JPS: Of course!
CF: If you want, there are hierarchies! On the other hand, I'm still keeping the hierarchies. Because today, there are people who can't stand museums anymore and I still keep the pleasure of being in a museum and being in front of a Rembrandt and being there and saying: it's a Rembrandt!
JPS: Ah, of course, yes!
CF: It's very complicated!
JPS: It's complicated of course!
CF: That is to say that I'm extremely happy to go back, if you want, into the past and to see that there are people who amaze me! Who amaze me! That's important! It's true that, as a French artist at the moment, French, I'm talking to you, I don't have a lot... because I'm not blown away. Because there aren't many people... It's often quite verbose, quite conceptual, that is to say: Duchamp, Duchamp, Duchamp... But Duchamp he took away something essential, that there was still in the 17th and 18th et cetera!
JPS: That's for sure!
JPS: If you see Boucher, Fragonard and so on. But it's true that apart... Apart from Courbet, who kept this magnificent relationship of generosity to nature! Even in the 19th century; I don't like it... so the impressionists do! But I don't have the same great, great admiration as I can find in the great Spaniards or the Dutch! We're not... at the same level of painting here in France, we're not very... when you see Spain and the Dutch and the Spanish. When you see Rembrandt etc. Or the Italians, you have the Italian school. In France, we're rather literary in fact!
JPS: That's right, quite right, yes!
CF: That's right, we're literary, but anyway, me, I love literature, I love museums, and you love museums too!
JPS: Of course!
CF: You like to watch, you're very attentive! So, well now, it's true that you can be disappointed by the art market!
JPS: Yes that's it, the function of art, should art end up in museums? You see, it's always this idea of having to be bought in order to be visible.
CF: Yes, but still, in safes no!
JPS: Yes, but well?
CF: But in a museum, let the museum be open and free, and let schoolchildren and students enter museums for free, all the time! And that there is this knowledge, because the problem that there is in France too, is that there is no art education.
JPS: Of course, yes it's true!
CF: None, none! You're going to see, from primary school onwards: oops! Everything fades away ! Whereas in the children, you feel a delicacy, you feel an impulse of generosity in their drawings and all that! As soon as they start having to deal with the alphabet and numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... poof! All their imagination goes quickly away. So that's it, I think there's not enough art education and museums, they shouldn't be like that, they shouldn't be completely sanctified institutions. Museums have to be extremely lively!
JPS: Of course, of course!
CF: So we need museums!
JPS: Oh well now, perhaps we can talk about my exhibition at the museum you saw the day before yesterday?
CF: Ah, yes, there you go, I went to see the exhibition...
JPS: Maybe I'll explain it to the public, if you allow me? So, I've just installed at the Besançon Fine Arts Museum seventy-two paintings on Plexiglas (The Four Pillars of the Sky) that are assembled in eight panels that are 3.15 m. by 3.15 m. in the big stairs of the museum. So you went to see this exhibition recently!
CF : So I went to see it and in fact, I entered a silent space! Of course, there was no one left, because it was almost closing and in fact I went up, I climbed up, I climbed slowly the steps; it seemed to me that I was silently climbing the steps of an altar or of a Mayan temple! Because we were in that kind of solemn silence!
JPS: Rising, yes!
FC: Because there's a solemnity, when you're all alone in this space and you come in, it's a bit like in a church, you see, and it has that effect, because as they are very, very luminous, it also gives the appearance of stained glass windows... So, you come in and you're in silence and you're in light at the same time! And so, what surprised me is that the extremely erotic aspect that is sometimes present in your work, for me, was totally disappearing! There was just a trace of it, a myriad of colours, a myriad of extremely sensitive signs and patterns, and then what I see and what dominated is the lotus in fact! There was the lotus, the lotus and a lot of... It was dominating for me... That was on the right side and then afterwards I went up on the left side and in the same gravity and a little solemnity, but good with my temperament, it's always a little more festive anyway and I arrive... All of a sudden, it was funny, funny, funny, because there you are in a kind of immutable time, of strength finally, as in a stained glass window; which tells you something immutable, motionless! And all of a sudden, I hear a sound, low, and a swaying... Something! Something! Something! And I turn around and I say to myself... But what was that sound that was continuous and coming back and then there was in a window, an opaque pane and inside that pane, two half arcs of a circle and it was the museum clock!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: So I said, we're completely... it's crazy! We're in time! We're in time, but then, time that's deteriorating... Because probably we're in the: pam! Pam ! Pam ! Pam ! You see, the clock that says yes, that says no, that says I'm waiting for you ! You see ! And it hit me, because I think that if I had a plan to make a video, I would have gone from your work to the clock.
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: Or from your work to the clock... Because you're saying: there's something else! There's something else that is still joy! Joy! The joy of living!
JPS: Yes, yes! Of course there is!
CF: But, the sound and this black and white shadow, it was grey... It brought me back to reality anyway, with the passing hours! And I find that the coincidence of the two, for me, was quite striking! And it moved me anyway, that's what I can say about it.
CF: Here's what I can say about it, while waiting for a lot of people to come and see it, because I was all alone in the museum, so it's different, but I like being alone in museums.
JPS: Yes, of course! I think that in order to have real revelations, you have to be alone somewhere!
CF: Yes, yes!
JPS: Yes, because that's the experience I had in Egypt, that is to say that to have a revelation in front of a work of art or architecture, I isolate myself every time! It's difficult to have a revelation in a group.
CF: Well yes! I think so too. You are obliged to be very strongly anchored, and to be attentive. So, I'm going to tell you about a sentence that stayed with me all my life, I was very young and I was doing an internship with a Sufi master?
CF: And so he asks us the question, he says, "What is God?" What is God, so no one answered and after the third or fourth time, we were still being quiet, he says: "Watch out! Watch out, watch out, watch out, watch out, watch out!" That's the attention!
CF: And when you are attentive, the world reveals itself. It's really attention that allows... If there are only happy coincidences, it's because you've been attentive! JPS: Yes it's true, absolutely, yes!
CF: You are attentive! If you're not attentive, you don't see anything past and the chances of your life are also in the attention that you pay to things...
JPS: Yes, that's right!
CF: It's very, very important, so this idea, it's you... I mean, it's like in The Bird Conference (Farid al-din Attar), you climb, you climb, you climb up the ladder, you climb up the ladder and at the end, what do you discover? Your reflection in the mirror!
JPS: Yes, of course!
CF : That is to say, it's you! The sentence: Know yourself and you will know the world!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: And your work is your accumulation of knowledge, because you are a very, very cultured person. It's your accumulation of knowledge and your attention to nature that, little by little, you come to something that reveals you more and more!
JPS: Yes, yes! It's true!
CF: So, you see, that's it, because you're always on the lookout. Except maybe when you're in your canoe, but that's also vitality!
JPS: Of course!
CF: It's another form of very, very great vitality, being in nature. And someone said in an interview and it's true, you're both male and female and it's true! That's exactly right, you are both male and female and you have this understanding, it's because you are very attentive, that things happen... That things happen...
JPS: Yes, probably! Yes, when I think about my life and the great people I've met, yes, I'm always amazed.
CF : We must not let them pass.
JPS: Yes, yes! But I always remember that in New York, I went to a party and I saw this very beautiful woman at the other end of the room, her name was Vennila, she was a Hindu yogi master and I said to her, "But you have a very strong life energy!" And she said: - "It takes two to feel that energy!" That's the exchange, that exchange that I had with the images and with nature with all that!
CF: Yes, yes, it's true! You mustn't let them pass by and you have to... Because you were just talking, we could read this very, very beautiful text on beauty.
JPS: Ah, the song of the Navajos!
CF: Yes, how we heal ourselves through the singing of the Navajos, it's a healing ceremony and we say we heal ourselves!
JPS: Well listen, I'll tell the story about this song, I've told it many times. That is, I was also at another place in New York where a photographer friend of mine, Anne-Marie Danenberg, was showing a photo exhibit at a gallery in West Harlem and I saw this other woman at the other end of the room. I went to her, she was of Native American descent, we hit it off and two or three days later, I received her postcard with the Navajo Night Song at the studio. Is that strange enough? Why did she give me this poem (it's almost an offering, for which I am grateful!) since, in the end, it's true that my work is completely and integrally part of beauty somewhere!
CF: Well yes!
JPS: And so I'm going to read this little text, which is a prayer, an incantation:
"In beauty I walk
With beauty before me, I walk
With beauty behind me, I walk
With beauty above me, I walk
With the beauty beneath me, I walk...
With the beauty all around me, I'm walking
It's all over in the fullness
All is finished in fullness."
What this text is telling us is that you have to forget about this horizontal relationship you have with the world a little bit, to enter into a kind of cosmic relationship! That is to say, in all dimensions, which we talked about a little earlier (space, time, life, death, sexuality)... And to do this, the Amerindian peoples understood this and they did not live only on one plane of thought (like the West).
CF: But you, already as a child, you could already see it in your stones!
JPS: Yes, no doubt! Yes, but well?
CF: Because we don't pick up the stones innocently, you already saw it in all these little things!
CF: It's a summary of the cosmos, a rock!
JPS: That's it, of course! It's in everything! Of course!
CF : Yes, but me, I had known this text, not because of you, but because I love Jacques Roubaud very much, who brought me a lot of things and I had bought the book they made with Florence Delay, which is called: The Red Score, Poems and Songs of the North American Indians. And there's the complete transcript, of this Navajo ceremony, which is a healing ceremony.
CF: And there's all these songs. There's the song, "In beauty I walk, I walk..." And in the end, it's because you yourself have the impulse... If you want beauty, life comes back if you want it!
JPS: Yes, yes, absolutely!
CF: If all you get is disastrous news, on the radio and all that and you're completely in misery on all sides... I heard a programme on France Inter this morning in which they said that people who are happy and have confidence in life, have less serious illnesses like: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's etc... People who go towards life and who go towards beauty and it's true that... it's consoling! I also console myself in museums.
JPS: Yes, yes, yes!
CF: To see something beautiful etc. I'm in a kind of material ecstasy, because I don't believe in God at all, I'm an agnostic. But there is something that brings me back, that for me regenerates me, because there is something there, which is of the order of understanding or greed of life! Even if it is something serious!
JPS: Yes of course, yes, yes!
CF: You feel that the person who has done this work is so much in attention, in concentration and in humility, because you have to be humble in creation!
JPS: That's true!
CF: You have to be humble to do something. What passes, it's no longer her (life), it's the channels of observation of the world, of understanding the world and it's sent back to us, it's sent back to us!
JPS: Yes, we hope so!
CF: Perhaps to some people who are more sensitive than others.
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: Because we may be more sensitive... But hey, I think it's sent back to everyone. If people were less cruel and rough and so on. Because they suffered too, because there were things! There are blockages, dams in childhood!
JPS: Of course!
CF: They would find all that again (the vital energy), it's obvious!
JPS: Yes absolutely!
CF: It's obvious! And me, I talked a lot about it in my colour classes, because I brought the students back to their deepest selves and not to what we wanted them to be.
JPS: Yes, you have to get back to the deeper person and the deeper time too!
CF: Deep time is the same thing!
JPS: Yes, but you have to go there in that time (in that spiritual dimension!) It's not easy, because it takes courage to go there too!
CF: Oh yes?
JPS: Well, each one in his own opinion!
CF: It's a question, we must go to the beginning! Because things... I think it doesn't take so much courage, it takes a letting go.
JPS: Yes, still it takes a let go, but still, it's a rather lonely path!
CF: Ah yes, yes, yes!
JPS: You mustn't minimize the great difficulties of being an artist today!
CF: Yes, but it's true, it's a lonely path. But at the same time, look, you say it's a lonely path for you, but you also talk about the fact that you have a lot of friends?
JPS: That's right, yes!
CF: You can't be friends with the whole world!
JPS: No, no, of course!
CF: We make choices, no you're not alone! You're alone maybe with the art market; me too, but that's it!
JPS: That doesn't really matter!
CF: That is to say that your life is still made with this pleasure, this economy of means perhaps! But with this pleasure of creating!
JPS: It's beyond pleasure, it's an ecstasy to be an artist for me!
CF: Yes, yes, but I understand, I understand very well what you're saying, that is to say that one cannot live on love and fresh water and fresh water is the source, the source is painting, it's creation! We can live like that! We don't need more, I don't think we need anything else! I think that in our time, finally, to live simply, it's the most beautiful thing we can do in terms of progress!
JPS: Oh well, of course!
CF: And besides, you see Jean-Pierre, I also have a cousin for whom I have a lot of admiration as I do for you, I think that without art, you could be self-sufficient on a desert island.
CF: Ah yes! You could plant something, you could find some stuff... you could be self-sufficient! And that's what they say : art is life ! But that's wonderful, because you still have imagination and a great sense of technique!
JPS: Yes that's true!
CF: An extraordinary sense of technique, which means that you can put this technique in your relationship with art, with painting, with your paintings on Plexiglas finally; as well as to make a pen for a horse etc.. You can make a door, you can make a house, you can grow salad and this is extraordinarily, extraordinarily attractive! Really, I have a cousin like that in the south of France, he's extraordinary because he knows how to live with very little and with an intelligence, a wonderful intelligence of nature and simplicity of life. My grandfather was like that too! So I have a very, very great admiration for his little people, who finally tinkered with their lives with absolute grace!
JPS: Yes, yes, of course!
CF: And you had a grandfather too?
JPS: Yes of course!
CF: Wonderful, who was called Maurice and whom I knew with his black dog (Black), he was wonderful! Tell us a little about your grandfather!
JPS: Listen, we had a special affinity and I will always remember, once I was in discussion with him, we often discussed the state of the world! And he said to me:
"Jean-Pierre, it's good and important that you're an artist, because artists are important people, because we all come into the world with some kind of baggage, a little pile of wood, and when artists leave this world, their pile of wood is a bigger pile than when they were born, so they leave behind something for humanity!" It's not a material thing he was telling me, it's a spiritual thing! And so I'm paying tribute to him here and he always helped and supported me a lot in my artistic process.
CF: Yes, and it's with him that you made your first trip to Egypt, with your grandfather! That's it, it's with him, yes! Is he the one who initiated you? You went on a trip!
JPS: Yes, yes we went to Egypt together and we'll talk about it in the next part Claudie, thank you!
3/3: ART, WISDOMS & COMMON SOUVENIRS BRIBES #3 - Watch the video (In French only)
Jean-Pierre Sergent: So there, Claudie, I wanted to quote a sentence from Tarkovski, which I had suggested to you and which seems to interest you as well, he says:
"As long as man feels like a man, he will try to create something. Creation, what does creation actually mean? What is the purpose of art? What is it for? Is it good, is it bad? Is it constructive or is it just art? But it is clear that art is a prayer, and that means everything! Through art man expresses his hope, and the rest is irrelevant. And everything that doesn't express hope, that has no spiritual basis, has no relation to art!"
So that's a very beautiful sentence!
Claudie Floutier: Yes it's true that it's a very beautiful sentence. It's true ! It's true because I went to see the exhibition that Francis Bacon is having at the moment and it's true that he left me totally indifferent, absolutely indifferent, and even at times I was ready to sneer. Because in fact, there, to indicate suffering so absolute that it almost became a form of academism and as they mounted it in Beaubourg, in all these identical rooms, absolutely identical with forty or fifty paintings, finally of a body or of a suffering and so on, I was ready to sneer. Or of a body making love, but with miasmas... And I'm not at all against a form of violence. For example, for me, Goya, it's essential etc.... And I love erotic art! But there was this form of exasperated suffering, which was finally for me, something I couldn't fit into. While the public was getting into it, because anyway now it's very old people, with guides and the guides say to them: "Ah! Ah! Ah!" So Bacon is a very famous painter, but I find him very academic.
On the other hand, and that's why I'm going to pick up on what you're saying, he's got some fascinating stuff in his speech, Bacon! That's what he says Bacon, because I watched his video interviews. He said, when asked which artists he preferred, he quoted Cimabue, Velasquez and Rembrandt... That's very, very far from his world! And we asked him why not Goya? And he said because Goya, (whom I love very much), Goya is already in expressionism and he's very expressionist! For me, what's extremely important for an artist is to go back through the whole history of art and see how art has been behaving since prehistory until now, looking for what, in the end? We don't know? A mystery? The mystery of life! Say something, art is a prayer! And he said: "After you've seen all the history of art, that you know the history of art, afterwards, don't be afraid to be ridiculous!"
JPS: Yes, of course, yes, absolutely!
CF: And that's very important... To be an artist yourself, it's not to be afraid of ridicule and it's part of something which is the mystery, the mysteries... But who cares ! We're not ridiculous! We're in a search, in the end... not for our own truth, but for something that finally sends us back, with any material, to infinity in fact!
JPS: Yes, yes, of course!
CF: And I can't say to spirituality, I say eternity, the cosmos etc., but I can say to the spirituality, I say eternity. I don't say spirituality, because, well, I don't have too many spiritual connections in spite of everything! And there's something extremely important in the texts that I've also noted, it's a very, very beautiful text by John Cage (Discourse on Something):
"We bear our houses
which allows us to fly."
JPS: Yes it does!
CF: And that's beautiful! "We carry our homes inside us, which allows us to fly!" It's because we're extremely sincere, that we're in our thing, that we can fly! Clap your hands!
JPS: Of course, yes, that's it!
CF: That's a very important sentence!
JPS: But you have to be incarnated!
CF: Yes, you must be incarnated!
JPS: It's a serious problem!
CF: Yes, absolutely, you must be incarnated. That's why Nancy Spero on the cover of her catalog, there is the angel and the phallus!
JPS: There's the phallus, that's right!
CF: We're in this duality, there's the Ying and the Yang and so on. We are in this complete relationship to the material and the spiritual! To the white and to the black! But it's because we have our houses that we can steal!
JPS: Oh yes, you have to be anchored somewhere of course.
CF : You have to be anchored to be able to fly and there you go. And then, there's also something else and that's a bit like what I was saying earlier about you, about your incredible possibilities to be the technician at the same time, The one who loves nature and then the one who creates and who has a very big imagination and also the relation to Jean Giono's Vraies Richesses, it's a very beautiful text, because here you come back to something, it's you who gave me this text!
JPS: Yes, yes, of course!
CF: You come back to the essential and there you are in the simplicity of the house:
"Who would know how to recognize and sort out among poisonous plants such as wild spinach, wild carrot, mountain turnip, pasture cabbage? Who would know how to weave the fabric? Who would know how to find the juices to make leather? Who would know how to skin a kid? Who would know how to tan the hide? Who would know how to live? Ah! is now that the word finally means the thing? I see what they can do: They know how to take the bus and the subway. They know how to stop at a taxi, cross a street, order a waiter; they do it there around me with an ease that baffles and frightens me."
It's true that we're in a moment where we're completely dependent, we don't know how to do anything anymore!
JPS: Of course!
CF: We don't know how to do anything, nothing, nothing! We go to the supermarket, we don't know how to plant... We're in a desperate situation anyway! So we're going to have to redo something, something that's beyond art; relearn, even at school!
JPS: Of course!
CF: To make a vegetable garden and so on. There's something very, very, very important to do! And I would like to talk to you again... And you also selected him, he's a great poet and Nobel Prize winner (1967) Miguel Angel Asturias Indian Poems, Claire Spring Vigil. It's not only painting, it's also all of nature! And did you take the text?
JPS: Yes, but please read it.
CF: So here it is:
"There is no painting, you say?
Do you deplore it, you air hunter?
And the macaws in which
colors that proclaim all colors,
brand new greens from the greenest greens,
with the yellows, the yellowsest of the yellows.
or the reds, the reddest reds of all,
the whole rainbow in violent, intense, unrelenting struggle,
clear amethysts and deep sapphires, lightning white,
purple, violet, lilac, light pink
And the mosaics, in which we're struggling...
the bruises that proclaim all the bruises,
blue peacock blues and bluer,
blue lake blue...
And the big chorchas,
in which flying fires, all fires, are assaulted,
all the colours of fire on their feathers,
the flames, the embers, the suns of lightning.
And the black bird, in which fight...
...darkness screaming, grief struggling..,
all the darkness of morro honey
the intoxicating darkness of a dream of extinct fruit.
And the hummingbirds of wounded saffron,
the grey-spotted elfin duck with feathers
sky blue or gold... Do you want more colours?
O Air Hunter... And the blood jewel...
of the red bird and the feather quill
Pink egrets... Do you want more beautiful colours...
O Air Hunter? ... Yellowbirds,
moon egg yolk,
and butterflies, live orchids,
Winged mosaics... would you like more colors?
O Air Hunter?"
JPS: Oh, yeah, that's beautiful, bravo!
CF: These are the Indian Poems of Asturias.
JPS: It's sure that nature is a perpetual and everywhere wonder!
CF: Well yes!
JPS: Except when it is destroyed by man!
CF: That's why I wanted to talk to you a lot about nature because I know how much you love it!
CF: You love it and you're in it. And you're someone who doesn't just stay in his workshop...
JPS: Well of course, it's a mother earth! That's why I'd like to be grateful to the Earth, to the Sun, to the Water, to all these elements!
JPS: You've got it, you've got it! You give what you can!
JPS: Yes, but people need to understand that art is a gift! When you paint, it's a gift! It's even an offering! I think that's what it is!
CF: Ah yes, it's an offering, yes! And could you, for example, make stained glass windows for churches?
JPS: Why not, if the opportunity presented itself!
CF: Because it's not at all in your field of civilization, but I think it would work completely!
JPS: Yes, yes, of course with Plexiglas I have this relationship, as with the glass that reinforces the light, yes of course!
CF: I think that if you had orders from the churches, it would work extremely well! Of course you have to get into the technique of stained-glass and so on. But I think it's a form, it's not religious. But religious, it means religious, connected, to put in relation and therefore in churches, well if you want in the manner of Pierre Soulages etc.. That is to say, not the abstraction of Soulages or his noir, but a form of poetry, because Saint-François d'Assise and the little flowers would suit you very well!
JPS: Of course, yes, that's true!
CF: You see in the churches!
JPS: Yes, I love Pasolini's film (Des oiseaux petits et grands) about Saint-François d'Assise.
CF: Oh yes, oh là, oh là! Ah yes, it's a very, very beautiful film, and I saw your report to the cinema too, which is very important, we can talk about the report to the cinema!
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: Including Pasolini, Visconti, all the great Italians, because you quote Italians a lot!
JPS: It's true, because they have the sense of image that few French filmmakers have. It's a culture, their culture is so different...
CF: Ah, yes, yes! Then they are scholars!
JPS: Yes, that's it!
CF: They are great, great scholars, whether it's Visconti or Pasolini. Pasolini who doubted a lot, but who is nevertheless... in his film The Gospel according to Saint Matthew, you feel that he is at the same time iconoclastic, he is like you, iconoclastic and that he believes, that he wants to believe, that he wants to believe...!
JPS: He wants to hope!
CF: He wants to hope, so, yes!
JPS: Yes, he's a great example for me and a great Master and I saw the film Théorème again the other day on TV. And precisely, it's a quest for spirituality and it shows that the Roman bourgeoisie, or almost nobody at the time, can no longer access spirituality and that only simple people like the maid can access this spirituality, when she goes up on her roof?
CF: Well it's Théorème !
JPS: Theorem yes, yes!
CF: Pasolini's Theorem ! Oh là, oh là, it's beautiful this film.
JPS: And I also like other films like The Thousand and One Nights, The Decameron, the Canterbury Tales also it's fabulous !
CF: And there's a very beautiful film by Pasolini called Uccellacci E Uccellini!
JPS: Yes, it's about Saint-François d'Assise.
CF: The two who leave, who leave and who discuss with the birds that arrive, it's magnificent! Because in addition there is always a bit of irony, gravity masks itself, it's always completely there... There, there are these two species of hères, of beggars, there who discuss, but who say all that they want to say and it's magnificent what they say!
JPS: They are simple people who have access to nature and openness to the spiritual world!
CF: That's it and it's true that I'm lucky with my temperament, which is due to my family, to my origins, it's that I'm not too complicated. I didn't have much education, I had a very, very simple education and that's what really always helped me. Because if you want, I've been searching on my own, searching, searching...
JPS: There you go, yes!
CF: But not to go into the codes and you're not in the codes either. It's perfect, everything is fine and we find ourselves because we are ourselves.
CF: So again in relation to chance, because still chance is attention. We have to develop this thing about attention, it's important:
"All the chances in our lives are materials, from which we can do what we want. He who has a lot of spirit makes a lot of his life. Every encounter (spirit), every incident, would be - for the totally spiritual - part of an infinite chain, the beginning of an infinite novel." Das philosophisch-theoretische Werk, Novalis.
It's not recent, Novalis, that's it. And it's true that someone I also love very much is John Cage, (Writing on Water: The Aesthetics of John Cage) because he brought me a lot of things. John Cage brought me a bit of his music, but especially his ideas too because he's a man with a lot of ideas and I was so comforted to know that he was the one who, at that time, was the greatest connoisseur in the field of mushrooms.
JPS: Oh okay!
CF: He was a great mushroom researcher and so whenever he was being pointed out in the United States or Europe in the fall, he was an incredible mycologist! And he wrote many books about mushrooms!
CF: So I'm passionate about it because you can see that a very intellectual guy is going to start researching mushrooms, it's quite extraordinary!
JPS: Of course!
CF: And then he has this I Ching culture too!
JPS: That's it, yes!
CF: This extraordinary culture of the I Ching, at the same time he didn't give a damn if you want, but he used the I Ching in relation to chance and so on.
JPS: Yes, yes!
CF: Well, the new adventures are going to start today, every morning I'm going to pull the I Ching a bit, well my goodness, we'll see... And that's it, that's good, that's to say that the day starts with the I Ching. And then it's useful or not, it doesn't matter, it's a game and maybe it can be useful for you? Maybe it can serve you? It's a game and it's also a book of wisdom anyway!
JP: Yes, of course!
CF: And what is very important and John Cage knows that and you're going to say that it's important for you too, it's the movement. That is to say that the I Ching is the art of movement ! Nothing is ever the same, everything is movement, everything is movement! That means you can get to the top of so-called glory and it was Borges who said: "Glory is another form of oblivion."
CF: "Glory is another form of oblivion." Borges. And I had written that sentence at home and the sun with its rays erased it! So once you know that everything is there, everything is present and everything comes back, it's the eternal return! And the I Ching returns everything, because when you're at the top and you have big horizontal black bars all the time and so on, it's like the I Ching returns everything. And you're on the highest of the summits... The catastrophe inevitably happens!
JPS: Of course!
CF: Inevitably! So, let's see things as they are. Art is the same thing, art is a perpetual starting over. And, I would still like you to read, if you want, because it's very important this sentence of Rauschenberg about his work.
JPS: Oh, yes!
CF: How finally his work was organized, it's in John Cage's Silence about Rauschenberg's work and he understood his work and that's what you're doing.
JPS: Thank you! So it's about the images, the images that Rauschenberg used in his paintings:
"He uses them separately (the images), grouped or arranged with such obvious symmetry that they don't attract attention (nothing special). We know two ways of dispersing attention: one is symmetry; the other is the total surface area of which each parcel is a sample of what is found elsewhere. In both cases, one has at least the possibility to look anywhere and not only where someone has planned to look. So you are free to treat your freedom exactly as the artist has treated his, not in the same way, but still from the beginning. That, he says, is the repetition of images, which is symmetry. Which only means, if we look closely, that we see as if everything is still in chaos."
CF: So, you see, Cage, he's talking about Rauschenberg, we know very well that he loved him very much, and when he talks about Rauschenberg, whom you also love, it refers to your own work, it refers to this thing, that is to say fragments; a whole! And you can look everywhere! But it's also a form of attention! It's not dispersion! It's attention! You focus and you can also make a big opening!
JPS: Of course!
CF: And there you see! You can see it! You can see it! And it's true that your work, it's as interesting when there's one, as when they're all together! It's very different!
JPS: It's very different, that's it, yes!
FC: And it's true that one day I'd like to write a text about your little drawings. Because it's still different!
JPS: Yes, with pleasure!
CF: Because we're in another universe in your little drawings. There's no longer this formal relationship with the frame... You've done a lot of them, it's something more intimate... It's another part of you that is still very sensitive!
JPS: Yes, that's true!
CF: Where there, you look at a particular thing and that's interesting, because once again, you're in the great force of the whole! At all! And then, you can also enter in the particular and that's very, very exciting, really, so there you go!
JPS: Thank you! Would you like to say something else?
CF: No, I don't know if we still have time?
JPS: I just wanted to finish with this sentence, if you like to?
JPS: It's a sentence from Ryôkan, the Wandering Monk and Japanese poet, he says:
"I'm walking along a river,
looking for the source,
I get to where the source seems to begin,
realizing you never reach the true source, leaning on my cane,
the murmur of water."
It means, we often look for things (our origins or The Origins), but it's not those things that are so important.
CF: No, but we must continue! This is the way!
JPS: This is the way!
CF: Then we continue the way! So long life, long life and long way, because anyway, as long as we live: well, we continue, we continue, we search!
JPS: And it doesn't matter what we find!
CF: Long life, that's all!
JPS: Thank you very much Claudie for coming to do this interview with me, it's really nice! Thanks also to Christine and Lionel who were on camera. And long life to both of us! Thanks again!
CF: Long life to all, as they say in yoga: Long life, long life! You see, here it is ! And then greetings to the Sun!
JPS: Yes, greetings to the Sun! Thank you Claudie!
Interview between artist Jean-Pierre Sergent and Thierry Savatier (art historian, world-famous specialist of Gustave Courbet) | 5 Parts | Besançon studio | July 29th 2019 - Download the PDF
1/5: INFLUENCES & FIRST WORK (France-Montreal) - Watch the video (in French with English subtitles)
2/5: LIFE AND WORKS FROM NEW YORK - Watch the video (in French with English subtitles)
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?
5/5: BEAUTY & QUOTES - Watch the video (in French with English subtitles)
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 too, he thought, was written! He had forgotten what all Bengalis know: the art of let us being guided by circumstances."
"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."
Interview between artist Jean-Pierre Sergent and doctor Jean-Louis Garillon (bioquantum physician) | 2 parts | Besançon studio | Sunday June 30th 2019 - Download the PDF
1/2: LIFE PATHS (1/2) CREATIONS AND ENCOUNTERS - Watch the video (in French with English subtitles)
Jean-Pierre Sergent: 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.
Jean-Louis Garillon: 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!
2/2: LIFE PATHWAYS (2/2) TRANSES & QUANTUM MECHANICS - Watch the video (in French with English subtitles)
Jean-Louis Garillon: 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.
Jean-Pierre Sergent: 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!
Interview between artist Jean-Pierre Sergent and museum director Xiwen Yang about the exhibition "Eros Regenerating Life" at the Ailleurs Arts Museum in Shenyang, China | Besançon studio | June 18th 2019 - Download the PDF - Watch the video
XW: Hello Jean-Pierre!
JPS: Hello Xiwen!
XW: I am very happy to see you every summer! And since we started working together three years ago, I hope that what I do to promote your work is fine with you? What do you think of that?
JPS: Of course, first of all, it's very good to see you! It’s great to see each other every year! And, it is also a great honor and privilege to be able to show my work in China! Of course! And you do an excellent job there, because you make my work known not only to the Chinese public, but also to the Chinese artists who come to my studio every summer! So it's a great seeing each other, it's a great cultural exchange really!
XW: So next month, on July 13th, we will have a big solo exhibition of your work at the Ailleurs Arts Museum in Shen Yang where we will present about sixty works by you: large paper works, medium and small formats as well. Currently my team of curators is preparing all this and together we have chosen to ask you these seven questions to you:
JPS: Yes, of course!
XW: So I came to ask you these questions. We talked a lot about your work with the whole team and they are all challenged by the many images of nature present in your work, there are also elements on ancient human civilizations?
JPS: Yes, yes!
XW: And they're very curious about the relationship you have between these two elements?
JPS: The relationship between nature and culture?
JPS: To talk about that, I have to say that I lived in New York for a long time! So I have been confronted with "thousands of civilizations", both in museums and in my personal life. I have met so many people from different worlds... and I think one culture can't bring us everything. That's why I like to talk about ancient cultures because often contemporary thought is restrictive in relation to spirituality. We know that there are many cultures that are interested in spirituality; each has its limits, everything is relative, as they say! By working with other civilizations with different ways of thinking, I can open my mind and for an artist, it is essential to be open to the world! In addition, I also want to mention the problem of all these traditional civilizations disappearing. On a daily basis, thousands of languages or dialects disappear every year and thousands of images also disappear, since rituals are no longer practiced. Many of the images used in my work were images of rituals, practiced to regenerate life and nature. Exactly, we're returning back to nature, we'll talk about it again! And when you see what is happening in nature, with this ecological disaster, it really raises big questions. And I mean my love for butterflies, for trees, for leaves... for the sun and it scares me that all this will disappear before our eyes!
XW: All right! At the same time, you answer my second question, we also talked a lot about your different experiences, your different approaches. First, when you were young, then in Montreal and New York. You are very interested in Mayan culture and other Amerindian cultures?
JPS: It so happens that thanks to my wife Olga, who is of Colombian origin, we have often travelled to Mexico and also to Guatemala, and of course it is an emotion to find ourselves in front of this amazingly colorful multitude of clothes... And indeed, all tropical countries have this vivid sense of color! So it has brought a lot to my work by regenerating it! Because in France, I remember that when I was at the École des Beaux-Arts, the only colorful harmonies I liked were: brown, white and black! And so I had to learn to love color (it is not for granted), precisely by travelling to Mexico and also in front of the works that are in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico, these Aztec, Mayan, Olmec or Toltec works have a power that is quite rare and that I have never seen elsewhere! What I'm looking for is the vital energy in a way! Where to find the vital energy? personally I no longer feel it in European paintings and so I am really going to look for it somewhere and this energy must correspond to my own energy! And also to my sexuality, because it's certainly important: Energy = Sexuality = Life! That's it! That's it!
XW: Okay, so it's all came from that moment, all those questions?
JPS: These are species of revelations that are accumulating! Yes, over the course of my life!
XW: All right!
JPS: Also as I often talk about it, I had the chance to experiment with shamanic trances, so inevitably in these trances there is an energy that we don't meet elsewhere!
XW: I don't know if you also know the shamanic culture of origin of my city, it's very strong too!
JPS: Of course I know there are some in Korea, China and Tibet as well of course! Exactly! Exactly!
XW: Because I know a musician who is inspired by this, it's very strong!
JPS: It's very important but unfortunately, these cultures are disappearing, since temples are being destroyed, monks are being killed, everything is being destroyed! We really need architecture, we need places, we need sacred places, and above all an untouched Nature! Since we destroy everything; nothing matters anymore today, it is difficult to continue with these practices but also to feed the collective unconscious! Because I think our collective unconscious is getting poorer every day somehow!
XW: So it created a very strong connection with your work? That's how it accumulated?
JPS: That's accumulated, yes, yes! But I have always been fascinated by the works made by shamans, but until you experience the trance, you can't know what they're talking about!
XW: You are also reading a lot?
JPS: Yes, of course!
XW: Because you travel much less than before?
JPS: That's it! Yes, yes, it's true! But that's life! You know Homer says in the Odyssey that the Gods have decided not to give everything to men at the same time: health, wealth, glory and love! That is, there are times in life when you can travel, others less so! What is important is to stay curious and be happy with what you are doing! This is very important!
XW: There is also a main question, we would like to know how you would like to talk about your work, how you would like to talk about it? What message would you like to send to the people watching you? Or who follow you on Facebook or on your website? What would you like to express most of all in all your work?
JPS: Yes, it's the vital energy! It's really a testament to the beauty of life! It's pretty amazing! Yes, I am really fascinated by life, by beauty! That's really the most important thing! There's the color too! There are many very bright colors in my work!
XW: That's right! Okay! Okay! The other question also, it's curious, there are a lot of influences from Japanese culture in your work? Especially about eroticism?
XW: I know that when we met, you talked about it during your exhibition at the Besançon Biennale and so after that, I too realized that it was quite difficult for the public to understand such a work! As your work is really intriguing?
JPS: Of course!
XW: People ask me a lot of questions about it, what do you think? Despite this problem, you continue this work on eroticism and every year I see the evolution of your new work!
JPS: Well, I keep working on the subject of eroticism because, it's not that I'm provocative but nevertheless, around me, I feel that people are completely closed about it! Sexuality is a liberation! And anyway, real art must be transgressive somewhere! I don't feel this transgression, because I like doing this kind of work, and that's why it's important! It's true that sometimes it raises questions! But it's mostly about selling, it's quite complicated to sell this kind of work! But it doesn't matter, I continue on this because it's really the subject I'm passionate about! Because it's not only the sexuality I'm talking about, but it's also mystical ecstasy and it's ecstatic trance, if you want! It's like a shamanic trance, of course, sexuality! It happens sometimes, it's Kundalini! It's Shakti! The feminine energy... all that! When you go to India you see it in temples, there are erotic postures with gods copulating like that! It's really honoring life! I suffer a lot in the West because life is so repressed through religions. And all monotheistic religions have violently repressed sexuality, it's quite strange! It's quite strange! I really want to be beyond these problems of religion and morality. I think I'm into something universal! A universal energy!
JPS: Energy does not question itself! It just is!
XW: Yes, but is Japanese manga quite new? It's not like you're inspired by Van Gogh, for example?
JPS: Yes, yes!
XW: The ancient Japanese culture?
JPS: Yes, but unfortunately, I have never been to Japan. I have had several Japanese friends and of course I know a little bit about this culture. I really like Zen Buddhism, which is also present in China. I read a lot of books on Buddhism, because I'm interested! There are lots of shapes of voids! Lots of forms of consciousness, which we don't have in the West. So that brings me a lot! Yes! But getting back to manga, it is mainly the obscene texts from manga that I use! But if not, the images I get are from popular pornography! Sometimes I work on bondage! It's questioning people, but when I talk about it, I say it's the bond that unties! That is, the man or woman must be in ecstasy in front of the universe!
XW: But when you talk or write about this manga work, do you also want to express beauty?
JPS: Yes, that's it, of course! It's beauty, because there's nothing more beautiful than the face of someone who's in orgasm! Moreover, in the West, it is Christ who is in ecstasy in death. There is the Virgin Mary who is sometimes in ecstasy when breastfeeding Jesus, but she is never in ecstasy when creating Jesus, since he was not created somehow! It's a different concept, it's a problem anyway! I remember, I saw a report on television, about wild animals in Japan and salmon going up the river and at the end, you know! Males throw their sperm into the river and at that very moment, they have that figure of ecstasy! When they go back into the universe, before dying if you want! So even animals It's a little ecstasy before death! There, so even animals have this ecstatic figure by copulating! It's something that goes beyond us, we really enter into the continuity of the species, the continuity of the universe, the big magical karma! We regenerate the world somewhere! In ecstasy!
XW: All right, OK! My second to last question: had you thought or reflected on Chinese culture? To eventually add these elements to your work?
JPS: Yes, of course! But unfortunately I haven't travelled there yet! I have seen beautiful exhibitions of Chinese art at the MET and Guggenheim! And I remember a horse carriage that brings the soul of the dead into the other world; that's an idea I want to develop! There also is the Bi (magico-cosmic) stone circle which is also very interesting! Eternity!
XW: It's complicated!
JPS: Yes, it's complicated! I don't have the tools to work on this subject right now. For example, I am very interested in the I Ching (Tao) with horizontal bars like that (solid and sequenced). Well, then it has to come at some point in my life! Before travelling to Mexico I didn't know Mayan culture at all so it's always encounters that I have to experience, yes of course!
XW: But normally Chinese artists have their own vision, isn't that the
same as what you say?
JPS: Yes, that's right!
XW: What is original?
JPS: Yes, it's true, but you can have revelations and the will to talk about it! In front of architecture, in front of a suit, in front of a pattern! You know I work a lot on patterns too...
XW: Well, I'll continue, the last question! We would like to ask you this question: what will be the most positive point of this new exhibition for you?
JPS: For me, it's only positive, because you're showing my work in a museum in China that you just opened; so it's fabulous for me, of course! And besides, you've already taken works on paper, you've framed them! So for me, there is only something positive in this experience. We have to work hard on communication so that I too can share information with people about this exhibition here in France. So that people can know, be interested and talk about it! Even if they unfortunately can't go to the exhibition!
XW: That's it, I also wanted to know, since you can't come, can you imagine the difference between the audiences, because you do a lot of solo exhibitions in Europe, especially recently in Switzerland and France?
JPS: That's it! Yes! Yes!
XW: I think you regularly go to Facebook to see my images where we interact a lot? How do you imagine the museum?
JPS: I see that there are a lot of people, I see that the places are beautiful so it can only be beneficial for both of us! And then we'll see, maybe one day I can go to China? We'll see, it's in the plans as well, of course, gladly! And also to meet a slightly different audience, because I often say it, the French public is a little jaded about art! We saw at our last exhibition last year in Arbois, we didn't have many people! But if there are young Chinese people who are interested in art, it's also good!
The problem is that my work is aimed at people who are over fifty years old, because talking about spirituality and understanding it requires having had a whole life journey already! Yes, of course ! And when you're young, maybe you can take an interest? But we haven't experienced it! Because the experience of the body is important, to be able to understand the work of art! That's what you have to understand too. That's what I always say: to make an artist takes twenty years, plus twenty years afterwards! Because you have to go to school, then forget what you learned in school. It's a life story, except for a few artists like Basquiat, who were very, very early! But most artists as for example Mark Rothko, who used to paint like Picasso before making his abstract paintings! And then after twenty or thirty years, we make an original work! That's what Picasso said: "You copy, you copy, you copy and then one day you miss a copy and you make an original!" That's it, you really have to find your own voice, not only for the artist but also for the spectator. It's a parallel process! And despite all the culture we may have, we can take a lot of art and art history classes! But until we have had a physical revelation, because art and painting is what it is: it is a physical revelation! You really have to feel in your body: wow! There’s something that upsets you, that pierces you and takes you to another place! So that's it, don't despair. In my work, there are also many ways to get in! One can like the color, one can like the shape, that's it!
XW: You know that right now in China, there are two Picasso exhibitions!
JPS: Oh yes!
XW: Right now!
JPS: Oh well yes, that's great!
XW: So it is also progressing in China! As we did your first exhibition three years ago, in Shanghai....
JPS: Yes, yes!
XW: Remember? It was a small solo exhibition with small formats on paper and for this new exhibition this summer, it will be a big step forward!
JPS: Yes, I imagine so! And it will be in several rooms?
XW: Yes, in six rooms!
JPS: Oh yes, fantastic!
XW: There will be many important people from the City and also a lot of art aficionados who are still following our exhibitions! And the exhibition will last two months!
JPS: Oh well!
XW: So it will be a great exhibition and during the summer holidays!
JPS: Oh, beautiful!
XW: That means there will be a lot of traffic!
JPS: Oh, I'm really happy about that, yes!
XW: It may be a good time to say a few words to the audience in Shenyang where so far few people know you, but thanks to this exhibition...
XW: Maybe a lot of people will know you and be familiar with your work! We're starting, it's like a start!
JPS: Oh yes!
XW: Can you talk in front of the screen and say something for them?
JPS: Yes of course: Welcome to the show! As they say in New York! Welcome to the exhibition! It is a great pleasure to exhibit thanks to my friend Xiwen in this beautiful museum! And don't be afraid of art! Because it necessarily questions us, as we said earlier. It raises questions, but you have to go with respect for yourself and for the artist, because the artist is not there to invalidate you, to bore you, it is there precisely to enlighten you and to reveal all these magnificent energies that comes from life! And I often talk about that: you really have to have a free mind to see art! And if you spend your time on your smartphone, you'll never really see a work of art! You really have to spend an hour or two sometimes! It's like a cosmic revelation! It takes time! And, also it's like a dream, you have to accept to be subjugated and carried away by the work, to let yourself go, that's it! To let it go, as they say, is very important in front of a work of art! And well, it will be a pleasure to meet you soon!
XW: Yes of course, I also hope soon, maybe one day for the second or third exhibition!
JPS: Oh, yes, I would love to!
XW: And then you will come to China to share your work with us!
JPS: Yes, and we could also present a large wall installation of paintings on Plexiglas!
XW: I'm waiting for that too! Thank you so much! Thank you!
JPS: Thank you Xiwen, thank you again and be happy my friends! It's important!
XW: Great! Thank you! Keep up the good work and we'll see you next month when I get back!
Discussions in the studio between Jean-Pierre Sergent and Michel Pétiard | 11 parts | Besançon studio | May 8th 2019 - Download the PDF
Caméras: Christine Chatelet et Lionel Georges.
1/11: THE TOTAL ARTISTIC COMMITMENT - Watch the video (In French only)
Jean-Pierre Sergent: Hello, I would like to introduce you to Michel Pétiard, who is a friend of mine and came do this interview today. It is May 8th 2019, Lionel Georges is running the camera as usual and Christine Chatelet is running the camera too. There you go, Michel, you have the floor.
Michel Pétiard: Thank you Jean-Pierre for welcoming me to ask you some questions about your work and about yourself as well. The first question I wanted to ask you was about your commitment to your artistic creation. I wanted to start with a text from you that I found in your Influences, in the last text about the people who influenced you. It's a text about Sade, where you say the following:
"Sade is important, not only for his writings, but also for his incredible capacity for resilience and willingness to proclaim his thinking. Even when imprisoned and sentenced to death, he continued to write what he considered essential: the right to pleasure and the freedom to think and act. This is a great example for me and probably for many artists, because very often we are confronted with terrible financial difficulties, but also with the problem of the lack of places of diffusion to be able to show our art, our paintings, which are victims of the aesthetic and dogmatic hegemonic ostracism of the French cultural policy imposed by its representatives."
So beyond the end, I wanted to know - we understand from this text the difficulty that the practice of your art can represent for you - how you conceive your commitment?
JPS: Yes, well, of course we are always in a state of resilience when we are an artist. It is more or less difficult depending on the countries in which you live. Being in France today, I find it quite difficult to practice my art, my artistic practice. And I wanted to bounce back on Sade, because he attacked religions, everything that enclosed human thought. He really wanted absolute desire, it's a bit of a caricature of the will of ecstasy. But despite everything, I think, for example, to come back to the current situation, that in the Arab revolutions, they may lack a philosopher like Sade? We know very well that the French revolution was possible thanks to the spirit of the Enlightenment, so we have to think about these things. And in my artistic practice, I am a little subversive, that's for sure, I push the envelope of sexuality and pleasure a little bit, in opposition to a completely bourgeois, gentrified society.
MP: But beyond what Sade represents in terms of idea, of strength, of progress - let's put it that way - are you referring to him in terms of commitment, commitment to art, with the difficulties it represents for an artist? That is, at some point, we must be able to ask ourselves the question: do I continue, or do I not? Because it's difficult!
JPS: Of course! Yes!
MP: It's difficult, so what I wanted to know is in your life - I think I understood it perfectly well by reading various writings from you, and your references - we understood well that art, your art, is your whole life?
JPS: Yes, it's my whole life, and if I didn't have art, I'd do something else! It's true that it's something I'm passionate about; of course, I'm passionate about it. It's a passion. And it's a commitment, of course, it's physical, it's moral, yes, of course!
MP: It's a commitment. But I mean it's a total commitment?
JPS: Yes! But then, after that, I have done other things in my life too. But it is the commitment that gives me the most pleasure today. And I think that a human being is something that can reveal itself to itself through a society, through an artistic practice. For example, I felt much more "normal" in New York than here! Where I feel a little withdrawn, where I can't have that dimension that you can acquire in a society that leaves you open-minded. And for me, to be an artist is to have a freedom of mind, a willingness to develop one's consciousness too...
MP: Yes, okay, I understand your definition of your status as an artist, of course I understand it; I will try to understand it anyway. But what has always challenged me with you, as in other artists, is this total commitment. Once again, I am talking about a total commitment, and this is far from obvious because it is not often found in society.
MP: Do you understand what I mean? Whether in the field of art or in other fields, of course.
JPS: Yes, that's right! I'm committed...!
MP: Despite the difficulties, despite the tribulations, despite the pain, the suffering, well... you continue.
JPS: Of course. Yes!
MP: You keep going!
JPS: That's right, I like it!
MP: Yes, you like it, but it probably goes beyond suffering, difficulty...
JPS: It transcends, yes, that's true.
MP: It transcends that.
JPS: Art transcends life!
MP: Because I was reading an interview with you just yesterday, which is on your website; I don't know in which magazine, they asked you: "What makes you get up in the morning?"
JPS: Yes, I remember!
MP: "I get up with the sun and work." (Interview with Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret, for Le littéraire.com, March 2013).
So in the end, it can almost summarize your existence?
JPS: Yes and no, because I love being in nature, being with friends. You understand, there are other things too.
MP: Yes, I agree, but I...
JPS: Human relationships are also very important.
MP: They are very important too! All right, perfect!
2/11: THE AXIS MUNDIS - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: So, another question, Jean-Pierre, is about verticality, which is important in your work, with a really fundamental place, it seems, of the axis mundi. I noticed that this place, it is about an early experience in Egypt, a trip to Egypt when you were 21 years old; could you elaborate a little bit on this idea of verticality?
JPS: Yes, it's quite complex. That is to say, verticality is felt when you are dying or when you are born, it is the relationship to the cosmos. Period. It is being connected with the universe as a whole. And it is true that in Egypt, it is not totally premature because I was already a young adult; I was in that cubic priest's cell and that had a window in the center of the ceiling that was square. And so I did everything (during this trip, I was with my grandfather Maurice and my sister Marie-Paule) to try to get away from the tourists to have this personal experience with architecture and the cosmos. I didn't know I would have this experience, but it's true that I had a kind of revelation in this cell. That is, I felt a little bit like I was having an out of body experience. This is the role of all sacred architecture... whether it is in a cathedral, a church, a temple, we are supposed to start in this vertical axis.
MP: In this vertical axis.
JPS: That's it, yes.
MP: I understood the relationship with the sacred building, that's clear. Does this verticality in you correspond to an inner verticality, a verticality that would then correspond to a concern for spiritual elevation? Is it inside?
JPS: It's both inside and out!
MP: So here it is, where do you look at the world as a verticality, as if there were a hierarchy in the world?
JPS: In the axis mundis of the first peoples, there is the underground world where there are five levels, the celestial world where there are nine levels, according to the shamans it is different! But there is this whole hierarchy of spirits, yes, to achieve great wisdom. And, Buddhists also say it, it is this kind of revelation of the state of satori, also among Buddhists! That is, at some point, we understand the mechanisms of the Universe. It may seem completely stupid to a French mind, but it's a bit like that.
MP: Would that correspond to what has perhaps been called in the West: the oceanic feeling?
JPS: Yes, that is to say, the oceanic feeling, we feel it more in sexuality. It is more of a transversal relationship, because you feel like you’re in the sea; and the sea is the land! So it's a little bit like that, but it's more than that!
JPS: That is, we are really beyond the body; we are really in a world... I wouldn't talk about a wonderful world, but we are all the collective memory of the universe and the world! We carry within us the memory of the big bang. So that's kind of the feeling you get. It's not the oceanic feeling at all. It's not that, it's more than that!
MP: Isn't that the oceanic feeling?
JPS: No, no.
MP: Not really, okay; so it's both something more inner, but still oriented towards the world? To the cosmos?
JPS: The Universe, yes, it's the Bindu point, we're at the beginning of the world! Yes !
MP: Okay. From that point on, I would like us to come to the notion of nature, which for me derives from the concept of verticality; that is, for me, nature would then be horizontality, in my mind. But that doesn't seem to be the case for you. Here, I will repeat the rules that you had set for yourself, that you imposed on yourself and that are mentioned in the text you call the Third Breakdown.
MP: Okay, there are six. There are six new rules, all but one of which have to do with the material. So for me, horizontality. So I will name them: work on the floor, the place of color as energy, variations on series on a formal theme, expression of feelings, work on a body scale, research into new materials... and there you place the axis mundi in the work rule on verticality. So how do you articulate that? Do you understand what I mean? We have the impression that a large part of these rules concern horizontality?
MP: In other words, the material world?
JPS: To be able to have a verticality, you need a base that is stable.
MP: Of course.
JPS: So I work flat... It's true that easel painting annoys me a lot; I can't go to museums anymore to see easel paintings... Because it's a false vision of cosmic man; so by working on the ground, a little like Pollock, it's Pollock's lesson.
MP: Like Pollock, yes, of course.
JPS: I have this relationship with the earth! And from the earth, you can go elsewhere.
MP: That's it, all right!
JPS: It's a base.
MP: It's a base, it's essential?
JPS: But absolutely, the body is essential!
MP: Okay, the material? So for you, there has to be a match between the two?
JPS: Of course, there is no antinomy, there is no paradox.
MP: No, no, of course, I don't think there is any antinomy or paradox, but I'm trying to find out how these two notions are related. Do you understand what I mean?
JPS: Yes, of course.
MP: Because we may come back to this later when we talk about the square, but it is true that it is not necessarily obvious, and it is not necessarily obvious for a Western mind, to combine these two notions. Because in the Western mind, perhaps verticality was conceived as a hierarchy, as the hierarchy of nature with a number of successive elements that are more or less inferior to each other. But for some people, verticality is an inner verticality.
JPS: Yes, but I am aware that the body is essential; it is very important.
MP: Because we are vertical beings.
JPS: That's it, we're vertical beings! That's right. That's right. After that, is it an illusion of the mind, I don't know! But I think that relationship exists. I think we are connected to each other in various ways that are much deeper than what science today wants us to know.
MP: You mean the interpersonal relationship, between people, between people.
JPS: That's it, yes, of course... there's a lot more energy going around.
MP: And then we would be in the horizontal? or in the vertical?
JPS: It doesn't matter!
MP: Doesn't it matter to you?
JPS: It doesn't matter, it's without space!
JPS: Well, yes!
MP: Maybe we're both in both?
JPS: It's a false question! I still remember Black Elk (Black Elk Speaks), who was a great Sioux chief who came to London to tour with the Buffalo Bill Circus. He got sick, and he did this shamanic trance where he came back to his village where he saw his mother; so space no longer matters. Just like in shamanic trance, who cares? Whether it is vertical or horizontal, the important thing is to be connected.
JPS: We are beyond matter at that moment.
MP: Are we beyond matter?
JPS: Oh yes!
MP: And yet we have our feet on it?
JPS: And yes: so what! Yes, of course, it's the morphic fields... it's all that!
MP: Is that all of it? Yes, okay, but you understand that I'm trying to detect that, because I have a Western mind, which was formed by Western philosophy, and it's true that it's not necessarily easy to get out of it! So that's it, I'm trying to make you...
JPS: Yes, yes, as long as it's benevolent, there's no problem.
MP: You have to be benevolent!
JPS: That's it.
MP: There, you're right, thank you Jean-Pierre!
3/11: FIRST CULTURES - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: Jean-Pierre, my third question will focus on the Aztec divinities that you talk about in your Influences texts. So to begin I will again quote you:
"But my relationship with the first cultures is not an unhealthy and colonizing curiosity, I am not looking for something in them that I would not have, but rather something that I had and that progress, rationality, book culture, religion, atheism, philosophical currents, fear of self and sometimes science in its empirical and cultural destructive blindness, has hidden and stolen from me. It's like a memory, a dream of experiences lived, long ago, in different cultures and places."
And I will finish with a text by Claude Levi-Strauss that you quote:
"The work of the painter, poet, or musician, the myths and symbols of the "savage" must appear to us, if not as a superior form of knowledge, at least as the most fundamental, the only truly common, and whose scientific thought constitutes only the sharp point: more penetrating because it is sharpened on the stone of the facts, but at the cost of a loss of substance, and whose effectiveness lies in its ability to penetrate deep enough for the mass of the tool to completely follow the head."
in Tistes Tropiques & Influences V.
MP: Interesting text, so I quoted these two texts because, as I said at the beginning, I want to ask you some questions about these Aztec deities and rituals. So today we will have a look at this world, gone, this view is perhaps linked to its discovery and interpretation by archaeologists and ethnologists who have shown it to us. This insight they have given us is a Westerner's view, do you think you discovered them in your own way?
JPS: That would be pretentious! Except that I had emotions and revelations in front of these works. As I say in this text or as Claude Levi-Strauss says, the original art has a much more... how could we say: primal/fundamental! That is, they had to regenerate the world, because they were afraid that the world would stop. It is always the myths: how to create the world, how to create beauty, how to create flowers, how to honor this nature? And this disappearance of rituals scares me very much. Pasolini talked about it in his films: the disappearance of spirituality, that is, the disappearance of ritual, leads humanity to do nonsense. And somewhere, yes, it's true, I feel like something has been stolen from me, because I no longer know, even with all "my knowledge and my culture", I no longer know how to live! At least, the people around me don't know how to live anymore! These are people who are lost, they are drowning in information, in alcohol, in what do I know? These are people who no longer dream! And I think the first people were... But we still think it was better in another time. You know there was the Iron Age, the Bronze Age and the Golden Age. Well, we all think that the past times were more important than ours. Nevertheless, the art that emerges from these societies speaks to me much more than a painting in a museum. So somewhere along the line, this attraction, it comes from a need for me, to quench my thirst.
MP: I also read in your Influences that you were also marked by the work of Karl Gustave Jung; do you think that precisely, this need in you, that these Aztec cultures, these Aztec rituals allowed you to reveal, do you think that it corresponds to Jung's idea of this universal collective imaginary consciousness?
JPS: Yes, but I would remove the word imaginary. Because we often talk about magic also in relation to these societies, but for them it is something very technical; shamans have a technique to access the different levels of trance. It takes twenty years of training to become a shaman among the Achuars (in the Amazon).
MP: All right!
JPS: So it's a little light to say that it's... yes, decoration in quotation marks, folklore, magic like that... I think it's a different level of knowledge! And that's where I'm very angry with Western science that demolished these people without even understanding who they were; you can't talk about a level of evolution, but they had a degree of spirituality that was just as valid as the Christians of the time.
MP: Yes, we totally agree.
JPS: Without making a value scale.
MP: I’m bound to find you again. The question I asked you was whether you consider that in the end, all of us (we are Westerners marked by our culture), do you consider that we are potentially able to enter into its rituals, its cultures, because in the end it corresponds to something that would be universal, to an almost universal need?
JPS: Probably because that's what it is about; these practices touch as closely as possible on birth and death, it doesn't talk much about love, but about the regeneration of the world. To get the sun up in the morning, Aztec or Mayan priests made self-sacrifices. They pierced their fingers, tongue or penis so that God would wake up. And among the Egyptians as well. All this practice of learning about the world and respecting it and wanting it to regenerate itself, to persist. We are the complete opposite, since we are destroying the world with impunity in an absolutely catastrophic way today. So we are the opposite, the opposite of its societies.
MP: I understand well!
JPS: Although some of them destroyed their world, like the Mayans whose population has increased (so they destroyed their biotope, it happens too), but despite everything, there was this kind of will and humility. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, there is the story of God flooding the world because men make too much noise! And of course today the noise of humanity is enormous, deafening! That's terrible!
MP: Yes, precisely, you speak in the books that have influenced you, marked you, you speak of the Epic of Gilgamesh, you also speak of Homer?
MP: It even seems to me that it is at the top of the list in your Influences on the site, so you also consider that something has existed in our culture, in the culture we will say Western, if we start it in the Middle East and then...
JPS: In Egypt.
MP: In Ancient Egypt and then in Greece. Do you consider it as though something has been lost?
MP: And you're accusing science or religion?
JPS: It's both! It's the two of them together!
MP: It's the two of them together!
JPS: Well, to say that Indians have no souls!
MP: All right, all right, all right!
JPS: It goes a long way! We objectify people!
MP: This is Bartolomé de Las Casas' book (Very brief account of the destruction of India)! Yes, I saw that it was also part of your books, of course, okay. But in that revelation you finally had, isn't that something you were expecting?
JPS: It's like falling in love, will we love this woman or not?
MP: That's it, is it?
JPS: Jung says there are happy coincidences, well... happy coincidences. It's probably something I was looking for, because as a child, I will always remember that I had strong asthma attacks and of course when I have asthma attacks, you always have the impression that you're going to die.
MP: Of course, I know that!
JPS: So we're surely looking for another place! Maybe I found this one somewhere else! Yes!
MP: Did you find this somewhere else?
JPS: Yes, yes!
MP: Yes, it's important, it's interesting... because somewhere we can also think that for each of us when we discover, or when we have the impression of discovering something, a philosophy for example - it's my personal case -, you feel a certain number of years in your youth and then one day, ah! And then something finally reveals itself to you and you say, oh well it's good, it's good!
MP: But in fact, it may only be revealing itself to you, do you understand what I mean? Does that put into words your... the philosopher in question or does philosophy put into words what you thought was confusing?
JPS: Yes, probably, but well, we didn't get out of Jupiter's thigh, we still need to learn in life.
MP: Of course you have to!
JPS: No, but it's obvious!
MP: It's obvious, we need to learn, and we often talk about it.
JPS: You have to meet the right people!
MP: Well, yes!
JPS: If I wouldn't have met a friend who was doing shamanic trance in New York, I would never have been able to experience these trances!
MP: Yes, I had read about this experience.
JPS: So that's it, I don't think we should neglect what life brings us... by chance or by necessity.
MP: Of course, what I meant simply was that the word revelation is perhaps an excessive word? Do you understand what I mean?
JPS: But then why not? I want to come back to this point; in France we can't say what we think: once, I had a serious operation and I told the mother of a friend that it was almost a miracle! She said to me, "If I were you, I wouldn't use that word!" Fuck you piece of shit! I use the words I want to use!
JPS: But so what? It's in the dictionary!
MP: Of course, of course! And no one is stopping you!
JPS: Yes, but I, the Cartesian mind, it bothers me. I can't be free and it really bothers me.
MP: Does that bother you?
JPS: Oh yes! What right do people have to judge me?
MP: No, but it's not a judgment.
JPS: Yes, of course!
MP: When I say that, it's not a judgment. I seek to understand, I seek to understand myself. I'm trying to see a little bit how it works, just the discovery of something. Is this a real discovery, I don't know?
JPS: It doesn't matter!
MP: It may not be important, no, no, no.
JPS: At this level, words are not important at all.
MP: Maybe it's intellectual masturbation, I agree.
JPS: Yes, that's it.
4/11: SOUL AND NATURE - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: So a question, Jean-Pierre, about nature, and the way you look at nature and the world. It's a little bit of an association, it's similar to the two previous questions, because very often you evoke the notion of transcendence in the elements of nature. So in relation to this notion of transcendence, which is a notion that is strongly connoted, at least in Western language, do you... how do you consider yourself in relation to this notion of transcendence? I've often noticed that you refer to polytheism or even pantheism. How do you situate yourself in relation to this notion?
JPS: Yes, I'm more like the Japanese, I think that nature is animated. They have kamis, they call them kamis, they're spirits for almost everything: for trees, for flowers, for stones...
MP: That's it!
JPS: I had the chance to discover nature thanks to my grandfather who was really in love with it and always went for walks in the nature; and we spent long moments together, and it was also an awakening to beauty! You really need someone to initiate you!
MP: In the way you look at nature, there is this notion of elements that are at the same time separate, but at the same time brought together?
JPS: It's a totality of course.
MP: Is that right?
MP: So you consider that there are indeed elements in nature that would escape us, and that would be... A moment ago, in the last interview, you mentioned the notion of energy? In nature, in the elements of nature, we're going to talk about trees, rivers, mountains, snow, cold, sun, etc. In all these elements, can you isolate them for example?
JPS: No, I don't isolate them, it's something that makes sense to me.
MP: Which makes sense, yes?
JPS: I don't materialize them, I don't isolate them. It's like the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi to Brother Sun, it's a set of things...
HYMN OF BROTHER SUN OR CREATURES
Most High, Almighty and Good Lord,
to thee praise, glory, honor,
and every blessing;
Thou alone art fit for them, O Most High,
and no man is worthy to name you.
Praise be to you, my Lord, with all your creatures..,
especially Sir Brother Sunshine.
through whom you give us the day, the light:
it is beautiful, radiating with great splendor,
and from you, the Most High, he offers us the symbol.
Praise be to you, my Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars:
in the sky you formed them,
clear, precious and beautiful.
Praise be to you, my Lord, for Brother Wind,
and for the air and for the clouds,
for the calm azure and all weather:
thanks to them you keep all creatures alive.
Praise be to you, my Lord, for sister Water.
who is very useful and very humble,
precious and chaste.
Praise be to you, my Lord, for sisterly Mother Earth,
that carries us and feeds us,
that produces the diversity of fruit,
with the variegated flowers and herbs...
JPS: That's hard to answer your question!
MP: Yes, it is difficult, I understand.
JPS: I don't want to convince Westerners, I don't care what they think. There are other cultures that think differently, and I'm more attracted to those cultures, than to Western culture, yes! Yes!
MP: It's not necessarily a question of convincing! Maybe it's a question of trying to understand the Westerner that I am, you know what I mean!
JPS: Yes, but that's your problem, I can't explain things to you?
MP: Can't we put words in?
JPS: You can't reveal something to someone, I'm not a guru.
MP: Because in Western culture and philosophy...
MP: There are philosophers that we could broadly call the materialist philosophers, who have a view of nature that is not a vision, how shall I put it... dualistic, there is no separation between the soul and matter, in this materialist vision; that is to say that the soul is matter, it is in matter.
JPS: No, above all, there is no soul! Excuse me! It's above all that there is no soul, there are no gods!
MP: No, but I'm talking about these philosophies.
JPS: Yes, that's right!
MP: We have the impression that this world you're talking about also exists in the Western world, that it has perhaps been a little bit hidden, hidden.
JPS: Of course, yes.
MP: Erased, in favour of the mechanisation of the world.
JPS: Absolutely, yes of course, yes but?
MP: I mean, in this Western philosophy, aren't you going to find yourself?
JPS: No! Besides, philosophy bores me, period, in general!
MP: Philosophy bores you?
JPS: Yes, very much so. No, but I like reading Nietzsche, but I couldn't finish Zarathustra! It's interesting, his ideas are interesting...
JPS: But after a while it bothers me.
MP: Does it bother you?
JPS: Yes, yes!
MP: And yet you read, I looked at your library a bit, you read books that have a little to do with philosophy?
JPS: Yes, you can call it philosophy, but it's Eastern philosophy; well, maybe I'm more fascinated?
MP: Yes, but there is no difference?
JPS: But there is a big difference between the two philosophies!
MP: There is a big difference?
JPS: Yes there is! On the one hand Western philosophy wants to demonstrate the death or existence of God! I don't give a damn! For me God doesn't exist...! So write whatever you want on that, I don't have time to waste.
MP: Yes, but it's important, it seemed important to me! But is it?
JPS: Everybody is obsessed with this idea of God, we don't give a damn! Excuse me, it's not a problem! From the moment you feel energy in the Universe, whether that energy is single or multiple or quintuple or...
MP: Don't you think that those who advocated the death of God...
JPS: I don't care!
MP: I understand, but don't you think these people are going a little bit in your direction?
JPS: Maybe, but I don't like to read them, I prefer to read Giono's books?
MP: Well exactly?
JS: Precisely because he wants joy, he wants joy in creation!
MP: Of course!
JPS: But these people are the opposite! These philosophers are so sad to die! You see their faces! You watch Houellebecq on TV, you think: "But shoot yourself!
MP: He's not a philosopher, Houellebecq!
JPS: It's the Frenchman who has just been awarded the Legion of Honour! Excuse me, we're getting to historical aberrations. Contemporary French art sucks! French philosophy sucks! Excuse me, I'm not interested!
JPS: But that's my opinion, that's my humble opinion. I prefer to read Aztec poetry, or Kabîr, or I don't know!
JPS: I prefer, because there is a fluidity, a joy and a sensuality.
MP: I'm thinking of a philosopher I know well, because he's a philosopher who has been really important in my life, and that's Spinoza.
MP: And if you like, Spinoza, he doesn't try to talk about the death of God, but on the other hand, joy is fundamental in his philosophy!
JPS: Yes, but it's unreadable! Have you seen how it's built? The structure of the book is completely illegible.
MP: It depends which ones, but some books are easier to read than others.
JPS: On Ethics here...!
MP: Ethics, yes! Ah, it's complicated!
JPS: It's complicated! Well then, maybe my thoughts join Spinoza?
MP: But that's the big difficulty, of course. OK, so I think we'll leave it at that, dear Darrin.
JPS: Thank you, so we were going to talk about nature and then we'll finish with philosophy.
MP: That's normal!
JPS: Yes, but there is an energy in nature that no philosopher can show, that poets or artists can show.
JPS: That's where poetry is stronger and art is stronger!
MP: But there are a number of people who think that, indeed, poetry is a form of philosophy.
JPS: Yes, but no doubt.
MP: Of course, and this I think deeply, I think of people like René Char, for example, who has formulas that you might like - I'll send you some, because there are extracts from texts by René Char that are really beautiful, and which I'm sure you'd like to hear about! I don't know if you know him?
JPS: Yes, I've already read it.
MP: Thank you Jean-Pierre.
5/11: RITUALS AND THE SACRED - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: Now, Jean-Pierre, I'm going to ask you about an important notion in your work, and that is the notion of the sacred. I will start with a text from you.
MP: Still caught up in your Influences, I'm going to read the text:
"There is a quote that could answer this question about spirituality, it's a question asked by an American journalist to a Mayan woman who was embroidering a tunic: - The design weave of your drawing is so intricate, entangled and complex that no one will ever be able to see it, decipher it or understand it? And The Mayan weaver simply said: Yes, but God can see it. I think that's the only appropriate answer to that question. The Indians worked for the Wakan Tanka of the Sioux, the Grand Manitou of the Algonquin or for some trickster spirits like the Coyote or the Raven... Their "art" not only created and wove links between human beings, but also opened the portal to the underworld, through the cosmic links to the soul force of the universe. And we will never again belong, understand or participate in the rituals using these highly sacred esoteric languages! It is not simply the disappearance of these rituals (sometimes superstitious, sometimes grotesque, sometimes even too theatrical) that is harmful, but, in an induced way, the disappearance of the bonds created between individuals when they practice these rituals: doing it together, abandoning the ego to put oneself at the service of the community, sharing a common emotion, exchanging and transmitting knowledge and know-how to the younger generations, the feeling of belonging and of creating something useful. Ultimately, the disappearance of ritual practices unfortunately caused, almost systematically and fundamentally, the disappearance and annihilation of what the West simply named : CULTURE!."
MP: It's a very strong text, which I find very strong, because it brings us back to the sacred. So you also say in some of your Notes: "the only way to grasp the sacred is within ourselves and in contemplation." Can you elaborate on that notion and do you think the sacred is disappearing in our society? The question is the answer, you've given it before, I think you think the sacred is disappearing in our society.
JPS: Yes, not only the sacred, but the culture; at the same time, the culture is disappearing completely. It's a statement, it's an absolute failure! When you see contemporary art today, except for some artists, but most of the time, this sacred dimension no longer exists; and all these rituals that used to link us together (we can think back to Pasolini's films, who showed sacred rituals in almost all his films, whether it was the Thousand and One Nights or the Canterbury Tales, Theorem, and so on). Even Saint Francis of Assisi (Uccellacci e uccellini). This putting together of the common thought, that is to say that we have passed from a collective unconscious to an individual unconscious. I think that the collective unconscious is completely disintegrating. We can see it, people no longer share much among themselves; it is serious, I think it is serious. And that's why it's important for us artists to try to reanimate this culture. Because it's obvious that today we have entered a post-cultural society. Culture has disappeared. We see it every time we see exhibitions, it's not culture, it's cultural animation! That's what it is!
MP: Okay, that's entertainment!
JPS: Entertainment, yes!
MP: The entertainment of the Anglo-Saxons. But you say it and I reminded you earlier: the only way to apprehend the sacred is within ourselves! And in contemplation!
JPS: Of course, because it remains in us (the vital force) - we'll talk about nature again - we still have this force in us, since we were born with it! Who stole that from us? Was it at birth? Was it at adolescence? Is it at school? Who stole it from us? We shouldn't be paranoid, but there is this notion of love and joy of existence that has been stolen from us somewhere! When I meet people from other cultures, they don't seem so empty... We've taken less from them. I think I'm a diminished person, so I have to go and see! I have to have a curiosity! I have to read a lot, I have to internalise all this within myself to understand all this, to feed off all this, all these cultures, yes. And contemplation, in the same way: if you are in front of an important site, you regenerate yourself, you breathe the air, you touch the trees, you look at and re-appropriate the world!
MP: Okay, so you consider the sacred and the sacred as a universal need?
JPS: That's a big question, I don't have the answer! There are people who think that the sacred doesn't exist, yes!
MP: Me, I think it's a universal need, yes, personally! But I'm asking you if it's a need that we all have in each one of us?
JPS: Probably, but who knows? No, I don't have the answer.
JPS: We see how cultures evolve, how societies evolve... We see Bolsonaro in Brazil, does this guy have a notion of the sacred?
JPS: Well then, it's not universal! Period.
MP: What I meant was that it's a universal feeling that would have been lost and diverted to something else.
JPS: Yes, but then you come across notions like the idea of paradise lost. Man is what he is! That's it!
MP: In the text I read earlier, do you mention the importance of rituals?
MP: The question I wanted to ask you was whether the practice of a ritual is the only, or a very important way to access the sacred?
JPS: Yes, it's the only one!
MP: It is the only one?
JPS: Apart from birth and death, and death is accompanied by Buddhism. They make prayers for a month to accompany the souls of the dead. So without a ritual, what happens to the soul? It's a bit of a dumb question for a Westerner, but, it's a question! Among Buddhists, when people die, they cut them up, they give the body to vultures so that it can regenerate in nature. There are all cycles of life and death, they say prayers to accompany the soul of the dead. Apparently, the soul would take a month to leave the earth and go elsewhere. For us, these rituals have completely disappeared, we still go to churches to bury someone, but I feel quite helpless myself, you know? And to have lived through some shamanic rituals, where you have to burn sage to purify the soul and the body, these are important things. And when it's gone, what do I do? We become objects, no more and no less. So we die, well, it's an object, we cut you up, we throw you away, we throw you in the garbage, we no longer have an existence!
MP: Yes, yes, it's Kafka's Metamorphosis.
- I'M A HUMAN BEING, I'M NOT AN OBJECT--
JPS: Not only is it the attitude towards the dead, but towards the living too: we see how contemporary societies treat people, but it's terrible! You know, art exists because people died; the first traces of art were to accompany the dead to their graves.
MP: Do you think so?
JPS: Oh yes, I think that without death there is no art!
MP: Without death there is no art?
JPS: No, no! When I went to see Nefertari's tomb in Egypt, the magnificence of the paintings was to accompany the dead in the afterlife, to offer them life! Do you understand?
MP: Yes, but it corresponded to a very important person in ancient Egypt, but the common man?
JPS: They survived collectively thanks to the mausoleum.
MP: Whose names and very existence have been forgotten?
JPS: We agree that art is made for, and by, the elite. It's a reality!
MP: Art is made for the elite?
JPS: The art that remains!
MP: The art that remains! But I mean on a daily basis?
JPS: Because it was buried; it's like in prehistoric caves, probably there was a lot of art on the clothes, on the jewels, but all that disappeared, obviously it was not protected in caves, so all that art disappeared, you understand!
MP: There must have been probably some accompanying rituals?
JPS: Of course. But the most important rituals, initiatory ones, were still to accompany the dead... the spirits of the dead.
MP: And then the initiation rituals found for example in Ancient Greece, what do you think about them, what do they remind you of? Weren't they rituals to accompany the dead? For example the mysteries of Eleusis, that's the most famous?
JPS: Maybe man needs to make up myths and keep them alive. Because living without myths is what we see today, it's terrible.
MP: That's it, of course. It's important and in myths, it's also important perhaps to consider the ritual, which regularly reactivates the myth.
JPS: Yes, but since we no longer have a myth, we don't reactivate rituals.
MP: And we feel, it seems to me, that our contemporaries feel a certain need for ritualisation.
JPS: I mean, if it's to go to a Johnny concert or a football match, yes, OK! It's a communion, but it's not a ritual. There's no spiritual dimension other than a communion (a walkabout)!
MP: No, there is no spiritual dimension, I wasn't thinking about that. Well, thank you!
JPS: Thank you!
6/11: THE TRANCE AND THE DREAMS - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: An important place in your work and in your writings about your work: it is the shamanic trance, it counted a lot, and the dream. I'm going to start with a little text from you in the New York Notes
MP: So I quote you: "Both artist and shaman are the mediums of life of which rationally we perceive only 10%, the rest is in the realm of the invisible and the spirit, buried under water like the invisible mass of icebergs." Very well written by the way, I think your writing is very good. So I wanted to ask you a question about the dream that has to do with your trance experience. Today with advances in understanding brain function, we realize that the electrical activity of the brain during dreaming, or waking are very similar. That is to say that we have practically the same electrical activities and some neurophysiologists put forward the idea that the waking state would in fact correspond to a waking dream, the difference in the electrical trace would then be linked to the intense activity of the sensory organs, which would therefore differentiate it from the period of the dream, where the sensory organs are if not stopped, or at least do not have the same importance at all. So is this something that you can relate to your own experience, and to your idea of the dream, of the trance, of what you have experienced, and of your immersion in reality?
JPS: Yes? First of all a trance... I really like the dream, but the trance, since we're talking about numbers, science, rationality, the trance is a dream to the power of one hundred! So it's much more powerful, since you have to compare things, it's difficult to compare them. But I will always remember this energy that I felt in trance and that I felt once in a dream, because I went to New York, to my acupuncturist friend Kimberly, I told her that I had problems sleeping and she put two needles behind the lobes of the brain, there, behind ; and then that night I had a trance dream where I met the white light that you encounter when you die, the energy vortex, and only that dream had the power of shamanic trance. So probably during dreams you can access this level of trance, but it's not the same thing. I have just given a lecture at the Remiremont museum, and Jean-Louis Garillon, who is a doctor friend of mine who is also interested in morphic fields and everything that is a little beyond science, which is in quantum science, quantum energies. He told me that a shaman had agreed to be recorded when she was in a trance state, since we are talking about science. She had accepted to have her brain recorded and the energy in her brain was absolutely mind-boggling, they had never seen that before! It's just to get back to something rational, that's all. But that's it!
MP: So the question she was asking was of course about the dream, the trance, but also about the perception of reality? It would seem that this corresponds to the note I read earlier, namely that the perception we have of reality is of the same order as dreaming, it's of the same physiological order as dreaming. In other words, it seems that it corresponds to what you're saying, namely that, in fact, the perception we have of reality is not really objective!
JPS: Of course not!
MP: You understand what I mean!
JPS: We know that everything is empty, that we are just vibrations. You know what I mean! If you bring back all the matter from the Universe, it fits in an orange or an apple.
MP: Of course.
JPS: So we're vibrations, so we're not aware of that reality, but it exists! It's part of us! So it's a different level of consciousness!
MP: That's it! That's it!
JPS: But maybe it has nothing to do with the brain? I don't know where it's going? Maybe the brain is just the receiver of subtle information circulating in the collective unconscious, like the computer is the receiver of information from the web, but it's not the basis of information?
MP: Oh yes of course, it can also have something to do with the brain?
JPS: Maybe, but so what? It's not important! What's important is the universes that we are lucky enough to encounter when we are in a trance, the journeys we can make. And that's important! And it doesn't matter why, how?
MP: What I just wanted to say is that contemporary science would seem to go in your direction, that's what I meant!
JPS: In my way? But I am an artist! I'm talking... again, who am I? But the problem is that the public and even the doctors are completely behind this new science (these new discoveries), quantum medicine and all that! They are not aware of it. Reality is still reality, a leg is a leg! But what's going on inside, the billions of tasks going on in a body simultaneously, can you imagine how it works? You're a doctor, it's unbelievable, unimaginable!
MP: Of course, I know that, I know that!
JPS: But even if you're a doctor, you can't know everything! We are in front of a fabulous universe, (the great mystery)!
MP: Of course, and from that point of view, there is a blindness to science and technology, especially today. Coming back to the dream and the trance, it's probably very difficult to share that?
JPS: But for me, it's my responsibility to bear witness, to share it in my work. Afterwards it's like Pollock, he was talking about the shamanic trance, but you don't have to know that he has... I don't know if he had experienced trance, in any case, he went to the Navajo Indians, so you can still feel this cosmic feeling in his paintings, without apprehending the shamanic side.
MP: Yes, but the experience, even lived?
JPS: Oh no, we can't share it.
MP: We can talk about it, but we won't share it.
JPS: No, no.
JPS: And what's quite strange about the trance is these particular lights and colours that you find in my work.
MP: Right, right!
JPS: It's like the mystics or the "enlightened ones"!
JPS: People are said to be "enlightened"! Well, I'm enlightened and fuck you! That's right, that's my experience.
MP: Oh yes of course, your experience is interesting!
JPS: It's like we love art brut, because these artists are talking to us about something we'll never know! Crazy people paint their world...
MP: They paint their world, yes.
JPS: And we find it interesting, because we don't have the courage...!
MP: You say crazy?
JPS: Well, in quotes!
MP: Quotation marks, we're going to say that!
JPS: It's a universe that the big rational bourgeois will never know.... Why do people buy Basquiat? Not only because it's worth money, but because it's a universe (a degree of energy) that they'll never reach! Unless they're doing coke, or whatever! It doesn't matter!
MP: But it's still very important in your work?
JPS: Yes, of course.
MP: In your life and in your work?
JPS: Yes, it's also the sexual trance!
MP: Sexual trance?
MP: Do you talk less about ecstasy, do you think?
MP: Maybe, all right, thanks Jean-Pierre!
7/11: THE SQUARE & THE AXIS MUNDIS - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: Jean-Pierre, there is one shape that is important in your work: the square. So I wanted to ask you about this formal aspect, the place and importance of the square in your work. We have the feeling that this choice is the result of several attempts, a choice that seems to be fixed today. We have the impression that it's the square, period, as you often say. So I think that, and we can think that this is not by chance, that it is a path, and do you think that this geometric form, therefore the square, has a symbolic force and how do you insert it in your work?
JPS: Of course, yes, I think we'll talk about the axis mundi later on, the square is the four directions and the center, that's it. And yes it's little by little, but already in the eighties when I was painting in France, I started working on the square, because for me, when I work, I want to get rid of all superficial ideas, how can I say: the dustbin, I think about the dustbin! Of everything that bothers my mind: composition for example! Do you understand what I mean? The painters, they thought a year about composing, I don't give a damn! I want it to be like a spillway where I can put all the possible energies, where I can put whatever I want. So yes, it's a bit... it's my module, and it turns out that it has developed over time and that this unity has imposed itself in small formats as well as in large formats. Sometimes, I still do work on paper in 1/2 ratio, but often I like the square because I don't have these problems of composition, nor of thinking about : do I want a 1/3, 2/3 format, it's necessary to simplify my mind (the thought), that's it ! And besides it's a work of assembly that we see in the big walls, and the way to put the most information in a surface, it's the bees who found it: it's the hexagon, except that painting on hexagons it would be very complicated to do, with the positive films and everything! For me it would be very complicated. So somewhere I copy on the bees but I make squares.
MP: At the limit, you would prefer the hexagon but you chose the square?
MP: But more for practical reasons, it seems?
JPS: Practical, that's it!
MP: Only for symbolic questions?
JPS: That's it.
MP: The square is not for you?
JPS: Because to put the most information on this surface with a hexagon I would have more information than with the square.
MP: Yes, right, right!
JPS: The bees have figured that out!
MP: But now I'm discovering something here, you see, but the circle doesn't?
JPS: But how do you want to put circles together?
MP: No, but how?
JPS: Well, it's a practical question, quite simply.
MP: But if you isolate an element, because then of course you put them together, but when you isolate an element... but maybe they don't have to be isolated in the end?
JPS: Yes, but when I isolate them, I still add the square turn around.
MP: Yes, so there's this idea of a frame, because somewhere in your Notes, you also reject the window painting? The window frame?
JPS: Yes, window painting, absolutely!
MP: At some point you talk about the open window and so on. But on the other hand you have added frames to your Plexiglas, how do you explain that?
JPS: For me, it's like a kind of swastika, it's something that spins, because it creates (adds) another dimension to me. The painting, you go into the painting like this frontally, (horizontally) and the swastika turns like this (perpetual motion), so it's like a solar symbol and it defines a sacred space!
MP: You don't consider it as a frame?
MP: It's really part of what's inside?
JPS: Well, yes, and besides the trick is something industrial, these are industrial colours: reds, blues, blacks, industrially tinted Plexiglas, but in my paints each colour is unique, each time I make my mixes I never put the same colour.
MP: Oh yes, right.
JPS: So it's a differentiation between: industrial product and craft product, between quotation marks, handmade with love, between quotation marks! It's a kitchen! And it's also a protection!
MP: It's a protection?
JPS: Yes, it's a protection, the paint is fragile!
MP: Of course, so today we can consider that your choice of the square is fixed, ?
JPS: No, we don't know, nothing is definitive!
MP: Yes, okay, nothing is final. So there are no symbolic forces associated with squares?
JPS: Ah so obviously!
MP: Yes there are!
JPS: I told you it's the four directions in the square necessarily: North, East, South, West, and for example in all the Navajo drawings on the sand, they put..., it was always oriented and each time the colors were different, for example North was red, South was white...
MP: Yes it was oriented?
JPS: It's quite symbolic, the symbolic of the colours.
MP: So it's a symbolism of the colours, not of the form?
JPS: Of course it is! Because it's necessarily square, the four directions!
MP: It had to be square?
JPS: Well yes, or inscribed into the circle!
MP: So we understand that at the beginning you did indeed evoke this notion of the four directions and that the square was chosen for practical reasons?
JPS: Yes, practical reasons, but for example for the Indians of the plains nothing is square, they say nothing is square!
MP: Nothing is square?
JPS: In their world, their tepees are round...
MP: Yes that's right!
JPS: For them, thinking square is the Westerner thinking square. I happen to be a Westerner, I do painting, but maybe it would shock them, my work on the square?
MP: Oh you think so?
JPS: Maybe, I don't know? Is that a question?
MP: Yes, okay.
JPS: Everything is cyclical with them (time too), so I'm necessarily going out of the circle and into the square, but it's the only way I've found to do things.
MP: Okay, can't we make a link between that and a mandala for example?
JPS: Of course it's mandalas, or yantras, yes absolutely, meditation patterns?
MP: Okay, fine.
JPS: Because, it's what's most centered the square, it's what centers things (with its axis), precisely this place where we switch between different universes, the center of the world, the axis mundi.
MP: Thank you Jean-Pierre on the square.
8/11: SEPTEMBER 11th 2001 IN NEW YORK - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: So now we come, Jean-Pierre, to an event that was very important to you when you were living in New York and that all of us have in mind, it's September 11, 2001.
MP: Which you experienced as a deep trauma, as you write yourself, and which seems to have had a lasting influence on your work. Because at that moment you talk about it, you write about it: the need for a healing effect after such a trauma. And then you develop new codes, from that moment on I read it and among those codes I noted, and I quote, "Finding unity to escape all conflicting duality." So could you elaborate on that? I had noted in your work Beauty Is Energy, the presence of both the Egyptian offering bearer, which is a symbol of peace.
MP: And at the same time the Aztec flaying, symbol of violence. How is unity achieved in the face of this duality?
JPS: It's a bit complicated. My work is precisely to bring opposites together, to confront them. But also to say that everything is in the human anyway: the greatest violence and the greatest love, and the greatest will to heal the world. And it is precisely this Egyptian woman and the flayed man. But both have their function in the world. I don't believe in the devil or the gods, but I do believe in the symbolism of things. And so to see this Egyptian woman, who regenerates the world and who accompanies us, and this Aztec priest, who on the other hand regenerates the world in his own way by practicing a human sacrifice, he also regenerates the world! And we have to accept both sides of things. And violence and sacrifice are sometimes necessary in nature, as we can see. And this duality is the duality of men - and women too! But I am not too dualistic in my thinking.
MP: I understand that you are not.
JPS: But, in this series, you can think, yes I was... Because there is this incredible violence of war. I've been fortunate enough not to have experienced war. Of course, our ancestors, our fathers, our grandfathers knew both world wars, so I was from a generation that at that time had not known that! And I think that September 11th in New York was a state of war, it shocked me and perhaps it made me understand my role as an artist, which was perhaps to calm the world a little and to be more violent by showing life, the beauty of life and its fragility! To be more relevant, to show sexuality, worlds that regenerate themselves.
MP: OK, but this violence of September 11th that you experienced as a state of war in the end, which is quite real, this violence, do you think it is in man, in each of us?
JPS: Of course!
MP: Do you think it's in all of us? But the healing aspect of this Egyptian priestess, is that it? The bearer of offerings is a beautiful title. You think that this ability, I am a doctor, I am part of the healing, I am part of the people who heal!
JPS: That's it!
MP: It's very important to me.
JPS: Of course it does, yes.
MP: I couldn't conceive of a care that is violent!
JPS: Yes, it's a lifestyle choice!
MP; Do you understand what I mean? Do we have to fight this violence? Does your work also aim to fight it, or at least to neutralise it?
JPS: It's complicated, because bondage images, for example, you might think that's violence, but for me it's not violence, it's acquiring another state (a metamorphosis, overcoming suffering), so it's very ambiguous.
MP: It's very ambiguous, yes.
JPS: But I like, throughout my life I've always been attracted to people who tried to make things more flexible, to make things work together; that's why I miss my grandfather and my father so much. There are people who live in constant conflict and that for me is very hard to conceive of, because it's a lack of politeness somewhere.
MP: Yes, that's what you think a lot of people live in permanent conflict, they are torn between two tendencies that tear them apart.
JPS: Not to be Manichean, but there are some people who are completely nuts!
MP: Yes, right!
MP: Yes of course, I agree with that idea.
JPS: In order to be kind, you still have to be in a good structure, the family has to be good, society has to be good. Today people are no longer good, you see the yellow vests, they are in a situation of absolute distress.
MP: Of course!
JPS: And so even I feel that even I go on weekends to see my family, my sister is terrible with me with the whole family, and when I get home I can't even see the beauty of nature while driving. And that's a big deal for me because I've lost that side of joy and beauty that I learned to have with the landscape. Sometimes, I can't see the beauty so much anymore, there are negative people who are a burden on our lives and it's very difficult for me to live that. On the contrary, there are people who open up and are kind, and on the other hand, there are people who are completely destructive.
MP: So this is the reality.
JPS: That's reality.
MP: And in the face of this, art is fundamental?
JPS: That's it, but the problem is that art also goes in this direction of destruction (Freud's death instinct, in Le Malaise dans la civilisation), because we're talking about September 11th, I'm going to tell you an anecdote that I haven't talked much about (out of shame) and that I'm going to talk about at my next conference in Remiremont, that is to say that September 11th was a Tuesday, and there was an expression that was planned at the Swiss Cultural Centre. The team of artists had planned as a title: "Mayday, Mayday", or the anguish of the plane pilot at the time of the crash! So coincidences, coincidences... so it was a magnificent exhibition etc... And these idiots, these barbarians of artists, they had already dismantled planes in the Swiss Cultural Centre, it was in ruins. And then on September 11th, the ruin was there in the street!
MP: In the street!
JPS: In the street there were tanks, crushed, flattened fire trucks, grapples everywhere! Because the Swiss Cultural Centre is on Canal Street, it's one or two km from the World Trade Center, it's very close. And I say to a friend Miguel here, the following Thursday there's the opening, do you want to go? And Miguel had just escaped from the World Trade Center, he had breathed in the dust.
MP: You mentioned that in your text.
JPS : And the artists, I think they're big assholes...! Fascists, those people! They had taken away the planes that were destroyed and they destroyed mopeds. And the exhibition was called: the anguish of the guy who's going to spit motorcycles! That's what contemporary art is today! It's people who have absolutely no notion of the other! Because just imagine taking out the rubble from the planes they had crashed in their gallery, they had taken everything apart, I don't know if they had taken the planes from Switzerland or not? So what, who cares! And those assholes had dismantled it when everyone was completely, but appalled by the event! This team of artists with the director, took apart motorcycles in space! And they did the exhibition!
MP: And they just changed the title!
JPS: And they changed the of the exhibition title! And I would be an artist in that case, I could have thought about: The anguish of the goalkeeper at the time of the penalty kick (by Peter Handke), OK! But I would have filled the gallery with flowers (in homage to the dead)! Shameful! And contemporary art is always like that! And those people... and the guy became director of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris !
MP: He did the right thing!
JPS: You understand! And that's disgusting!
MP: But maybe more than contemporary art, it's political correctness?
JPS: Well no, that's not politically correct, it's precisely because it's not politically correct that they've had this impact! But they came out of humanity, it's inconceivable to do that! My friend Miguel, he was crying and so was I! We ran away! I said it's not possible to be that stupid!
MP : Yes, you mention it in your lyrics.
JPS: It's terrible, yes, it's September 11th. Luckily my friends, my friend Bruno Dellinger who wrote a book about it (World Trade Center 47th floor) got through it, and my friend Mayumi, who worked at a Japanese restaurant under the World Trade Center, got through it too, but it was really a shock. And also what was important was all this solidarity that was deployed, people were going to bring bottles of water to the rescuers, it was a huge logistics, to save the people who were still alive.
MP: To save a few people, yes.
JPS: And it burned for three months! And when I found that out (my friend Pierre Louaver had called me), I went to the roof of my building in L.I.C. Queens, and there was nothing left! Before there were the two towers and now nothing...! dust! So life goes fast, nothing...!
MP: It goes very fast of course! Thank you!
9/11: TEXT AND IMAGE - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: For this question, I'm going to start with a quote from Antonin Artaud in these Notebooks that you quote yourself!
MP: "My drawings are not drawings but documents, you have to look at them and understand what's inside..." Les Cahiers d'Artaud. It's interesting and that's why I'm going to ask you a question about the relationship between image and text. I think, and I've already told you that you write very well about your work, and that when we read you, we get into your work without in any way diminishing it, I think you evoke it very, very well in your texts.
MP: But on the other hand it's not always the case, it's far from always being the case when people talk as well about their work or talk about the work of someone, an artist! So I wonder about the place of the image in relation to the text. Is it necessary to explain the image, at the risk of killing its symbolic force, or is the image more, or even better than the text?
JPS: Of course yes, no one dreams in text. That is to say that the image is really what nourishes the collective unconscious, of course! Yes, it's more important! For me, and we see for example a loss of the force of art as soon as writing arrives, necessarily, since we multiply the information!
MP: Of course!
JPS: But what I like to do, for example in my work, I often reintegrate erotic or even obscene texts with my images, because it calls upon two different areas of the brain, so both are important to me!
MP: Both are important?
JPS: Yes of course!
MP: And you can feel it in your lyrics, because indeed, I find that in the lyrics you write about your work, it's something that brings something to your work.
JPS: Good, yes.
MP: Personally, that's the way I see it. But you yourself, in your curriculum and in your daily life, in your reading, you have to read texts about art history, about artists?
MP: Oh no, you don't read them?
MP: Where did you read some?
JPS: I read some, but I don't read any more.
MP: And what do you think?
JPS: Each one is different, each one... for me, my texts are not a justification, it's a testimony again. That is to say that yes, perhaps, I am afraid that my work will not be understood or ignored! I say to myself, you who only think with the text, because the French only think with the text, French thought is formatted on the text and not at all on the image. As you can see, there are very few important French painters in history. We can count them on the fingers of one hand!
JPS: Today, in history and since the beginning of time, most of them were Italian or Spanish people, immigrants, it doesn't matter. There's who: there's Gauguin, Matisse, a few...
JPS: But Picasso, excuse me, he's Spanish! We shouldn't make fun of the world and appropriate the artists that we literally let starve to death at the beginning of the twentieth century in France, but those people were immigrants like me! Poliakoff, Soutine, Modigliani, you understand!
MP: That's the name I was looking for the other day to talk about an artist!
JPS: Yes, you understand, all these people came to France, I wonder why they came to France? Fuck the French! It's too hard to work here!
MP: Somehow they explained it!
JPS: Yes, they explained it, that's it, and maybe there was some kind of dynamic at that time, I think it was a bit the same kind of dynamic that there was in New York when I was there, probably not there anymore. There are cities that attract artists at a given time. At one time it was Venice, or whatever!
MP: I think what's interesting about this relationship between text and image is that, in the end, the artists, the great artists, have written very little about their work.
JPS: But if you're great, you don't need to write!
MP: That's right!
JPS: Maybe I'm not tall enough?
MP: What I mean is that the other day I was at an exhibition at the opening in quotation marks of a contemporary art exhibition in Belfort, as part of the Libres Regards festival, well it was an installation, a performance, for me it left me totally indifferent, and I read the presentation text, and this text itself was incomprehensible.
JPS: Of course.
MP: It was jargon!
JPS: Yes, but we're getting off the subject, we're talking about French contemporary art, which is one of the most conceptual in the world.
MP: Yes, but in this case, the text was about the work, but there should have been an explanation of the text!
JPS: But no, there is no explanation, contemporary art is just a huge mystification!
MP: It's a mystification, it's jargon, yes! That's how I understood it! That's how it turns out! But in the end, in the interviews that we conduct, we also try to find out something about the work? Do you understand what I mean? With words!
JPS: Yes, of course! We have to talk about things, I'm not at all against it!
MP: No, no of course, but I think you talk about it well, that's what's interesting!
JPS: But also out of necessity! Because the other day there was Julian Schnabel talking on France Inter about an exhibition he had in Paris and he said that it wasn't up to him to explain his work! But his work is shown in all the museums and in all the big galleries in the world, so he has people who do that work for him! Nobody does this work for me, and I like to do it, it's a respect for my work to know how to explain it!
MP: Okay, okay!
JPS: It's not that my work is not good enough!
MP: Yes, it's not an extra to your work?
JPS: No, it just so happens that sometimes, for example, for two years I couldn't work, because I didn't have the money to produce works of art, so I started writing, my text for Influences for example.
MP: Oh yes, right!
JPS: But for me the image and the text are important because you can't be unicerebral or lobotomized. I see my contemporaries and I have the impression that they are lobotomized, that they use only one part of their brain, precisely the rational part, which is the left brain! and the right brain, which is more feminine, they no longer use it at all: intuition, joy, it disappears!
JPS: Desire! That's it!
MP: Of course, yes, yes! I think that you actually handle both of them well, it's important, it's important to actually go on your site to see your writings etc, it's really very important. Thank you for answering this question.
10/11: SEX AND DESIRE - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: So, Jean-Pierre, we're going to talk about a fundamental aspect of your work, the place of sexuality, which is very important. When we take your last Shakti-Yoni exhibition, it's still very important.
MP: So in particular I wanted to ask you about the use of pornographic images, which I think come from Japanese manga, but also other pornographic images? And you say somewhere that it's: "Using the weapons of the enemy" (The Art of War, Sun Tzu). So could you make the link between these figures, which are sometimes evocative of pain, I'm thinking in particular of bondage, and the figures of the Aztec deities, which they sometimes rub shoulders with in your work? And why did you choose this type of pornographic images, and why are they different, for example, from what you could find in the West, where there is no shortage of them?
JPS: No, but yes?
MP: Yes, there is another question: can't art in general, and therefore yours, be considered as an expression of desire? As Pascal Quignard expresses it in Le sexe et l'effroi, a quote you should know: "Art always prefers desire, art is indestructible desire, desire without pleasure, appetite without disgust, life without death."
JP : Yes?
MP: Afterwards, I will complete my question!
JPS: Me, I recover what is called: trash, that is to say that they are trash images (trash cans). Pornography is the biggest arms business in the world. So we're flooded with images like that, and what I mean is that sometimes in these erotic poses, there's something like a regeneration ritual. And that's why I want to reintegrate these images to reinvigorate the world, yes of course! It can be Japanese manga with erotic texts, yes!
MP: Erotic texts, but on the other hand, you don't refer to what exists in our western world?
JPS: There is nothing, it's a big void (except in literature)!
MP: Does pornography still exist in our country?
JPS: Yes, but if you go to a museum, have you ever seen an erotic work in a museum?
JPS: But it's a big problem. I've just done an exhibition at the Remiremont museum, where I put a big erect cock next to Adam & Eve by a 15th century painter; well, you see naked people, they have a vine leaf...
JPS: And sex is never meant or described! Not only is it not meant, it is never erect! Male sex is never signified, female sex even less! How do you expect people to be normal? It's the imagination of a society you find in museums!
JPS: How do you want to train people to believe that they have a fig leaf stuck on sex? There is a complete dissociation (creating neurosis and schizophrenia)!
MP: No, the question I was asking you was why do you only look for your images in Japanese manga?
JPS: Not necessarily! In erotic images too!
MP: Yes, erotic images, but Japanese ones?
JPS : No ! Not necessarily !
MP: Ah, not necessarily, ok!
JPS: No, I use pornographic images in general.
MP: Pornography in general, right!
JPS: Because I think these images are sacred somewhere! I want to re-sacralize things that are desacralized, that are business, that are consumer things. That's a little bit what Warhol did, except that Warhol's images were already sacred: Marylin Monroe she already had a reputation (she was already an icon), Mao had a reputation, Mick Jagger had a reputation so, he already used strong, iconic images! Me, I create icons, in quotation marks.
MP: Yes, it's interesting!
JPS: By images that don't matter! Except the images of rituals, which are important in different cultures!
MP: Yes, for example the bondage images, can we consider it ritualised?
JPS: Absolutely, yes, it's ritualised!
M: Of course! And I read that a few years ago. I had done some work on pain, suffering and I had read about suspension rituals that also exist in Central American cultures, I don't know if you know these things? And where there are testimonies that are evoked there, pain, but pain that is almost transcended into pleasure? Doesn't that sound familiar?
JPS: Yes it does, of course it does, but as I said before the priests, for example the women, used to pierce their tongues with cords full of thorns to meet the cosmic serpent, to meet the spirit. It is a way to access the spirits, to access transcendence, to access a level of transcendence.
MP: Yes, okay, so that's the link you could make between these evocative images of pain, as we see in your works?
JPS: There's not a lot of pain in my work, there's rather pleasure and ecstasy! But afterwards everyone sees noon at their door. There are some female friends who are very shocked by my bondage images, there are others who find that it's the liberation of the woman, and of her desire! So, really there, I don't want to get involved in that because everyone... and it's also their sexual history, their own history.
MP: Their own story, yes of course! Yes of course!
JPS: I don't want to be neither persecutor nor persecuted, I say what is!
MP: But then when we talk about sexuality, we are talking about desire and what do you think of this quote from Quignard in relation to desire and art: "Art, he always prefers desire, art is indestructible desire, desire without pleasure, appetite without disgust, life without death".
JPS: Yes, he's absolutely right, yes!
MP: Yes, you adhere to that idea, it's in Sex and Fear, does it speak to you?
JPS: I've read the book.
MP: Does it speak to you?
JPS: There's immeasurable pleasure in making art and enjoying it sexually, of course! Yes!
MP: Yes, and somewhere is your art and the expression of your desire?
JPS: Well yes!
MP: I'm not giving you a psychoanalysis!
JPS: I like shape, I like colour, I like images, I like women! Of course you do!
MP: Somewhere you express your desire?
JPS: Live in front of the world!
MP: As other artists have done! It's a desire that carries you! When you get up in the morning?
MP: So a question, another quote from Pascal Quignard: "Artists are the murderers of death!" it's in Les Ombres errantes.
JPS: Yes of course, we love life!
MP: That's it! In fact that's it!
JPS: We've got life energy maybe a little bit more!
MP: It's magnifying life! You are the ones! You are those people!
JPS: Not all artists are.
MP: At first glance, I think all artists worthy of the name?
JPS: There are artists who have no life energy!
JPS: No, I wouldn't say that. There are artists who are obsessed with death, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter are obsessed with death. These are their stories, they lived through the Second World War, they come from Germany. Do you get it?
MP: You can see it, you can see it with Munch or...
JPS: Or Schiele, or all of them, so everyone has different experiences. You can't say generalities like that, but it's true that I love life of course!
MP: So since we're talking about sexuality, let's talk about the phallus!
MP: The erect phallus, do you consider it a symbol of axis mundi?
JPS: Ah, ah! ah, yes!
MP: Does it then make the link, the unity between the spiritual and the material?
JPS: Yes of course!
MP: Yes, it's unequivocal?
JPS: When you lie down and get hard, of course you meet the other, it's a good way to meet the other, woman or God!
MP: Okay, okay, and this is another manifestation of this axis mundi, it connects you somewhere with the forces...
JPS: Life forces, yes!
MP: The forces of the cosmos, the life forces.
JPS: Right, yes!
MP: Is that important to you?
JPS: Besides there are many Gods who ejaculate to reconquer and fertilize the Universe! Yes, sexuality and without sexuality there would be no life! It is the condition sine qua non!
MP: Yes absolutely, we agree. Thank you for your answers on this question.
11/11: THE FUTURE? - Watch the video (In French only)
MP: We are coming to the end of the interview Jean-Pierre and the question will be about the evolution of your work. In your work there is a great coherence, an absolutely certain unity in your work since I've known it, with evolutions that you explain well in your texts, it's very good, I thought it was perfect. So where are you today after your Shakti-Yoni exhibition? And what could your work evolve towards? Do you already have an idea of this possible evolution?
JPS: No, no!
JPS: No, because I am continuing the Shakti-Yoni series.
MP: You continue?
JPS: Yes, I think it's an important work, about sexuality, sacredness, beauty, colour, transcendence, and it doesn't matter if I print on Plexiglas or on paper, I think the theme is the same. So, I think I will continue on small formats with great pleasure!
MP: Okay, do you feel that your Shakti-Yoni series is not finished?
JPS: No, I won't change the title, it's important: female energy is important.
MP: But don't you feel an attraction for other themes? Other things that could perhaps take over?
JPS: But it's life that brings me these things!
MP: It's always the same thing, yes!
JPS: Maybe I'll go on with this for the rest of my life? or maybe not, I don't know? Really, it's not a question that bothers me very much. I have no idea, maybe I'll work on the video more, who knows?
MP: Oh, right!
JPS: Maybe? Or maybe not. You know, when I was in France I didn't think I'd work on Plexiglas, I didn't think I'd reintegrate the image into my work by making abstraction. I would never have thought... so there may or may not be other avenues that will open up? It's not scary for me!
MP: It's not scary for you! So you still have a long way to go?
JPS: Yes, I have a long way to go! But the big problem I have is in relation to contemporary art, the contemporary art market which is still based solely on speculation and the sale of works of art. And then I have a friend in Paris who wrote to a gallery owner, who has two galleries in New York and Paris, she presented my work to him, and this guy said, my collectors need to be surprised and want something new! Like my work isn't new! So it comes down to the collectors (buyers) dictating the market. And if someone buys you, you can exhibit, and if no one buys you, you don't exhibit! Not in museums, not in cultural centres! Because you are not known! And that's a big problem. The sale of the work of art decides everything and it's to power one hundred now, what's happening today!
MP: Yes of course.
JPS: So, as I have very little influence over that, I try to do video interviews as much as possible, like we do today! And to present my work, we often film with my friend Christine when I'm working and I present my work as best I can, and then that's it, we'll see! I've got a few leads opening up in London, Australia.
MP: Some French people understand!
JPS: Well, you're an exception! There are a few exceptions!
MP: Or try to understand, at least we like it!
JPS: That's it, it's not important to understand, the most important thing is to love and respect!
MP: We agree, that's what it's all about, it's about loving the artist's work, at least I do! And thank you again for this interview.
JPS: Thank you very much!
MP: And I wish you a long, long, long way for this adventure!
JPS: Thank you Michel, thank you all! Thank you to Christine and thank you to Lionel!
MP: Thank you to you!
MP: Is it good like that?
JPS: Yes it's good, except you don't have to look at the cameras! When you talk to me, they have to be invisible both of them!
MP: They have to be invisible!
MP: It's a book I bought not long ago, it's called In Praise of the Erection!
CC: It comes to life!
JPS: It's coming to life a bit!
MP: Yes, you're getting a bit animated!
JPS: Because people always want me to be able to answer their questions, but I don't always have the answers!
MP: No but it's an interview, I ask you questions, you answer or not!
JPS: You have to give me a little massage!
MP: You will put a little blindfold down!
JPS: You didn't say the title!
MP: Yes I did: In Praise of the Erection, but it's several authors!