About My Large Format Paintings,
In the Noisy-le-Sec Studio,
Nathalie Regard, 2001
I began making large-format polyptychs such as portraits in friction, photographic images of internal spaces dissected on the emotional or plastic plane, restrictively drawn surfaces, separately framed images that are in permanent tension. I was looking for conflict; I wanted to test the limit, a strategic, vital means of taking on the world.
Project 2001 (provisional title) is a summer assignment: heat, burning and combustion, arrogant and extroverted and all the while romantic and powerful. It is techno-industrial painting. It has to do with the general idea of desert, an attempt to profoundly transmute. At the start I viewed it as an “erotic museum” because it represents an ode to artifice, but that seemed too literal to me.
I made the paintings in Paris, in autumn. Ideally, they should be exhibited in large spaces under artificial lighting so they can be viewed at a distance.
Before, people viewed art in their homes, but technology has changed many things. The visual arts are no longer a visual activity as they were a century ago. The image, whether figurative or abstract, has taken on the role of discourse. The best exhibitions take place in public or collective spaces, not in homes. Attending an art show feels like going to a huge circus, a chaotic paroxysm, if the complexity is accounted for. A show on this scale can be no other than a collective experience. There have always been activities outdoors, various pursuits than get us out of the house, even if the creative activity is a defiance that could just as well take place in solitary.
In order to make these paintings, I got invited to enter steel foundries and immense factories where the air was suffocating, hellish. I shot a lot of photos of various factories, thanks to contacts that made it possible for me to visit hangars, storages, plants, buildings and such: some places active, some having radically changed activities to become places with no people, for instance, the studio where I made the paintings, a lyceum that had been an electrical shop where there was not one water faucet.
I used a pocket camera to take the photos and I composed the montage in my house. This is also a declaration of love for my pocket camera.
It wasn’t easy to name this project, a heavenly light that can only dim, smoke from a candle just extinguished. The domination of forms is not, nor does it even simulate, communication with the eternal. I do not believe in religion, despite Chile and Mexico being Catholic Christian countries: it seems too authoritarian to me. If I had a religion, it would be liberty, however, like truth, liberty does not exist without experience. This series is a desperate cry, a prying into concerns. I wanted to push hard, amplify the image so as to urge and demand the audience’s attention, interrogate the apparent soiled beauty about this noisy nature’s symbolic value; contemplate it. There is no exit: the only hope is reconstruction. The last one I painted was Ecatepec II.
Approaching things in this manner is to search for the sublime, for what’s here, now. Rising above fear of taking distance by destroying forms or models. I had to regain equilibrium from always seeing the light red. Maybe this needs more time, but I find it easier with painting. In movement, destruction may be the paroxysm of the new. It’s hope that opens up in chaos, not an escape hatch. I get the feeling I’m always hunting for the same thing in different ways.
I want to show them in airports and train stations, big spaces, where the people coming, going or waiting can hear this cry. They’re spaces have to do with communication with crowds. There’s a special energy in these places, a euphoria that goes along with what interests me. My delight in passing by there has to do with my interest in creativity, which is associated with the symbolic idea of death, as are drugs in all civilizations. Sometimes it’s not easy to hear yourself. You can be impressed with yourself during fifty years of seeing yourself every day.
I’m all done. The last diptych was Ecatepec II, in which I realized that nature is just a concept, and liberation, the rebuilding of a moral. Now I can get oriented again. This facet that’s also me returns and makes me store away this experience like a wish. I learned that sometimes you have to destroy in order to create, personal relationships included.
I’ve always been obsessed with the truth, with making a painting as real as possible. Once I read a book in which the author creates a character and in the end he really meets up with the character. Painting’s like that, bringing things into existence. The work’s premonitory nature never ceases to amaze me.
This way of imagining the world represents well the vision we have of humans and paradise. There’s an innocent side to this, the will to change things, to create another reality. If you believe in something, it ends up existing. It’s a soft artifice of creation.
In this installation, I wanted the painting to be like a never-ending aisle where the pictures mix together. Unfortunately, they separated and are distinct spaces embracing different aspects of me. The spaces taken in Mexico and Paris differ flagrantly, which reflects what happened inside me. Now, there’s a beginning and an end, it’s a territory where the communication is frontal. I wished to be in a separated interior ecstasy, but for that to happen it was necessary to submit to the axe to make firewood. Lots of people fear such violence; they associate it with depression. These paintings are a way of showing this.
Every painting as well as every series of paintings must satisfy me at every level: intellectual, emotional, visual and physical. I like to work alone, but the people I see or work with are also quite important. My work is linked to my daily life. I’m like a sponge and all factors condition the result. Working alone in my studio affords a means of putting order into all this, to clarify things for myself.
I wake up, take the train to the suburbs where I spend hours shifting things, hearing my ideas take up positions, getting ready to make the colors; then, the painting paints itself. I’m fascinated.
Conducting the orchestra comes naturally to me. I’m also a megalomaniac. When I work with others, I like for everybody to contribute their ideas. I don’t like to control them. Instead, I motivate them. I don’t mind rolling up my sleeves; I like to work. I’m always under pressure, but I don’t like to speed up the process. I feel like a mother and father all in one. I nurture them, but don’t control them. I’m responsible, in fact, rather paternalistic. If I’m in a practical mode, doing business, the mother side is more emotional. Sadly, it’s equally important. I know people with a lot of potential, but when it comes to being practical, daily life, they act like babies. I’m here to help. I act like a baby sometimes, too. I can be strong, protect others, but also let really strong people protect me.
I’m not fond of playing it safe. Though I have many limits, I like to see how far I can go. This project’s risks led me to discover things. I feel time going by and I’ve no time to lose. I romanticize sacrifice; admire Jeanne d’Arc and Fitzcarraldo. I like to see how far people will go. I value painting above myself. Enthusiastic people uplift me. The rational, civilized world does not easily accommodate intuitive, chaotic people; it’s tough.
You have to find where you fit in. It’s all perfect there… not aggressive. I can remain alone for weeks and I’m never bored. It’s like I’m in a non-stop movie.
Isolating yourself is a form of weakness, but hurting people is, too. Consequently, I work and communicate. Though exhibitions interest me, I try to find out how we can better get along so we can truly communicate.
For me, being alone in nature is a romantic idea. So is the harmony between opposites, for instance, a band of gypsies dancing and making merry around a campfire in the Ritz Hotel. Now, there’s a romantic idea!
I more and more value the ability to slip from one universe to another.
When I was a girl, my mother and big sister got into a big fight. Their troubles had nothing to do with me. I’ve always had one or two friends that really understand me. I think I’m privileged to be able to be alone in nature. In Chile, the outdoors is especially breathtaking and I reached some truly peaceful states. There’s a balance. Nowadays, I like being in the city and being in the country; both are fine. One summer a poet friend and I took off walking in the desert in northern Chile. We covered hundreds of kilometers on foot, finally coming to Bahía Inglesa, a place to swim. I was starved for contact with people and I made merry and chattered away like a crazy woman. I’m shy at heart, but happy to see people.
Being too well known can be dangerous and take me away from painting. Some things I like doing alone, and well. I want the people I respect to respect me; likewise, being appreciated means a lot to me. I prefer eccentrics who value spending time over themselves, rather than people that are being talked about and appearing in the newspapers all the time.
I work best alone. The spaces I paint (in) are mostly devoid of people. I feel most connected with painting when I’m alone. I have euphoric moments when alone. I’m a conduit for essential balance that melts between brush and canvass, pigment and matter. Although alone, it’s a place where I communicate. Afterward I go back to the city looking forward to working with others or I invite them to the studio so I can feel a bit more connected to reality.
Am I truly proud of liking to be alone so much; to be so self-sufficient? You bet. Nevertheless, that’s a question I frequently ask myself.
I often work with people that have other interests and, if we’re on equal footing, there’s a two-way exchange.
Before, I worked with other artists in Chile, in the Atelier Santa Victoria. They were more instinctive, wrapped up in abstract expressionism, while I was more intellectual. We shared lots of things and I greatly appreciated their humor. They didn’t take themselves seriously, but I experimented in painting and took matters quite seriously. They made sure things were organic and created humor. The paint flowed.
I think there’s a place for every style, but I like to keep my distance from people that try to control. I don’t like the noise and tumult around contemporary art made for power. I don’t like totalitarianism; queenly arrogance displeases me because it’s linked to power. I don’t like martial discipline. I prefer openness that is not minimalist when it comes to sentiments. Maybe it’s because I was raised by businesspeople in dictatorships (Franco and Pinochet) and because Latin America was exploited by the Spanish conquest and later by the United States. Maybe that’s why I like being in France where there was a revolution. Right?
It’s that, nevertheless, industrial buildings symbolize power in the 20th century. But it’s a reaction to control linked to being flogged with the idea of civilization, a consequence of control more than the control itself. I liked making this project because it tells of something that’s hazy, in ruins, of an empty platonic empire. Now those spaces have assumed another role, the images have slipped due to the rupture.
From 1997 to 1999 I made paintings about myself. It’s good to make paintings about others.
Sometimes I feel like a tool for myself. Without being aware it sets up tensions in me, pumps the adrenaline when it’s time to prepare, organize and hang a show, even when it’s time to paint. Once I’m into it, I return to intuition.
There are no barriers between my life and my work; no borders.
At times I do things I find totally irrational right when I’m doing them. Later, though, perhaps a year, I realize I was right to follow my intuition.
I’ve always dreamed of being part of a movement; working together on a project with someone or others from different disciplines, for example. Dissolve myself and become a part… I’d like it even more if it was with someone I totally trusted, although I can’t figure out whom, not even in a duo. It’s easier to do this in work than in real life
Anyway, I’m interested in the present, pay attention to what’s happening right now. I prefer an optimistic outlook; to figure things will turn out. There’s a strong anti-nostalgia current running through me.
I often think about doing something quite different from what I do. I’m hard on myself. I tend to tell myself I’ve yet to begin doing a good job, but I still hope to do it in the maybe fifty years before I die.
It would really bother me to never have made at least one interesting piece.
I reckon I’m not even close to accomplishing what I have in mind when I wake up in the morning. Vacations are interesting because before days end I’ll have done something new, thought of a project to undertake, discovered or written an idea, snapped photos for a montage, etc. I’m a restless spirit; I never stay still. I like what I do, though.
From the megalomaniac point of view, my work wishes to stir passions, cities for those presently living. I don’t want to think the world is separate. Although we’re surrounded by technology we tend to separate it from emotions; nature separate from life, city separate from country or modern art separate from contemporary art. That doesn’t work for me.
I don’t want to be tied to the past. References to karma or reincarnation make me uneasy. Rather than disbelieving in them, they leave me perplexed.
I’d rather conceive of art like music, a sort of miracle uniting two worlds. This is in reaction to taking art seriously, elitist, even, and reuniting people, the city, nature, emotion and technology.
We can put emotion into a computer.
The tool itself has no meaning. What we do with it does.
Art changes peoples lives every day by affecting the deep emotions fused with those on the surface to relieve stress and help them feel better. Nothing like a good art show for an uplift. Otherwise we’d be like volcanoes.
If I could see a good exhibit every day, I’d feel less need to paint. My work is linked to what I see, what I comprehend from seeing and the impression I take with me from viewing a show. Coming out of the Scully show at the Galerie Lelong or the outdoor Erik Samakh exhibit Environmentales in Jouy-en-Josas Park, I felt relaxed and happy. The same goes for the Galerie Ropac show Les britaniques et le sexe or the Hitchcok en Beaubourg. I have the impression that part of the work had been done. But if I go to a show and don’t find anything good, I feel sorry and tell myself I have to do everything. It’s the housewife ethic: if nobody does anything around the house, I’ve got to do it myself.
Images are definitely my best means of expression. Though I might have profound conversations with certain people, in comparing my work in the studio with the way I communicate, I feel that I always remain on the surface with words. Painting has it all, being at once more abstract and emotional. It relates better with what I feel, relates better to my intuition, my mind, nature, with my eyes, but not with logic.
I believe everyone is born with one sense better developed that the other senses. As a child I didn’t talk much, but I drew on paper, on the ground or in the sand. Some children are like that. Others know twenty poems by heart but are scared of the slide and still others climb all over the place and perform acrobatics, etc. In conclusion, we can see in children how what they like to do is written in black on white. Some years later, at twenty years of age, I also talked a lot. Afterwards, though, that ceased.
My first memories of painting are hard to recall: dream images, very soft textures like a bunny eating a carrot or, much later, violence like a face cut by a razor.
However, I don’t remember any particular painting, just a certain tonality.
I vaguely recall posing for a painter, a friend of the family named Cuca Burchard. I was five years old; it was tiring and I was terribly uncomfortable. A portrait she’d painted of my sister hung in our home. She painted all children alike, but the scenery in the background was pretty amusing.
The other pictures at home were reproductions of Vasarely or Klee, which interested and perturbed me more for the relationships among the forms. My mother also had an African cloth, but the materiality of the cloth was just as important as the design. On the one hand, I enjoy storing memories, while on the other I like what is brand new and shiny.
I work most of all for myself. It’s rather selfish, but I also think at times about imaginary beings.
My grandmother is very significant; I’m her continuity. She did many things before me; she traveled, had a family, lots of things I couldn’t do. She’s the role model I follow.
If someday I have a little girl, I hope to hand down to her what she bequeathed me. I hope she’s proud of me and continues what I’ve started.
I’m not afraid of growing old, whether physically or emotionally. I’m not afraid of aging, but rather keen to mature in several aspects. When I was a girl, I’d look at my grandmother and get the impression of how I would be. I hope to find peace and I’m not going to lose time on what’s not worthwhile. But what’s hardest is to get there; it requires a lot of work. With the years, the only thing that frightens me is losing time. There are times when I feel I’ve achieved a lot in my 32 years and others when I feel I’ve done nothing.