Arte Laguna World promotes: Raphaël Duroy

As part of Arte Laguna World Promotes, we have invited  Raphaël Duroy, finalist of the 15th edition of Arte Laguna Prize.

To begin with, could you tell us about your journey as an artist? When did you start your artistic career?

It is a complicated question because, deep down, in my room, as a child, I was already doing things that could be painting or sculpture, but it took me a long time to notice it – other people had to tell me. Perhaps, when you are young you don’t even realize it, but now, with hindsight, I remember that what I was doing was already being creative. Afterwards, it took me a long time to recognise it, to really acknowledge it. I did lots of other jobs before, but you could say that it is progressive until there is a moment when it is just that [just art, ed.]. In other words, it can be present in many trades, for example carpentry or in documentary films, but it is not cleaned up, it is not just that. It took me thirty years to decide that I wasn’t interested in anything else [than art, ed.]! Or this is part of the creation: at some point you miss the beginning… and I hope to win in the end!

In the Arte Laguna World portal, your biography begins with two quotes by two quotes by two very different characters. The first one, by Caspar David Friedrich, says: «The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees IN himself». How has this sentence inspired your research? What do you see around you and, above all, INSIDE you?
[he laughs, ed.] This makes me laugh because there is a sequel to that sentence that says: «If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also refrain from painting what he sees before him». Actually it is the second part that makes me think the most because it mixes the two. It means that obviously you paint what you see in front of you, but it has to come through a double interpretation; it has to be experienced, it has to be mixed by the soft engine inside and then it has to come out. I think that’s why you have to wait a bit before doing that in life, because in fact you don’t consciously say things, you say things unconsciously, you have to know yourself well enough to be honest and let them come out as they should. That’s why it [the quote, ed.] makes you think. It can’t just be through what you see on the inside, but in fact you see on the inside by looking at the outside.

The other quote comes from the French writer Pierre Guyotat: «Art adds disorder and torment to the world»: are these concepts of disorder and torment among your permanent questions?
Permanent! As a chaotic being, chaos interests me. I am not interested in what is planned and chaos is exactly what is not planned. It is everything that happens; we are in a general chaos and I think that for me the creation is a way to organize this chaos in something that is as strong and moving as chaos but that we can maybe support. There is something that happens that I love to watch: when you start a painting, you arrive with small, tidy tubes, small or large brushes and everything is clean, tidy, well-organized inside your case… and a white canvas! Then all the tubes get mixed up and the result is chaos. Actually, on the canvas it goes the other way, there is a kind of exchange: creating chaos is necessary to organize something clean and beautiful. After all, if that wouldn’t be the case, the studio floor would be as interesting as the paintings. I think that we have a trace of this inside us: all life comes from chaos, everything we know or see has passed through chaos.

I have made some little balls here [he shows one ed.] baked in the oven and it reflects this idea that we are all made of the same thing, so it is a big soup, a big chaos and in fact life itself is the exception in this chaos, because life is an attempt to organize this chaos. It is very beautiful.


Yes, what you have just said is very touching, thank you! What prompted you to apply to Arte Laguna Prize?
I have been waiting a long time. I have sculpted a lot however, since I was also a landscaper, I waited a long time before applying and, as a consequence, to see what echoes my work could have on the others and on the world. Arte Laguna Prize came to me in my first year as a sort of “internship” phase; I attended three contests to see how it would have ended up so I am really glad that it worked! It was the best!

 And we are happy to have welcomed you as a finalist! What does “Jacky” – the work you exhibited at the Venice Arsenale and also at Villa dei Cedri in Valdobbiadene – mean to you? Who is really Jacky?
[he laughs, ed.] Who is really Jacky? As there are a lot of things inside me, there is a reason but there is no reason to the reason. I have associated Jacky with Jacky Kennedy but this piece is completely a soup. On the other hand, what it means to me is that I was interested in having a fixed representation of something alive. In sculpture, I still make figures – it is not abstract, compared to painting – and, as a result, what I am interested in fixing is an instant in someone’s face. There are moments, in faces, where in fact everything is changing; when you give someone a good or a bad news you can see it very well;  when you are told that there is no more pain au chocolat at the bakery in the morning there is something going on and this is what psychoanalysts look at. For example, the tone of voice (well, in sculpture we don’t have it but you find it in films) and that is what is really interesting. Even more interesting than what we say, is the tone of voice or something that is broken in the middle of the sentence, the way the face clouds or becomes cheerful… Jacky represents this well, it is a piece that succeeds in this regard because she is moving. The dedication was to Kennedy who was shot in his car and so all the faces were completely like that around him at that moment. That’s it, nothing more, but I think this is why it works; you can’t look at her completely because her face is moving and this is exciting. You don’t have to play that too much in life because it’s a bit complicated with people but it’s actually very interesting to look for that very instant in people.

A compulsory question concerns the Voodoo culture that influenced some of your artworks, such as “Ma-Whou”: how have you approached this world?

First of all, there is a sensitivity towards all these sculptures, to this world; there are many things to say. Afterwards, the Fondation Cartier in Paris asked me to make all the films for the Voodoo exhibition around 2010. So I met and interviewed all the people there, many Voodoo aficionados and Voodoo priests. And there was something that interested me enormously in Voodoo: the fact that it is a complete language, without any words, it says things and at the same time there is nothing written, it is just a kind of magic. You’ll see that there are no letters, no signs in my paintings, there are almost no signs – well, there may be a cross on a sculpture. For me it is very important because – even if I didn’t necessarily realize it immediately – I think that I really have a way of thinking which is of the order of abstraction, I don’t think in words at all, so it touches me a lot to see that, and that’s why it’s a bit part of my sculpture. I traveled to Africa as well, so I was very influenced by all the things I saw there. I am a magician; my children tell me that I am a magician. [he laughs, ed.]

Do you believe that an artist should also be a magician, then? Is there really a distinction?
I think there is something in common between the magician, the prophet, and the artist. Also the latter has to go towards mythology, towards poetic links in life which come out of mythology and which unfortunately are no longer part of our habit. Nobody lives with poetic and mythological links any more. That’s why I was talking about reason earlier; I love things that are done reasonably but without reason…and this is really important in my work! If right now I really have something to say to the world, it is this: that we have to stop looking for a reason for everything because we can see where this leads us. And that the way to find new ways of doing and living is precisely to do things without reason or with absurd reasons. There is something subtle here that interests me a lot and is extremely important to me. The explosion of colors in painting is exactly that for me. Beautiful things have no reason, they just happen.

What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have any new projects in mind?
I have plenty of artistic projects, I sculpt and so forth. Obviously everything will come. However, what is becoming very important for me is the place where I am, which is a farm with water, fields and wood. I can no longer separate my future in creation from the way the world is moving. In other words, I expect big changes so my project is to continue to try to say things while watching the world change. [he laughs, ed.] More than ever it is a reaction to my sensitivity to the world, to what is going on, to how I feel when I see people. It has become more and more important.

Has your participation in Arte Laguna Prize had a positive impact on your artistic career?
Well, it would be wrong to say that it had a negative impact! Yes, of course, it was a kind of launch, it was my first exhibition. In fact, if I think about it, Arte Laguna Prize was the very first time I had a piece on display. It was very good, it was positive for me. It is difficult to be alone all day; when you don’t have regular positive feedback, or things that allow you to carry on like that, it is more complicated so it gave me strength.