Portrait de l’artiste au féminin

huile sur toile, 100x100cm

As much as I understand the interest in gender studies from America, since they allow us to identify figures of domination through socio-cultural systems and codes, I am impervious to gender (and Queer) theories and the identity tensions they promote. Am I “cisgender,” L, G, B, T, I, or + (if you like)? It’s not the identity that matters to me but the respect for the person. I am a woman and a man, like everyone. Jung had some insights, I believe, on this topic…

The elegant, portrait of Rosy B.

huile sur toile, 100x100cm

Rosy, my niece, is always of incomparable elegance. Even to the point of exuberance. Her knowledge of adornments orchestrates the play of her metamorphoses, every day, according to the weather and mood. Always somewhat of a princess, obviously… I was asked to explain my way of ‘working’. I draw very little, that may come back someday, but I see in painting. I capture the model (the prey) with a small pocket camera, impromptu, during a meeting. The photos are usually blurry because they are improvised and poorly lit for a basic lens, but it doesn’t matter much. I then ‘redraw’ the image on the computer. I look for the base image that sets the direction for where I will paint. I make a printout in 21×29.7 at the printer, which I place on a stand. Then begins the quest for presence with my hand, my memory, and my desire. The essence lies in the relationship to the background. The question of resemblance, for me, plays out there, between the hand and the memory, under the scrutiny of light. The background is born from the brush, as the photographic image has given way to painting, to pictorial interpretation. The painting is finished when the model recognizes me, who often does not recognize themselves.”

The visionary, portrait of Valentine H. de Ganay

huile sur toile, 100×100 cm

“Feeding Paris. It’s still a formula, of course. Almost a joke, it’s so pretentious, I realize that well. But a direction must be given. Anyway, if I don’t tell a story at the same time or before or after, I can’t do anything. And especially during this time I spend in the fields, in the vegetable garden, or at my desk dealing with the affairs of the fields or the garden, I don’t write anymore…” Co-owner of the Courances estate where she was born, Valentine de Ganay decided over ten years ago to create an organic garden, a CSA (“Les Jardins de Courances”), and gradually transition 500 hectares of the family estate to organic farming and “soil conservation.” Located 50 kilometers from Paris, at the foot of the castle and its water garden, the unique experience in France required and still requires determination and a disregard for political correctness, of which Valentine fortunately has the formula. I tried to capture this exhilarating energy.

The gardener, portrait of Valérie H.

huile sur toile, 100×100 cm coll. particulière

“A good portrait is not just a portrait in which the faithful representation of a model is proposed: not only must the copy ‘resemble’ the model, but it can only do so by imitating what makes the model resemble only itself, and therefore is inimitable; it is the imitation of the inimitable that makes the quality of a portrait: in other words, resemblance can only be read as difference. If the painting does not represent what is inimitable, the portrait is only a ‘robot portrait’, the painting becomes a ‘genre painting’, representing a certain type of man, etc.” Jean-Marie Pontevia

The surprising, portrait of Justine B.

huile sur toile, 100x100cm Coll. particulière

Painting the portrait of someone very close is the most unsettling, difficult, and moving thing. Because the stakes of resemblance are at their peak. Not the resemblance of the selfie, obviously, which is only a mechanical and statistical resemblance (especially since most selfie cameras produce an image from several shots, “correcting” shapes according to a programmed standard), no, the real resemblance, which involves the gaze, and for the painter, manifestly, the gaze and the body (the gesture of the hand). I like the portrait in “medium shot” (as they say in cinema) because the subject’s body is also involved, the stature of the person indicating as much, and sometimes even more, than the features. Because for me, presence is the secret to all resemblance.”

the bookseller, portrait of Laure S.

huile sur toile, 100×100 Prix2000€ + envoi

“Never can one experience, in the creation of a work of art, a feeling of perfect happiness. The act of creation carries the promise that one feels disappearing as the work progresses. For the painter then realizes that he is not painting anything other than a painting. Previously, he had almost hoped that this image would come to life.” Lucian Freud.

The anthropologist, portrait de Valeria E.

huile sur toile, 100×100 cm Coll. particulière

“I am touched by your subjects, but your treatment lacks singularity… What I like about an artist is singularity, what makes him unique and identifiable.” I am told this reflection which I gladly hear and I therefore take the opportunity to remind or clarify the intention that guides my work. The modern era loves singularity and its ostentation, which is fair game since it is the era of the homogenization of individuals, of statistics and anonymity, what Robert Musil called the man without qualities. The motif matters less than the painter’s manner: this is the foundation of figurative or abstract expressionism. And each twists their gaze and hand to make style, uniqueness, and identifiability: the brand, they say in the world of commerce. As far as I’m concerned, subjective singularity does not interest me: it’s the singularity of the painting that interests me. Does it allow me to see the world, beings, the meaning of the present? It is the singularity of the presence of things, beings, life that I seek to paint, not the illusory singularity of the self. The painting is a meeting between me and the subject in the light of the eye and the hand. It is successful when the meaning (life) becomes visible. Technique is at its service.

The musician, portrait of Suzanne B.

huile sur toile, 100×100 cm, Coll Particulière

Perhaps we should promote a new humanism that no longer relies on the calculative reason born of the Enlightenment. Perhaps we should rethink the famous phrase of Protagoras that modernity has interpreted as an invitation to dominate nature: ‘Man (humankind) is the measure of all things.’ Because this measure may not be geometric or mathematical but rather sensory, sensitive measurement, the measurement of senses and emotions, at play in art and ethics. Therefore, domination is not the right approach…

Beauty, which may be nothing more than the manifestation of this measure, seemsmore relevant than ever to me. The sublime, that feeling of excessiveness which modernity boasted about, may be nothing more than a mystical and morbid dead end. A person is beautiful when they embody and radiate their own measure; they are only sublime when they are lost.

the market gardener, portrait of Cia G.

huile sur toile, 100×100 cm Prix2000€ + envoi

The term ‘environment’ belongs to the technological vocabulary of green technocrats. They certify to us that we live in the environment and that it must be respected. As if all environments were respectable!… The older notion of ‘milieu,’ borrowed from biology, seems more appropriate, but it implies that we would be in the middle. It is clear today that we are rather on the periphery, right?… The planet, derived from astrophysics, also needs protection. Astrophysicists often have big patriarchal beards. Protecting the planet is a concern of playmobil players. As if we were in orbit!… The old word ‘nature’ is already more interesting because we are not in nature, we are of nature. But what is nature? It is not the world that can deny it, nor the universe that cares… Nature does not exist and will never exist on Mars. Because nature cannot be dominated, transported; it is a fabulous chance to cultivate. Like this green cabbage that Cia grows without chemicals, on the hillside, under blue skies, between Sainte-Croix and Fabas. She sells it at the market. And I put it in the pot-au-fe

The Winemaker, portrait of Chrystelle R.

huile sur toile , 100×100 cm Prix2000€ + envoi

Louis Dumont, in his ‘Essays on Individualism,’ shows how the modern Western individual results from a historical process initiated by the renunciation of the world of the early Christians, the founding ‘freedom’ of the individual asserting itself in the rejection of worldly life. Through the centuries and the creation of the ‘universal’ Church and its rejection by the Reformation, the individual becomes increasingly involved in the world until, with Calvin, having nothing else, in predestination and the uncertainty of grace, but this world to impose the Kingdom of God through his will and action. This process inevitably leads to the artificialization of the world since nature, natural law, and any other instance beyond the human tend to disappear in favor of the information project and subsequently the mechanization of reality (cf the transhumanist project). The paradox is that the individual, in the name of his health and happiness, finds himself subjected to the machine, gradually stripped of his freedom and therefore on the verge of disappearance. These were my readings as I painted the portrait of this young woman, of those who today resist the sirens of nature domination to listen to it.

The photographer, portrait of Céleste L.

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The gaze of the photographer fixes its object while the painter’s gaze envisages it. Celeste sees, she is the ultimate seer, and all her art is to see what there is to see, the scene, the light, and frame it through her lens. The painter rather seeks how to see, for he sees gropingly. He envisages the object (or subject), and his gaze passes through the hand to see. The photographer’s gaze captures, the painter’s gaze pursues (like a ‘follow-spot’ in a music hall) what his hand gives him to see. The painter does not see, he has seen, when the painting is finished, if he has succeeded.

The reader, portrait of Joële C.

huile sur toile, 100x100cm Prix2000€ + envoi

Each person has their light. The word ‘person’ is richer and truer than the term ‘individual,’ which is too accountant-like and implies collectivity only in addition. The person is something else; it is constituted from the other. That is why one can make a mask of it. The person is constituted by the gaze of the other. The noble savage is only a legal fiction; in truth, there are always already others, as Rousseau well saw. The portraitist, the ultimate viewer, made the restoration of this gaze his challenge. Joële C. was leaving the market when I captured her. She had filled up on books at the bookseller’s stand. Because she is a great reader. The longest part to find in this portrait was the background. I took it five or six times. Because it is from it that the light comes. And each person has their light.

The pie thrower, portrait of Marion C.

huile sur toile, 100×100 cm Prix2000€ + envoi

Every individual is unique, that’s the humanist postulate. This uniqueness is neither arithmetic nor mathematical nor computerized. Irreducible to the code. It must be repeated, individual coding is anti-humanist. What does this have to do with painting? The question of resemblance. Resemblance is neither duplication nor copy, nor model, nor coding of recognition, but the capture of the unique. Expressionism, stylization, serve resemblance, they do not betray it. The Renaissance painters had seen this well. The moderns have too often forgotten it. I hear: oh, it looks like a photo!… Yes, certainly, if one does not look, if one only recognizes. But painting is not facial recognition. Something is happening there that escapes all recognition, something subtle that modern art believed it could reveal crudely, at the risk of obscenity: the trace of the hand and the body. You don’t recognize the pie thrower? So you can see her.

the puppeteer, portrait of Soraya D.

huile sur toile, 100×100 cm Prix2000€ + envoi

I decided to make a series of square format portraits. This is the second one. It is about seeing the beauty of a face, a bearing, a carriage, an expression, a gaze, and placing them in a square without succumbing to idealization. The beauty of a presence. The subject is no longer a model; it is an encounter, a reference without referent. How far can painting grasp the truth? That is the only question. The technique must submit to it. As a result, I paint more slowly.

Claude’s portrait with QR code

huile sur toile, 100×100 cm, Coll Particulière

Humanism probably originated with the representation of facial features. The Renaissance made the portrait the celebration of the individual and of this new freedom of the mind and body. The portrait then brought together around the most vivid possible face the characteristic signs of the character’s identity: the quality of the clothing, accessories, objects, or tools, and even some animals like the splendid ermine of Leonardo’s Lady. Today, as our clothes are ‘casual,’ and external signs of originality are neutralized by fashion effects, our identity is gradually reduced to a coded formula, whether biological or social, with a huge step forward in terms of social codification thanks to epidemic scares. Needless to say, individual coding, whatever the good intentions, is an anti-humanist act. 

The QR code, which stands for ‘quick response code,’ was developed by a Japanese engineer to track the history and movement of goods. With digital fanaticism and the pandemic, it is now applied to human beings who are now ‘tracked’ like goods. The smartphone being the obligatory portable spy. Today, portrait painting, besides the pleasure it provides at each stage of its execution through the search for the right touch, has something of a reaffirmation of the human.