Bertrand Fournier (b. 1985) works and lives in France and has achieved considerable success throughout Europe including solo exhibitions in Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and England with his next solo set to open in February 2020 at PIERMARQ* Gallery Sydney Australia.
The series ‘Childhood Memories’ Fournier is producing for his solo exhibition at PIERMARQ* is a wonderful display of his ability to reduce objects and scenes that may seem unrecognisable upon first glance but together with the clues from the titles the composition, the paintings slowly begin to make sense. Fournier invites us to share in the melancholy of growing up. This exhibition explores joy and happiness in the seemly mundane. Fournier brings light to rainy Sundays, comfort blankets, lunchboxes and cherry trees all of which translate into remarkable paintings.
Ahead of the exhibition we spoke to Bertrand to gain a deeper insight into his practice, inspirations and motivations.
PIERMARQ*: What started out as a hobby you enjoyed doing with your daughter, has now led to five solo exhibitions across Europe, and over 36 thousand followers on your Instagram. At what point did you decide that art was worth pursuing, and was more than just a hobby?
Bertrand Fournier: I think that it is done all alone, it is a process of which one I think has no power. It is collectors who give value to artists. For the 36,000 followers, this is only the result of an algorithm, we have to put this into perspective. I'm starting to distance myself from Instagram, it's hard when we have shown production day by day for three years to stop it, but I think it's necessary to better focus on the work that we want to produce and not to produce work influenced by people's opinions.
P*: Before becoming an artist, you worked as a psychiatric nurse, was art something that you had a previous interest in or did the act of painting spark your interest in art. Has your time as a nurse influenced your practice in anyway?
BF: I did not come from the intellectual world, art did not interest me, it was a world which for me was reserved for a closed circle. I discovered that one could venture there without necessarily having a training or an artistic culture. My paintings are an outlet, it is in a way the image of my thought. It is a need, the first year I painted nearly 400 paintings and I had no idea of making a job of it, I got into debt from buying materials, I moved away from my family, it was actually more of a sacrifice than anything else. Today I managed to find my balance, there are now two different people, there is the father and the husband and on the other hand the painter and these two people never live together.
To be constantly confronted with madness is to realize that there is no limit to thought. Obviously even if it does not influence the work itself, it does influence the way of thinking.
P*: Bright colours and abstract shapes have become major characteristics of your work. Can you expand on your practice, more specifically why you choose to use such vivid colours and simplified shapes?
BF: I can't explain my method, it took me 3 years to find it! As for the bright colours, I did not go to art school which means that on the technical side I am running late on and I made my case worse by starting with the oil painting. The fact of not having been able to control the overlays (fat on lean) means that from the start I painted as children, colour inside lines with colours directly out of the tubes.
For the abbreviated forms, there are only those who follow me from the beginning who know that I can draw, I just gradually kept only the lines that allowed me to express the idea.
P*: The titles of your artworks offer a great insight into your paintings and are often riddled with playful humour, why are captions important to your works?
BF: The title is more important to me than the work itself (for the figurative part of my work), a French proverb says: "it doesn't matter the bottle as long as you have the intoxication" (peut importe le flacon pourvu qu’on ai l’ivresse) = the bottle does not matter as much as the drunkenness. By that I mean that there is so many ways of representing one and the same thing, while the idea (the title) reflects the basis of work, the terrain on which the painter wants to venture.
P*: The subject matter of your work is often quite joyful. Is it important to you to convey a sense of happiness to your viewers?
BF: I have three young children, these are my first spectators, it is perhaps that which makes my paintings have this joyful side. I do not see myself showing them things that could shock them, I prefer that they have a smile when they see them.
P*: You’ve mentioned that daily life inspires you and is underlying theme within your work. What is it about daily life that influences you to paint?
BF: The flowers, the society, the Cuisine, feelings, seasons, ... a bit of everything around us actually.
P*: Your most recent body of work entitled ‘Childhood Memories’ set to open at PIERMARQ* Gallery, explores the nostalgia of growing up. How have your own personal experiences with growing informed this body of work?
BF: This exhibition is very introspective, I tried to extract these moments that make a childhood; from my first love (give me your hand, I'll tell you if you like butter), games from childhood (no worries girls, I'm a doctor), Sunday, days that I hated which was annunciator of the start of a new week and which always depressed me. Gathering daffodils with my mother, those frogs I used to collect with my brother and sister, which we put in match boxes and were found to be desiccated weeks later. Or to end this illusions where everything stops, all this innocence, the daydreams of children go away and we remember one last time before going away in this strange stranger that is the adult life.
For the death of the pink elephant it is too introspective to be able to explain it.