Art of Vision and Perception
The Global Women Media news agency continues its series of publications dedicated to the creativity and lives of interesting contemporary artists from different countries. The French-German artist Jean-Philippe Deugnier gave an exclusive interview to the website. He told about his major projects and sources of inspiration and shared his vision of the power and value of contemporary art.
Jean-Philippe Deugnier is an artist interested in cognizing the world through human perception, memory, emotions, and psychological states. His artworks look like skillfully drawn abstractions. Many secrets and interesting creative approaches are hidden in those pieces of art.
– Where did your artistic path begin? What techniques did you use to create your works?
– In my student years, I studied management at one of the classical schools of economics in Paris. Already at that time, I found commercial work insufferably boring. I’ve always looked for a way to fulfil myself through creativity: first in poetry, then in photography, which I found particularly exciting. I do not have an art-related education. However, I have been learning on my own for more than 25 years.
Experience and experimentation are essential for the development of any artist.
My artistic path began with experimentation. I studied photographs taken in different techniques, sizes, and styles. I understood that I enjoyed working with materials from the past that have the potential to become the basis for contemporary art. That can be compared to being able to build a time bridge between the centuries.
Interestingly, as an established artist of today, I still work with photos. However, I do not use a camera. I use old photographic glass plates aged over 100 years. I scan them by digital means and create entirely new works from that material.
It’s often difficult to distinguish the real pictures and images in my works. By means of mixing these images with others and processing them, I managed to create new shapes, colours, and images. Thus, my astonishing abstractions are born. As a result, I often come to simple shapes: a square, a circle, or a triangle. That refers us back to geometric art, which is extremely deep despite the simplicity of the lines.
Today, I create multi-faceted, multi-discursive and evolving works at the intersection of art and science. In my works, I use the elements of Sciarsism philosophy developed by the Russian artist Sergey Dozhd. I like to incorporate mathematical curves and formulae in my work to emphasize the ambivalent nature of the relationship between materiality and emotion.
– Your scientific thinking makes it possible for you to create deep art. That’s not just the work of an aspiring artist. What topics most often become the focuses of your art?
– My works are usually focused on the topics of personality and the subconscious. I am interested in looking for answers to questions about who we are, what our past was, and what our future will be. I reflect my own thoughts through creativity in visual art.
I often combine scientific and emotional approaches to exploring the world within the same work. That creates an interesting contrast making it possible for me to consider certain things more deeply and volumetrically.
For example, one of my recent works is dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease. It deals with scientific discourse and medically proven symptoms in addition to a person’s emotional perception of the world, the reality he or she creates in his or her mind based on what he or she sees. The unchanging white half of the picture is something stable, the basis, on which human consciousness rests. The second bright half is something unstable, subjective, based on one’s memories and attitudes to something.
This work took part in the International Exhibition ‘Sciarsism and Sciarsists’, which was held at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in October 2021.
Today, I am working on a new piece of art. That’s a logo for a large German company that will reflect, on the one hand, the concept of the business and, on the other hand, my creative method and reflections. No matter what project I’m working on, it’s always important for me to make sure that it responds to my inner interests and needs.
– Sometimes contemporary art can be difficult to understand. Do you believe that artists need to explain their works? Or should viewers comprehend the artworks on the basis of their own experience?
– When thinking about what I want to communicate to the viewer through my art, I first sketch a picture for myself, thus trying to visualize my thoughts. Sometimes an idea can be rational and logically explainable. Other times it is based on feelings and emotions only. In the second case, explaining what I want to say becomes much more difficult.
Even an author sometimes finds it difficult to explain the meaning of his or her work. It is not the plot that matters but emotions, which may echo differently in the minds of different people.
I would like all the people who see my pieces of art to have their own vision, their own story about the artworks. Through my art, I address the viewer and say: “Look at my work but think about it for yourself”.
At the same time, I have projects, in which I pay much attention to clarifying their meaning for the audience. For example, together with the German-Belgian artist Ulrike Bolenz, we are developing a movement about Optico-Narrative art. In this movement, there is a special need to supplement the works with texts explaining the ideas put into them to the viewer.
– What concept is the basis of that project related to optical art?
– The project is called Optico-Narrative. It was created together with Ulrike Bolenz and four more international artists. Ulrike Bolenz is an artist with whom I share many of the same views on the world and art. I consider her a good friend of mine.
The Optico-Narrative movement combines the ideas of the power of sight as a means of objective perception, analysis of information, the power of words, and the narrative as a means of communicating a subjective view of reality. That creative movement is based on four key related areas: psycho-scientific research, figurative themes, engagement with new technologies, and interactive art.
The human eye is used to perceiving the world through two-dimensional movements from left to right and from front to back. However, according to Nicolas Schöffer, people need to develop vision, expand its boundaries of perception, and thus reveal yet unexplored physical and mental possibilities of our body and consciousness.
The Optico-Narrative artists see their task in bringing up a dynamic perception of the world in themselves and in the viewer.
Originally, optical art was essentially abstract and pictorial. Optico-Narrative, on the contrary, features figurative themes: urban landscapes, architecture, portraiture, and other objects beyond the physiological engaging the deeper emotional component of art.
Optico-Narrative works do not fully reveal themselves to the viewer at once. They establish a kind of connection between themselves and the viewer based on a visual vibration. We can say that these pieces of art are interactive rather than contemplative. When facing these works, viewers master ‘dynamic contemplation’.
For example, in my creative activities, I often use industrial printing supports, which I select on the basis of their physical and optical properties. Their characteristics make it possible for me to create works playing with light and creating an atmosphere of particular immersion of the viewer. Thanks to that, I can not only fulfil my creative concepts but also explore the very idea of the human vision of objects.
– What artists inspire you?
– I read a lot about Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Hilma af Klint and studied the ‘grammar of colour’ and the science of the energy of lines. All that certainly made its imprint on my creativity.
I am also inspired by the work of Michel Seuphor the Belgian artist, for his work on abstraction and colors.
Gerhard Richter is another distinguished person of art who influenced me. He also works with colour, stripes, and squares. The Cologne Cathedral Window is a stained glass window created by that author. I can also recall Josef Albers with his changing colours. My pieces of art are often compared to artworks of those two artists.
Geometric art and similar colour combinations are more characteristic for German art rather than French. However, I shall remind you that I have both German and French roots.
In general, I would say that I am close to artists who are experimenting in their creative work.
– What is your vision of the role and tasks of contemporary artists? What is the message of contemporary art?
– I believe that, today, all spheres of society transmit the message of love and mutual respect. That is what our world desperately needs here and now. Contemporary artists touch upon many different topics. However, in my opinion, the main message is: “We need to learn to understand one another”.
I consider artists as explorers of the world, the people around them, and most importantly, themselves.
That research-focused aspect makes it possible for us to develop art as an effective tool for intercultural communication. All people are different. However, we all use the language of emotions understandable for people from every continent. In this sense, art based on sensory perception can erase borders and unite humanity.
– What social mission do you have as an artist? What plans do you have for the future? What would you like to achieve?
– Artists can be compared to ‘guides’. They can take people on an incredible trip and show them different scenarios of the planet’s development and people’s future life. Artworks can give answers to questions, food for thought, and lots of useful information to both connoisseurs of art and culture and ordinary people who come across a work of art by chance.
I find it less important what I want to do for myself than what I can do for society. An artist’s work is always more important than his or her personality. Although they are deeply interconnected.
Artists’ messages conveyed to the world through their work are always a reflection of their thoughts, views, and perceptions. That is why it is so important for any artist to be a really good person in all senses of the word.
When creating their works, artists are actually creating a whole new world. The more beautiful this world is, the kinder and happier will be the people encountering the artworks. When we are surrounded by true beauty, we become more beautiful within. That is the main power of art, I believe.
Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov