French artist Ivan Arlaud uses painting as a means to play with narration and to tell fantastical stories suspended between imagination and reality. We met with Ivan to tell us more about growing up in Lyon, unexpected sources of inspiration, and a pivotal moment in his artistic career.
It’s a complicated question, I’ve always had a need to create. I’ve been producing things, images and music since I was very young. But I only felt legitimate to accept the term “artist” 5-6 months ago.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?
I’m from Lyon, France. I did a baccalaureate in applied arts and then I obtained a diploma in Fine Arts in 2017. With these studies, I met beautiful people. I discovered art history and philosophy in a very precise way. It was then that I identified myself with post-impressionist and avant-garde painters.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work?
I’ve always had this creative energy, and I quickly turned to artistic studies. I have always felt poetic forces coming from the world and from my inner self, so I had to find an answer!
After my applied art baccalaureate, I naturally turned to the fine arts. When I arrived there, I made the analogical cinema. I shot several 16mm films. I started to paint long after my Fine Arts degree! To be precise I really started painting in November 2019.
There was a pivotal moment, it’s true. In 2016 I had a big accident. I had a pneumothorax and I was sent to a private health center because there was an hour and a half wait at the public hospital and I wasn’t able to wait that long. Before undergoing the operation I felt my respiratory capacity rapidly diminishing until it almost stopped. During this time I wondered if I was going to die and what I would leave behind. And unfortunately, I didn’t leave much. So I swore to myself that after this operation I would do everything I could to live without regret and I would spend my life doing what I love art!
I don’t know if we can really know if we are on the right track. But I have a creative frenzy and I’m sure all the great artists had it. Afterwards, I might die as an unknown artist, but at least I’ll have spent my life busy!
What’s the message of your work?
I have several ways of approaching my work, generally I reproduce imaginary scenes that are conjured through my readings! It can be novels or (often) philosophy books.
There is often a story behind the scenes depicted.
Sometimes I represent scenes from books and sometimes I try to echo artists I like and who influence me. I would describe my aesthetics as a continuity of the post-impressionist and early 20th-century painter’s aesthetics.
Who and what are your greatest influences?
This is a very large question! I would try to offer a short answer: My pictorial influences are the painters of the early 20th century: Munch, Picasso, Matisse, Vallotton, Toulouse-Lautrec…
The painters of the Renaissance: Ucello, Michelangelo, Vinci…There are also contemporary painters who are a superb source of inspiration: James Owen, Thom Trojanowski, Antonia Showering, Cristina Lama Ruiz…
But I am very much influenced by literature, especially by the great classical novels: Hermann Hesse, Paul Valéry, Stendhal, Dante…
And also by philosophy books: Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bachelard, Jankélévitch…
There’s music too. I spend my life listening to it! Music has a direct influence on my work, it allows me to synthesize moods and colours! That’s why classical music is a real gold mine.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
My window, I sometimes find inspiration by sitting at my window and looking out at the outside, the people, the light!
Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
It depends, I like to make sketches very quickly and start directly on the canvas. I often let myself be carried away by the act of painting. Usually, the result never looks like my sketch!
If I can get the viewer’s attention and a reaction such as a smile or questioning I would be happy! Ideally, if the viewer can see the references in the paintings it is a plus! But I like to create several levels of reading. I perceive my paintings as small scenes that are subtractions from my kaleidoscopic imagination, they are places in which the spectators can take part with me!
I don’t think of the public when I create because it’s a very personal act, I think of other painters who have worked on the same theme and I tell myself that we are all actors in the same play.
What events in your life have mobilized change in your practice? How has your art evolved?
There is a person who helped me get to this point and it was a very good friend of mine, Adrien Da-Silva Tracanelli from the Tracanelli Gallery, who told me one day to really get into painting because he had seen some sketches I was doing. It was from that moment that I accepted the seriousness of painting and started to paint.
I think that my painting evolves with me, I am more and more technical and my culture is growing so it has an impact on the aesthetics of my work.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a ‘good’ piece of work?
My recipe for creating a good piece of work is first of all good music or a good radio show to get the spirit going. Then you have to think of a composition that will be effective with the theme in mind. You have to think of a colour scale that will be mastered! Don’t hesitate to put references or winks in the painting. That’s it! Sometimes it takes even less ingredients than that to produce a beautiful and effective work!
Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?
I will tell you about the painting I ‘d Forget. This painting is an interpretation of a passage from the Divine Comedy’s Earthly Paradise. In this passage, Matelda puts Dante into the river Eunoé to give him the memory of the good before he can reach the Heavenly Paradise.