Jean-Pierre Sergent


Reviews 2021-Present

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Est Républicain Newspaper, Haute-Saône, May 5 2022

Coming to see an exhibition at the Orangery of Sauvigney-lès-Gray is an experience that invites you to take time, the time taken to go to a place that is worth the detour, but also to contemplate contemporary works.
Until June 6, the place welcomes paintings by Jean-Pierre Sergent. Originally from the region where he studied Fine Arts after a school of architecture in Strasbourg, he flew to Montreal and then New York to develop his imagination on canvas for ten years.
Back in Besançon, he exhibited his work around the world. His exhibition at the Orangerie is a good complement to his presence since 2019 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Besançon with a fresco of 72 paintings in Plexiglas.
At the Orangery, about twenty paintings are put forward, originating from different series that have in common to show under a new look different civilizations, cultures and spiritualities. India, Mexico, the Mayan world, the configurations are multiple but always with a common thread "a spirituality that connects to the earth.
There is a dimension of cosmic sacredness in his approach, filled with multiple references that appear by scrutinizing the slightest detail of a work. The line is precise, the depth of color as well. "What interests me is to show joy, the diversity of the world and also of cultures that are disappearing even if we don't talk about them. Art heals and creation provides energy," says the artist.
Jean-Pierre Sergent exhibition at the Orangery gallery in Sauvigney-lès-Gray at 32 Grande rue. Opening hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 7 pm, during the week by appointment. Conference on Sunday, May 15 at 4:30 pm (reservation required). Meeting with the artist on Saturday May 28 at 3 pm.

article Jean-Pierre sergent: artist of the ecstatic soul, by Ava Baria, Sooni Gander in Happy Ali Magazine, exhibition, polyphonies: arts, cultures & civilizations. Happy Ali Magazine, Hong Kong


Jean-Pierre Sergent is a French-New Yorker artist, who currently lives and works in Besançon, France. His work has been exhibited internationally since the 1990s: in the US, Europe, Iran, and China. In 2019, a monumental fresco of 72 paintings on Plexiglas, of 80 square metres, The Four Pillars of Heaven, was installed at the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology of Besançon where it remains.
Jean-Pierre Sergent

Presented to the public, during this particular exhibition is a selection of 20 small formats from the series Shakti-Yoni: Ecstatic Cosmic Dances from 2016 to 2020, 25 x 25 cm; four works on paper from the series: Beauty Is Energy, 2003 and Sky Umbilicus, 2006, 76 x 56 cm; as well as a large painting on Plexiglas Ladies Of The Ants, 1.40 x 1.40 m, 2015, from the series Mayan Diary.

Since the works Sergent made in New York after his Mexican travels, and especially after the 11/11 attacks, there is an energy and what the artist describes as “An aesthetic, karmic, sexual violence… that is present, and that springs from the depth, from archaic and distant times: powerful, true, indispensable, wild, consubstantial and fusional of life.

“The arts and rituals of the ancient civilizations seem to him much more adapted, more complete, concrete and just, in front of and towards the complex realities of our cosmic self and of our human, individual and collective destinies: birth-death of every human being and of every civilization, sexuality being obviously the link and the starting point of all this. And violence, too, because life always feeds on life, even when fully vegetarian, it can only be so.” 

For years, while whole immersed in the New York melting pot, Sergent began experimenting with media and images that shocked and drew in his audience. In his silkscreen work, he combined the image of a statue of a sacrificial Aztec priest-chamber, The Flayed, with the ritual, hieratic drawing, on a small piece of wood, of a Selknam Indian from Tierra del Fuego, a tribe that has now completely disappeared.

An Egyptian Apis bull carrying on its back the mummy of the dead (the body and the soul, the Ka: the constituent element of the person representing his or her life force, in Egyptian mythology) in the other world, just above a Gaia-Nut with the body of a woman illustrated by a contemporary pornographic image. Gaia is of course, that fundamental Greek deity (the Earth) who gave birth to the first divine beings and Nout, the Egyptian goddess of the sky, who symbolizes the firmament and is considered the mother of all stars.

Sergent says, “All Art and all creation are at the same time a choice or a non-choice. And for my part, I assume this choice to open my work to the world, to its diversities, its strangenesses, sometimes disturbing some.




Taking as a sort of incipit to his exhibition the sentence of Hermann Hesse: "When you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What is not part of ourselves does not bother us", Jean-Pierre Sergent creates since his works made in New York, after his Mexican trips and the attack of September 11, 2001, an energy and he adds "an aesthetic, karmic, sexual violence".
Everything seems to resurface from the depths, from archaic times, wild in fusion with existence.

Faced with and towards the complex realities of a cosmic self and human destinies, he brings back to the day arts and rituals of ancient civilizations where sexuality was the link and the starting point.
The artist has thus blended several images from the depths of time to create a new wedding of diversified rituals and to open up the world in peril and at a time when he says "beauty alone, is no longer a sufficient excuse for artistic creation."

More is needed and such creation proves it.

PUBLICATION OF ENGLISH TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW WITH THIERRY SAVATIER IN LUXURY SPLASH OF ART MAGAZINE 23 October 2021 | London, England. Article edited by Agnieszka Kowalczewska and Kamila Krzyzaniak



Transcription of the filmed Interview between Jean-Pierre Sergent and Thierry Savatier (Art Historian and world specialist of Pablo Picasso’s and Gustave Courbet’s works)


Jean-Pierre Sergent: Hello everybody. It is July 2nd 2021 at the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology of Besançon, which is one of the oldest museums in France, and I have the great pleasure welcoming my very close friend Thierry Savatier, We have already done several interviews; this will be the fifth one today.

Thierry Savatier: Yes!

JPS: So, it’s really a great honor to welcome you in this museum and in front of my installations that have been exhibited for almost two years now and this interview will be in collaboration with international art magazine ‘Luxury Splash of Art‘ and we will have some questions from Agnieszka. So Thierry, Agnieszka asked me: “What really attracted you to my work? What really interests you about my art?”

TS: I would say that there are two aspects in this installation that are quite interesting. The first aspect is the title “The Four Pillars of Heaven“; indeed, it invites us to think about verticality, it invites us to think about spirituality which, obviously, is in no way confused with religion, but which is a relationship with what is beyond us; then, we can call it: ‘God’, ‘Great Architect’… whatever you want, it doesn’t really matter. What is important is this notion of relationship with what is beyond us. And, indeed, we have there, as you reminded us, by the staircase that we have to climb, by the look that we will carry on this installation, this invitation to spirituality. And then, there is another aspect of the installation which is interesting, it is that the works are stuck to the wall directly, without frame! The frame, finally, is something that is supposed to embellish but which often limits; whereas here the contact is directly on the wall and it reminds me of what Picasso had wanted for his exhibition at the Palais des Papes in 1971, when he saw the works hung, he had all the frames removed, he wanted the paintings to be directly hanged unframed on the stone walls of the Palais and that had given a quite astonishing effect. I think we have the same thing here. Is it, for you, a reminder of what are, for example, the cave paintings, I think of the prehistoric caves like those of Angles-sur-l’Anglin near Poitiers or Lascaux?

JPS: Yes, absolutely. It was while visiting the Pech Merle cave that I had this revelation; not only about the size of the work but also about the layering of my works… Because, as you can see here, I always work by accumulating several layers of images successively. In general, there are 3 images, but there can be 4 or 5, it is what is called ‘layering’ in English. That is to say, what is important also, is to leave the individual work, unique, made by only one artist to enter a kind of collective work, since we know that cave paintings have been reworked over successive millennia, so it was not necessarily the same individuals or several individuals at the same time, time dilates and expands a little in cave art and I hope that this is what we can also find in my works. I want to dilate time a little bit so that one can access, precisely, this verticality and this “pre-eternity”… it looks pretentious… But yes, I want to make a work that is part of the history of humanity, of course.

This dilation of time, we see it when we observe the works, notably by the superimposition of the layers of different graphics that often belong to different eras, to different cultures, that corresponds completely to the dilation of time. And what struck me, the first time I saw these works and it continues to impress me. I see your new works, I see all this evolution; in order to understand, especially your works on Plexiglas, it is absolutely necessary to forget all the preconceived ideas that we may have and which we have inherited by our education. We are marked in the West by, at the same time, the Platonic philosophy and the Judeo-Christianity with, necessarily, these binary values which forge our judgment thus, good – evil, black – white, the primitive – the civilized, etc… And in fact, one realizes that in order to understand your works, we must above all begin by forgetting all that and apprehend each work with a new look, that requires an effort but that is fascinating.


JPS: Yes, thank you, that’s exactly it, what I want to, is to get out of the norms, obviously. Afterwards, to what extent can the artist, in his personal life, be outside the norms? It does raise a question? It’s true that it’s a bit difficult. I will quote a sentence of André Malraux in The Mirror of Limbo: “The time of Art does not coincide with that of the living.” In a way, the time of the living beings does not fit with that of Art and it is true that being an artist which is trying to make a work a little creative and a little ‘out of the box’, it is a little painful, sometimes, because the public does not follow. There is always this problem of the tricky relationship with the public. Can an artist exist without an audience? Fortunately, my work is shown here, so maybe that will move the lines a bit, but it still creates to me, an uneasiness, because we, artists, are no longer integrated into the flow of our contemporaries life.

TS: Yes, the artist needs a public, it’s true, but the artist is also aware that he is sometimes ahead of his time, when, for example, Picasso painted “The Big Pisser” which is now in the Pompidou Centre in Paris and he proposes it to his gallery owner Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, he is scared. He said no, it would be really difficult to sell, given the theme, of course, and Picasso was not at all offended and replied: “Yes, no doubt, they will understand it in 30 or 50 years…” I think that’s a bit true too, you end up understanding an art work after a certain time period.

JPS: Yes of course, but there is not only the sexual problem in my work, there is also the spiritual problem. How to apprehend a work that wants to be spiritual, that is my will, if you understand? It’s a question to ask but we don’t really have the answer!

TS: Yes, but I believe that one and the other are linked, anyway. We once talked about a question that was that Art only happens if you let the savage in: “People often think that Art is the most highly cultivated, disciplined, organized human production; yet, while it requires a long preparation, Art only happens if you let the wild one in.” The Etiquette of Freedom, Gary Snyder.

JPS: Yes, that’s right.

TS: I find it a very interesting idea because in fact, obviously, we have to define things well; for me, ‘savage’ is absolutely not a reference to Rousseau, to the ‘good savage’, which personally I have never approved of, but there is a savagery in the work of Art, and specially in the major work of Art. If we look at two examples on which I am working a lot, one is Gustave Courbet and the other one, it is Picasso, there is in Courbet savagery, in certain works. Let’s take “The Deer’s Hallali” which is presented here, in this Museum of Fine Arts, which is a huge canvas. This painting is pure savagery and if we take another work that is even more famous, it is “The Origin of the World”. It is obvious that there is savagery in “The Origin of the World”, if only in this pubic hair that reminds the viewer of the origin or the animal cousin of the human being. And then, with Picasso, we see savagery also, I think obviously in “The Young Ladies of Avignon” and there, when he paints this work, even if he exposes it only ten years later; the critic, the public does not understand, they see savagery and there is some; not only in the bodies but also in the faces and then, we see it, also, in “Guernica”. So we can see that in most of the major works of art, finally, there is always a part of savagery that is present. And I believe that in your Plexiglas paintings, for example, we see it very well.

JPS: Thank you, yes, we also feel that in Pollock’s works, this kind of cosmic ejaculation, Pollock’s work is very ejaculatory, he’s an artist that I respect of course, because I was lucky enough to live in New York for a long time and to see his work often and I wanted to quote Gary Snyder again; I’ve just read an Interview with Jim Harrison and Gary Snyder in The Etiquette of Freedom, and we get back to Western culture; he says: “I don’t like Western culture because it contains, in my opinion, a lot of mistakes that are the cause of a very old environmental crisis.” Here we are talking about environment, but we could also talk about Art, that is to say, that the initial preconceptions, the foundations, the initial prejudices were not the right ones. The religious art that was put forward, Christ on the cross, the Virgin Mary and all that, made people deeply sexually frustrated… Westerners have lost a lot! He is deeply frustrated with its own body… What is important is the body, it is the way we live our life and we must live it as fully as possible. Buddhists, Taoists, Hinduists and animists still have the discipline of experiencing their body more fully and more deeply.

TS: Yes, it’s the body and then it’s also, since he mentions the environment, and there again, we go back to the roots of Judeo-Christianity, from the starting point when, in Genesis, we are told that God created the world, the animals, Nature and then, he ends up creating man and woman and it is indicated, that Man will dominate Nature; As soon as we start from the principle that there is a domination of nature, as opposed, for example, to Confucianism, and there, your “Four Pillars of Heaven” remind us of the four pillars of Confucian wisdom, as soon as we start with the principle that the idea is rather to live in harmony with Nature, necessarily and de facto the consequences are not at all the same.

JPS: Yes, that’s absolutely true.


JPS: I wanted to come back to this beautiful quotation from the book I mentioned earlier by Jim Harrison and Gary Snyder and so it talks about rambling… And you wanted us to talk about it Thierry: “Rambling is very valuable in terms of survival. The rambling is one of the engines of the evolution. The evolution does not function entirely on the basis of intelligent mechanisms. There’s also a good deal of extravagance at work.”

TS: Yes, that’s quite right and I like this idea of rambling very much then, it’s true that art historians have their hobby and in particular, because what I appreciate enormously the preparatory works of artists that go from the first sketch to the finished work and that allow us, in what we call genetic criticism, to see what is the evolution of the artist towards his work. And finally, we are in the middle of a rambling process that we can identify, because we have the elements. So it’s true that with you, it’s a little more complicated because there is no real preparatory work; on the other hand, we can look for the divagation when we examine all the layers one after the other, that you accumulate on your works; there, we see well that there is a divagation, similarly through time and also through space; since the sources from which you draw, it is as well in pre-Columbian Art, in Amerindian Art, as in hentai Art which is much more contemporary and Japanese, the ancient Egyptian Art also, therefore there is really a whole source of wandering I would say vertically and horizontally.

JPS: It’s true, yes, all directions, multidimensional! But to come back to what you just said, I will always remember that I went to see a Kandinsky exhibition at Beaubourg in Paris, many years ago, maybe 30 years ago and there was a big canvas and there was the little preparatory drawing next to it. And the preparatory sketch was full of life and joy but the final oil painting was completely blocked and that’s what I want to avoid in my work, really; no preparation, I don’t prepare anything. Well my images are prepared of course but I want that chance, coincidence or vital energy to circulate freely, that is very, very important, even basic, yes!

TS: Yes, it’s true, I work with contemporary artists, who tell me that the preparatory work makes them lose their spontaneity, so they prefer to work directly, which I completely understand. But moreover, often, when I examine the preparatory work of artists, from the 19th century or others, it’s true that I sometimes have a preference for the preparatory work, rather than for the final work.


JPS: Because it’s not the idea that’s there, it’s the primary energy, what drives us. It’s the soul somehow, we could talk endlessly about the disappearance of the soul today but it’s the soul that is there, yes, truly. I wanted to show you some drawings from which I drew my images. It must be said that what marked me, mainly, to make a somewhat cosmic work, is of course my trip to Egypt with my grandfather and my sister, because I was lucky enough to see Nefertari’s tomb and to enter this finite space, closed but which is also paradoxically cosmic at the same time. It is a little bit what one finds in my work, my work is finished, closed but I hope that one can reach another dimension… And it is the first function of Art to make us reach something more powerful and also beyond death, because, finally, all these tombs were decorated for the dead and were not made to be seen. In some way, we rediscover them today, after 4 to 5000 years of absence.

TS: Yes, all Egyptian art is funerary art.

JPS: Absolutely, yes. So it is this Art that marks me as well as the Art of the Maya. Here, we see for example the Bull-God Apis which brings the mummy in the other world. The power of the animal is magnificent and it is thanks to its power that we can enter the other world and today, it just ends up as a slaughter animal. So, all this marvellous and ‘magical’ relationship that we had with the living has of course disappeared, that’s really sad and so I wanted to show you this other image because we have here a painting, It’s from a book by George Catlin, a painter from the 19th century who traveled, he took his easel and he witnessed the disappearing traditions and customs of the North American Indians, of the plains, and here we see this circular assembly of skulls and there are scaffoldings too, in the back. That is to say, after people die, they let the remains dry in the air for 2 to 3 years; we often saw in the movies the people passing through these Indian cemeteries and when the skeletons have completely disappeared, they put the skulls of their ancestors, like that, in a circle and thus, it creates what we call a tribe, a community. But unfortunately today this tribe, this community is more or less lost, even with our dead within us, so that’s probably why we feel so lonely because there are not so many funeral rituals anymore and that’s what’s bothering me a bit, this disappearance of rituals.

TS: There are two aspects in the different visuals you show us. There is a first aspect which is the figure of a god or in any case, a spiritual entity; the fact of showing it and we find them in your works, they are included in your works, it is also to revive it. I was always very surprised by a fantastic novel of Jean Ray entitled Malpertuis where he makes evolve in a house some characters and one realizes, after of a certain time, that these characters are in a human envelope but that they are the gods of Olympus and they finally say: “We will exist as long as one will speak about us, the day when one will not speak any more about us, we will evaporate.” I think that’s absolutely true and that’s what we find in the works that you make; it’s that you bring these entities to life, whatever the geographical area and the century to which they belong, you bring them to life by materializing them in a certain way. And then, there is a second aspect that seems interesting to me, there, in the last visual that you showed us with this circle of skulls, it is the importance of the ritual. Rituals are not necessarily religious, they can also be quite simply social; rituals create links and they are also pillars of culture and it is true that we find rituals like this one, which is an Amerindian ritual, we find them in many other cultures… Perhaps it is something that is a little abandoned today in the West?


JPS: Well yes, we don’t have the practice anymore, we don’t practice of course! And that hurts everybody, we are not going to be backward-looking and say that it was better before, but the relation to death is one of the relations, the first one, that defined Humanity. So, of course, when we throw the dead in garbage cans as we did during the Covid pandemic, well almost, I extrapolate and exaggerate a little but I think that the position of the Man towards the bodies, the parents, the grandparents or the children who die, it is important. What one can do as artists? Not that much, but we can at least speak and testify that at certain times, these rituals once existed.

TS: There is another aspect of your work that I find quite interesting when we look at each of your Plexiglas for example, it is your appropriation of space. There is no zone where you leave a void, the whole surface is covered and I find that really fascinating because, finally, you don’t leave the gaze any opportunity to rest, the spectator has to look deeply and do a real analytical research in order to discover all the layers that you superimpose and without having, I would say, the alibi of a zone that would have remained blank.

JPS: Neutral, yes!

TS: Yes, neutral, somehow, that could allows it to rest.

JPS: Yes, you are absolutely right, yes! I work with wholeness. Yes it’s true, life is fullness of course, yes


JPS: I would like to evoke, after many discussions with you, and after many readings on Buddhist philosophy, I wanted to emphasize this part which is entitled: “Ego exit” that is to say the exit of the ego. And I, as an artist, I really want to get out of an individual thought to enter into a thought, a collective unconscious; what we talked about earlier and I can reach out to that thanks to eroticism, to the sacred and to the omnipresence of sex, because it’s true that my work is often very sexual, as I think that sexuality, it’s of course the primary origin obviously and you, who are a specialist of the History of Art linked to sex, maybe you’d like to talk about it a little bit?

TS: Yes, all the symbols that you bring together in your works have, because they often have this very ancient origin and therefore, a relationship to Nature that was largely older than Western culture, if we consider that it begins with Greek philosophy. Finally, you have references to fertility, to the rites of fertility but also to its opposite which is the finiteness thus the relation to death. We also have references to beauty, to pleasure, to suffering, it is very complete and what is interesting, it is this intermixing, this mixing together that you practice of the sacred and the profane, it is something which is often very foreign to our current way of thinking, where we will consider that the sacred and the profane cannot mix, where we will consider that there is a hierarchy, the sacred being superior to the profane and in your works it is absolutely not what we find; you are going to superimpose the sacred to an image that is going to be of a powerful eroticism, as for example certain Japanese hentai and finally, we realize all the difficulty that the contemporary public will have to really understand your work. We saw what happened from time to time about “The Origin of the World” by Courbet. And I would say that the artist today, finally, is caught between two choices, on one side the conservatives and then on the other, all this new progressivism which, for example, I think of neo-feminism, which is no longer at all pro-sex feminism, which is a movement that has had its importance historically, but on the contrary, we arrive at a kind of anti-sex feminism that will see the evil where it is not, as long as it is a work of Art.

JPS: Yes, it is true that today, not only morality has opened up but the problem is that the market has closed since all what is sold on the Art Market are mainly politically correct works, we have often talked about that. There is also the money which takes a large part in removing a whole section of the Art nowadays which seems not having any more reason to exist. In France, if the collector François Pinault does not buy your works, your works do not exist! You cannot show it, neither in museums, nor in galleries, that poses a real problem… And well, we don’t really have the solution. It is creating a great frustration for us, today, to be an artist, even if we try to make art that works as a snowplough, that pushes, that opens the roads; and we open the roads for whom? For what? This exhibition has been presented here for two years and I have had absolutely no feedbacks, neither good nor bad. One has the impression that Art passes like that… It is not even a river. And I know that my work has strength and force and I would like that somehow the public becomes aware of it and that it tells me so… It’s true that this is a big question to ask oneself today.

TS: Yes, that’s the difficulty. We had an art that was, for a long time, religious or in any case close to certain rituals; then, we had a more decorative art and what always amused me a lot in the 19th century for example, were the art dealers who made a fortune by renting some paintings of great masters to a bourgeoisie who could not afford to buy them but who still wanted to hang on their walls a great master for a month or two in their apartment, it was very funny. And then finally, we arrive today, with the Art Market, at a notion of ‘Art investment’ and it is true, that to consider Art as an investment, that is to say to consider a work of Art as real stock market exchanging goods, I admit that I find that rather worrying.

JPS: Yes, it’s absolutely true, it’s a difficult situation, our times are a bit harsh, not only with this Covid, I think that the life of the artists has always been a bit difficult obviously, one should not complain too much. It is a beautiful life nevertheless, imagine that I have the chance to be exposed in this museum, here, that my work is presented and that people can have the chance to come to discover it. And you talk about the 19th century; what is deeply questioning me is what was this great power of the French writers and the deep attraction and interest of these French writers towards the Art and the artists, because now I am reading Stendhal’s book Rome, Naples and Florence and although he often criticizes French mentality, he says: “Our people cannot rise to understand that the ancients have never done anything to decorate, and that with them the beautiful is only the projection of the useful.” Art is useful and it’s very important to say it, it’s really very important to say it, we must not lose sight of that.

TS: It’s interesting what Stendhal says, because at exactly the same time, Théophile Gautier is going to take almost the opposite position, but to get at a rather similar idea, finally, the 19th Century, with its technology, machines, etc., is a very utilitarian century and that all the strength of Art, is precisely to be useless.

JPS: Yes, it’s true!


TS: Finally, there are two arguments that seem to oppose each other but that end up at about the same level, that is to say, putting Art in a place superior to everything else.

JPS: Yes, if it’s useless and it’s superior. Yes, you are right! I wanted to finish our interview with this sentence of Jung that I appreciate very much and I wrote a text: Uxmal-New york, a Mayan Diary as I often traveled with my friend Olga to Mexico, to Guatemala, and when I came back from Mexico and found myself again in New York, I said to myself that something had disappeared and was missing me, precisely the spirituality. And because of this high technology which allows us to travel more easily but which also handicaps us a little. So, I wrote a text about it and as an introduction to it, I added this short sentence from Jung that we should think about: “When we think about the endless growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity.” When you look really carefully, everything disappears, except Art, in quotes. “Yet I have never lost the sense of something that lives and endures under the eternal flow. What we see, is the flower, which passes. But the rhizome remains.” Like Art of course, it’s in Jung’s book Memories, Dreams, Reflections. And I hope that Art can perdure and also feed the unconscious of our contemporaries, it is very important.

TS: I really like this image of the flower and the rhizome. And finally it is an image that brings us back to your work, that brings us back in particular to the works on which you worked around the lotus flower or the water lily. And we have exactly… it is enough to observe any pond, we have exactly this image: every year, the flower of water lily disappears but the rhizome, which is anchored at the bottom of water, remains and every year, this water lily is reborn, thus I find there, a very interesting analogy.

JPS: Thank you Thierry. Would you like to add something?

TS: I think that, to be really aware of your Art, it is necessary to see it in person, therefore, I can only invite people to come here, to the Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology of Besançon, to see this quite amazing exhibition. It’s a great installation that will allow you to get a better idea than with just only visuals.

JPS: Thank you again. I would like to point out that you are the co-curator of an exhibition that is currently taking place at the Courbet Museum in Ornans. “Courbet-Picasso, Revolutions!” (July 1 – October 18 2021), which is a wonderful exhibition. Thanks again to all.

TS : Thank you.

Art, like sex, has to do with the transcendences of reality, colours, pleasure and death...

Jean-Pierre Sergent – French artist, born in the small town of Morteau (1958) in the northeast of France. Studied architecture in Strasbourg and painting at l’école des Beaux-Arts in Besançon (1978-1981). Jean-Pierre settled in Montreal (1991-1992) where he developed his repertory of artistic form and had successively three studios in New York in Brooklyn, Chelsea and Queens (1993-2003), then he returned home to his native France again (2004) in the City of Besançon where he is living and working now.  He has exhibited in France, Canada, the US, Switzerland, England, Austria and China.

He tells Luxury Splash of Art that ‘Firstly, you need to learn a lot of things, to read a lot of books, to see a lot of movies, to visit a lot of museums, to live a lot of life experiences, to visit a lot of countries, to have a lot of sex, to paint a lot of paintings… before you can even know really what you want and can do. What will be your personal artistic path?

Luxury Splash of Art: Jean-Pierre it is the greatest pleasure to talk to you, thank you for your time to share your artistic life story with us.   
Today, I would like to talk to you about your artwork, your projects, inspiration, spirituality and your current exhibition 4 Pillars of the Sky at the Besançon Fine Arts & Archeology Museum but before we get to these questions, can you please tell us more about yourself. When your journey with art started? What is it in art that makes you so passionate about it?  

Hello dear Agnieszka and Luxury Splash of Art readers, thanks for your interest in my art and for your questions. Being a visual artist is to embrace the oldest profession in the world, with all due respect to prostitutes, that we commonly say they have been doing their work since the beginning of time. In any case, when we think about the first traces of humanity, beyond all the skeletons and genetic material found by archaeologists like skeletons and cave settlements, artists have been able to be traced back to the first milestones of human thoughts and beliefs. So, artist, as a profession, a specification, is without a doubt significantly older than priesthood, architects, warriors, farmers, politicians, insurers or even bankers! And it is like belonging to a long lineage, a large family or some kind of “old souls club”. Picasso once said in an interview with the famous French writer and Minister of Culture André Malraux in Le Miroir des limbes: “Do you know what I think sometimes? It amuses me: I’m superstitious. I think it’s always the same Little Man, from the stone ages. He comes back, like the wandering Jew. Painters inevitably reincarnate as painters; it’s a breed, like cats.”

So, being an artist is being part of an everlasting community and at the same time having a need to be outside, on the fringe of main societies in which we are living, in order to better understand the whole picture. There is also a point of being some kind of healer, as well, because Art is always deeply connected to Death, Art is always engraved in its essence, the pilgrim of Death and the remembrance of the dead, truly more deeply than Love, I believe. As Henry Miller said in Remember to Remember: “The human mission on earth is to remember.” Without artwork, we will have no ideas in a manner of speaking about all the existences of all historical Gods and Goddesses, all rituals that the pictures and statues accompanied and depicted and made possible; it would be a disenchanted and memoryless World. Somehow Art is the incarnation of the living into its present, its movement and its realization. Not only has it nourished the personal and collective unconscious, but it is and has been a support for all “spiritual” practices starting a long time ago and continuing in the present.

As for what is Art for me: in a few words, I have been making it since I was a child and have continued to make it in an uninterrupted process to the present. As a child, I suffered from a terrible asthma attack, so painting images of animals and landscapes gave me a marvellous way to escape my suffering and the strong anxieties of being afraid of dying by suffocation. It is also this important dimension that I would like to evoke here, which is the strong healing power of Art, for oneself and for others. I believe that art can be experienced as a revelation, that’s what happened to me during various trips to Egypt (into the tomb of Queen Nefertari in Luxor), and in Mexico, while visiting the sacred pyramids like Chichén Itzá or Uxmal. In a certain way, one needs to experience Art with their full-body, not only with their mind, their knowledge or with image reproductions. It’s at the same time a physical (sensual) and spiritual experience. Art helps one to feel the constant flux of life energies, as blood, as rivers, as stars… It’s part of belonging to the Universe and being connected somehow. At some point, it’s also a language that needs to be learned, to be initiated into. Coming back to Picasso saying: “When people want to understand Chinese, they think: I have to learn Chinese, don’t they? Why they never think they have to learn painting?

LSA: Once you said that you are ‘Making art alive in a society which is spiritually dead.’ can you please tell me more about this? Should art touch soul, or should it sell? Perhaps both? What is your view?

JPS: Yes, exactly, I always enjoy rereading this sentence, because to tell you the truth, if you profoundly open your eyes and seek reality, we are currently facing a deep, profound and desperate situation, almost an apocalyptic one. I will spare you the list of bad news for your own good. But what strikes me most emotionally is really to have the feeling of the disappearance of spirituality or of spiritualities, leading de facto to the disappearance of the soul. A few months ago, I wrote a small text about that matter: About the disappearance of the soul today

After having read Maurice Maeterlinck’s nice book ‘The Treasure of the Humble’ where he states: “There really are centuries when the soul goes back to sleep and no one cares about it anymore.” and even General De Gaule when interviewed in the same Malraux book, said roughly the same thing: “And if our civilization is certainly not the first one to deny the immortality of the soul, it is the first for which the soul has absolutely no importance.”

Those sentences are deeply moving for me and as an artist, I can’t imagine living in a world totally secularised and deprived of any spirituality. In a matter of fact, my artistic practice allows me to exhibit my works in galleries, Art Fairs and Museums and I always have the feeling that the audience as a whole or even curators or art critics, in particular, don’t have any clue, any access to the strong and powerful spiritual meaning, presence and statements of my paintings. But again, to quote Malraux’s book: “The time of art does not coincide with that of the living.” So, I have to deal with that. It’s been somewhat of a constant challenge for all important artists throughout time. Especially, even more, today, since Art, by and throughout the Art Market, the Art business, has really become an industrialized and economically luxurious good, that only really highly rich people can afford to buy and exhibit. It is a new situation that somehow nobody had thought of before. Art being stolen by the rich and powerful, somehow, it’s happened before with the religions and the political powers, but at that time Art was supposed to educate the masses or nonbelievers, it could always be seen by everybody in churches, temples or public buildings; which is no longer the case nowadays where most of the art pieces bought in the auctions houses are ending up locked down in private and secure safes. Also, for example, when you are checking the Artprice list, you can see that art is selling for millions of dollars, but the really dark side or downside of that is that nobody is looking at the artwork of artists who don’t sell at that high price range level (under $100,000 US, you are a nobody, a poor John Doe), those kinds of artists can’t exist and survive anymore somehow. 

Thank you so much for sharing your view, it is very interesting what you say. Spirituality is very important to you is that the message you want to deliver through your art? What would you like others to see in your work?

JPS: Well, Art cannot just only be a conveyor of a message, an aesthetic, political, environmental, ideological or even spiritual one, but most precisely and truthfully a conveyor of pure energy. It’s something that should hit you in the gut, genitals, eyes, and emotions. It’s a power, like a nuclear battery, a storm, a vortex, a woman’s pussy, a flux, like a parade, a carnival, a skeletons procession (not like the funny Halloween parade on 6th Avenue in NY) and also, simultaneously a swirling butterfly in a ray of sunshine in the soft light of Spring finally returned!

More seriously, I want my art to testify, to be the witness, the landmark, the emblem of the presence of any disappearing myriad of primitive societies and traditional cultures that at some point in time, some time periods, were alive and flourished all around the world. As stated recently on a radio interview the great street life photographer Sabine Weiss: “Everything changes! But it’s good to have been a photographer to witness many beautiful things that will disappear.”

So, I do have a strong and passionate curiosity towards those different cultures, different thinking, different lovemaking, sexual approaches or ritual practices in order to honour the dead, to regenerate and to and revitalize Life, our life, somehow, somewhere, because nothing is granted for free in this world. This could be philosophical, like Buddhism, or Hinduism; or aesthetical, like almost every pre-Colombian artwork like that of Mayan Queen Lady Xoc performing a blood sacrifice passing a rope through a hole in her tongue in order to fall in a trance and be met by the Cosmic Vision Serpent Quetzalcoatl. Sometimes I do also use Japanese bondage images in order to show how an enchained body can access sexual ecstasy by switching anxiety into climax. Art, like sex, has to do with the transcendences of reality, colours, pleasure and death.

LSA: Some artists say that art and creation is like meditation, it allows one to feel connected with inner self and universe. What do you think?  

JPS: Yes, that’s absolutely true. It is a long and fastidious working process, all along, an artist needs to be fully focused and present. You need to pay attention to what you are doing at every step, at every moment of this process and if you are not present, you will miss it. Of course, it’s like any mainstream common spiritual teaching from every part of the World: If I am present, God (whoever or whatever it is) should be present too. As said in the Indian Veda:

I have embraced all beings,

in order to see the taut thread of the sacred,

where the gods, having attained immortality,

have gone to their common abode.” In JPS Notes Besançon – 2005-présent

LSA: Where do you take the inspiration from for your projects and how long it takes from the moment the process of creation starts in your head to the moment it is ready. Do you allow yourself to be led by intuition or rather to have every step planned?

JPS: At first, I collect, gather, and glean images. Images depicting ancient rituals from different societies, as I said earlier. While in NY, I used to take many photos in Museums, but now I get them mostly from the web and mainly erotic ones. It is a fact that about 50% of images circulating on the Web are pornographic ones, and it seems to me that some of them, a few rare ones, possess a kind of mystical ecstatic aura. That’s what has caught my interest in every art piece throughout all Art History: its aura, its presence. One can see it in Vermeer’s, Giotto’s, Pollock’s, Rothko’s works, some cave paintings, graffiti pieces or many Mughal Indian paintings, and also of course among the so-named “primitive” artworks etc. So, in choosing a simple popular common image (like the Pop artists in NY in the ’60s have done), not of great importance or meaning; I am transforming it into some kind of an iconic image. It’s of course done throughout the lengthy process of selecting the image, the lengthy process of redesigning it on my computer and selecting it according to the statement I want to make at the time when I finally silkscreen this image on my printing table. Of course, the silkscreening process also requires a lot of preparation, when I am printing out the images and especially when I choose the colour. Throughout this process, I am using my intuition and my spiritual connection with art in general, the sun, the water, my ancestors, the bees, the ground (the soil) or any of my sexual desires…

LSA: In your artwork you use different methods and mediums; you create large installation, paint, sculpt, sketch, you do the scenography… What is your favourite method of expressing yourself and why? Is the process of creating your art challenging, if so – in what way?

JPS: Yes, I like to do a lot of those things passionately and all the ways of expressing myself are important in the present and more a posteriori, as life is always changing and something you were able to do a few years ago, you aren’t able to do now, due to a lack of money or other studio problems etc. That’s why I also like writing texts which don’t cost anything (mostly throughout some years of poverty, as I don’t always have enough money to buy art supplies!) Writing is also important for me, not to justify myself, nor to explain the work, but in order to say a similar thing in a different way. We all know that to access the knowledge and memory centre in our brains, every channel is legitimate. A few years ago, I also started filming video interviews with friends in my studio. I do believe it’s a great change in live today with the new technological possibilities which allow us to use all of those different mediums that can easily be shared on the web. I am not quite sure if it does have the same impact as the physical experience that one can have in front a painting, but at least it could open the doors for new people to get a glance at my art.

LSA: I would like to ask you about your 4 Pillars of the Sky exhibition in Besancon museum. This exhibition is your latest project bringing eight large installations together. Can you please tell me more about these art pieces? What inspired you to create them, how they were created and is there any message to the world behind your artwork?

JPS: Yes, since September 2019, 72 square Plexiglas paintings, each measuring 1.05 x 1.05 m, have been installed on eight panels surrounding the four corners of the Museum’s two huge main staircases. This monumental installation, 4 Pillars of the Sky measuring eighty square metres in size is to this day the largest I have realised. These exhibitions were proposed by the Museum Director, M. Nicolas Surlapierre, who had this great idea to hang up this huge selection of paintings amongst this beautiful historic architecture, with origins dating back to 1694 and is the oldest French public collection.

It has a been a really challenging project as technicians worked for more than a month in order to affix the wood panels to the old stone walls which are very high. The assistants and I had to work high up on the scaffoldings at a height of more than 5 m. It is a great honour and privilege to have my works shown in this beautiful space where all the paintings assembled and connected together are really amazing and could hopefully bring the viewer into a state, an experience of joy, of elevation aesthetically or even mystically. The show will probably run for a few years and a catalogue has been published. I gave a conference at the Museum and we filmed three interviews with art professionals/friends that you can see on my video webpage. Here is an extract from the press release:

I want my paintings and art to be: a wall-art (even armour if you will! I don’t care!), an art-architecture (like Indian tipis), an animal-art (like Lascaux), an art-tree, a river-art, a void-art (like for Zen Buddhist monks), a nature-art, a sex-art, an art-dead (like Egyptian tombs), an art-pleasure (Dionysian), an art-presence, an art-soul, an art-joy (like in Jean Giono’s books), an art-body (like in sexuality) etc. So, there is not really a singular and simple message there, as my art is highly complex and it’s more a conglomerate, an aggregation of images, a multitude of visual information, of stimulus impulses like the deployment, the blooming, the sprouting out, the ejaculation of an entire life, colourful, multicultural and sexual!

LSA: Is there any message you would like to share with Luxury Splash of Art readers?  

JPS: Firstly, thank you very much for having read this article to the end, I hope you found it interesting and enriching. Secondly, I would like to quote the German painter Emil Nolde: “I obeyed an irresistible need to represent a deep spirituality.” Which profoundly shows us how the spiritual meaning, the spiritual seeking and the spiritual quests are important, even essentials for some artists, not for all of them! Paradoxically enough, it is something that seems totally absent from the art scene production nowadays. For we live today in a society mainly and solely based on money, which is the only supreme value worshipped as the biblical golden calf, and this de-spiritualization is, therefore, more than normal, for money, of course, has no intrinsic spiritual value (in and of itself!)

LSA: Do you have any advice for starting artists?

JPS: Yes absolutely, Art is not an easy business, and time, is at the same time our friend and our enemy, as one can’t really be a fully grown artist before the age of maturity, excepted for a few rare exceptions; all artists have done their important works during their years of maturity. So, you need to be enormously curious and profoundly patient. I just read an article on Twitter this morning about the famous Swiss writer-traveller Ella Maillart saying: “I had a sleeping bag, two weeks’ worth of food on my back and I thought, I must go and see the beauty of the world while waiting to find out why I am alive.” It is a fact, a reality: firstly, you need to learn a lot of things, to read a lot of books, to see a lot of movies, to visit a lot of museums, to live a lot of life experiences, to visit a lot of countries, to have a lot of sex, to paint a lot of paintings… before you can even know really what you want and can do. What will be your personal artistic path? Getting back to Picasso, he once said: “You copy, you copy, and then one day you are missing a copy and then, you make an original painting.”

LSA: It was a great pleasure talking to you. Thank you for your time. All the best to you and your future projects. Where can we find you work, please share link to your website and social media.

JPS: Yes, it has been a great pleasure to write this article, thank you so much for your interesting questions, dear Agnieszka. My work can be seen at the Museum in my hometown Besançon (when it reopens), in my Studio and at the Keller Galerie in Zürich, Switzerland. Your readers can also follow me on various social media, and I will be more than happy to follow-up on this discussion with them. I am wishing you all a safe and joyous day and a safe journey during these difficult and challenging times, best regards from France.

Jean-Pierre Sergent, Besançon, Sunday February 7th, 2021