Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Nicolas Monjo - Meet the Artist

If Vincent van Gogh had access to Facebook, would he have committed suicide? Perhaps not...

Art is a blessing, but it also requires one to spend good quality time with oneself, alone. Having an avenue to reach out to other fellow artists anytime of the day, to share one's work, to be inspired by the work of other artists and in turn to inspire others...all of this is definitely an upside of this new technological world we live in. Especially for us lonely brigade of self-taught artists with no art community of fellow-students and teachers to fall back on for feedback and direction. 

One such self-taught artist I discovered on the pages of Facebook is the French Nicolas Monjo, with his robust, well-modelled, sculpturesque, sometimes distorted white figures, pretty faces with elegant elongated necks, strangely twisted feet, filling up the canvas space from frame-to-frame, in riveting compositions, pleasing colours, and a certain timeless, old world charm, almost poetic, innocent. 

Reminiscent of Leger, Modigliani, Picasso and Chagall, Monjo's world is filled with ordinary people in ordinary, everyday settings. While several paintings show the lone figure, sad, happy, or thoughtful, slouched on the floor or on a couch with a cat or fish for company, some paintings depict couples in love, and some with a crowd with entangled limbs crushed within the frames of the painting. As if limited, or constricted by the world they find themselves in, like fishes that are captured, and striving for a personal space that's all about freedom. 

And freedom is what Monjo seeks for himself in his paintings, freedom from 'copying' or 'exactly' representing the objects, animals, or people in his paintings. Academically advocated rules of proportion, perspective, etc, are only politely nodded at, and emphasis has been squarely placed on communicating emotions experienced in everyday life.

Presented below is an interview with the artist.

Q. Please tell us something about yourself. And your art.
A. Born in 1975 in Lot et Garonne, I live and work today near Angoul√™me. After having long sought my way in the artistic field, I started painting self-taught at the age of twenty.
The human figure is of course at the center of my work. The main subjects of my paintings, often evolving in fantastic universes, are not without relation with the society and the world around us even if they can sometimes present an autobiographical character. One can see by the fact that the characters are often locked up, crushed by the very frame of the painting, the difficulty for the individual to get out of his condition, to transcend it in a violent and anxiety-provoking society that does not always allow it. The dominant /dominated ratio is also often mentioned and the recurring figure of the fish is the ultimate expression here.

Q. Describe your typical working day.
A. I work a lot in the morning very early, I feel more energetic at this time, more spontaneous. Then I take a step back and work in a more delicate way.

Q. Why did you choose to be an artist?
A. I do not think that one chooses to be an artist, it is a need that manifests itself from an early age. The difficulty is then to find one's way, one's medium.

Q. What is your goal as an artist?
A. My goal as an artist is simply to express myself, to propose something, a universe and to share it.

Q.    What inspires you to paint/create everyday?
A.    The human is at the center of my work, its place in society, its difficulty in transcending it. My work can also be autobiographical.

Q.    How do you choose your subjects?
A.    The subjects and themes of my paintings are often the same, they are mostly pretexts for composition because that is what really interests me the most.

Q.    How do you think your art serves others or yourself?
A.    As far as I am concerned, art allows me to express cathartically. As for those who watch my works, they often refer them to their own stories, they can be touched, moved and sometimes amused.

Q.    Do you paint for yourself or with any particular person/audience in mind?
A.    When I paint, I do it first for myself, that said I know that the paintings must be seen, it's still the goal, so I hope by making them that they will be understood. 

Q.    Are you happy being an artist?
A.    Yes I am happy to be a painter, I consider it a chance.

Q.    When do you have the most fun?
A.    The moment when I have the most pleasure is when the painting is finished and I can see the result as a spectator.

Q.    How has being an artist changed you?
A.     I think that being an artist has not changed me because I feel I have always been.

Q.    If you weren’t paid for it, would you still paint/create?
A.    Yes of course I will continue even if I was not paid because when I started, I did not imagine I could live one day. 

Q.    What advice would you give to the aspiring artists?
A.    The only advice I can give is never to despair and also to work because talent is not enough.

Q.    What have been the important turning points or influences in your artistic journey?
A.    What was important for me was to realize that art was accessible to everyone thanks to the discovery of art brut and singular. I then understood that even if there were great masters insurmountable; we could humbly become an artist if we just had something to say. 

Q.    Which are your favourite mediums/colours?
A.    At the moment all my paintings are painted with phthalocyanine blues, which I find mesmerizing. I paint with acrylic on canvas brushed with pure oil between each layer of paint, then I work on the incompatibility of these two materials.

 Q. What is art for you? 
A. Art for me is a vision of the world and transcribing it into another reality that only appeals to emotions and sensitivity.

(This article is preliminary an essay for a book of essays titled 'Your Art Is Not My Art'. Details soon.)

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