Interview with David Rosenberg (Paris, France)
It is in the context of the simultaneous exhibitions Metamorphosis at La Cave d’Arts Gallery (Louviers, France) and The Cabinet of curiosities of David Boulanger at the Mega-Pobec theater (Evreux, France), respectively gathering more than 100 works by the artist, whom David Rosenberg and David Boulanger freely spoke to one another.
Reflections and metamorphoses : about self-portraits
David Boulanger, interview with David Rosenberg
Why precisely choose to exhibit this series of self-portraits ?
Maybe, simply, because we do not escape the self-portrait. Not me anyway. Leonardo da Vinci emphasized in his treatise on painting that “every painter paints himself”. Curiously, when I paint a horse, a scene, a still life, it becomes irremediably a self-portrait. But this is not a “genre” in which I lock myself. Self-portraiture is a way of “being my painting”, “being the Painting”, but also, paradoxically, of detaching myself from it. It’s still, in my opinion, a way of constantly reinventing my work. But above all, the choice to exhibit a long series of self-portraits allows me to generate and engender many contradictions and ambiguities. On this subject, no sign – in the painting itself – indicates whether it is a portrait or a self-portrait …
They would then be kind of mirrors of which we do not know who they reflect ?
Mirrors, I do not know ; but reflections, for sure. Let’s say that a doubt remains, and that the term “self-portrait” raises more questions than it brings certainty …
But you chose the term “metamorphosis” that you prefer, I believe, to that of “self-portrait” ? It is also an allusion to the text of Ovid and Narcissus …
It seemed interesting to me to emphasize how much I allowed myself, finally, all the possible and imaginable transformations of the figure. And then, I associate reverie with “metamorphosis”. The use of this term is also a beautiful way to cause trouble and reflection. In fact, the words “metamorphosis” and “self-portraiture” seem to me to be more than equivalent synonyms. In other words, the self-portrait is an absolute metamorphosis. It would be the finality – or even the inevitability – of painting … And what would be the painting without desire or, even worse, without “metamorphosis”? To answer the second part of your question, just read Ovid’s Metamorphoses to understand that Narcissus is one of the founding myths of the self-portrait, but also that both – the myth and the genre – are absolutely irreducible to narcissism …
This is plural metamorphosis. Do you conceive self-portraiture only in multiplicity, in the series ?
Yes, just like the rest of my paintings. I work by series. Metamorphosis is not a definitive result, it is a process. And my only thread in this work is the constant desire to paint. My constant concern is to show how much I remain faithful to this desire and how much I aspire to praise it.
Grafts (an ear in the middle of the forehead, instead of the third eye), objects placed on the top of the skull or planted in the head. It is often confusing, sometimes absurd … No tools and utensils used with mastery; no question of attributes or symbols to reinforce the solemnity of the character. One has the feeling of being impassive, indifferent to objects; even when they pierce his skull !
All these attributes are only details. Beyond considering the art of detail as a science of painting – which could be opposed to the notion of metamorphosis – it is a pretext, a way to engender diversity and diversity. seriality. As for the symbolic significance, by looking a little, we can find it … Sometimes the meaning or allusion is trivial and unimportant, sometimes it allows me to signify something more personal. The ear graft on the forehead, for example, refers only to a lab mouse, who had grafted an ear on his back ! On the other hand, when a cane pierces my head, it’s like the paint that pierces me and surpasses me. Or again, this blue person who becomes like a deep water; to that deep water that I think is painting.
A depth that seems to fascinate you and intrigue you more than that usually attributed to the identity or psychology of the character…
The painted character is portrayed. It’s not me, or me anymore. It’s a character I invented. And he helps me find myself. Reaching the psychology of a subject, in painting, is a way of achieving excellence in the specific field of portraiture. This is sometimes the object of my research, sometimes not. What I’m aiming for all the time, on the other hand, is that painting exists by itself, in its own right. Similarly, I do not seek to establish, create or disclose a specific identity. It’s just the pleasure of watching, of being surprised – why not? -, and take pleasure in a face-to-face. Through the different attributes, I demonstrate the character. It’s like a good wine in the cellar. We go down to get it, we open it and we tasted it: we like it or we do not like it. Period.
There is also, it seems to me, a lot of humor or humor…
Humor… Thank you! because I have often been criticized for being sad! While often, I tried to cause surprise and also indifference, through the smile. Perhaps “the people” are waiting today for paintings that will distract them and, soon, make them laugh, or even scare them… If this is the only way to hold their attention, if it’s the only way way to make them feel busy and bored, then I’ll write jokes and riddles in glaze…
…or self-portraits in “clown” or “idiot”…
Ah ! what a pleasure ! that I like to think that painting, those who look at it as painters can “disintellectualize”… But myself, would I succeed in becoming an idiot ? I do not know. On the other hand with a little luck, I will end up looking like my self-portraits !
Interview with David Rosenberg, 2006
From the Catalog of the Metamorphosis Exhibition,
La Cave d’Arts Gallery, Louviers.
David Rosenberg […] is a curator and a French author, a specialist in modern and contemporary art. Wikipedia
La Cave d’Arts Gallery
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Mega-Pobec Theater :
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