” My name is Rocher Christophe, I am 36 years old, and I am a visual artist. I studied at Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne University and validated a Research Master in plastic arts, option art, letter, and poetry in 2011. I first worked with the photographic medium, dealing with the subject of photobiography. For several years I have been moving towards painting. I question the gesture, the abstraction, and the portrait. I currently live in Lyon.
Artistic approach :
This work implements a long process of remembering. I show what’s left of my memories, like a first-person story where being intimate is a way to approach the world and involve others. In this motley jumble, all kinds of associations are born: the portrait, the forms, the elements of everyday life, and the color, which invite us to colorful Pop poetry. This work allows both to resuscitate the image of a past, to digest it, and to bring to life the feeling that binds each of us to the present moment. Each day is an opportunity to face the present or the past, like a frenzy to create, the only remedy to represent this fragile beauty, as an aesthetic pleasure. My goal is not to represent reality as I have seen it, but real as I want you to see it. This approach, therefore, offers multiple trajectories. It accompanies the memory of a moment, but that moment is recreated again. It is a trace of the present time, the two being juxtaposed. If the time represented in the painting conforms in chimeras, can the themes represented be accurate? Painting and pictorial subjects make it possible to question the relationships which are formed between illusion, reality, imagination … with great freedom. “
What made you want to become a painter?
Rocher: I had a certain sensitivity as a child and a very curious eye. I was fascinated by the surrealist works of the painter René Magritte. I was interested in his apprehension of images, and his power to remake and preserve the world. I drew a lot when I was about 6 years old. I reproduced illustrations straight from encyclopedias I owned. Everything around me was a source of inspiration: nature, the world. I’ve always developed my creative side. Everything I touched, I transformed. Since childhood, I have never ceased to abandon myself to these practices as close as possible to the motif. It was for me a way of expressing myself, as an affirmation of my personality.
Can you tell us a little about how you got to where you are now?
Rocher: Years passed and I did several competitions. From 2004 to 2010 I studied at the University of Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne to improve my skills. I have a Master 2 research in plastic arts option art, letter, and poetry. In the beginning, I used a lot the photographic medium. My subject was photobiography. For the realization of my photographs, I used the digital camera. The simplicity of creation and the diffusion of the images was for me a saving of time and a speed of execution at the time of my displacements. The digital camera is part of the very foundations of our lives, people use it to record the events of their daily life, transforming anecdotal information into an intimate chronicle. Photography is often used to tell a story. This becomes “digital storytelling”. When I took a photograph, my self-portraits were staged. Instead of telling my life in a diary, I traded in my pen for a digital camera. The camera becomes more than just a recording mechanism, it creates the reality it expresses. The screen allows you to see the image before taking it, but also to point the camera at yourself and use the screen as a mirror where I could observe and record my own actions. In my photos the darkened angles had a funnel effect, suggesting a narrowing of the vision, towards a scene from the past. Then I moved on to painting.
How would you define your visual style?
Rocher: It’s been a few years now that I’ve turned to paint. I like this direct relationship with the surface, as a testament to my expression. In the beginning, this work set in motion a long process of recollection. I represented what was left of my memories, like a first-person narrative where intimacy would be a way to approach the world and involve others. In this heterogeneous jumble, all sorts of associations were born: portraiture, forms, everyday elements, and color, which invited us to colorful pop poetry. This work made it possible both to resurrect the image of a past, to digest it, and to bring to life the feeling that linked each of us to the present moment. Each day was an opportunity to confront the present or the past, as a frenzy of creation, the only remedy to represent a fragile beauty, like an aesthetic enjoyment. My goal was not to represent reality as I had seen it, but a reality recreated anew. If the time represented in the painting confirmed to chimeras, could the themes represented be accurate? Painting and pictorial subjects made it possible to question the relationships that are formed between illusion, reality, imagination, with great freedom.
Today, recent themes are the association between abstraction and the figurative. My practice is a form of freedom that has a purely aesthetic goal. The painting surprises at first glance as much by the richness of the color, as by the composition which is dense and dynamic. There is also an accumulation, a juxtaposition of heterogeneous elements. It is the consequence of my interest for the body, and especially the female body, everyday objects, nature, human beings… It is the trace of a lived experience, of collective memory. The painting becomes gestural, as emotional, sometimes freeing itself from all forms of representation. On the technical and formal levels, this work shows a particular balance, between the, lived and the present, between reality and psychology. The aesthetic elements associated with it are almost fantastical: naked body parts, associations of burlesque elements, upside-down portraits, masks, empty gazes of expression. It is not necessary to paint a look, I want us to linger on what is going on around us. I want to celebrate the visible and invisible world, charged with various reminiscences, to build a new world, a fairy-tale universe, sometimes childlike. It is a personal language towards life, like a window on the world, on my fashion, an artistic journey in search of my own truth about the pleasure of painting. Behind the very vivid colors that characterize my work are unique accidental gestures that are impossible to reproduce. They are thus sublimated by rings or the addition of black. I sometimes elaborate art of the portrait and its fragility, of the simplified staging and often at the limit of abstraction, proposing a very rich whole. I do not necessarily respect the mimetic color of the subject.
What are you inspired by? Where do you go for inspiration?
Rocher: I find my inspiration by taking notes. I peel through magazines, and I observe, for example, advertising billboards, which help me a lot with color composition. I open my art books and use my visual memory. When I go to museums, I feed on all this information and digest it. When I go for a walk, I make sketches, and everything around me is a source of inspiration: color codes, contrasts, associations of shapes. I love to observe people. I look for in them a personality, a style, or a genre that can influence my characters. Some personalities are like icons. I can rely on old photos or even memories from a dream.
What are some of the artists that you admire?
Rocher: Many contemporary painters can influence me like Vincent Bioulès for example. He is a contemporary painter, playing on radical abstraction to monochrome. He doesn’t do anything like everyone else and he’s a protester. When abstraction becomes a reference and even a fashion he sends everything waltzing. Then he returns to figuration. He can be compared to several artists: the sense of a Cézanne, using the broken forms of a Braque, the colors of a Matisse, the sensitivity of a Bonnard. Colour is always a determining factor, it takes shape and is cut out and it is no longer a question of following rules, but rather of reinventing them. Tradition is a medium that the artist will model, revisiting the great timeless subjects, such as landscape and portrait, the nude, with absolutely extraordinary freedom. His work is a crossing of styles, with a remarkable stylization of the motif. I am also very interested in the works of the painter Kupka. He belonged to the generation of symbolists, and he used to represent abstract ideas towards the passage from the non-figurative. His aim was to represent the colour, which was essential. He evolved with the times and relied on technological advances. Finding that figurative painting had been killed by photography and video, he moved towards abstraction to represent vitalism, the vibration of the world. Finally, I am very interested in artist Alexej Von Jawlensky. In his paintings, black lines draw the contours of a simplified face, which occupies the entire surface of the painting. It’s a kind of codification, or even a schematization of the face reduced to a few signs like nose, eyes, and hair. The juxtaposition of pure and primary colors gives his work a certain aggressiveness accentuated by the figure’s fixed eyes. At the frontier between image and icon and the exploration of light and shadow. His faces become impersonal and reduced to free lines embellished with color. He moves towards a lively face while simplifying the proportions and accentuating the lines and intensifying the colors. Other more current artists inspire me enormously like Anna Tuori, Norbert Bisky, Key Hiraga, David Salle.
What is your most recent piece of art that you have enjoyed working on the most?
Rocher: One of my latest works that catch my attention is Les sorties de bain, created in 2020. It’s a little bit the concretization of my exercises and what I want to go on now as a technique. The body and the forms are freed from all ties with reality. With this painting, I radically affirm my own style. All processes are allowed: the constructive tendency of the painting as well as its composition and the use of different materials. I allow myself much more freedom, and everything becomes possible: an arrangement of elements, a combination of shapes and colors. The two naked women seem to be active, even vibrant. The accumulation of lines associated with the body is faithful to abstraction. I improvise and compose with what I feel in front of external nature. I am attentive to what my interior dictates to me. It is a permanent search for a balance between form, color, and composition. It is a crazy creation that allows me to get out of reality.
What’s happening now at your studio? What new projects are on the horizon?
Rocher: I told you earlier about my work The Bathing Outings. I question the representation of the body, the clash of colors, and lines. Colour, form, and drawing are complementary or independent. I want to continue to represent colored masks, landscapes, elements of nature, and everything that touches beauty, sensitivity, such as the sensation of memory. It is in a way to capture the spiritual essence of reality, while remaining on the dynamics of the gesture, with colors always as bright as ever. I want to dissolve figuration while remaining in expression. I remain faithful to the way I want to paint. I used to compose with structures of forms or black frames, and then apply different areas of color. I will continue to reveal also the psychological aspect, highlighting the reflection of the human soul and its torments. A composition devoted to reverie, to euphoria. Perhaps it will be the synthesis of what I would have produced from the beginning.
Can you take us through a little of your typical day?
Rocher: First of all I put my ideas on a sheet of paper, then I make sketches and outlines. I organize the elements together like a skeleton. Then, depending on the format I have previously chosen, I reproduce these elements in pencil and paper. I can also directly apply color to the surface and then work over it. Chance or accidents during the realization are important. The drawing can change completely from the initial idea. I like this last-minute change. I can also completely change my idea along the way. I love the surprise effect. If my work doesn’t look like what I thought it would look like at first, it’s not a big deal! It takes me between three days to a week to make a painting… It all depends on the size of the format or if I haven’t changed my mind at the last minute!
What is your personal motto or a quote that you like or live by?
Rocher: “Autobiography is the art of those who are not artists, the novel of those who are not novelists. To be an artist or novelist consists in possessing the miner’s lamp that allows man to go beyond his consciousness in search of the obscure treasures of his memory and his possibilities. To write an autobiography is to limit oneself to an artificial unity; to make a work of art, to create the characters of a novel is to feel in its deep multiplicity”.
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