“interview”

Jean-Michel Othoniel… faces himself

The Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Saint-Étienne is currently giving Jean-Michel Othoniel carte blanche for his third solo exhibition at the institution. The artist’s work is also being shown at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, until 11 November. An encounter… Just how far will Jean-Michel Othoniel go? To mark the 30th birthday of the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Saint-Étienne, the artist, a native of this mining town, is presenting an even huger “wave” than the one seen in 2017 at the CRAC de Sète. A deep, intimate meditation on the artist’s future, the exhibition “Face à l’obscurité” (Facing obscurity) resounds like the end of a cycle. An interview devoid of nostalgia, tinged with memories and heady uncertainty.   Can La Grande Vague at Saint-Étienne be seen as an extension of the one presented last year in Sète? The two installations have little in common actually. Here, La Grande Vague presents a type of “matrix”. It’s designed like a somewhat threatening echo point, whose form is more ambiguous and in motion than the one shown in the south of France, which was more like a glass-brick monument. This one is a personal work, linked to my personal history and that of this town. A type of “artist’s folly” that corresponds to no museum logic.   So it’s a piece related to Saint-Étienne… Do you mean that this town has had an impact on your path? Absolutely… The MAMC triggered my artistic vocation. From the age of six years, I went to introductory art lessons at the Maison de la Culture and then attended evening classes at the town’s fine-arts school. From an early age, I became familiar with the collections of this joyful, welcoming, light-filled museum, so far removed from my memories of blackened faces and sad...

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Laurent Grasso or vibrant Earth energy

As autumn gets underway, Laurent Grasso is returning to the Galerie Perrotin with “OttO”, an exhibition which reveals the mysteries of Aboriginal sacred land, through objects and a film going by the same name. The artist has shared with AMA the issues underlying his practice: between the visible and the invisible, the scientific and the sacred… A Steiner machine, sculptures in hypnotic forms, glass spheres… These are some of the different objects associated with Laurent Grasso’s new film, OttO,  now showing in France for the first time. In this work, the artist continues his work on representing the intangible, and his research on aesthetic, fictional and poetic variations on scientific mythologies, theories or utopias… Explanations follow.   Your new film OttO at the Galerie Perrotin was shot on the aboriginal sacred lands in Australia. What prompted your interest in this area? In 2016, I was invited by Mama Kataoka to take part in the 21st Biennale of Sydney, and planned to undertake a project for it in the Australian desert. I gathered material about aboriginal culture, their relationship to the cosmos and the invisible, in the earth’s imperceptible vibrations, of which they are the guardians. I decided to make a 21-minute film which has been the starting point of my exhibition at the gallery.   Your film OttO presents deserts accompanied by quite disturbing “music”. What exactly are these sounds? The title of this film refers to figures after whom the film and exhibition are named. “OttO” is Otto Jungarrayi Sims, a “traditional owner” (symbolic owner) of Aboriginal land in Australia, from the Yuendumu community, but also Winfried Otto Schumann, a German physicist who studied the Earth’s low-frequency resonances. As well as having the same first name, these two figures share an interest in the Earth’s magnetic energy that I tried to get with a high technology...

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Alain Lombard, the new head of the Collection Lambert

A graduate of the French administration school ENA, he was previously secretary general of the Villa Médicis, a cultural attaché in Budapest, but also general administrator for the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie… His name ? Alain Lombard, who this year takes over from Éric Mézil at the helm of the Collection Lambert. An encounter in Avignon.   The news was released on 5 February this year… Éric Mézil, who had directed the Collection Lambert since 2000, would be handing over his position to Alain Lombard. After working for 17 years alongside dealer Yvon Lambert, Éric Mézil has left an enduring print on the Avignon cultural landscape, marked by ambitious programming. We remember of course his big solo exhibitions: Cy Twombly in 2007, Miquel Barceló in 2010, Andres Serrano in 2016, or more surprisingly, the outside-the-walls show, in 2014, in the former Sainte-Anne prison, titled “La Disparition des lucioles”. Now at the helm, Alain Lombard has taken on the mission of bringing life to this extraordinary contemporary-art collection… Indeed, the Collection Lambert, born in 2000 in Avignon, is quite a special museum. The works owned by art dealer and collector Yvon Lambert were long stored in the Hôtel de Caumont, and the donation of over 550 works to the French State only became official in July 2012. Now housed in two eighteenth-century townhouses – after the addition of the Hôtel de Montfaucon to the project –, the Collection Lambert offers a selection of major works from the second half of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century.   Can you tell us about your background? I had the fortune to be able to choose to join the French Ministry of Culture when I graduated from the ENA, and I’ve worked there since 1982, in...

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Hicham Berrada or the world of potentials

He’s a “chemical-reaction manager” who explores scientific protocols. Through his revisited Land Art, Hicham Berrada mingles with living things, but often on a molecular scale. An artist with a yen for chemistry, he reinvents a number of natural processes to create highly original landscapes. Situated somewhere between nature and artifice…   Have you ever seen a field of dandelions releasing white haloes in the middle of the night? Or a blue cloud forming in a matter of seconds, like a turbulent sky painted by eighteenth-century French artist François Boucher? Or else timeless landscapes materialising from fragile aquatic gardens, or abstract galaxies being born before your eyes? What, you might ask, is the key to this magic? Yet Hicham Berrada is not a magician but a virtuoso in physics experiments. An alchemist-artist, he orchestrates chemical combinations in the way that a painter will play with the colours on his palette. In his studio, there are no canvases but little boxes stacked up on top of one another. Waiting to be activated to express their magic and to unfurl dreamlike landscapes.   I discovered your work in 2013 at a collective exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo. How has your practice evolved since? In 2013, I spent a year at the Villa Medici. This is where I started off a number of research projects. The experience allowed me to go on to produce Mesk-Ellil (2015), and Masse et martyr (2017), artificial bronze creations that I presented at the Abbaye de Maubuisson until April. Creation is often a very long process. The time factor is a key component of my work. These objects evolve, I have to keep them in my studio for one or even two years before I can show them.   Do you mean that you don’t know the...

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David Nash, time and nature

Wood, erosion and seasons… David Nash’s art is rooted in our planet Earth. We met him in his home in Wales, where he’s hidden himself away in a former chapel. This is where he sculpts his life-size works with the help of a chainsaw and welding torch, watched by an audience of trees. “They look at me…” David Nash was born in 1945 in Surrey, England. Today acknowledged as one of the most illustrious British exponents of Land Art, he works relentlessly with his material of choice, wood, to create installations or sculptures. While his creations are exhibited in museums all over the world, his largest formats have been created for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield, or his own home, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales. Here, Nash resides in a former chapel, impressive in its dimensions and brightness. It houses some of his oldest pieces, which Nash is fond of reworking, attesting to a cyclical approach to time. This summer, David Nash’s work is being shown at the Fondation Fernet-Branca near Basel, while another exhibition has recently wrapped up at the Museum Lothar Fisher in Neumarkt, Germany. The Galerie Lelong which represents him in Paris is also unveiling his new works on paper until 13 July.   After you finished your studies, you decided to settle here, in this former church in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Why? I bought it in 1968 for 200 pounds and as I didn’t have to work to earn money, I was able to devote myself to my art. But I taught in different schools from 1970 onwards, working with students experimenting with all types of mediums. For me, creativity is one and the same whatever the medium, and what I’d teach them in particular was to develop confidence in themselves, whether in painting, sculpture or...

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