One day, French artist Jacques Bodin contacted me on social media in response to my query about new artist interviews. Well, I took one look at his website http://jacquesbodin.com/ and KNEW I had to chat with him. His work is superb. Here’s our cool chat…
“For me, the oranges, the grass and the hair become worlds in themselves - microcosms and a kind of abstraction - separating the objects from ordinary reality and endowing them with lives of their own…”
MICHAEL: Hello Jacques! I wish I could speak French with you, but I have forgotten everything that I have learned. I'm very glad that you asked me to chat because your work is exquisite. First of all, I love photorealism or hyperrealism. What do you love about it?
JACQUES: Hyperrealism represents the ultimate degree of painting, the synthesis of different genres and techniques such as photography, installations and minimalism. I am fascinated by its heroic aspect; the value of human effort is affirmed through the act of painting slowly and laboriously what the camera can record quickly and effortlessly.
MICHAEL: Yes, Hyperrealism seems so precise and the results are stunning. How did you become involved with this genre? What's actually involved in this kind of work? How do you actually create a painting? I know it's complicated, but briefly if you can.
JACQUES: My first works were reproductions of Old Masters’s paintings, but in the mid 1970’s, I saw the paintings of Chuck Close, Don Eddy and Olivier Hucleux and I knew instantly than one day I would do paintings like that as the ultimate artistic challenge. It was a personal fight and from this moment, each painting was a new challenge, as more steps beyond.
Then I started painting ten years ago, the “De Dos “serie.” I found some help in Old Masters. The reference was Caspar David Friedrich with its “Wanderer Above the Sea of Mist.” I worked on the theme of the human figure turning one’s back to the viewer. In these works, I wanted to channel emotional response and easy narrative effect.
It was a new conception of the portrait showing what is never detailed; the back and through it the interiority of the human. The models contemplate a mysterious scene, admire and are probably experiencing a deep introspection. The viewer and the model are the witnesses of the same scene. This situation invites to contemplation not confrontation. I made about fifty paintings on this theme with more and more attention to what became the essential theme: the hair.
My paintings, generally of extremely large dimensions (sharp focus, gigantic scale), are executed from photos projected on the canvas from a video projector.
MICHAEL: When I look at those rear head shots of the women, I do wonder who those women are. Is that your intention?
JACQUES: The human figure turning one’s back to the viewer suggests some interrogations: Who is this woman? Is she the artist’s wife, his daughter? Could it be my wife, could she be me? So if I answer to your question, I break the mystery. I have the key, but I don’t give it to the viewer. I only suggest and the viewer builds his own history.
MICHAEL: Your paintings of fruit and especially oranges are fantastic. Were you hungry for oranges and you decided to paint them instead? They are so detailed. I can see the pulp! What was your inspiration?
JACQUES: Most paintings are made in a large scale so the oranges become a kind of abstraction separating the subject from ordinary reality and endowing it with a life of its own. The orange becomes a world in itself, a microcosm. I focus in on the essential, the spiritual oneness of the fruit; there is, indeed, a connection between this magnified section of vegetal physiognomy and the universe. I try to capture a dynamic form in a static pose while still conveying movement and brightness. This is for the theory. In fact, I really love oranges and particularly orange juice.
MICHAEL: For you, what is the point of hyperrealism? Is it to magnify small elements and make the whole painting a metaphor for the universe? Or is it to show what people might not otherwise see? Or something else?
JACQUES: The techniques of enlargement, cropping and close up vision commonly used on numeric tools by the hyperrealists emphasize the spiritual unity of all subjects.
For me, the oranges, the grass and the hair become worlds in themselves - microcosms and a kind of abstraction - separating the objects from ordinary reality and endowing them with lives of their own.
It gives to the works a mystical, even magical quality that simply does not exist in photorealistic paintings. It is for this reason that hyperrealism is considered an advancement on photorealism.
MICHAEL: Very interesting. How did you become an artist? Are you from an artistic family? What is your first memory of art?
JACQUES: I am not from an artistic family and I started by reproductions of Old Masters’s paintings. My first painting was a copy of “Le Chardonneret” from Carel Fabritius, followed by several copies of Impressionist painters.
In these years, I visited an exhibition in the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris where there were exhibited portraits of Lenine by Fernando di Filippi. It was not photorealism, but this artist used photographic images as a reference source to create large scale paintings. They durably impact my works.
MICHAEL: Jacques, I have never been to Paris, but I really want to visit one day. So many Americans have a romantic view of Paris, but I think many Parisians do not see it that way. Am I wrong? What do you think about Paris?
JACQUES: Indeed Paris is a very attractive place for tourists. The museums, the monuments, the buildings as shown in the Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris…”
MICHAEL: Yes, I love that film and Woody Allen.
JACQUES: The modern setting is “luxury-tourist Paris,” Five-Star hotel Paris, the Paris routinely available to wealthy and middle-aged visitors and very pleasant for upper and middle class Parisians.
MICHAEL: I’m sure. Of course.
JACQUES: But for an active hyperrealist painter, Paris is empty. No gallery, no critic, no museum. You just have to look elsewhere to find modern actors of the movement. It is the reason why my last exhibitions were in the U.S., Mexico and Hong Kong.
MICHAEL: I understand. When you're actually creating your works, what is that process like? Is it more emotional, intellectual or can it be spiritual? OR ... is hyperrealism more technical and about getting measurements and things perfect?
JACQUES: I can explain the process. Technical for sure, but not only, with its emotional, intellectual and spiritual dimensions. The preparation of the painting is somewhat complex beginning with installations of the subjects selected and arranged into a still life set up.
Photos are taken from these constructed sculptural reliefs and one of them is chosen and worked on a computer. I’m always open for any technical advancement that will help with the efficiency of making art. The painting phase begins by a small outline to prepare the final version generally of large dimensions. Each painting requires three or four months of work. Perfection of execution contains itself a message. It is perhaps the passage of time, the true subject or hyperrealism which gives a metaphysical dimension to this art.
MICHAEL: When people look at your work, what do you want them to see or feel? What is the message behind all of your hard work?
JACQUES: “I have a dream.” In two words, if anyone looking at my works thinks, ”Sense and beauty!” I would be proud of this message. I don’t paint thinking about viewers’ opinion. I should wish people or customers could live all their life with my paintings and every day bring a brand new emotion or interpretation.
MICHAEL: Very cool. What is an average day like for you? Do you create art every day? Do you have any hobbies outside of art?
JACQUES: I paint every day, working on two painting simultaneously, a small and a large one. From time to time, I stop painting to make things that are borderline art-related like making frames, catalogs, photos, updates of my website or taking a look at mail and social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I have two passions: cycling and drum ’n bass music, which I listen to while painting. Simple life indeed.
MICHAEL: Finally Jacques, what's the point of art? Why do you spend so much time making art? Art is not saving the world and isn't art only for super-rich people? Who needs art?
JACQUES: I try to improve my art. I try to paint the most beautiful pictures I can each time. Because of the technological revolution, art is not dedicated to a small elite or rich customers. You can see in a mouse click at home thousands of masterpieces. This explains the recent growing interest for hyperrealism. So I should be glad if in the future, someone, seeing one of my paintings or a reproduction of it might say, “I want to make art like this painter.”
MICHAEL: Very cool. Thanks Jacques. Nice chat.
JACQUES: Thanks a lot Michael for everything. All the best.
Check out Jacques Bodin’s great work at http://jacquesbodin.com/.