Bak 17 Is Online!
'Face', 17th issue of Bak Magazine, is now online! Sit back, relax and enjoy!


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Interviews in Bak | 17
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Jerome Lagarrigue
Painter { }
Jerome Lagarrigue

It's known that childhood is one of the most important periods in an artist's life. Can you tell us about your childhood?

I was born and raised in Paris France, where I grew up until the age of 18. My father worked as an illustrator, my mother as a writer. I guess I was exposed to a creative environment at an early age. My mother being from NY, I spent most of my summers in Harlem visiting my extended family in the US, discovering NY and more particularly Harlem during the 80's and the 90's. I just sat and listened to my grandmother tell her life story it was fascinating, she was 103 when she passed away. I finally moved to NY in 1996. I remember carrying around an old filthy Mickey Mouse doll everywhere I went until I was 5 or 6, it eventually decayed and fell apart, my first heart break. Luckily, I drew it before it was lost. That was the first drawing I remember doing.

Thanks to my parents, family and friends which all participated in shaping my childhood memories I can certainly confirm that I grew up enjoying life even if we struggled financially at times, it wasn't important. I laughed a lot as a kid and still do.

You say "I look at a cityscape and I see a figure". This is the starting point of your great exhibition, "Paesaggio del viso" (Landscape of The Face). You are living and working in both New York and Paris. One is the center of the visual arts industry, and the other one is your homeland. What are the main differences between these two beautiful cities for you? What expressions do you see when you look at them?

Paris can be labeled as a ancient beautiful city where one can enjoy life if one can afford it. It is one of the greatest, richest museum of the world. To me NY is a city that is in constant movement, the city that never sleeps. It moves at a very fast pace forever re-inventing itself. NY is a very addictive dope. I'm a NY addict.

Henri Matisse says; "There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted." As a painter who is working with his own style in the age of 30's, could you please tell us about your inspirations? Which artists or art movements affected you most?

It is very difficult for me to answer this question precisely because I do not have one movement in particular in mind, but rather specific artist that have moved me more then others, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Corot, Soutine, Giacometti, Rothko, Freud, Bacon, De Stael, Dogon tribal art in general, to name a few. One thing I am sure of is that I seem to be seduced by the notions of looseness, fragmentation and blurriness of a subject.

You have an extremely artistic way of painting. While being so real and classic, your paintings are also very modern and unique. A simple and ordinary face becomes a deeper and meaningful artwork which the viewer would like to spend hours with. If you had no boundaries, in what way would you exhibit your paintings? What kind of gallery would you build and how would you illuminate it?

I would love to see a series of 25 feet high paintings displayed on the walls of an abandoned airplane factory with ceilings made of frosted glass and steel, letting in Northern light. A gallery space so gigantic that Gulliver wouldn't have to kneel down when entering the space. He would sit comfortably on a Bauhaus like armchair fitting his size before having a look at the work.

We know that you are also teaching painting. How do you motivate your students to create their own styles and not imitating yours?

Actually as of now I am devoting my entire time to painting and have put teaching on hold for a while. I taught my students the importance of finding and developing their inner voice as artists, to trust their instincts, to be patient and devoted.

Technically and logically, there should be no differences between painting and illustrating for the artist, except the client fact. However, we see an apparent separation between illustrators and painters today. What do you think about this issue?

These are two fields from a commercial standpoint that do not coexist harmoniously. Illustration suggests a collaborative effort, a relationship between an illustrator and a art director. Painters work for themselves although the same materials are often used. Although one could argue that a fine artist could find himself experiencing a similar situation when pressured by a gallery owner or curator to produce work that is marketable.

The world famous painter Pablo Picasso says; "When I was a child, my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk you'll end up as the pope.' Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso." As a very talented, award winner young painter who was featured in many publications, do you care about fame?

Although I don't consider myself famous, I do think it is quite encouraging to see that my work has occasionally triggered interest in people. It is extremely crucial for an artist to build a following in order to survive and keep producing. I have to say that I am quite surprised. Fame is certainly not a priority. I'm just too consumed by the idea of pursuing and exploring painting.

If you have one chance to remove a period in the history, which one would you choose?

I wouldn't remove entire periods from our history but would much rather prefer having the power to prevent certain events that took place in the past, from happening.

Theme of our current issue is "Dream". What does this word mean to you? Do you have dreams for the future?

The word Dream in my mind suggests the notion of hope. I have way too many dreams for the future and just hope that a minor percentage of them will come true.

"I would love to see a series of 25 feet high paintings displayed on the walls of an abandoned airplane factory with ceilings made of frosted glass and steel, letting in Northern light. A gallery space so gigantic that Gulliver wouldn't have to kneel down when entering the space."

- Jerome Lagarrigue / Bak 07
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