French artist Antoine Puisais approaches his practice through the translation of his inner perspective. We met with Antoine to talk a little bit about his journey, aesthetics, and future plans.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
It wasn’t that long ago, actually. It’s a bit easy to call yourself an artist, anyone can do it. I think there are many factors that determine whether you are an artist or not. First of all, there is perseverance.
There is the originality of the work and finally there are the others, those who watch and feel your work.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?
I’ve had a bit of a chaotic family history. My mother died very young and I was raised half by my grandparents and half by my father who had started a new family with his new wife and two children.
We moved to live in the South of France where the light is so beautiful. We were three children who were a little left to their own devices.
Yeah, all those childhood emotions. Abandonment but also freedom. The duality of living between two homes with different values are more than ever the foundations of my practice today.
I think that what stands out the most from this childhood in my painting is this determination to repair what has been broken, like a house in ruins that is being restored to give it a second life.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience?
Until I was 20, I was obsessed with skateboarding. The reason I’m talking about this is that skateboarding was a founding school for my current practice.
It’s the art of reinterpreting architecture to make it a playground and experience. So art appeared to me as the logical continuation of my journey, it was obvious because it’s something that had been dormant in me for a long time, so I started painting at that time.
I entered an art school that I immediately left, probably out of arrogance and immaturity but also because I had an urgency to create and I wanted to have as much freedom as possible to do so. And I certainly had enough appetite and ideas to continue as a self-taught artist.
So I tried again and again. I changed direction, I changed the way I saw the world, I got rid of what wasn’t essential until I found my own way.
Ugliness In The Success, 2017
Acrylic spray paint and household filler on linen
162 x 130 cm
What’s the message of your work? Are there themes, or narratives you explore?
I never really understood the idea of message in Art. For me, an artist expresses what he feels and because he does it honestly, he speaks directly to the human without any make-up.
People then understand that they are not the only ones to feel these emotions, that they belong to a whole and that outside the strict and violent rules and codes of society, there is a subtle world to which one can relate.
To be honest, I think we’re still trying to reconnect with our childhood, with our astonishment. What I look for every day when I go painting is surprise, discovery. And how to play with these discoveries, how to transform them.
Where do they come from? How would you describe your aesthetic?
I remember my first real artistic stir was in front of a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. It was as if the canvas literally said : “Freedom exists, this painting proves it.”
Both childish in form and completely mastered in content. As if opposites were brought together in the most fluid and immediate way possible. And above all it was as if you could see the structure, the skeleton of the painting. Nothing to hide.
And from that day on, the question that haunts my painting and has forged my aesthetic is: “What’s behind the painting?”
Who and what are your greatest influences?
The two major influences are Basquiat and Christopher Wool. I am also very interested in the artistic movement called Provisional painting and the Japanese aesthetic and spiritual concept Wabi Sabi.
But in the end, what feeds my art every day are the very banal things of my environment, the architecture, the decrepit walls, the areas of work, suspended, between two states.
Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?
No, my painting is not planned at all. It is first discovered and then repaired. I act like an archaeologist, I search, find, exhume and connect these fragments to create a unity. I have developed a process of transferring paint onto canvas that leaves a lot of room for the unexpected, accidents, alterations and lacks.
I obtain the backgrounds I am going to work on by tearing the canvas from its support. I have to adapt to what happens and play with it. So what I show is neither virtuoso nor spectacular. It is imperfections, ephemeral balances.
And if I create paintings that look unfinished. It’s because I expect the viewer to complete the incomplete. To use his imagination, because the works must remain in movement.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you stick to one medium? Do you experiment? Do you see any parameters to your work?
It’s really about cycles. I’ve searched and changed directions a lot throughout my 25 years of practice. And yet today I find similarities between my current work and that of the very beginning. I am always experimenting, looking for a method, an absolute, but I realize that maybe that is the absolute. I remember an interview with Jacques Brel in which he said: “I don’t know talent. For me, talent is having the desire to do something. Afterwards, it’s just work, sweat.”
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
Time, space, light and peace.
What are your goals for the future? (Projects, collaborations)
A project on Brooklyn was postponed in November. And I’m working on upcoming exhibitions in Paris.
How has your art practice been affected by self-isolation?
Didn’t make much difference. I’m still in self-isolation. There’s a lot less noise on the street. And I can hear the birds. It must make a big difference to them, though.
Are you creating new work while social distancing?
Yes, but I am also taking advantage of this quiet time not to return to a pre-containment routine. It’s an ideal time to settle down and tidy up. Sorting and clearing out.
How are you staying creative?
I see around me images that attract me instinctively and I want to reproduce these images, these astonishments. So I try and of course it fails. Because it’s not about reproducing the pre-existing.
So I have a problem to solve with this screwed up result obtained. And I solve it. It’s kind of a highly addictive hellish circle.
There’s another factor too. I’m nowhere near where I want to be. Each new painting is a promise that can only be fully appreciated once it is finished. So I work.