GIDEON RUBIN, Craftsman of faceless memories

GIDEON RUBIN, Craftsman of faceless memories

Gideon Rubin is a contemporary Israeli artist and a rising star in the international art scene.

His work is about the memory of something that is at the point of fading away. By blurring identifying details, erasing the facial features of human beings, he invites the viewer to complete these unexisting details by using his very own memories. This “dialogue” creates a very personal relationship between the artwork and the audience and evokes a feeling of intimacy and nostalgia.

Being the grandson of Reuven Rubin, the famous Israeli painter, did this influence your decision to become a painter?

Looking back obviously it did but it took a long time for it to come out.

I was about 22 years old when I started painting and if you’d ask me before what’s the least possible career or job prospect, painter would have probably topped the list, mainly because of my grandfather and the position he occupies within the canon of Israeli art. For years, for me, viewing his work was actually tainted by the fame his work carries with it back home.

“It was not just a flower, a house or a portrait, it was a “Rubin” first.”

I guess this was probably the main reason that when I finally did find ‘painting’, a life long commitment, I chose to do it outside my home. It was only then that I discovered so much of his work; sensitivities, paint application, tonality and how much of it actually filtered to my DNA.

You were in New York on September 11th, 2001. Did this experience have an influence on your work?

It changed my life so it definitely changed my work as well.
Before 9/11 I used to paint from observation, focusing on full figure self-portraits that took months to finish.

When I got back to London on the first commercial flight to leave NY, it felt as if I escaped hell. I was so happy to land in London, I wanted to kiss the ground but I just couldn’t paint like before. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror anymore so I began making these small toy still-life paintings.
Instead of one portrait, painted for three months, I painted now three paintings a day. It felt as if I was unloading a huge burden. As artists we are lucky, we have our work in order to deal with all the shit that happens around us.

Being a sort of « craftsman of memories », each of your paintings has this incomplete detail of faceless human beings. What is the reason, the intention behind these portraits without features?

More than anything it’s an abstraction tool, a way I enjoy directing and dissecting what I see and the surface of the painting. Simplifying it.
Growing up I was fascinated by the little figures in my grandfather’s landscape paintings; just little blobs of paint to describe a face, limbs or body. In my work I try to strike a balance between the general and the specific, the ‘public’ and the ‘individual’, which I find fascinating.

When I began erasing the facial features it was something altogether different. Painting old toys I was reacting to the physical erasure of the doll features after years of being handled and played with kids. As my work shifted back to portraiture, I found out fairly quickly that I can describe what I need without the features.

“I was and still am fascinated by how much information we gather between us that is outside the face.”

Our mannerism, style, the way we dress, walk etc. We ‘read’ each other and any human portrait, by first and for-most our facial features and then everything else. I’m interested in reversing this process, everything else comes first and then leave an opening, a question mark. an untold story. For me the act of erasing is as important and positive as a mark making.

While working on your paintings, how do you perceive time in these very intense and creative moments?

It’s difficult to put these moments in words, especially, if words are not your thing and you don’t want to sound cheesy.
But if I have to I can say that I learned not to look for these moments. Just work and work. When they come, it’s great, you are in the action itself and there is nothing else, but as soon as you begin to think about it, acknowledging you are or were in “it”, it is gone.

Is there an author, an artist, a musician that has changed your perception of art and inspired you in your process of creating?

Velasquez, Goya, Rembrandt, Chardin, Soutine, Guston, Manet, Bacon, Freud, Morandi, Alys, Richter, Rotheko, Matisse, Picasso, Diebenkorn, Hemingway, Kerouac, Camus, David Grossman, Primo Levy, Leonard Cohen, Bowie, Dylan, Allen, Tarantino, Almodovar, Nina Simone I can go on and on…

What do you feel when you’ve just finished a painting and you look at it?

Disappointment, as if I could have done it better. Sometimes it’s true, luckily sometimes not.

Is there a quote, a proverb that guides you through life?

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” (Pablo Picasso)

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a complex way. An artist says a complex thing in a simple way.” (Charles Bukowski)

Do you work with music? What’s your favourite musician that you listen to at the moment in your studio?

It shifts, at the moment I’m listening to a bit of soul like Erica Badu, Lauren Hill and my usual outdated Jazz, Nina Simone, Coltrane, Miles Davis to a bit of Bowie and Leonard Cohen. Lately, I find I listen more to classical music. Piano, a lot of piano…

You were recently invited by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chengdu in China to a group exhibition under the title “Memory Goes As Far As This Morning”. This invitation also gave you the opportunity to visit the province of Xinjiang which is home of the Uyghur, an ethnic minority that primarily practices Islam. How was this experience for you?

It was really quite remarkable, a once in the life time experience. I was specifically interested, as my wife, although mainland Chinese, was born in Xinjiang, in Korla and I have heard much about the Turkic peoples where she was born. Their look is closer to Israeli than Chinese she used to tell me and that I would like the food.

“She was right in many aspects and I could find quite a few similarities between the Uyghur people and people from the Middle East.”

It was a very different experience than traveling in China, mainly due to very tight security, a result of years of political unrest, which I have to say added to an uneasy feeling throughout but this huge area has so much more to offer, a unique history of the ancient silk road which is incredibly preserved due to the dry weather conditions, to the highest snow peaked mountains that look as if they were taken from the Swiss alps.

From the vibrant markets full of spices to the beautifully hand crafted artifacts, and the beautiful scarfed women, it all seemed to belong to a different time and a magical place.

What comes to your mind when you think of Iran?

Generally I always think of how I enjoy meeting Iranians since I moved to NY and then London. I find so much in common and much to appreciate, from my point
of view, food and cinema come first to mind. ‘A Separation’, ‘About Elly’…
I also think it’s a shame that I can’t visit.
I see the meeting points, the dialogue, the art.

Credits:
Portray by Shira Klasmer
All other photos by Richard Ivey
Paintings:
“Boy”, 56x51cm, oil on canvas, 2011
“Untitled”, 66x71cm, oil on linen, 2012
“Pond”, 200x150cm, oil on linen, 2016
“Class of 1947 (Prom)”, 12 paintings each 25x20cm, oil on linen, 2012
“Yellow Blindfold”, 107x102cm, oil on canvas, 2015
“Policemen”, 35.5×30.5cm, oil on linen, 2015
“Untitled”, 26x19cm, gouache on paper, 2015
“Sunset”, 150x200cm, oil on linen, 2016
Text: Anahita Vessier
http://www.gideonrubin.com/

Share this post

MATHIAS KISS, The artist with the golden hand

MATHIAS KISS, The artist with the golden hand

Mathias Kiss is a French artist, iconoclast and dandy with boundless creative energy. In his art he folds academicism to find new codes and to break down the barriers between disciplines by association French classicism and avant-gardism.

His extravagant and oversized installations are shown in the most prestigious galeries and museums such as the Palais de Tokyo or the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and his artistic universe seduces luxury brands like Hermès or Boucheron.

When did you decide to become an artist?

I’ve started an apprenticeship as a painter and glazier when I was 14 years old. When I was 17, I’ve joined the Compagnon du Devoir where I’ve been working for 15 years. My dream was to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris if I had the chance.
But finally all these periods in my life have given me the tools, skills and knowledge to do the work that I’m doing today.

My art is inspired by my life with all the traumatizing experiences.

What kind of trauma?

Which girl wants to go out with a construction painter!

Failing school when you’re 14 and starting a job when you’re so young is very complicated. Nobody was interested in a guy like me. Everybody was studying, doing a white-collar job, being a graphic designer etc.
It was really hard to feel alone and to be considered as an outsider.

How would you define yourself? Craftsman? Artist?

When I was with the Compagnons, my only goal was to become as good craftsman so my boss wouldn’t get angry and shout at me because the sky on the ceiling wasn’t perfectly painted.

I couldn’t even imagine to have thoughts like « Why not painting the sky red instead of blue? ».

Many years later I’ve managed to emancipate myself and get free from the rigid conventions and move towards art.

At the being of my career as an artist, people didn’t know what to think of my work, which category they could place it. Fortunately some trusted me and encouraged the others to buy my work.

Why this urge to break the rules ?

When you work for the Compagnons you grow up with a compass and a triangle which is symbolizing the rules. People of my age weren’t interested in my work. Too classic, too rigid, too dusty. I needed to break down these barriers, free myself from these technical and aesthetic conventions.

So I was wondering how it would be possible to preserve the historical codes of French savoir-faire and incorporate them and place them into a contemporary context.

My work consists of two groups of artwork:

One is under the title « Sans 90° » which contains all the work inspired by the thought around the absence of the right angle such as the mirrors « Miroirs Froisées », the trompe l’oeil marble « Igloo » seat, the « Magyar » carpet.

The other group entitled « Golden Snake » gathers all the work that deals with experimenting with architectural elements of French classicism and questioning the artistic working process.

Why is gold such an interesting material for you as it takes a very important part in your work?

Gold is light, is life. It’s not only opulent, kitschy or outdated.

Gold allows to engage a conversation about power, for example the power of seduction of a woman enhancing this by wearing jewelry, or the power of men, who have always fought for possessing it.

Are there new challenges that you would like to face in your work?

As a Compagnon I’ve been working in all the important historical dwellings of the French Republic, such as the Comédie Française, Opera Garnier, Conseil d’État, and many others. Even though I had the chance to work in those sumptuous places, I was very unsatisfied with my work and decided to turn to contemporary art.

So a perfect mix of both experiences would be to build installations for public spaces, a kind of tribute to Paris, the city of sights and museums.

I’m thinking for example of adapting my installation « Golden Snake » that has been exposed at Palais de Tokyo for an urban environment where kids can climb on it or people can sit on it.
That would be an interesting project and a real challenge.

Aren’t you feeling anxious when you’re standing in front of those wide empty spaces at the beginning of a project?

The bigger the space, the more I dig it! To me it’s like a huge white sheet of paper where I can let my artistic imagination run wild.

You’ve done a lot of thai boxing and you have been even participation in official competitions until you were 30. During your exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo you’ve invited the world box champion Patrick Quarteron to have a little box match together in front of your installation « Golden Snake » for the magazine Numéro. What have art and boxing in common? 

It’s true that people don’t see the points that these two worlds have in common.

A boxer is a guy, standing half-naked on a stage trying to win and being applauded by the audience that is standing around and watching. This is total narcissism and exhibitionism, isn’t it!  The need of love and standing in the lime light is not far from an artist.

Both are also taking risks, accepting knocks and leaping into the unknown.

 What’s your next project?

A carte blanche project for the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille for April 2019.

What comes to your mind when you think of Iran?

The sumptuous festivities that were given by the Shah of Iran to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the Persian empire. It’s crazy that people still talk about it. It almost became a kind of monument, a very strong symbol.

Credits:
All photos by David Zagdoun
Except:
Featured image of Mathias Kiss on Home by Wendy Bevan
Photo of Mathais Kiss and Patrick Quarteron by Stépahne Gallois for Numéro
http://www.mathiaskiss.com
Text: Anahita Vessier
Translation: Anahita Vessier

Share this post

HORMOZ HEMATIAN & ASHKAN ZAHRAEI, Electric Room, art under high tension

HORMOZ HEMATIAN & ASHKAN ZAHRAEI, Electric Room, art under high tension

Tehran has a rich and vibrating art scene with highly talented artists, many of them were born after the Islamic Revolution.

Hormoz Hematian, founder and director of Dastan Gallery, one of the edgiest art spaces in the Iranian capital focusing on contemporary art, and his friend Ashkan Zahraei, Dastan’s curator and communication manager, travel constantly between Tehran and the most important art fairs around the world to promote the work of their artists and to develop international collaborations.

These two workaholics and unconditional art lovers have a thousand creative ideas in mind, are not afraid of any challenge and have launched “Electric Room” in 2017, which is certainly one of the craziest, most intense and ambitious art projects that makes Tehran a true reservoir of creativity and one of the most interesting and dynamic spots for contemporary art.

‘Electric Room’ is a very interesting and challenging art project that you have both developed and introduced to the Iranian art scene. How did this idea start?

AZ: Tehran has a very small art community. So through my work as a writer as well as a curator, both through working at Dastan and independently, I met a lot of artists who wanted to do art installations but there was no space in Tehran for experimental projects.

So that’s why Hormoz and I had the idea to launch the art concept ‘Electric Room’.

The concept was to showcase 50 experimental art projects in 50 weeks, introducing each week a new project and usually a lesser-known artist. So, it has a precisely defined beginning and end.

That’s a very ambitious and crazy project! 

HH: Yes, the challenge was enormous! It’s more than some galleries show in five years.

Having three other galleries in Tehran, I was missing the spontaneity of doing a show. So Electric Room allowed us to give back and find again the romance of art.

So, in June 2017 we opened this temporary exhibition space, not bigger than 30m2, in downtown Tehran, right next to the Faculty of Art and Architecture, and within minutes of walking to the Faculty of Fine Arts and many of the city’s other cultural or artistic institutions.
There are a lot of students, so the vibe of this area is really good and dynamic.

We called the project Electric Room because one wall is almost entirely covered with electric switchboards and control units. It’s a very cool and unusual place.

AZ: Luckily we’re both workaholics!

The project was amazing and so intense for so many months. We wanted to offer people a unique experience.

We had only one day to take down an exhibition, repaint the walls and install the new show. And this every week, for 14 months. It was such a crazy rhythm!

And how did the Iranian audience react on this concept?

HH: The reaction was fantastic!

At each opening the ambiance was so vibrant, and literally « electric ».

We had so many people coming, that there was not even enough space inside the gallery for all the visitors.

And what kind of audience came to the openings?

HH: The right people. Young people, art lovers, potential clients, people who weren’t normally into going to galleries but loved the vibe and were intrigued by the space.
Each opening took 4 to 5 hours.

AZ: We were also inviting other galleries to show them the artists.

The fundamental idea of Electric Room was to be spontaneous, open, accessible and generous.

Showcasing 50 art projects of 50 different artists in 50 weeks is quite a challenge. How did you constantly find new artists?

AZ: We were focusing on several different types of projects:

Installation projects, single-piece exhibitions, photo, video or multimedia projects, and also archival projects, like the « Tehran UFO Project ».

I’m a UFO enthusiast, so this show was an archival presentation of documents, articles and films relating to the historical incident from 1976 when UFOs have been seen over Tehran. I really like the idea that a non-art project becomes art.

HH: At the beginning some artists were quite skeptic because it’s a very unusual way of presenting art, they didn’t want to take a risk. So we had to start with the ones who trusted us.

AZ: That’s why we did our first few shows with artists that we already worked with at Dastan, including Sina Choopani, Mohammad Hossein Gholamzadeh, Meghdad Lorpour, and others.
These artists already had their followings and showing their work created more trust for other artists we wanted to work with.

We were able to work with extremely talented people in Iran, some of which normally don’t want to collaborate with galleries.

Among those artists that you were showing some are Iranians who live and work abroad. Why is it still important to them to show their work in Tehran at your gallery?

AZ: Electric Room created an opportunity to exhibit one’s work among a much wider scope and a more detailed program.

Many of these artists chose to exhibit at Electric Room because they wanted to be part of the experience and the program.

You’re working on such high-level art projects with Electric Room and Dastan Gallery and have gained a great reputation in the international art scene. But where does this love for art  initially come from?

AZ: For me, visual art is a combination of my academic background (writing, critical theory) and a practical touch.

As much as theory and literature can give insights into the world, art gives me greater opportunities for communication and dialogue.

HH: My grandfather was a general before the revolution; after the Shah was overthrown, he left the army, turned towards painting and became a self-taught, amateur artist.

Whenever I went to visit him in his house in Khorasan, there was one room for his paintings, another one for his calligraphies and one for his instruments.
There was a certain magic to it. And I saw how art saved his life.

Did Trumps’s policy put an end to the Iranian art boom?

AZ: No, serious artists will always find a way to express their ideas. If there is no high-quality paint or paper in the stores anymore, they will use cheaper one but this won’t stop them from being creative, being an artist.

Living such an intense experience for 50 weeks, how did you feel during the last show of Electric Room?

HH: Very emotional.

AZ: I was unsure how to feel in the beginning, but the last day was indeed quite sad. As much as I was sure we needed to end what we had started, letting go felt very difficult.

Credits:
All photos of Hormoz Hematian and Ashkan Zahraei:  Roxana Fazeli
(with Atefeh Majidi Nezhad’s work “Revision: Zero-G”)
All photos of exhibition at Electric Room courtesy of Dastan Gallery:
Photo exhibition 1: “Unsafe zone/domestic production” by Amin Akbari
Photo exhibition 2: “The champion” by Mohammad Hossein Gholamzade
Photo exhibition 3: “We are” by Sina Choopani
Photo exhibition 4:  “Memebrain” by Taba Fajrak & Shokoufeh Khoramroodi
Photo exhibition 5: “Inevitably inescapable” by Siavash Naghshbandi
Photo exhibition 6:  “Tehran UFO project”
Photo exhibition 7:  “Tangab” by Meghdad Lorpour
Photo exhibition 8: “Mutual tongue” by Milad Nemati
Photo exhibition 9: “The shaving” by Farrokh Mahdavi
Photo exhibition 10: “Interview” by Sepideh Zamani
https://dastan.gallery
Electric Room
Text: Anahita Vessier

Share this post

CHRISTELLE TÉA, The mystery of clearly defined reality

CHRISTELLE TÉA, The mystery of clearly defined reality

The first time I met Christelle Tea, I was intrigued by this person who looked like a chinese girl from 30s with this pale skin and with this eccentric hat on her head wearing a little black dress. She reminded me of the main character in Marguerite Duras’ s « The Lovers ». It’s this contrast between her extravagant look mixed with this juvenile behavior and naive sincerity, that surprised me.

Shy and discret by nature, I discovered the other side of Christelle during our shooting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris when she was posing in front of the camera. This body that seemed so fragile one second ago showed all of a sudden strength and confidence.

Christelle knows how to play with her image. Brought to art by destiny driven by her extraordinary talent, Christelle Tea reveals in her work with virtuosity the truth of an instant with all its details and invites the spectator to look and to look over again at this very specific moment.

Where does your passion for drawing comes from?

I’ve been drawing since I’m a little girl. My parents had a Chinese restaurant and I’ve spent all my afternoons there with my sister. We were so bored. One day I told my mum  and so she gave me a notebook and a pen that she was using to take the clients’ orders. From that moment on I was drawing all the time.

It was not only an occupation but also a way of expressing myself because I was extremely shy. I was a very quiet and discret child.

Until I was six, I didn’t speak french at all even though I was born in France and lived in France all my life.

At home we only spoke Teochew, a Chinese dialect from Guangdong, a province in the south-east of China.

So when I started to go to school I felt like an alien, I didn’t understand any word the teachers and the children were saying.

Drawing helped me to escape, to express myself, to be understood. For me drawing was a means of expression and communication.

So it was from that moment on that you’ve decided to become an artist?

My mother always said if she knew she would have given me a calculator rather than the notebook and the pen; and for my father being an artist was not at all an option to earn your money.

I’ve discovered Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Picasso when I was in high school during art classes.

Years after, I was lucky enough to be accepted at the Beaux-Arts de Paris. It’s a real paradise to study art there. You can choose any class you want and experiment in this breathtakingly beautiful location.

So it’s finally destiny that brought me to becoming an artist.

You went to China during your studies for an exchange program with the Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Did this experience help you to reconnect with your Chinese origins?

Absolutely!

These six months helped me to renew my ties with my Chinese origins and I’ve discovered also the differences between the Chinese and French way of teaching.

While studying in Beijing, I was allowed to study only one technique, no way to choose more than one. However this helped me to have a real expertise. So I’ve decided to learn wood engraving with Master Xu.

And when I had some time off, I was walking around the city with my drawing tools. I felt free like a bird!

I was drawing in the streets, at the market, at the museum, in the hutongs of Beijing.

So you’ve got always a drawing board, a sheet of paper and an ink pen with you. That’s a real mobile studio ! Would you like to have a real artist’s studio to go there and work every day?

During my artist residency  at the Museum Jean-Jacques Henner in Paris, I have had actually a studio for 6 six months but I was never there.

For my work, I need life, I need mouvement.

This life, this mouvement that you mention you capture them on the spot and without doing any sketches before in your portrays. Real life drawings of people at home, at work where you don’t miss any detail. Is it important for you that people are pleased with the outcome of their portray?

No.
I don’t try at all to praise the person that I’m drawing.

What I’m interested in those drawings and portrays drawn on the spot is to capture the world around those people, the immediate reality with all its details that should not be seen but that exist, like the pile of messy cables underneath a Louis XV inlaid marquetry desk or a piano unable to hide the tube of a vacuum cleaner.

It’s in those details that you’re face to face with reality. 

Regarding this, I’ve always liked Garry Winograd’s quote:

« There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described ».

I don’t try at all to neither flatter the person that I draw nor to do a photographic reproduction of her and of the familiar environment around her. She rather becomes an element among others in this composition where every object, every book, every musical instrument, every painting on the wall is illustrated precisely and meticulously.

And when you don’t draw?

When I don’t draw I study opera singing at the conservatoire of the 16th district in Paris with Alexandra Papadijakou.

Music and drawing are very important and complementary to me. Both are a haven of creativity and artistic expression.

By the way it’s the passion for music that gave me the idea to create the huge mural drawings inspired by the opera « The Tales of Hoffmann » of Offenbach or « Faust » of Gounod. I’m also showing myself in those two frescos.

Being a music and art lover, which artists are you fond of?

In music, Bernstein, Mozart, Puccini.

In art, Hockney, Dürer and Sam Szafran who gave in his work a lot of importance to details and he never went to his own opening shows.

And you, do you like to attend your own opening shows?

Yes.
It’s important to go and see who is interested in my work.
And also in respect for the people who made the effort to come and discover my drawings.
Above all that, it’s a great moment to spend with friends.

What comes to your mind when you think of Iran?

I think of the photographer Ali Mahdavi. I made his portray and I love his work.

Credits:
All photos of Christelle Téa:  Marion Leflour
All drawings: Christelle Téa
Drawing 1: Jean Michel Frouin, artist painter and carpenter, 2015, ink on paper, 65 x 50 cm
Drawing 2: Morphology gallery at Beaux-Arts in Paris, 2012, ink on paper, 50 x 65 cm
Drawing 3: 2 for 1 at Xiyuan market, 2014, ink on paper, 301 x 412 mm
Drawing 4: Cécile Guilbert, writer, 2015, ink on paper, 65 x 50 cm
Drawing 5: Concert of Christophe Chassol, composer-musician, at the Silencio Paris 2018, ink on paper
Drawing 6: The Last Judgement and the Colleone, Chapel of Petits-Augustins at the Beaux-Arts de Paris, 2012, ink on paper, 50 x 65 cm
Drawing 7: Ali Mahdavi, plastic artist, director and art director of the review “Désirs” at the Crazy Horse, 2015, ink on paper
Special thanks to Valérie Sonnier et Philippe Comar of the Beaux-Arts de Paris to give us the permission to do the shooting of Christelle Téa at the  gallery of morphology.
https://christelletea.com
Text: Anahita Vessier
Translation: Anahita Vessier

Share this post