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ERNEST PIGNON-ERNEST

Born in 1942 in Nice.  He lives and works in Paris.

Today, Ernest Pignon Ernest welcomes us.  We approach with humility a work whose limits fade in the distance and embraces the whole expanse of the world.  A homogeneous set of virtuoso drawings on the walls of cities, which speak of the pain of men and carry a heavy topology of reminiscences.  Brought to the rank of contemporary icons, these figures suddenly come to life expressing with greatness their destiny, their buried lives, their dreams abolished.  A work uniting, with power and dignity, the strength of the drawings of a humanity laid bare and the relevance of their place of insertion.

By Fanny Revault


Where does this passion for art come from?

It came very early.  I made my first drawings around the age of twelve. I do not come from a particularly cultivated environment.  At home, there were no paintings or books.  My family was more interested in the sport.  As I loved to draw, I realized the equivalent of postcards representing the bridge of my village, then I discovered Picasso in a number of Paris Match.  It was almost a turning point in my life.  I did not have other tracks at the time, but I saw that painting could be something else.  When I first discovered Guernica, it has guided everything I’ve done since.

 What ideas do you defend?

I do not think I’m defending any particular ideas.  My work is more like a kind of quest to densify the real.  That’s what I live.  The inscription of my images in certain places aims to work these places plastically;  but also at the level of their symbolic potential, to exacerbate them, to make these places stronger, to densify the potential they carry in order to re-register human history.

What is your favorite artist?

Picasso. Paradoxically, it is because of him that I am an artist.  I do not paint, but if I drew this space of intervention in the reality that are my images, it is partly because of him because I had the feeling that after Picasso, all the purely pictorial experiments were  slightly derisory.  I still have that feeling.

But my sources of inspiration are reading and poets (the works behind me represent Pasolini).  He is for me a permanent reference, from an artistic point of view, by his sensual and carnal approach to places, people and history.  It is this carnal character which, paradoxically, always reveals the sacred dimension of places.

I often seize the work of poets, their destiny because they often embody their time.  Pasolini, his history, his assassination, the 800 trials that he undergo testify to Italy at the end of the twentieth century, just as Pablo Neruda embodies Chile, the Cordillera, the Pacific and all Latin America

When do you feel the moment of creation?

In drawing, there is always more than what is figured: there is the project.  A drawing carries with it a perspective that associates the viewer in a way other than painting.  Unlike the latter, he remains constantly in the making.  If you show me a painting, I can date it to fifty years, but I could never do that with a drawing.

Does the moment of creation appear in the night?  When the idea comes to me?

When I realized that Pasolini had been dead for 40 years, I wanted to create an image that represents him by asking me what we had done with his messages, what he had told us.  It took me a long time to understand that I was going to create an image that represents him wearing his own body.  It was a creative moment because for a long time I did not know how to express what I was looking for.

I should have thought about it before since in all his work, this idea of the double has always been present, as with Nerval elsewhere.  There I had a moment of creation.

After, I had to fight for weeks to do the drawing, so that it is right, so that the body is not too realistic, that it is a sign.  Sometimes all of this overlaps.  But for me, the real moment of creation is when I install this image in the place where I thought about it and when I thought about it.  (There, it was in Matera where he turned the Gospel according to St. Matthew).

The moment of creation is the design of my drawing and its installation in a place where the image takes all its meaning and sensitivity.

Why do you think art is important in our lives?

Because life is not enough?  [Laughter] That’s what I’m trying to say about my work: art makes it possible to densify the real, to reveal it.  You know, we go through the same places every day, they trivialize, we do not know how to look at them any more and suddenly, when I install my images, the place appears as different, it is like reactivated.  Art is a bit like that, it disturbs the real and densifies it, exacerbates it, makes it stronger.  It allows us to understand it.  My job is a search for understanding.  Finally, I treat some themes to know them better and to intervene on them.  Art allows us that, in short, to disturb and clarify.

What is your view of our society?

I share the point of view that Pasolini announced, this dehumanization, this acculturation.  I think that art is really indispensable, that poets are necessary, that plastic art has a dimension that has been completely misguided.  If I had a criticism of today’s society, she would be facing this kind of general amnesia.  If we do not know where we come from, we do not know where we are going.  The choice of drawing is almost ethical in this stream of superficial images that last a thousandth of a second, which are almost moral scams.  Drawing may be a choice of humanity.  There is no distance between thought and hand.

What are you dreaming of?

I read Aurélia de Nerval again yesterday.  The theme of this novel is the sliding of the successive follies that form the dream in reality.  I decided to make a book from this problem.

A last word ?

Try to get the real in all its complexity and come to slip in a fictional element that will reveal it, disturb it.  I think it was Robert Fillou who said, “I would like to make an art that makes life more beautiful than art.  “