We didnt find Mr. Réau, he found us. I was at once struck by the strength of his work, a devotion to stripping away the unnecessary and still retaining emotional content. The entire process of making art is laborious, time consuming and considered, but true art is an expression of something heartfelt, honest, and uninhibited, […]

We didnt find Mr. Réau, he found us. I was at once struck by the strength of his work, a devotion to stripping away the unnecessary and still retaining emotional content.

The entire process of making art is laborious, time consuming and considered, but true art is an expression of something heartfelt, honest, and uninhibited, and the two often conflict. For me, it is this battle between the left and right hand sides of the brain where the most interesting work is made. I’ve really enjoyed looking at François’s venture between order and chaos – not like anything else we’ve featured in our magazine, that much can be said.

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What got you started as an artist?

Very early in life I practiced painting and plastic arts. I met several artists, saw many exhibitions with some major pieces which had a strong impact when I was a kid. My artistic path started quite early, around the age of 14, with courses and workshops at the Poitiers École des Beaux-Arts, and I just kept on painting and drawing. After my diploma in Applied Arts, I moved to Paris where I started my research into Plastics and Arts.

Can you describe your working processes?

In my artistic approach, regardless of the project I’m working on, I try to find plastics that suggest a certain intensity and give birth to an emotion. That implies going via a polymorphic production, because the answers are not always the same according to the subject.

When I paint I scratch, I erase with a fabric or with my hand, I often rub the canvas or the paper… so that the image often changes and goes through different stages. Even if a painting seems finished, sometimes I choose to forget it for a while and when I go back to it I sometimes partially or completely destroy it. This way of working can seem spontaneous or instinctive, but for me it’s actually quite calculated.

Who or what are your biggest inspirations?

I have many inspirations and it’s obviously hard to list them all. I still remember my state of shock when I first saw Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lillies) series at the age of 12. If I have to name a few, I will say the work of Cy Twombly, Sally Mann and Anselm Kiefer.

The pillars, which are the base of my work, are mainly humankind and its history – sociology, psychology, philosophy and several sciences… actually many things that surround me.

What tools and materials do you use regularly and which are your favourites?

For the drawing and the painting I’m quite classic. I mainly use oil paint, paper and canvas. I like these materials very much because I like the plasticity of the paint. Regarding the installations, I mainly use simple materials, recycled products or found items like coal, corn or wood.

How do you spend your days?

A day of work is made of different steps. It can start with some study work such as drawings and drafts. Then I need a documentation phase – web, books, magazines – to help me to find clues or starting points. When I’m in my workshop, I produce. It’s a quite large, bright and calm space. Perfect to paint for long hours.

Which of your recent pieces have you been most happy with?

In a way, I think all the pieces I’ve made are interesting and I’m happy I produced them. They create a whole but also have their own story to tell. The work I like very much at the moment is the Traversées installation, because I did it on-site in quite a short time. It’s quite an intense and deep piece of art. As well the Penumbra series, Marsh or Laurus Nobilis are key elements of my work. They all allowed me to climb a new step.

How has your art changed since you first started out?

For sure my art has changed during my life. I used to work with acrylic; I’m almost always using oil now. On top of that, my work was very colourful, but now I’m trying to say more with less. I like this search of economy in order to go straight to the point. My philosophy of work has also changed according to the people I have worked with.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on a few different things. One work in progress is a landscape inspired work based on graphite on paper. I’m also working on a series of oil on canvas for an upcoming exhibition.

Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists?

You need a lot of work, curiosity and dedication.

francoisreau.com

Interview by Matt Jones.