Dear Mickael, we have thought about this little conversation with you to tell our audience and your collectors something more about your work and yourself.
We reflected on how important it is to be able to do the job you love and to be able to face it with enthusiasm. You always strike us for your energy and empathy in the preparation of works and projects together. Give us an idea of what being an artist is for you …
First of all thank you for this conversation …
It is always pleasant for me to leave the atelier to talk about my work, what drives me and what haunts me in painting.
I don’t think you become an artist. You are one. That’s all. Viscerally. It is something unspeakable that grows inside us without being able to really control it. It’s a very difficult feeling to describe. As far as I am concerned, I had this revelation around my 20s, for sure. I felt I had to let my mind and my questions speak for themselves. I first learned to play the guitar on my own and then I tried to write short stories, poetry… It was finally painting that came to me, naturally. From that moment on, I knew that she would be my whole life and that it would take a lot of work, with the insatiable desire to create, to invent.
There are two things for me that are the most important for an artist to develop. The first is to always want to rise in your art, to surpass yourself, which ties in with the idea of desire, but it is also a spiritually important evolution as a human being.
The second is always to strive for your own sensitivity: what makes us is what builds us, what characterises us. This is when our art becomes legitimate, as a proposition to the rest of humanity because an artist is first of all someone who offers his vision of the world to others. This proposal is accepted or not, but at a certain point it becomes a unique artistic entity.
Nowadays, there is everywhere a return to painting, sometimes it makes us smile because when the gallery initially opened in Turin 5 years ago and we decided to start with figurative painting (by young and very young artists) it seemed almost an “Old style” choice, many painters joke about this. For you, what is painting and in particular your painting?
The vision of modernity for many is linked to the postmodern vision of art, in particular on the basis of the Duchampian thought, rather conceptual and formal, forgetting often the principle of transmission proper to humanity itself.
Painting, the oldest medium of all time for this humanity, has therefore never ceased to exist and to be transmitted and thus transformed. After the death of Picasso, we tended (the painters them- selves) to abandon it because his legacy was immense and overwhelming. Since the 1970s,
we have seen all kinds of artistic directions as different as it is sometimes uninteresting, leaving painting aside in favour of photography and other conceptual installations. I think the meaning has been blurted out.
It took forty years to try and finally we found painting again, so that’s all. Painting and especially figurative painting has come back in force. It took all this time to go beyond the legacy of Picasso or Matisse: painting has been renewed and it has been in constant renewal for centuries. Painting have taken a little break, one or two generations to be reborn. I believe that 2020 mark a new pictorial era and I intend to be part of it.
The purpose of painting is part of this movement. I fully claim this heritage of traditional painting. I have studied this know-how a lot for years. I just asked myself the question in 2012: what is it to be a painter in the 21st century? The purpose of the Villégiatures series was born by having absorbed all this past knowledge, I can now have my own pictorial language and create a pain- ting which fits into my temporality, which is contemporary, and which leaves the possibility of still transmitting and again … those who think or thought it was “old style” are already outdated and belong to the 20th century.
Speaking more closely about the exhibition now in progress, tell us which is your island, or which are your islands. You talk about possibilities, so everyone has to search, right?
Our island is the meaning that we give to our life. I have never forgotten my reading of “existentialism is a humanism” by Jean-Paul Sartre. He says quite simply: Man is nothing other than his life. We can undergo the weight of the passage of time by seeking each other out or giving up. That’s it. We are only time. Our life is a time that we have in a defined space, the Earth … This time passes quickly. I believe that everyone has the opportunity to seek to fill this allotted time and thus give meaning to their existence. The island is the metaphor for this meaning. It is the flame that activates our hearts and makes us alive: painting is my island.
You are clearly a soul free in thoughts, in painting, in work. Tell us about freedom.
Freedom in our Western societies has come at a price. We must be ready to live with little money and espe- cially with a lot of passion…I fervently believe that it is necessary above all to be curious, to be in perpetual evolution, to be wanting to constantly raise your level of consciousness.
Freedom is detachment from mass consumption, from the futility of material elements. It doesn’t care about that. It’s almost a Buddhist reading of life.
We then let go of the others and we tend towards what we are. We accomplish ourselves in our domain, we tend towards ourselves. Then we are free because work is only one kind of exciting path towards the possi- bilities of infinite creation. The latest state of freedom for me would be to be no more than painting but that’s another story.
Another aspect that we liked about your painting is the absence of self-reference, or rather, the search in the other for themes to be addressed and deepened. There is no superficiality, in your paintings we can indeed carry out research (not only technical) but also on the content, that is truly in constant evolution. By seeing them exhibited here every day we find new points of reflection, emotional, hidden by evidence. How important are literature, your passions, or the comparison with other artists for the technical and content conception of your work?
Since I started painting, I have always applied myself to follow a phrase by Henri Matisse: Pay attention to details that prevent a good reading of the work.
Since then, I have always sought the perfect balance, one that eliminates all superficiality in the work. Literature made me understand the issue of the different levels of reading that can be brought to painting. This is one of the aspects that I work on the most. I am quite allergic to unambiguous works of no great interest. Painting is a medium with which one can play on so many aspects. In this sense, my interiors are built like the stages of a theatre. The elements, the objects are composed like small concerti, sprinkled with musical notes placed on a staff. Some come back as leitmotif, books or yellow chairs for example … all these objects are pictorial signs with their exclusive shape and colour, mentally assembled to create visual harmony. But each of these also very often has a narrative function, or what you would call think-points. I appreciate that nothing is said at first. Then, I can actually include small technical spaces, nods to other artists that I admire or that I simply love. We can find a work by Mondrian in a carpet, or decomposed in a spatial way as in the trees, populated by birds, or an empty swimming pool referring to the works of David Hockney. Everything is in perpetual movement so that life transpires in my painting. In fact it is a very referenced painting, but assimilated into a whole that becomes balanced and coherent to have its own life.
It’s not just a beautiful decorative painting that you put on a wall: I like to get lost in it as long as possible.
The use of colour, often intense and bright, is also interesting in your work as a whole, not only in this series. Yellow in particular is recurring… what does these colour choices mean? The same goes for objects, why do we find African sculptures, books, geometric objects that are sometimes not clearly identifiable?
Each new series contains more or less the vestige of the previous series, and offers new elements … they are relays and thus transmit their ideas and their knowledge through time and their evolution … They therefore constitute them (even an ensemble which wants to be coherent and easy to follow over the years) and there is no frank and brutal break, whether in the themes or in the subjects … and yet they all speak of different things.
The constants, because there are some, are effectively centred on the palette, which also evolves (but at a very slow rate) and the recurrence of certain objects, which one could call “signatures” without doubt. The colours are arranged by intuition: I have never thought about colours for long; they have always been there, from sensory and unconscious manners … a mental construction. Many painters have a laborious search for colour, and move away from it by tending towards black and white or by balancing their drawing with very few colours: this is not my case, which allows me to flourish in the balance of light, therefore colour. In Goethe’s Faust, the writer maliciously points out that life is found in the coloured reflection of water (diffracted light) and not in white light, an allegory of God …
Yellow is often present in chairs or armchairs, it is true. I like this appeasing yellow, which returns almost as much as the chair, which represents the human being, a permanent spectator of the scene which unfolds in front of him.
The book, as I said above, appeared a few years ago and I claim it to be a standard of culture and poetry … It is there to tell you: cultivate yourself, learn to see the beauty of the words and you will see the beauty of the world. In addition, African sculptures are the symbol of the cradle of humanity. They resonate with the “who are we, where are we going?” by Paul Gauguin. I won’t tell you everything so that you let yourself embark in my universe, seek the meanings or symbols of objects, and prepare yourself for the spiritual journey that figurative painting can suggest to you. Once again the absolute delight in my painting is that of balancing in the canvas everything we have talked about before … So at this moment I put the brush down, I look at the result, I smile and I know it is fine and new pictorial adventures await me, with pleasure, enriching my time in the most beautiful way.
Canonical question, almost televised. What are your future artistic projects?
When I’m not at the studio, I love to draw and prepare my sketches when I have a free moment in my family life … In general, I get up quite early, often before everyone else. This is the time that I prefer to create and prepare my drawings. So I have a lot of drawings in advance, generally at least two series in advance … I am therefore in perpetual inspiration and creativity.
The island has become reachable for a while, and at this moment has turned into a “game of possibilities”, to use Goya’s phrase: painting is just choices, but I have already thought about a series that could well take us to distant and reassuring “Eden”, very strong memories of my travels in Southeast Asia, where, sometimes, time seems to stand still.
I also intend to revisit the work with charcoal on paper once again, preparing a little colourfull surprise for it, when I have a little moment between two exhibitions and other oil paintings.
Mickael and Elisabetta