Patrick Mimran is an insightful and inventive artist who was born in Paris. His work http://mimran.com/ raises questions about convention and the things that society reveres with almost blind allegiance. I love the way he thinks, which you can clearly see for yourself from this pullout quote from our cool chat …
“There is a type of moral dictatorship in art. If you do not like what the majority of people like, you are ashamed to say it and you are scared to be ridiculous and uncultured ... It’s a very small and microcosmic group of people who are for most of them, just pretending to be cultured.”
MICHAEL: Bonjour Patrick! First of all, Your work is fantastic. I don't even know where to begin because you do it all … so much work and so many genres. Let's start with your paintings. Your works are mainly abstract, but I see stories in the paintings. I also see some figures in the paintings. Do your abstract works tell stories?
PATRICK: Yes, that’s true. All of my paintings are abstract works, but not in the sense of non-representation. I think that what I am doing is very different to what the abstract painters wanted to do which was leaving the illusion of visual reality. What I am trying to do is to illustrate via painting some inner mental images of my own experience, physical and metaphysical which are personal and intimate.
For the following reasons, I just give keys to find the meaning of my work, but never the complete answer. First, even if nobody believes it, I am reserved about myself. Second, I think that the viewer should bring a part of his own imagination and personal experiences when he sees a work of art. Every piece of art with a certain degree of aestheticism is narrative. The same is true for music … and ugly art.
Now to come back to my last series of paintings, Ghosts, they are telling a story of a personal experience I had when I encountered ghosts during an extended trip in India. I was in a hotel there and during the night I started to hear music, someone walking and finally seeing faces of people moving in the room around my bed. When I woke up the morning, I described my experience to my family who were sleeping in other parts of the hotel and had the same type of encounters during the night. As you can imagine, we were all very impressed by this experience, which by the way happened to us again in other places. So via this series of paintings, I tried to express what I felt and what I saw. The figures which are suggested in my paintings are like imprints of moving bodies and faces. They are there in the paintings present sometime in some places, sometimes all around the canvas. You only see them if you immerse yourself in the painting. You should be receptive and open to discover them. The same is true for any type of metaphysical or paranormal activities; you should have a certain openness and sensitivity in order to break the barriers to having these types of experiences.
MICHAEL: One of the things that strikes me about your work and website is your keen insight and vision. Intelligence, inventiveness and insight are definitely hallmarks of your work. Were you inquisitive and observant as a child? How did you become an artist?
PATRICK: As a child, I think I was like any other ones. I lived in the South of France and went to school there and to the beach each day after class to swim or to fish from May to October. This was my life for most of the year … a real paradise. I had little artistic activities. The only one I had was painting from time to time. I was too busy having fun with all of my friends. In 1967, my family left Monaco for Switzerland. It was quite a change. The weather, the mentality of the people was very different and a lot less friendly - not to say not friendly at all. I was alone with my parents and I got so bored that I had nothing else to do to keep me busy after school than to listen to music and paint. So at that time, painting was the only leisure I had. To give you an example, in Switzerland at that time, you couldn't go to watch any interesting movies if you were under fourteen years old. For a James Bond film, you had to be over 16. For a Walt Disney cartoon, you had to be over seven years old. So imagine - what a drag.
Some years after, I bought my first camera and started to use it intensively and did my first show in Lausanne where I lived in 1970. Before that, I'd exhibited some of my paintings in a fashion shop in Lausanne as decorative items on the walls. Besides the beauty of the landscape there, in Switzerland there are not a lot of sources of inspiration. I had to find them within myself or around me, but with very big doses of detachment and humor. That's very likely the reason why I look at the world and express myself today the way I do.
MICHAEL: How did The Billboard Project come about? It's powerful and yet it's also art.
PATRICK: I started the billboard project in 2000 in London. I rented a billboard on the way from the airport to London where I displayed a picture of one of my paintings with my internet address. With the idea that art is not or ever where you think you are going to find it, I thought that displaying a piece of art in an unusual place would be an interesting experience. It triggers in the viewer a more immediate and straightforward reaction toward a piece of art so this was the first experiment. The second one took place in New York’s Chelsea district the year after, but this time just with words. I wanted to display some ideas I had about art in general, sign them and locate them right in an artistic location. Why? Because I thought and I still think that in the art world, there’s too much consensus on everything. Very few people dare to say what they think. There is a type of moral dictatorship in art. If you do not like what the majority of people like, you are ashamed to say it and you are scared to be ridiculous and uncultured.
All of my billboard projects over the years in Chelsea focused on talking and joking about the art world. When I say art world, I should say the art microcosm, because in the end this is what it is. It’s a very small and microcosmic group of people who are for most of them, just pretending to be cultured. The artistic action in this project is to confront the viewer inside a cultural environment full of assumptions and offer satisfaction with contradictory ideas. And it is what I’m deeply missing in today's art creation.
MICHAEL: When it comes to art, it looks like you've covered every genre. How do you decide whether a concept will become a painting or sculpture or installation? Do you think about art every day? Do you have interests outside of art?
PATRICK: I choose the media that I think is best suited to express what I want to say or do at a certain time. I think there is always a different medium for different ideas. Painting represents reality through the prism of your mind. Photography never replaced painting, it added something new, another way to express ideas or feelings - just a quick snapshot of a moment in time. Music uses time in a unique way; it is a sonic representation of the time.
Video gives the illusion of motion while sculpture lives in space. I do not like so much the idea of concept in art. I do not think the word concept is a right word for what I am doing. A concept is an intellectual representation of an abstract idea. What I do my in art is an abstract representation of an intellectual idea which is quite different.
No, I do not think about art every day. I have other interests. I like to read and I like to learn programs like lisp, I like to walk in the countryside and to travel. This is all that’s outside my art which are nourishing it with new ideas and make it happen.
MICHAEL: You know Patrick, the world seems to be in such a mess right now. Have you ever seen it like this? I have not. How is contemporary society inspiring your work now?
PATRICK: Yes it is, but not more than before. Up to the melting of the USSR in 1980, we had in Europe thousands of nuclear war heads pointed directly toward us. Even though the world is a mess now, I think it’s less dangerous than before. Contemporary society is changing myself as I change with it so every event is for sure a conscious or subconscious influence on everybody including myself. But in my work, I do not find my sources of inspiration in the outside world or in actuality. I find my sources within myself.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world and art market and how they function today? Dead, famous artists are still packing museum shows while living artists are struggling.
PATRICK: I do not have special thoughts about it. Success is not always a guarantee of talent and talent a guarantee of success. The market is like any other market just a way to make money. Art is like financial equity today. It has nothing to do with talent. And on top of that, most of the art collectors have no taste and no culture and just buy art not because they like what they pay for, but as social status and as a way to pretend to be educated or as a way to make more money. I have nothing against that, but that's the reality. Museums are packed with dead and famous artists - that's normal and they need to sell tickets. On my part, my only concern is my work. For the rest, I do not care to be in a Museum or not.
MICHAEL: I chat with some artists who say they believe that creativity and the drama of "process" are replacing true skill and craftsmanship in contemporary art. What do you think?
PATRICK: That's very possible, but there are also very good contemporary artists with good skills. Again, the market is not asking for skills, it is asking for value. Who cares anyway? An artist is not working for the market, he is working for himself and he is doing what he believes in. If what he's doing is successful, fine. If not, it shouldn't influence his artistic quest.
MICHAEL: Thanks Patrick Nice chat
Check out Patrick Mimran at http://mimran.com/.