You held your first painting exhibit at the age of 18. When did you first have an interest in art, and in fact know that you wanted to be an artist?
I was 17 when I had my first exhibition! I won a regional drawing prize when I was four years old. It never really seriously occurred to me that I could be anything else…
You indulge in a variety of different artistic media, including ceramics, paintings, sculpture, design… Do you feel that these different artistic media help you express different ideas and aesthetic approaches?
In other words, are there things that you can only express through sculpture, and other things that you can only express on canvas? I mainly use different mediums because I am curious type, and if I am attracted I have to try. It is not about something being able to be expressed only in two dimensions or only in three, since I think there are absolutely no such limitations. It is rather about using different media to express the same core ideas, and it being more fun.
What sort of influences do you draw on for creative ideas? What inspires your art?
What moves me. It can be anything: an ancient fresco, an old photograph, a dried vegetable, a moment in sunlight, a particular thought.
There seems to be a consistent theme of defiant autonomy along with a sense of loneliness – and sometimes estrangement – in your paintings. But rather than sadness, they seem to convey a proud yet slightly bitter independence. Do you feel a personal attachment to your works?
I feel a very personal detachment. I’d like my works to exist in the world independently from me, to convey their sense of consciousness on their own strengths, and I hope the self-reliance conveyed is actually bittersweet.
For you, what is the most exciting part or period in the process of artistic creation?
The moment when working becomes a “shamanistic activity” –to quote Duchamp. The moment I cease to ‘be’ and become just “doing”.
What other artists inspire you in your work?
So many! From ancient art & artifacts, all the way through to James Turell and Fishl & Weiss, loving many many things in between, from the Master of Flemalle, early Italian renaissance & Velazquez & Co. to Odilon Redon, Turner, or Picabia and mother nature. On the other hand, not all that I enjoy necessarily inspires me, nor all that inspires me is art. Life is bigger than art.
Your father was also a painter and a friend of Salvador Dali. Do you have recollections of Dali as a child? How did your father influence your development as an artist?
My father is a sculptor, and yes, he was a friend of Dali among others. I do remember Dali as a child. Once he woke me up at two in the morning while holding a prismatic lorgnette to my face. He asked me “What do you see?” while leaning over me. Unsurprisingly, all I could see were Dali’s bulbous eyes endlessly repeated through the myriad patterns of the prisms so I answered “Eyes”. He seemed very pleased with that, the neat symmetry of the eye seeing eyes I guess, then saying, “You see?”.
How has your upcoming exhibit in Istanbul at the Cervantes Institute come about? Tell us about the sculptures you’ll be exhibiting outside the institute.
I am having a painting exhibition in the Cervantes Institute in Beirut as well as a one month Drawing Workshop there. While discussing with the Institute’s Director there the idea & opportunity of Istanbul came up. As I positively love Istanbul, I jumped on the chance to do something. The three sculptures will be on the Institute’s front terrace directly on the street so will be visible from passing cars, taxis, etc.. The sculptures are 2.50 tall, my biggest so far, resin cast (1/6) & leafed with, aluminum, gold or bronze. The bronze one has been oxidized into a verdigris patina. The sculptures allow the grownup viewer to see children as children see grownups. They also allow children spectators to see themselves as grownups see themselves, that is: overblown. Although the sculptures are identical they mysteriously do not appear so. Our human identity is also mostly identical, each of us with typically alike structures & needs, yet we relish and even fight for the illusion of our perceived differences. The titles, Little Buddha, Bhuddito, Bhudette are a way to try and force us to see and feel that our most beneficial or healing models of the sacred and spiritual should perhaps be vulnerable, still awed, young humans. They are the ones that will have to carry all our human legacies into the future, genes & memes, for good or ill. Hence the show’s title “The Future is Small, Universal Totems”. In this disconcerting, dislocated, times, these sculptures stand as a pluri-ethnic meditative tool we can –hopefully- all agree on and feel included by, whatever our–surely trying- story.
What are you expecting from Istanbul? Do you have any idea of the art scene there? Do you think it will inspire you for possible new works?
I don’t expect anything ; I trust Istanbul will welcome, delight & surprise me as it does every time: it is my eleventh time here. No, I don’t really know the “art scene” there – I am not much of an ‘art scene’ artist, in any case. As for inspiration, Istanbul is a magic, real, cultural, historic, geographically blessed, ethnically diverse mega-metropolis which cannot fail to fascinate.
Would you consider art to be the ultimate pursuit in life?
Not me. Only if you included physicists, biologists, gardeners and the very spiritual, to name a few, among artists would I consider conceding the point.