ATW Artist Talk is an ongoing series of interviews with artists that we’ve worked with. Each conversation focuses on different themes relevant to their practice and is accompanied by images of the artist’s work or their video footage.
For the second in our interview series we had the pleasure of speaking to visual artist Pierre Fauret from Toulouse.
Pierre Fauret: Hybrid Stories – Humans & Animals
Pierre’s diverse sculpture and drawing practice fluidly spans techniques to reimagine human traits and narratives within animal forms, by playfully combining a hybrid and experimental approach to making, materials and visual storytelling.
Interview conducted by Art Talk Write in June 2021.
ATW: You describe yourself as a storyteller – tell us about this term and how it plays out in your practice.
PF: Actually, this term was recently used by a friend and I adopted it. In ‘storyteller’ I see a parallel with writing and I like to imagine myself as a writer of short stories or visual tales. And for that, I first need a concrete foundation: an object, a material, a previous work, the image of an animal… that I will situate in relation to something else, confront, abandon and then take up again, in a more or less rapid and sometimes uncertain process. These are drawings with annotations, collages, photos, models, which will generate characters and situations linked to what I experience, to the world as I perceive it. “When I have an idea, it is the image of the idea that comes to me and not the meaning“ – this reflection by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan speaks to me a lot, but I can see that the meaning is already there, although still timid. It will assert itself by doing, the idea is pulled in a certain direction by the work of the hand, this is an essential mechanism for me, where the ‘accidents’ that can occur often play a determining role. The final story, made up of individual stories, will crystallise in the exhibition space; this is the stage of the final montage and the public projection, if I amuse myself by slipping into a cinematographic metaphor!
ATW: How did you become interested in the parallels between humans and animals?
PF: At first, there was the repetitive figure found in the series Mouton (1998-2000), which allowed me to comment on certain aspects of our society while avoiding a too direct confrontation with the human figure. But I really took the plunge in 2002 with the series Hybrides (2002-2004) by creating, from casts or enlargements of parts of my body, a fantastic bestiary where humans and animals are caught, as if frozen, at the crucial moment when metamorphosis occurs. Where, for the time being, we are more in the fusion than in the parallel! One can of course see in the example of the large crocodile hand – Crocodilus fessus maximus (2004) – a reference to our animal side, an allusion to what we do not control – we who want so much to control everything – the impulses that escape us and can dominate us, those buried desires that frighten us but that we nevertheless want to explore.
ATW: And how do these two worlds interact in your practice? In particular, can you elaborate on your use of animals to comment on human society and behaviour?
PF: I would rather consider that there is only one world with a common destiny (to use big words), of which plants and minerals are also part.
Do I ‘use’ animals? Do “I use animals to teach men“ as La Fontaine said? That would be very pretentious of me, so I will simply tell you the genesis of the work Polarité (2020). It all began with the discovery, in an old family home, of two bookends in the shape of polar bears: they made me want to look for novels whose titles would inevitably include the name of a wild animal, like a paper zoo nestled between them. However my list quickly grew, reflecting in its own way our current world, all the volumes having been taken from my library, already read, sometimes re-read, or still to be read. In the end, all that remains between the two bears is a suspended ice floe, scarred by corrosion, above which the books express their residue in a long, coloured, blurred band, similar to a chromatographic print. And so I find myself, almost surprised, with a work that speaks both of climate change and the disappearance of certain species, but that also evokes the eventual erasure of the book as we know it.
ATW: Are there any recurring stories, themes or animals in your practice? If so, what are they and what is their significance to you?
PF: Yes, there are recurring and emblematic animals: the wolf (see images below), the bear, the lion, the elephant, the deer, the bird too at the moment. These are animals well defined in the collective imagination, unfortunately too often by clichés and received ideas. They are elements of my language, but above all accomplices, chosen ‘friends’, who have fascinated me since childhood and when I first began constructing models. It is undoubtedly because of this long-standing ‘friendship’ that I have the impression of playing with them and that I also allow myself to metamorphose them as I please. Further more, my theme very often starts from the intimate and then, as with Polarité, I jump from idea to idea as I would cross a stream by leaping from stone to stone.
ATW: What are the links between the materials and objects you use and the themes you explore?
PF: Following on from the previous question, I will take the example of the sculpture J’ai été le roi des animaux (2020). Its main character, a large wolf puppet salvaged from a wild dump, is enthroned on a high chair, where he is both manipulated by almost invisible wires and crushed under the weight of a stone crown too heavy for him. This wolf is both the creature embodying ancient childhood fears and the fallen child-king, but he is also the ‘savage’ who frightens us, forced, at best, to live on the margins of our society.
ATW: Can you give us some specific examples of hybrid forms and materials that emerge in your recent work?
PF: Bestia (2020) is a creature with jaguar fur, the result of the mating of two bedside tables, topped with books and a stone, all of which resulted in an improbable figure of design. But mixing human and natural elements doesn’t quite work. Worse, the animal seems wounded, as if nature and culture are irreconcilable here. Bestia, having just appeared, is already in danger, perhaps even on the verge of extinction, everything is progressing so fast!
I can also tell you about Lanceurs d’alerte (2021), where animals, in the form of logos on various packaging, are stacked up like the animal characters from the Brothers Grimm story The Bremen Town Musicians, serve as the facilitators of marketing and consumption, while some of them disappear into the indifference of the majority. It is no wonder then, that they cry out their revolt as best they can, calling on those who want to hear them and come to their rescue.
ATW: Your series are often very different technically and aesthetically – can you briefly describe your approach to creation and what drives you to create?
PF: I could answer that the animal provides the link between my work but I also know my need to explore, to test, probably because I did not have the opportunity to do so earlier. I move forward in stages, by steps that sometimes take me time to overcome and gain more creative freedom, to be less restrained. I believe that these differences are linked to life itself, I move forward with what it proposes to me and I make my proposals in return. And I understand a little better now the words of French artist Robert Filliou “Art is what makes life more interesting than art“.
The past year has allowed me to function differently, with a longer period of time which was beneficial to me, I rediscovered this notion of play that I mentioned earlier: I would almost like to say that “To create is to play“, in any case it is an important and non-negotiable component! (Besides, on reflection, “To play is to create“ works very well too).
ATW: In light of the current global situation, are there any specific social, cultural, political or environmental stories that you feel it is essential to address in your art practice in the future?
PF: No, I do not have, and I do not give myself, any obligation to do a social or political work, nor do I want to. And especially not in a direct way, no edifying discourse on the state of the world, no works that can only be seen through what they tell. I want the viewer to be attracted first and foremost by the ‘material quality’ of the work, to be intrigued, disoriented and why not seduced? It seems that seduction is a taboo word in contemporary art… And then, the viewer may be ready to take an interest in the underlying statement(s) or, even better, they will invent their own.
ATW: Can you speak about your current or upcoming projects?
PF: I currently have a solo exhibition J’ai été le roi des animaux (3rd-31st July 2021) at the art space Ligne bleue, in the Dordogne department, a magnificent place where artist Jean-Jacques Payet and the Athéna Association have been doing remarkable work for many years to promote contemporary art and artists. In mid-June, I was also selected to participate in the Rencontres Artistiques event at the Carré sur Seine (Boulogne-Billancourt), involving a 3 day programme of professional meetings, which enabled me to make interesting contacts. Otherwise, the work continues with animal commissions in marble to be finished, a return to wax painting and drawing in all its forms, and holidays in sight; the artists are not indifferent either!
ATW: To conclude, can you please tell us a brief story that inspired you to create a specific series or work?
PF: I’m going to make an infidelity to the ‘animal friend’ and talk about a human friend, the artist Luc Laumet who lives in the Lot department of the Occitanie region. It’s just the classic story of an enjoyable visit and a good meal, that leads to a good idea; the idea of launching ourselves, on the 14th December 2016, in a very free drawing correspondence that allowed us to make and exchange over one year a total of 260 drawings, giving rise to 6 distinct series. Dessins croisés 1+1+1+1… (2016 – 2017), as the project is called, was a stimulating, rich and demanding experience that brought me a lot and that I regularly think about with tenderness.
Pierre Fauret’s current exhibition, J’ai été le roi des animaux, at La Ligne Bleue in Carsac-Aillac (24) runs from the 3rd – 31st July 2021. http://artslalignebleue.fr