“Il n’y pas de génie dans la peinture, il y a que des inventions. La génie réside dans l’invention des matériaux pour pouvoir peindre différemment, autrement, mieux.”
“Painting has nothing to do with genius, but everything with inventions. The genius lies in inventing materials and techniques that make it possible to paint differently and better.”
Painting naturally has a certain liquid quality. However, there are enough painters who paint dry and where the paint is stuck immovably to the canvas. But there are also painters who drive that liquid aspect to the forefront and make it the core of their work. Take Jérôme Robbe. He lets the paint flow freely and creates an image that contains an immense temporality. The paintings from the series ‘L’Air de Rien’ and ‘Surfaces’ are evocations of a fluid world. It seems as if the paint has solidified for a short moment before it continues to flow. A painting as a snapshot. Together these paintings form almost a stream of time. For Robbe, fluidity means freedom. Just like Shanta Roa and Hicham Berrada, Robbe doesn’t want to have control during the creative process. He wants to let nature take its course, leave things to drift and to be at the very most an assistant. Not one sketch precedes his paintings. It arises in the here and now by responding to what is happening, to the material.
A striking statement by Jérôme Robbe is: “Painting has nothing to do with genius, but everything with inventions. The genius lies in inventing materials and techniques that make it possible to paint differently and better."* The artist therefore regards this history of painting as a succession of technical inventions. First one painted with the hands, then on wood with water, subsequently with egg (tempera), after that oil, acrylic and glycero-acrylic were successively discovered, and panel was exchanged for canvas. In order to proceed the development of painting and to be a painter of your time, it is necessary to continue the sequence of inventions. The ‘L’Air de Rien’ series, started around 2009-2010, for example, is painted on plexiglass with a silver or gold coating, which has an effect on the depth, brightness and ‘temperature’ of the applied color. The series responds to the aesthetics of body work of cars, gems and jewelry, but also digital devices.
The artist heats the plexiglass sheet with a heat gun. As a result it becomes soft, expands, starts to bubble, is distorted and the surface turns into ripples, cracks and craquelures. The artist then has some liters of water vaporized above the plexiglass. The mist slowly whirls down on the panel. The transparent varnish colored with pigments, which is then poured over it, finds its way across the deformed surface, just as a river follows its bed or as a lava flow searches its lowest point. Gravity and chance do their job. Depending on the result, certain parts are sanded lighter (for example, where too much varnish accumulates) and once again poured with matte or glossy varnish. The artist consistently applies a lateral line in the support. It evokes associations with a horizon or a river through which the abstract monochromes can also be seen as landscape paintings. That landscape is reflected in the process: the pouring of the varnish on the irregular panel, the undulating landscape. Where the artist previously depicted landscapes, he nowadays lets them emerge. The title ‘L’Air de Rien’ refers among other things to the artwork ‘Air de Paris’ by Marcel Duchamp (a small glass form in which air is stored).
Please find below small video footage about the artist.
SOLÈNE wants the viewer to explore and understand the world of each artist by entering their studio life, their daily exploration or even a show, a project that has marked them but more generally SOLÈNE’s vision is for the viewers to see what inspire them, their artistic process and what they wish to share and transmit.
Your paintings can be versatile and even can be close to be defined as a sculpture on the wall due to the materials and the technique you use. Can you please explain to us how you create your work and how long on average a piece takes to be made?
My paintings can effectively appear to be multifaceted due to the techniques I use. Instead of using tradition method of oil on canvases, I decided to place painting in this historical course and evolution through diverse inventions, materials and techniques. From mud painting on the cave walls to egg tempera paintings to oil painting. I push the limits of a traditional canvas outside the wall.
To explain the relationships between my painting and the diverse supports and technique I use, I took some references from one of the biggest inventors of our times, Leonard Da Vinci. He was one of the first one to talk about the mirror as an essential material for a painter in order to study his own painting from an external point of view. He associated this idea with his invention of glazing which you can find in my flowing varnish.
I went from the mirror glass to Perspex mirror which helped me being able to create larger pieces. The Perspex can be mirror, golden, silver depending on the heating of the desired colours. I start by burning it from behind with a heat gun. Once I have created something I am satisfied with, I turn the piece back to the front and I apply several coats of varnished mixed and coloured by me. I sand in in between each coat which was the traditional technique of “sfumato” by Da Vinci. I feel this technique gives me a very contemporary aesthetic even a bridge with industrial and the collectible design world.
Freedom is a very important concept in our world and especially in the artistic world. How do you translate it in your creativity?
Freedom is a fundamental and essential notion in all forms of Art. For me, it is the vision I have of painting but also the way I am as a painter. I don’t want to be part of an artistic movement, actually I tried to escape every possible codes of the traditional paintings. Even if my relationship to painting is slightly different and ambiguous, I fully consider myself a painter.
You have mentioned “painting has nothing to do with genius. But everything with inventions. The genius lies in inventing materials and techniques that make it possible to paint differently and better”, is it what has pushed you to have your own unique way of creating and your own unique invention through your paintings?
I studied paintings for a long time in its diverse forms: abstracts, figurative, geometrical, narrative, photographic… and I got bored of researching my identity and myself through the various way of paintings, to show the viewers my own way of painting, to impose somehow my vision and my stories. It somehow emptied my interest to paint so I started questioning the actual technique of painting through its history and evolution, the inventions of painting and I decided it was important, for me anyway, to develop other ways to paint.
There are so many ways artists have helped create, invent and develop the actual process of painting, the creative process of it but also the technique and materials used for it. For example, the materials used to create perspective, obscure camera to project the model onto the canvas, the canvas itself was created so the painting could leave and move more freely from the studio or the houses (walls, frescoes)…The materials inventions have always helped the paintings and its concepts to evolve and develop over the centuries.
Talking about creativity and invention, have you tried to make your own pigments and create your own colours to use on your art?
I studied classical painting and its techniques for many years and therefore I was able to experiment different steps of fabricating the actual paint itself.
I worked for a long time on fabricating my own pigments, mixed colours with oil, fabricating my own varnishes and other glues for sealants …today, I still use those techniques, but I also use new materials that I found from other creators and our current society in terms of modern technology.
Who are your favourite artists when it comes to uniqueness, invention and creativity?
Apart from Leonard Da Vinci, there are many artists that inspire me, and from very different background, I don’t have a taste or a movement in particular. I love Sigmar Polke, Dan Graham, Rauschenberg, Gerard Richter, Marcel Broothaers, David Hockney, Edward Ruscha, Mark Rothko, Not Vital… and many more. I guess we cannot unify them but at contrario we can see the common plurality in their own and unique invention. I love artists that invente, I reject the unique form as such as explained previously.
Are you currently working on a new serie and if so what are you trying to explore in your work currently?
I am currently working on 2 or 3 new series of paintings and again always looking to find new ideas to work in space in the form of installations and sculptures. I constantly explore freedom and discoveries.