You are a young painter, what has influenced you most?
I believe influences act on the unconscious. You discover them after the event. They often come out after a work has been done. You could not say I was influenced by one painter more that any other. Influences work in a natural way. That is why you take them for what they are: you know everybody else has them too.
What is important is your work and what is going on around you. What appears in my pictures is a world of dreams, of creative freedom: I want to create my own world. It would be the extension of a story, each has his own points of reference, his bias, his conscious and unconscious world. So much the better if others can share it, that is the risk you take. You can do a picture of a shepherd and his sheep and that is an image in his story.
That suggests a painter is alone…
Certainly, even though we contribute to what goes on around us, we are still alone, that is the terrible thing. That is why art reveals the self, uncovers the self. Some put themselves through psychoanalysis. The painter has the means to inquire within for himself.
In the composition of several of your pictures there is for one thing; an upwards progression and for another; there are shapes opening towards the light. How do you explain that?
There is this optimistic side, despite the need to go towards the light, to believe that one day or another you will reach the end of the tunnel. I know that I will never reach the light. There is something tragic and sad in this stance.
Isn’t there, somehow, a theatrical aspect to your pictures?
Certainly, I have studied the theatre. I am concerned with the staging of my subjects and themes. I am the director of my pictures. There is something closed going on in them reminiscent at the same time of both windows and mirrors. In one picture (Characters Dansant) there is a white space; a mirror which reflects the person in the foreground and there is this window surrounding the mirror and which is not large enough to frame the figure in the foreground. It is a theme which appears often. I do not know how to explain it.
Besides this silhouette trapped in the square other pictures are dominated by maze like spaces…
You go inside yourself, burrow underneath the surface, downwards it is a search for depth, for inner depth, upwards is the route to consciousness, the need to learn, to go further towards new horizons. But these two are linked.
Another combination found in some of your pictures is a geometrical from together with other shapes at once more fluid, more ephemeral.
In one picture (Arrimé au sol) there is the material side of being, a human shape, and superimposed on it the shape of the bird, geometrical, fenced in a metal cage. It is the opposite and one and the same. By including the figurative theme, you bring precision to what could remain abstract, to what would be otherwise a hard-to-enter world.
That also explains those images that keep recurring as symbols: mirror, fence, ladder…
…Time, the clock pendulum of the earlier charcoal drawings. It is in fact a theme always present. Something which has stopped, something which despite movement expresses a return without end, a kind of death. Everything returns, there is no fixed point of reference.
Your most recent work, where you use crayon pastel a great deal does this represent a turning point after the earlier charcoal drawings?
There is no evolution in one technique compared to another technique, one simply complements the other. It is all experimentation. It happens that what has endured through the ages is the pastel. Work from the eighteenth and nineteenth century has the same quality as when it was just done. And when you create, the problem is not whether the work will endure or not. Technique is only a means of creation. So much the better if it lasts but that is not the main aim. Creativity means using technique without being aware of it, going directly to the result. I think black and white is better than colour. Colour introduces flamboyance, exerts an irresistible attraction, but black and white is the basis of painting. It is more direct and, besides, it is more difficult, which for me is an important criterion of quality.
Going back to pastel, in what different ways do you use it?
In the pictures which feature characters like ideograms the pastel is used briskly, sharp, and stark, while in others the pastels give an intimate atmosphere. There is one painting “Voler vers la Lumière” whose harshness is toned down with small strokes which join up to give a single dramatic tone.
You seem to concentrate on the figurative and exclude abstract painting…
For me there is neither abstract nor figurative. The two either merge together or complement each other. Many abstract painters draw on natural things – Above all words. Art is a fusion, creating art is to use existing works. You can take the ingredients from German expressionism, fauvism, lyrical abstraction and integrate them in such a way to create something new. You must at the same time, avoid fashions.
How do you tell the difference between the artist who follows a fashion and the artist who goes beyond?
You must step back to judge. It is a question of time. When you paint you are not concerned with bringing something new, you are not concerned by whether you are a genius, or whether critics will judge you favourably. For me fashion is choosing what is easiest, it is a vehicle.
Over the past five years, how have your paintings evolved?
The line is the same no matter what the technique and style. They share the same preoccupations. They have become humbler in their mode of representation, more intellectual, more introspective. Thought and emotion are allied.
What comes next? Certainly, the same direction, but using new techniques.
Herve Constant radio interview with Julien Delucé. Translation by Nicolas King