ALEXANDRE PÉPIN - INTERVIEW

2020

 

ALEXANDRE PÉPIN PHOTOGRAPHED BY Kathy Verville - WEARING RAD HOURANI UNISEX CLASSIC COLLECTION

INTERVIEWED BY Philippe Bourdeau

EDITED BY CHARLOTTE LAVALLÉE


 

Philippe Bourdeau : Can you share with us your journey through the world of art and what it has brought to you on a more personal level.

Alexandre Pépin : I’ve been painting for a little bit more than 10 years. Art has always been a big part of my life. It mostly brought me an ability to contemplate life on a day-to-day basis. I’m always looking for little treasures in everything surrounding me. My goal is to translate all these little findings it into an image, a painting.

 

PB : You started your art studies in Montreal, at Concordia university. You then decided to relocate to Austin. What pushed you towards Texas? What has this move changed to your vision of seasons, and territory?

AP : Quebec’s territory is really transcended by death. I think winter brings this dimension to our lives. The cycle of seasons too is really present in Quebec. I think, by relocating to Texas, I was seeking an escape from this morbidity. Only I keep realizing that over there, it’s just different elements of nature that inform us of the omnipresence of death. In Texas, what stunned me first was the intensity of the sun. It is so strong that it is basically the destructing element that kills life and even scares us. We continuously seek shade, in the summer. It’s really impressive. I’m wondering how this weather and location shift will translate into my work.

 

PB : What are, and have been your main inspiration sources in your practice?

AP : the pictorial genre that has impacted me the most, was that of still life and also the vanity. It’s a genre characterized by the idea of death’s presence, and the futility of objects, or any means of possession. So with the vanity, the artist is always seeking to show objects as useless in the bigger scheme of the time continuum. Contemporary artists still allude to this subject within their work, and I think it’s very interesting to realize that it has been a popular genre for centuries, and it can still be relevant today. I would say that vanity, as a genre is really the main focus for me as an artist. In my work, we can observe the key points of said genre, like skulls but also little moments of still life transformed into different textures and materials. None the less, you can still see recurring themes in my pieces. There also have been a couple of artists who shaped my art. The Quebecois artist who had the most impact on the colours in my work would probably be Cynthia Girard. She works within an immense array of colours and there is life and playfulness in her art that I really look up to.

Another artist who impacted my work is an artist named Peter Dreher. He is a german artist who painted the same glass 5000 times. The paintings depicted an empty glass on a table. The whole exercise was to immerse himself in a contemplating vibe. To ultimately meditate through the action of painting. It really infused the meditation side in my practice. When I get to my studio, I’m really in a contemplation mode, and that’s what painting brings to my life.

 

PB : Why did you accept the invitation to expose your art in the Rad Hourani gallery? What inspired you in the realisation of this project? How do you think your work will communicate with the gallery?

AP : I found the idea behind
 Rad Hourani’s collection very interesting. The idea that genre doesn’t exist, and furthermore the creation of unisex clothing was very appealing to me most of all because I’m always looking for a certain neutrality within my work, either through the colours, or the subjects. I like to explore human’s vulnerability, and also our strengths, but I don’t want to drift away in genre stereotypes. So basically I think that the gallery has the same vision as me in that sense.

 

PB : Can you share with us the themes that stimulate you when you’re on the verge of starting a new project? Go through the steps that lead to one of your pieces.

AP : Usually, when I’m starting a new project, I like to create little encounters with objects either from my everyday life and/or from nature. I then like to abstract the essential from them. For me, abstraction is a very interesting territory to visit. If I’m looking at a glass vase and the light passing through it, it’s not the vase that is interesting to me, it is how the light reacts within that microenvironment that is capsuled within said vase. I think with abstraction, it is easier for me to isolate these little moments, within a sea of little moments. And it’s not just the vase, or the light; it’s the idea of translating the essential within lots of little moments. So the abstraction lets met grab a hold of all of that.

 

PB : Can you share with us your fascination with poetry?

AP : I draw lots of parallels with poetry and nature within my work. There is always an important number of sides to everything I create. First of all, there is the subject, so the object of the phrase, there is the inspiration leading to that object, and then there is the physical treatment of the subject, so the colour, the form, and the light that will caress it in the end. For me the workings of art really resemble the hierarchy of the words in a poem. A word will have a symbolic impact, or a weight, and there is also its context and how it’s used, how we perform it when we pronounce it and how we perform it in our heads when we read it. For me, poetry vibrates in the same way that of the elements of a canvas. However a poem is made of words, so it conveys something a bit more precise. I think that in paintings there are strengths that can’t be found in a poem.  There is the idea of abstraction present in both art and poetry, but not in the same way. I think that they complete each other in a very interesting way and that’s why I like to include both mediums in my practice, and look through then both for inspiration.

 

PB : You use vanity as a genre in your exploration of consumerism. How do you apply this vision in your everyday life?

AP : I think that vanity shows accurately what is at the heart of consumerism of the era that it is painted in. For example, the 17th century Netherland’s vanities would show oranges next to gold, meat, and elements that would depict what was sought after at that time. Richness of materials, and textures would be really present. What’s interesting about doing one now is that the same symbols are at the heart of the vanity. We wish for the same things and seek the same shininess, with little changes, of course. Since I am of my time, I’m interested in different textures, plastic, chrome, things that convey lots of shine. These elements weren’t there before but depict the same sentiments in my opinion.

 

PB : Since objects are at the heart of your work, what does capitalism represent to you?

AP : For me, the capitalist system acts as a kind of corset, forcing people in a robotic life. People need to stop and start to see things in a contemplating way. It’s important to dedicate a part of your day to things and actions that have no commercial value. For me this system manages our everyday life, and that’s why I love art, it’s where we get a little room to breathe, and we can liberate ourselves from that corset. The goal is to lead a more meditative life, to do things that can’t be measured with efficiency.

I’m interested in objects’ seduction potential. I think that the system we live in is governed by seduction. Whether it’s in the store windows, in ads, it’s what catches the eye, and I think that us artists can afford to use some of these cues. We can use the same signals but to redirect the attention to values that aren’t part of the system. Even if yes, ultimately art has a commercial value, my art doesn’t come from a selling point of view, but more from a contemplative point of view.

 

PB : The emptiness of existence is a preponderant theme in your body of work. Tell us about a visual artist’s roles and the legacy he leaves to society.

AP : For me the artist’s ultimate role is to find the purpose of humane existence and try to convey it to others within his art. For me, it’s a celebration of life and finding beauty in every day life and to try and communicate it. I think we have to be careful about the system we find ourselves in, and try to create art that can travel through time, and still be relevant within that system.

 

PB : What does a typical day in Alexandre Pépin’s life look like when he’s working on a project?

AP : I like to get up early, leave my place early. I like to take as much time as I can to get to my studio. I like to source inspiration directly from my morning walks, and take as many detours as possible. When I get to the studio, I take about half the day working on different sculptures, mock ups in clay, plaster, basically any sculpting materials that I can lay my hand on.  This sculpting will ultimately lead to a 2D render so I like to keep that in mind when I’m shaping them. For the second part of my day, I start painting said sculptures. Organizing them on my canvas. The second day will be almost the same as the first one except I’ll finish my work with little touches that join everything together so that the piece conveys an emotion, a passion, something that can move the viewer.

 

PB : Lastly, can you share with us your definition of art?

AP : For me, art is a way of life and a way of keeping one foot in the past and one in the future. For me what moves me the most in art is looking at a hundred or thousand years old piece that is still relevant, and will still be relevant for as many years. For me art isn’t affected by political climate, it is linked to the real questions that concern us, and will forever concern us.

I think that in order to be an artist, life has to overwhelm you. In my case, art is a catalyst to that overflow, to that feeling that life is too strange. I think it’s the only way to live for people who have this extreme sensibility. It’s cathartic.

 

 

 

 

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