Vibrant, hand-made designs made within either two- or three-dimensional space, mesmerizing in both visual appeal and the meticulous execution. Perhaps this is one of the ways to describe the art of Sébastien Preschoux, a French self-taught artist currently showing at David Bloch Gallery in Marrakech for the fourth time. The Tropisme exhibition puts on view a new series of works on wood and an in-situ installation, which makes the whole viewing experience quite special. On view through April 9th, it once again revisits Sébastien Preschoux’s idea of “the reward of the curious” and the concept of creative tropism. Here, the artist continues to pursue a vision, an emotion, his intuition till the end, till the artwork is done and knowledge is acquired. The road to this very moment is what drives creativity and imagination, revealing new possibilities and paths of work.
The pieces on show in Tropisme are all connected among themselves and, as described by the gallery, ”nurtured it in a way.” They show the balance of form and technique, a show-off of a unique mindset and the hours of dedication to one’s art. We are reminded of the importance of human labor at a time of great technological development and are taken back to the time of Op Art and even Bauhaus, which serve as inspiration for Sébastien Preschoux. His artworks evoke tensions and calmness at the same time, creating dynamic forms from repeated gestures and giving life to movement in time and space. In his interview for Widewalls, he talks about the vastness and diversity of his practice, and what the exhibition at David Bloch Gallery brought to it.
Sébastien Preschoux – On Being Curious
Widewalls: The concept behind your fourth solo show with David Bloch Gallery is “the reward of the curious”. What makes you curious? What gets you on the way to new discoveries?
Sébastien Preschoux: In a general way all that I don’t know makes me curious, but more specifically all production made by the human hand fascinates me and seduces me. When we take time to look attentively we can redraw the chronology of the movements, the zones where the hand stayed longer, the more flexible movement… But sometimes we do not understand how a man was able to make it, in this case the fascination is total for me, I try to produce this emotion with my paintings. Every produced piece is a source of inspiration for the following one. I really like the idea to find a new challenge on every painting, it can be the size, a new gradation of colors.
Widewalls: In what way have the teachings of the Bauhaus and optical art influence you? How did you first come across them?
SP: First I wanted to be a cabinet-maker, but my teachers decided for me to continue my studies… I lost 10 years to think that we could make only the job for which we had the graduate, then I read a book named To Understand the Bauhaus, and certain sentences were real electric shocks like: “…The artist is the only one who possesses the capacity to breathe of the soul into the dead production of the machine…” “All the big creative periods, in the past, arose from the control of the manual labor.” “The Bauhaus has for task to make of young people endowed for the plastic arts, sculptors, painters, architects who are in a creative way designers of forms. The instruction of all has for foundation, in a homogeneous way, the manual labor.” All this gave me the strength to a be a self-taught artist, and express me. I first came across the Bauhaus with Josef Albers, Kandinsky and Moholy-Nagy, then I realize they all came from the Bauhaus…
Chasing Challenges – Handmade vs Machine
Widewalls: Your practice ranges from paintings and drawings to wood pieces and thread installations. What does each of these techniques provide for you, creatively speaking?
SP: Paintings and drawings provide me a better knowledge of myself, I’m always pushing the technical difficulties, each time I say to myself you really want to do that? the answer is always the same: let’s try! My hands are the best tool I can trust, and I want to be surprised! The original shape is always the same, a circle, but the possibilities are endless.
Thread installations are more freestyle, more spontaneous, and more physical. For it, I discover a place, I’m looking at the architecture, looking for the several possibilities to put all my hanging points and I’m starting to build this installation. The main difference between the two techniques is, with the paintings I can’t erase or recovering, with the thread installations I can weave, cut, remove, change, it’s so much flexible…
Widewalls: The mesmerizing thread installations, in particular, seem to be very painstaking. Is that correct? What does their installment look like? What are the aspects of the three-dimensional space you must – and want to – meet?
SP: It is. I have to be as precise as I can be if I want the best kinetic effect. All spaces can be a playground for me, but I really like all the spaces where I can drill, paint, hid- ding all the hanging points. The process is really spontaneous, I draw in the space the main lines of the installation, then I start weaving. Same as with the paintings, the idea is to increase the difficulties for me.
Widewalls: Even though your artworks look “in control”, how much of spontaneity is there? How does one balance between the two?
SP: I only have the control on the physical aspects of it, I choose the size of the circles, the size of the wood panel, I have a tipping inspiration / idea of what I want, the process is always the same, the movement is always the same, like a machine, I’m trying to control the mistake when it comes, but if it happens, it gives humanity to the production. That’s why I really love this process you have the recipe, but the taste is always different; with the same ingredients you can cook a different meal every day. That’s the part of the improvisation: 60% are under control, 40% are linked to the human being and all its complexity.
Widewalls: Manual labor seems to be important in your art. Why is it important to highlight it?
SP: Our society doesn’t take time any more to appreciate things, to linger over the way things are made. In particular as regards the images, some are photos of works, others are simulations, but nobody cares it is just an image. At first I wanted to create the confusion: digital or human work, it was my first concept: human versus machine. The confusion was real and people had to be curious to discover the stigmas of the work of the human hand. Using is hands to produce a painting is a matter of honesty, it’s a human production, it has to be real. It is impossible for me to use a computer to prepare of to sketch a painting, I need to have an unknown part, I want to be surprise during the process, and I need this tension, no mistake is allowed. It is important for me to highlight it, because I want to show that we can already do nice things if we take time to do it, there is nothing hard, just inspiration and patience… That is how the manual labor rewards us. For me manual labor and curiosity bring artistic freedom.
Tropisme – Into Other Dimensions
Widewalls: How would you describe the connection among the exhibited artworks at the Tropisme show at David Bloch Gallery this Spring? How did the flow between them come to be?
SP: The connection among the exhibited artworks is entirely dedicated to the flow of the production. For this exhibition I wanted to thrust my instincts, the first painting was tipping point (it’s it name) then all the others came naturally, I wanted to be in danger with all of one, not in a negative way but being sure to increase my technical capacities, and doing something new.
Widewalls: What can you tell us about the in-situ piece you created for the Tropisme show? What was the audiences reaction to the works on view in general?
SP: With David we wanted to do a big installation inside the gallery, it was a little challenge to have the perfect balance between enough threads to have a nice density, and not too much because people needs to walk. I decided to use new shapes (circles) for the main structure, a different way of weaving, twisting the threads, and using 3 colors (black, white and gold). I wanted to create a kinetic effect when people walk around the installation, the 3 colors mixed themselves and the installation seems to be in movement. The audience plays with this effect, and it is a big reward for me.
To be honest, I was a little bit scary with this exhibition, because David is always the first to have the new works and for this forth exhibition I did a lot of new things, I changed some technicals, I did more big size paintings, I changed the composition, the way I mix the paint… and people really appreciate this. I’m really proud of this exhibition, I did all I wanted to do and all I wanted to test, thanks to David Bloch who always pushed the limits and gave me all the freedom I needed.