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Interview with Mike Rouault

Interview with Mike Rouault

Which techniques do you use/prefer?

I use different techniques, they depend on the respective supporting materials. Principally, acryl, aquarelle and ink. Since about 4 years I have also been working with poasa, this enables me to rediscover the feeling and gestures of the pencil. I always start with a drawing, then sketch with aquarelle colours or ink. I also make many engravings. In short, I try to use many different techniques. It is fun and enjoyable to discover a different medium. However, I always keep coming back to painting and drawing. I am also receptive regarding new media, such as digital technologies, and I use such techniques (Illustrator, Photo-Shop) to combine the web and print.

What are the themes of your work?


Such a big question --- Mankind has been central to my work for over 20 years. To be human and the possibility to shape ones own destiny interest me very much. The feelings, moods, claims, the taking of sides, the fear, the hatred of others, politics. Other themes have long been the “German” (la Germanique). A tendency, which has been featured in my work for several years, and which is always present. Since two years I have been working with words and their respective meanings, transgressing different themes and associations. As in music, which has always been important for my way of life and for the creative artistic process. I require a pictorial musicality.

Is that to say, that you translate the music into the essence of the image!? And when you listen to music, does that mean that you can always image it as an image? Does this also work in reverse?

It’s a bit like that. There are many similarities between language, music, and painting. Jean Tardieu was correct when he observed: “Painting should be translated, as should music, and objects, and everything that can be understood through language. But translated through words, rhythms and sounds.” With the project “Toile de Son”, Michel (Bass), Claude (percussion) we have developed a performance that creates a dialogue between the two major arts. For this reason I require music to be able to work, even when silence itself forms a means to musical expression.
For example:
Drawing: Succession from high to low point depicting general movement in a pictorial work.
Music: Intertwining of the meaning of notes, their duration.

Drawing: a high degree of energy, power and might, which is reached by the inherent disposition of mass, the usage of colours, and of symbolism.

Music: a high degree of energy, power and tangible might, to be experienced by variations in the height and speed of musical notes.

We were discussing the subject of your themes, but also of the music: where do you find your inspiration?

In daily life, my pains and pleasures. In my artistic experiences with the theatre. In my Franco-German culture, and the histories of the their respective peoples.

Is it for this reason that you experience your art mostly from an internal perspective, and to a lesser extent from an exterior view?

Both. Art is first of all experienced internally, but ultimately is also felt by others. And it reaches a point of exteriority by means of such an exchange with other people. I believe, that the whole artistic oeuvre derives from many different exterior points of view. It is a child who grows, but its time is not the same as our own.


And what meaning does time have in this context?

M.R. Should my work still exist in 100 years, people will not have the same sentiments and views as the people of our times. One will not share the same forms and types of works of art, as these are always in the process of changing. (person x with his/her life, feelings, interpretations). Time accompanies art, and in a way grants it eternal life. But I could be mistaken. But when I arrive at the point where I can transfer an idea to canvas, surely even in 100 years it will still have some meaning for certain people, that would make me happy.

Everywhere possible. In cultural institutions, galleries, salons. It is important to present ones work and subject it to the gaze of the public. The Internet is an excellent tool with which to transmit art. It enables us to make an exhibition and invite the whole world. But to see a work of art in person is always better. Since 4 years now I have participated in “Grands Formats” in a small village of Touraine (France), where 30 artists paint a canvas of 4 x 2 m from 9 to 5 pm. The public is invited to observe, and it is a wonderful artistic and human experiment, as it constitutes a direct exchange with people during the most creative phase. Like a private exhibition.

And which place to you prefer, and why? Do you prefer public spaces?

No, I have no preferences. I like to exhibit everywhere, in bars, foyers, for handicapped people, in passing at cultural centres, and galleries. I have no pretensions. The problem with art and the exhibits is the money. The worst part of the system is that it makes artists dependant and enables galleries to make a profit. The modalities in some of the french galleries can be particularly delusional. Why would one give more than 70% of the buying rate to a person who merely owns the walls, and 20% even when the painting hasn’t been sold? That is unacceptable. It is better to seek associative models. That art has to come with a price tag is one thing, but it should also always be accessible to everyone.

Does this market oriented system influence your art?


When an exhibition venue is suitable for my work, it means that it also corresponds with my artistic intentions. I discern carefully between commissioned work, such as an album cover, and a painting. In both cases the people trust me, and I work accordingly in a way corresponding with my artistic vision. I don’t make pretty flowers to put in a gallery in the hope of making lots of money. No future. That is not my way. The system can influence one’s work, but when it comes to my artistic gait, for example in the creation of one of my pieces (painting, drawing), I refuse to submit myself to such a system.

How would you describe your personal situation as an artist in Paris?

My situation in Paris. I am not alone, there are millions of us. And somehow we all make art. Art has been democratized and the Internet has allowed us to go new ways, to “leave behind the shadow’. At the moment circumstances for artists (musicians, painters, illustrators, graphic novel writers, dancers and actors) are difficult, and yet some members of our society regard them as pointless and unnecessary. During the crisis the arts and other expressions of mediation were affected first of all. Institutions are closed, as well exhibition spaces, theatres, and concert halls. The budgets for art funding have reached a low point. Art receives much too little funding. And the privatization of Art keeps on growing. People with money are deciding what is to be considered art.

Of course Paris is a capital of Art, but for whom? Are the artists recognized? Yes, in a certain way. But who has access to this type of culture? To exhibit in Paris is great; most of all in a gallery, which is still the best. For about 10 years this is how it was, I think. But many great exhibitions were also abroad, in Germany – you take that risk. You have to seek different paths in order to be exposed to different visions.

Personally I have this possibility, my artistic work is recognized. Yet I still cannot make a full living from my art alone; that is a choice, an economic reality.

Do you regard yourself as an artist? Where do you situate your art? More locally, or globally – or perhaps both?

In a way locally, as my art is always exhibited in its respective environment.The place where I live. I also have the chance to intervene in the cultural scene of La Seine St. Denis. By means of an exhibit or an auction in the atelier, open to the public. In Paris it is difficult to find a gallery.

Does that make me a local artist? I don’t think so. I live in different cities in St.-Denis, yet I don’t consider myself to be an artist belonging to any city in particular – I believe we must look beyond this. At least I hope so.

Finally, we are not more important than other people, we express ourselves and communicate with others, in different ways that are comprehensible to all.

And are you interested in global art, the different contexts and regions?

I am susceptible to all forms of art. At the moment I am attracted to Asian art (China and Japan), but also feel closely connected to African art; there is almost nothing that I really do not like. This ‘art brut’ was really created before modernity and many artists have soaked up its influences. I grew up with Mangas, my heroes were the comic book characters, the tv shows with giant robots, Goldorak, the mangas of Go Nagai, AlbatordeLeji Matsumoto from 1969 in theManga kaizoku Captain Harlock.

When I draw skulls, they look a bit like these ones (laughs!). In Asian art there is a characteristic of change, a texture of emotions. An artist like Zao Wou Ki is very important to me. That is nice.

For me all forms of art are reflections of the places where we live, grew up, or die.

Do you work together with artists within France or in other countries?

I tried being part of a collective, an experiment that wasn't very convincing. I think it is something special whenever it is organized. As is the case with the external structure of Open Art. The cooperation with other artists from different countries is great, but when the cooperation derives from the same environment it can quickly devolve into an “ego trip”. One should contemplate the reflection of the thought, “I am the best, and your art is worthless”. How unconstructive this is for everyone involved. I prefer the exchange with other disciplines, for example with music and theatre, with such a project one can really achieve something. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like painting with other artists at all, but only at certain events and with people who have experience from which you can benefit and learn something. Actually, I really prefer working by myself.

Are there projects that feature an exchange with music and theatre? How would this manifest itself?

Regarding music there is the project Toile de Son with my friends Claude and Michel Mekerri. There have also been several album covers with text illustrations. The theatre work is very enjoyable for me, although I am a rather shy person; but it enables me to express different feelings and emotions. The theatrical is like a composition, a scene to be put onto canvas.


And do you draw when the music is over, or do the musicians play in accordance to your drawings? Who decides this?

Good question. In the framework of Toile de Son we communicate on a collective level. At the moment I enjoy it when music interprets my drawings. I think that is a great idea! Should you know any good musicians, please let me know.

Is this difficult? Doesn’t it require a process of translation and the adequate transmission of a message to the audience? In this case the double translation of both music and drawing to an auditorium, some must understand this interpretation.

Hm, with Toil de Son it’s an ensemble. The audience listens and watches, as simultaneously a picture is created. It isn’t a process of translation, it’s a shared language between both arts. There are certain translations, for example I sometimes graphically reproduce a musical note. When Claude the percussionist plays “hot” Rhythms, I automatically use red paint. On the other hand, when he uses the cymbals with a very dry sound, this becomes much more visible in the techniques and hatches. The same is true for Michel’s bass. Three months ago we had a performance with more than 600 people. Those were 600 different perspectives, 600 different interpretations, mostly considering the visual element (in this case it was about the interpretation of a logo). When it’s a painting, it is different. I never know how I will achieve this. Will it be abstract or not (sometimes I try to avoid a 100% abstract work of art), and will it continue in the same style and form?With a shared language.

Good! Now for the last question. What do you think about the project Open Art? Why are you participating and what do you expect?

Open Art is a good art project, because it brings artists from all continents together. It is a “free” and “open” project, open to all. It is like a beacon of light, I hope that is what it can become??? I am participating because I enjoy it; it is an exhibition in the country of my origin. And I am very proud to have my roots be in Germany and to be able to exhibit there. In this way I return a little bit to myself. I participated with the project, because there is much exchange with artists and those who are visiting to see the permanent exhibition. Das is geil!

Thank you also for the project, for your confidence in the work of the artists. Ultimately, none of us are more important than anyone else, if there would be nobody to appreciate art, to criticize or to love it, we would remain all alone.


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