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30.01.09

  04:47:00 pm, by   , 154 words  
Categories: Art, Collage

GIVING MY COLLAGES AWAY


Last year, I have decided to donate my collages. I sent two e-mails offering the collection. One to the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, no answer. The other to the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction, Fort Worth, Texas where I got an enthousiastic welcome. I let the Director chose, he has just started, beginning with the most recent ones. As usual, the expert's choice is a very good one. And taking those collages (about 40 from last year) from the boxes, I felt myself quite sad - no matter how well I was reasoning: It's your decision, they will take care of them, show them around. Your wife and your daughter support your decision. You are getting older and you must think about the destiny of those fragile collages. Yes, but...
Luckily, there will be a lot of collages left in the storage boxes. And I'll continue cutting&gluing. But still, it's a split in my life.

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28.01.09

  11:48:03 am, by   , 344 words  
Categories: Art, Collage

THE MAD ARTIST AND HIS WIFE, CONT.

Unsurprisingly my wife and I had a discussion about this post. Whenever I show her a new collage (every day), she is taken aback, sometimes alarmed.
I: But darling, what’s wrong with my collage? Why do you react like this?
She: They are so violent.
I: But look at this picture of Dave McKean , he does the same .
She: It’s not the same, because he makes a picture, you break it. That’s much more violent.
I: But darling, listen to those horrible news on broadcast or watch those videos on TVv…What are my poor collages against that?
She: It’s not the same. I mean the impression I get from a picture whatever it is.
I: Where do you see the difference?
She: You force the spectator not only to perceive everything as fragmented, you arrange the fragments in a way that thwarts systematically basic perceptual expectations.
I: Wow! So you feel that my collages are messing things up in order to disturb?
She: Yes, but more than that. You always go to the extreme, that’s violent.
I: Caravaggio too, think of some of his most violent paintings.

She: Yes, but I am not concerned with content per se, but with the use of the formal means of expression. Caravaggio’s picture remains within the bounds of familiar visual experience. Your collages don’t, not even to a certain degree, and this is what hurts me. I: Now I understand. I have lived with the collage, you not. It’s familiar to me because it came by and by, but you see the whole in one glance, that’s why you are shocked.
She: Exactly. And I am not the only one.
I: And I thought that everybody would enjoy them, like me. I guess I have to admit the fact that my collage can have a huge effect on others. But I thought that you were like me, darling.
She: Oh, men! They are so childish. And artists even more.

(inspired from a real conversation, with some adaptations)

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25.01.09

  11:56:02 am, by   , 84 words  
Categories: Art, Collage

BIRTH OF A COLLAGE

As I was on a relatively complex collage, I decided to show the different phases leading to the final state. I don’t know if it’s the best one I have ever made but it might be quite instructive. Enjoy.

In fact, it started with the idea of the tongue, I then found the Lempicka painting, an ad for jewels. The third figure came I don't know how. The whole reminded me of Bosch's Christ mocked. You can see a bigger picture here.

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23.01.09

  08:37:00 pm, by   , 357 words  
Categories: Art, Collage, Painting

PURITY?

In his book Auge und Wort (“The Eye and the Word”) Werner Spies opposes the pretentious & massive nazi-art made for eternity by the pompous sculptor Arno Breker to the fragility of collage. Assembling heterogeneous elements of tawdry stuff is in his eyes a fight against the norm, against the “purity” of art, of human races etc. and against the mania of being always right.
I cannot agree more. The fragility of a collage is one of its main virtues. Collages won’t last, art speculators shun them and even propagandists keep their hands off. Collages capture the instant, not eternity. By mixing things up, they fail to illustrate slogans. As for the purity, when I hear this word, I associate it with sterilization and void - or with “pure pork” in a sausage where it may be appropriate and enjoyable. But art – not unlike a sausage - is never made out of completely "pure" ingredients, all its parts carry the traces of countless modifications acquired throughout the history of pictorial representation. Indeed, just as in biological evolution, every new product is a mix of second-hand ingredients. And a collage, to my mind, is diversity displayed, without the ideological domination of a central point of view. I wouldn’t pretend fighting totalitarianism but I pretend doing works of art that cannot be read in an ideological way, in one unique way of thinking (Manichaeism). The trick I employ is to make the beholder hesitate between several possibilities, for example between the interpretation of a form as being the subject or the background.

Or, with respect to the content, a thing may be either this or that, or it may be both this and that, like being old and young at the same time.

Speaking of Warhol, Spies sees in his work an analogy with cloning, everything being essentially the same and … pure. One can wonder why this art appeals so much to everybody. Collage is always uncertain, it reproduces but it messes everything up. That’s why it puzzles the beholder. My problem is that I am bewildered with Breker, Warhol etc. and not with Goya, Dix and dada… Am I normal?

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22.01.09

  10:24:00 pm, by   , 393 words  
Categories: Art, Collage, Painting

FLOWERS, A SUNSET AND THE ARTIST

When I started painting – I was 15 – my mother showed me a flower still life in our living room and asked me why I didn’t paint that way. And my father looking at a beautiful sunset suggested a painting. I must admit that I disappointed both of them quite a lot. But I felt already that my personal taste was quite different from theirs - even if I have found out that you can make more money with painted flowers or sunsets than with my style.
Can’t I appreciate a bouquet or a sunset? Sure I do, but I wouldn’t paint it as I see it. It remembers me that when I travelled, I found the places less interesting than in the books where they were described. Grass is always green, and you have to be a genius to see/paint it red (Gauguin, Jacob’s struggle with the angel) or like Kandinsky in his early paintings. What I mean is that it is difficult to render a sensation in a very conventional way. Imagine a British gentleman in a silent movie declaring his (muted) flame to a mute dame.
When I started painting, I started with color. Green heads, orange hair, like German expressionists. Some ten years later, I was in a deep crisis. I couldn’t put the colors together anymore. There was always something wrong. I chose to paint monochrome for over a year, adding slowly one color , then two and so on. Now I understand that I didn’t know how to escape sweetness. At the same time, I started making collages, in black&white .In collage, I think forms and content, edges, cuts and fragments becoming a whole. I don’t build on color because it would lead to Matisse, or something that would become so sweet, so nice - a lollypop. Dramatic paintings are without much color, like Caravaggio, Goya, Doré. I feel closer to them. When I appreciate a sunset in a Munch painting it’s because of the strange colors in the sky, the dramatic feeling I read in it.
When my mother died, my brother brought the painting she had shown me to an expert – it was a worthless copy. That’s exactly what I feel about painted flower bouquets. I prefer the real thing. Same for the sunset.
I stick with collage – nobody can copy them and you will never meet the real thing.

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18.01.09

  11:53:00 am, by   , 297 words  
Categories: Art, Collage, Painting

THE MAD ARTIST AND HIS WIFE

Very often people ask my wife if it isn’t too hard for her to live with a man like me (nobody asks me about my wife). Well, the fact that we have been married for over 20 years now seems to prove the contrary. But she might be a masochist or my slave. So let’s talk about the idea behind that question. It is the romantic view that the work of art and the artist are the same, the work being the mirror of his soul, or mind. In literature this is known as the theory of reflection, saying that a novel reflects for instance the social conditions etc. Or in psychoanalysis, consider C.G.Jung’s remark about modern art and Picasso, which states that unconventional forms must be seen as the expression of deep rooted chaotic sentiments. Deformation of the “natural” form (= the usual way of representing things) is seen as the expression of an inner disorder – the extreme being madness – revealing deep suffering. And this can happen (Van Gogh) but this direct link between the author and his work is not automatic. Think of sexual fantasies: if they were the expression of our inner disorder, we might justify the existence of some sort of Inquisition because of the danger they would represent.
So, what’s about me? I would describe myself as quite balanced in character,as terribly normal. What I experiment in art has no relationship to my character, save my curiosity and joy of playing with pictures. I am not my picture, my "children" are different from me. But I am the (artistic) child of Picasso. Going back to 19th century academism, to a sort of idealized form would be boring, sterile. I feel myself as an explorer of new forms, new possibilities in art. Is that insane?

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16.01.09

  03:48:26 pm, by   , 194 words  
Categories: Art, Collage, Painting

GLUE AT SAATCHI'S

Aragon’s famous word: “It’s not the glue which makes the collage” means that the content of a collage is independent from its material. In the same way we can say that it is not the material that matters but how it is employed.
This struck me when reading the report on the latest Saatchi exhibition. A chinese artist, Zhang Huan is praised for his use of “incense ash collected from Shanghai temples; a laboriously involved process of weekly gathering and sorting, isolating the vestiges into the indexical categories of texture and pigmentation which Zhang uses to 'paint' his images. This medium has multiple significations: it is the actual substance of prayers, the dust of death and rebirth, the allegorical weight of spirits. Emitting an overwhelming scent throughout the gallery space these pieces recycle the hopes and wishes of others, sharing a cathartic ambience of cleansing and purity.” .

What do we exactly SEE? A photographic painting. Nothing more, nothing less. So it is the “glue” that makes the artwork here.
Nothing against that. And the artist is very skilful, his painting nifty. His intentions surely of high standard. But still, as Aragon says…

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12.01.09

  08:40:00 am, by   , 378 words  
Categories: Art, Collage, Painting

CRISIS AND ME

Everybody speaks about the economical crisis, just like wakening up from a nice and comfortable dream. As if things were to go on like they were before. As if one might speculate on the future. In my eyes, the crisis is only a moment of lucidity, where illusions are confronted with reality. (Indeed, as Samuel Johnson said : “When speculation has done its worst, two and two still make four”.
Another crisis is the changed status of art itself, from a kind of elitist ideal to a luxury brand, artists changing from giants into commercial labels. We can deplore it but we can't change it. For the traditional artists inoculated with artistic purity, this race for money looks like treachery. Though I tend to distrust their high ideals, I am certain that many of them were at least firmly attached to the humanistic tradition. And nowadays? No doubt, artists are very instructed, they graduate from universities. But I ask myself if they cultivate a fresh look on art, like a child for example. The worst example for me are Chinese neo-pop artists, whitewashing the old Western standards.

On a personal level, as an artist, I am familiar with crisis, because I experience it with every work I am on. I mean that while painting or gluing, I am seized by doubt. I am questioning myself about originality, quality of inspiration, the point of making another collage or painting. In spite of being in a dream-like state, I am unavoidably depicted in my work. I cannot avoid looking at a mirror, whatever it reflects.

Would it be better to be stuck in complete illusion, as many artists are? To me, it would sound false, I would feel like performing in a soap opera (like at a vernissage). I must admit that this would be much more comfortable, if only I could lock out my conscience. But then, what would my works look like?

Back to crisis: in Mario and the Magician Thomas Mann shows how a manipulator makes illusions. A contemporary example is Bernie Madoff, with whom I share the first name and a bit of his origins. But whereas he would bewitch the rich to get their money, I only want to charm your minds, for pleasure and contemplation.

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09.01.09

  06:45:00 am, by   , 555 words  
Categories: Non catégorisé, Art, Collage, Painting

COLLAGE & POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

Most paintings are politically acceptable, at least for an open minded or instructed person. If they weren't, just let time pass by and, oh wonder, they loose their power of disturbance. Let's take Manet's Déjeuner sur l'herbe, a scandal in 1863. And now? Maybe it would be an affair in Teheran, but not in our Western countries. Painters have a hell of a time now to shock the public, because we have learned to accept anything from art. The only shocking media is photo or video or sometimes theatre, because of the universal belief that they directly, without human intervention, reflect reality. So, artists commit shocking photos and very disturbing videos. Does that mean that paintings are less interesting now than photos or videos? No, if artists accept the fact that painting is relatively innocuous to society and that if they want to shock, to wake up, to focus on unexpected aspects of visual esperience, they should reflect on the choice of their media. This is what I did in the sixties. I looked at my paintings, then at my collages and found the latter more exhilarating. The language of collage is understood by all and the elements I extract from magazines are photos or art reproductions. So I get a mix of respectability ("painting") and of reality ("photo"), chic and shock if you want. And the manipulation of the photographic fragments gives me some mastery over the flood of printed matter, the freedom of how I associate them and about I want to talk. My subjects? They are of our time because they come from fresh magazines,they are ore have been news. In collage, I can speak about everything that's hot, and to everybody, instructed or not. In painting I conversewith the masters, with museums, with art history to connoisseurs. So I came to combine painting with collage. And I noticed that, under the influence of collage, my paintings began to look fresher, more vivid, as coming alive. Often I ask myself if I am such a bad painter that I couldn't even kiss the feet of let's say Picasso. This is surely true. But still, the fact remains that paintings don't give me the link to what's going on now, they don't provide the kick collage does. Strange indeed, because it is made of prints, secondary stuff.
(Thanks to my friend Markus Haller for reviewing this post)

Can collage save the world? No. Can collage change the world? No. Can collage be used for propaganda? No (I know, the soviets tried so, but they soon preferred a more traditional way of illustrating political ideas, like all dictatorships). Let's play a little game and try to associate: Pop art & Mao ? Yes, no problem (Warhol who even thought of many other dictators as subjects), Jeff Koons and … maybe Mugabe in a golden, polished giant blowup? Yes, possible. Collage and Putin? Collage glorifying a dictator? You bet. A contradiction in pics. You do it and your end is near. Christian symbols in plastic, neon, balloon … yes, why not. In collage? Rather not as you cannot annoy and approve at the same time.

This shows that collage is something very special by itself. The only thing to do is to be aware of that and not to transform collage into a photo-mosaic from holydays or a quilt.

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07.01.09

  04:18:00 am, by   , 256 words  
Categories: Art, Collage

COPYRIGHT

Is it defendable using pictures made by others? Luckily, legislation defines the final art work as creation without any obligation to its sources. So don't bother about it, just go
My own justification is the transitory character of the pictures which are my raw material. There is a growing tendency to protect everything in order to obtain royalties, but I am against it. Art cannot exist without freedom and without exchanges between artists – dead or alive. Bach is a famous example for his “borrowings” (his transcriptions), Picasso for his variations on famous paintings. Or in more recent times L.Berio and his musical collages.
Another question concerns meme hacking. For me, perverting a work of art shows its stereotypes or refreshes the work which is weakened by overreproduction. Anyway, the original remains visible in the new collage but gains a new meaning. Here it is the perversion of a painting celebrating the king of France.

Another example is my former streetwork, when I was working on billboards in Geneva/
This work was very exciting and was not motived by political reasons, but for sport and fun. I loved the work on big sized posters. I learned by this work to let my works go, as they remained on the board for a couple of days only.As for the pictures displayed on my site, they are free of copyright.Because I want to share them. Their resolution is unsufficient to make orginal-like reproductions. I hate art sites with watermarks on the pictures. Either you show them or you don't.

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Blog on art, centered on collage. It is meant as a sort of logbook of my creative work.

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