Saturday, November 15, 2014
TÊTE-À-TÊTE WITH CHARLÉLIE COUTURE: HIS "MULTIST" ART ON DISPLAY IN NANCY
Interview by Falzo Fabione
In France, where he was born in 1956, CharlÉlie Couture is mostly known for his rock poetry, for 23 albums and 17 soundtracks created as a singer and composer and for more than 1.500 concerts around the world. But these staggering numbers are just one of the faces of this multi-disciplinary artist originally from Nancy but since 2004 "exiled" in New York. CharlÉlie has displayed his drawings, paintings, photography, sculptures, incisions and installations in more than 80 International exhibitions.
What he describes as being a "Multist", will be portrayed in the exhibition inaugurating on November 28th at Galerie Poirel in "his" Nancy with the title CharlÉlie, NCY-NYC. The show curated by Philippe Arnaud joins for the first time a hundred works created by CharlÉlie between his adolescence and today, some of which site-specific. A title that thanks to that hyphen immediately announces the concept of conjunction, of an intermediate position between different worlds like France and Usa. "I don't want this exhibition to be a point of arrival, but the beginning of something else", CharlÉlie explains. In September he added a new, important tile to his creative mosaic: album ImMortel (an ambivalent title, "immortel" in French and "I'm mortel" in semi-anglais), in which he explores an unknown territory: eternity. And it really does still seem like only the beginning.
"Immortel", the title of your latest album, seems to be concealing a question. What is it?
Often a creative work, of any nature, is the consequence of a question. This album for example gravitates around the question of time.
You're a musician, author and painter. In the song "Be an artist" from your latest album you ask yourself what it means to be an artist. What is the definition of being a "Multist", as you define yourself?
A "multist" is an artist who attributes more importance to inspiration than savoir-faire. The idea is that if you know where you want to go, you will find the means to start your journey. Maybe it's an alternative to the notion of Formalism. Multism is a fundamental practice, which starts at the roots of the creative act.
If your latest album were a painting, how would you have painted it?
The "multism" I speak of isn't about mixing up different fields, but rather trying to find those that are the best match to convey what we want to express.
Painting, incision, drawing, photography, sculpture, installations, sound and video. How do you tie all these arts together?
I like finding that moment of conjunction between what is real and its interpretation. What ties a work together is the same energy that animates a triathlon athlete who is giving every discipline the maximum: in swimming, cycling and running.
What was the most surprising aspect of this exhibition?
Its coherence. Inside me there are forces I usually can't see. I act under their influence but can't see them. I'm sure that people will come out of this exhibition charged with this same energy.
After 10 years in NYC, do you still feel like an exile?
Yes and no.
In this intermediate state between two cultures, two continents and various artistic disciplines, what do you think you've found?
I was born under a sign of duality, Pisces. Intimately I feel like I'm both Charles and Élie, at once Christian and Jewish, American and French. In New York I found the right to be all of this at the same time.
What does the city of Nancy represent to you and what does New York?
Nancy represents the first years of my life, the discovery of existence, the passions, the trials and every kind of experience. New York is my second life, my second chance, the chance to go farther and the right to believe in myself, knowing that nothing is ever finished.
Re-Gallery, the exposition space and laboratory that you opened in New York, evokes the idea of revisiting things and works. Why this peculiarity, what are you trying to "re-write" with Re-Gallery?
In the 80s I met Keith Haring in his gallery-atelier. I understood that the encounter was something worth experiencing but most of all I valued direct contact with people. A kind of relationship I still maintain in my daily routine. I see between 5 and 15 people a day: we talk and I think I've come to understand a great deal about direct relationships through people coming from all over the world and for the most part without knowing anything about me.
When you started your illustrations were more figurative and complex. Today you tend to paint by stripping your work of as many details as possible. Why?
I love the term "Abstract Narrative". Indeed if in the beginning I was using representation through drawings, today I often use photography as a springboard for the imagination. Photography is a flow of Inside-Out while painting is the formulation of an interior mystery, therefore Outside-In. I've always tried to find a balance in this moment of conjunction.
What are the urban signs that influence your paintings the most?
The urban signs that fascinate me the most are the ones on cement: straight lines, dotted lines, arrows and zebra crossings. The vocabulary of this signage to me represents the first urban painting of street art...
You've also designed footwear. What part of your artistic universe do you try to transmit with your fashion creations?
I have fun reproducing my codes and values in different fields: footwear, watches, sunglasses and other objects. But I wouldn't define myself a designer. I feel like a multist artist and this title means all creative experiences are fertile opportunities.
What are your future projects?
I will be on tour for a year with my latest album ImMortel. I'll be alternating those travels with more solitary trips back to New York. I also have a few exhibitions coming up in the States and various material ready to be published.