Interview with Clément Denis｜Great Prospects Beyond the Pandemic
July 29, 2022
From the exhibition view, Clément Denis《Chercheur de rêve》2019, 140.0 × 95.0cm, Paper, Acrylic
Le French May, a major event to introduce French culture to Hong Kong. Whitestone Gallery H Queen's presented "Contrasting Confluences", a group exhibition by French artists Clément Denis and Fabien Verschaere and Japanese artist Karen Shiozawa, as a joint project of the 30th "Le French May".
This time we would like to introduce one of them, Clément Denis. We interviewed Clément Denis about his commitment to his work, the source of his inspiration, and his future activities. We also had a chance to talk with him about the development of his works, including the "River Song" series, which was well received at the exhibition at Whitestone Gallery H Queen's.
Clément Denis in production.
ーWhat is your core commitment in production?
My beliefs are in the transformation process. A french chemist Antoine Lavoisier said "nothing is created - neither in the operations of art nor in those of nature - nothing is lost : everything is transformed."
Creating artworks is for me the way to transform the knowledge I have ingested and thus translate the emotions and issues of our societies into images. Through painting, sculpture or mosaïc I look for those imaginary homelands nestled in the childhood.
ーTell us about your muse(s).
I find the notion of "the muse" as a person a bit archaic in the sense that it was linked to a time when painters used the human figure as a model, so there was this quest for the perfect model and then the relationship that developed after hours and hours of work, poses and shared intimacy.
But now, in the age of internet flows, of information, my muse in the sense of a source of stimulation is the internet. I accept that I don't see things for what they are, but what interests me is to use the filter of society. Through the internet I have access to the world as seen by my contemporaries and it is from this material that I will start to play.
From the exhibition view.
ーCan you share with us your essentials and must-have materials in your creation process?
It's all about cycles and at the moment I'm looking for sensations. To have the sensation of working with a living material is what I am looking for at the moment. Paper is the medium that has given me the most sensations for some years now.
My second “must-have” is definitely acrylics. It is possible that my essentials do not fit into the standards of the art market, but that does not matter to me.
Acrylics are very new. It's a plastic material so in terms of durability and hardness I believe in its durability much more than in oil. The difficulty with this material lies in the drying time: you have to be quick and therefore know which way to go.
The third is my hands because I paint with my fingers and finally the penumbra, because I work in the dark. Variations in sound backgrounds are also important to me. I can go from a song to a documentary on science, philosophy or history when I am painting.
From the exhibition view, visitors look into a mirror laid out in front of the work.
ーWhat does your daily routine look like?
There is no such thing as a daily routine other than waking up this morning!
On a more serious note, I can have four month long waves of intense work where I'll work from 7am to 2am and then times of creative blocks or rests where I'll go out partying, gardening or playing video games, while the next project matures.
ーWhen you feel uninspired / in a creative block, how do you overcome it?
When I have a creative block, I do something else. Gardening, walks in the forest or on the sand dunes of my island Noirmoutier ...
In truthness, when I lack inspiration, I use this period to live fully ! During the painting periods, there is only painting. Everything else fades away.
Clément Denis《Draft XI》2020, 46.0 × 70.0cm, Paper, Mixed media
ーPlease share your future endeavors.
I am coming to the end of a cycle and I am considering my painting in a more total way and using in my next exhibitions and series all the mediums I practice for ten years (ceramics, mosaics, painting, writing and sculpture). Rather than presenting a series of paintings in a classical way, on white walls, I wish to create immersive installations mixing medium and senses.
Geographically, I am working on several residencies and exhibitions for the end of the year and the year 2023, in France as well as in Asia and Africa.
From the exhibition view
ーWhat are your plans for what you'd like to do in the next exhibition or already in the making.
In 2020 I started the series The River Song with the paintings Trouble, Bouchons and the installation Birds left without an imprint. I was already thinking of the series as an immersive installation in which the viewer would be immersed in this wave and alternating sculptures, sounds, a scent made by my perfumer friend Ugo Charron (junior performer under the direction of the famous master perfumer Claude Dir) and fragments of mirror to create depth effects.
I wanted to back up this installation with a more intellectual reflection on climatic irreversibility and after an invitation by the town hall of a town located in the Paris suburbs, Alfortville and its theater and public art center (directed by the former prima ballerina Marie Claude Pietragalla), I began a six-month residency during which, in partnership with a student from the National Museum of Natural History, we created a series of training courses and sensitive walks around biodiversity aimed at young people who are furthest away from the arts and ecology.
This long residency experience reinforced my idea of an immersive installation, and the exhibition of some of the works in the River Song series at Whitestone Gallery during French May Arts, as well as the enthusiastic reception from the public and the press, gave me the impetus to relaunch this idea. My next solo show will be, I hope, and this will take time, a total installation around the River Song because the pandemic has slowed down its realization.
ーOne last word, please.
I have been living for a year in Claude Monet's old house in Vétheuil, a small village of 900 inhabitants near Paris and a place of inspiration and installation for many artists (Fujita, Jean Paul Riopelle, Ogis, Raoul Dufy, Joan Mitchell or Soichi Hasagewa who still lives there).
I fell in love with the village and this region for the nature, the landscape, the light... Everything is magical here. That's why I'm working on the opening of my first art centre, which will revolve around my great reflections on romanticism and the period we are living in, which is strangely similar to it. It will be an opportunity for me to develop cycles of group exhibitions around these themes and to welcome the work of international artists with whom I have worked or who inspire me.