INTRODUCTION by David Marks
Writing an introduction to Hervé’s Travelogues has also been a journey for me. After knowing Hervé for almost four decades and living with some of his work, his words have given me a richer understanding of his multiple sources of inspiration.
Travelogues are particularly apt because to me Hervé is a seeker, endlessly curious, restless even. He is open to influences of all sorts, whether painting, photography, audiovisual, music, or literature. The Travelogues provide us with further dimensions of time, space, and emotion. They document personal perceptions and influences.
At their most powerful they illuminate elusive moments of subjective inspiration. What might seem primarily a visual experience, to Hervé could instead mostly be one of sensation: the scent of the breeze, the breeze on the skin; an emotional sense of the scene.
JAPANESE HEAD no 7 Oil on panel 20x20cm
Herve Constant, Private collection London, UK
Some of his work can be dark and difficult to live with. He is not there to please but to pursue what speaks to him and to express it with humanity. He can convey the essence of his visual and emotional discoveries in a powerful, often symbolic language. One text describes his work as ‘honest and authentic’. In that, he is a cipher for us all.
‘Awaiting Discovery- Travels to Morocco’ is the most personal in the collection. Together with his brother, Hervé spent his later childhood in an orphanage. This is a quest for a mother and father he barely knew and to make some sense of his past. What we read here is the deracinated in search of roots. However turbulent his early life Hervé derives some consolation from this journey.
Travels in Japan made a particular impression on Hervé. I have a more personal connection to ‘Reflections on Japan - Journey of the Soul’, the ‘Unfiltered Eye - Japanese Heads’, and ‘Signals’ because I shared much of that journey with him.
The Fukuoka gallery owner was Ogata San, a survivor of the Fukuoka firebombing. One grey and chilly November morning he took us high up the mountain to the ancient temple where his mother’s ashes were interred. The autumn colours were intense, and I took many pictures. Hervé took in the scene very quietly and only drew out his camera when powerfully struck by the massed statues of 500 enlightened followers of the Buddha arranged on a steep slope amongst tall cedars. Hervé eventually broke the silence: something will come of it. Years later it did.
My dominant impression of ‘Visions in Havana’ is the unease of the empathetic outsider hoping to connect but sensing underlying resentments. This is a recurring theme in poorer countries.
Given recent events in the region there is now a poignant sense of loss when reading ‘The Artistic Vision - Journey to Odessa’. The positive experience of harmony in a city of many peoples and cultures comes across in a handful of well-observed moments.
I look at ‘Exploring Byzantine and Renaissance Art’ and ‘Florence - Italy’ as a joyful busman’s holiday for Hervé. His delight is our artistic heritage comes across very powerfully.
He crosses paths with his great poetic hero Rimbaud in ‘Ethiopia - Addis and Harar’. Hervé relates strongly to the emotional power of Rimbaud because of their similarly turbulent early lives. There are echoes of Hervé’s early days in Morocco and the unease at being the outsider in a poor land.
Hervé juxtaposes his love of Armenia’s raw natural world with the constraints of a conservative society in ‘Armenia: Yerevan - Gyumri’. Having visited several monasteries he reflects on the artistic process and what he derives from it. His studio is his tempo, and his tempo is his freedom.
Finally, in ‘Constant Traveller - Bucovina Romania Hervé describes his selection of works for this exhibition which deliberately drew on various styles and media over a 10–15-year period. Not all viewers responded well to the variety.
His journey has not always been easy or happy, but Hervé remains - to use his keyword - ‘positive’. He looks outwards and to the future for further experiences, exhibitions, and poetry readings. Buenos Aires beckons. I am sure that more enlightening travelogues will follow.
David Marks October 2023
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