French Artist Yann Lacroix’s exclusive practice of paintings are composited by his experiences and the potential traces of memories that live among the silent spaces of which he paints. The familiar and lush landscapes inhabiting exotic vegetation, tropical greenhouses and swimming pools, empty of human presence evokes the idea of a lost paradise, paradoxical to our push for the creation of artificial spaces.
Yann Lacroix now returns to Bangkok for his second Artist in Residency at TARS Gallery where he will be producing a new series of works titled ‘Sunset until Sunrise’ within a different environmental and political climate from which he was previously exposed to.
Sunset until Sunrise Artist Residency at TARS Gallery
19/03/2020 - by Claire McCafferty
Throughout your career your paintings have consistently been exclusive to landscapes. Did your upbringing contribute to this?
I grew up in a small town nearby Clermont-Ferrand, which is a small city in the center of France surrounded by volcanic mountains and natural landscapes, I spent my whole life in this area until I completed my university degree. During my studies I participated in an Erasmus Programme at The School of Fine Art in Porto, this was a really special time because it was when I began my work on landscapes and memories.
It was the first time I lived alone and away from home where I felt complete freedom both personally and in my practice. I was also far away from my teachers and was able to be in my own school of thought, from that moment I understood that my life and my work is my entirety. Being far away I started to understand who I was as a human being, how I think, how I feel, how I was when I work. But in time of contemplation I often thought of the house I grew up in that was encircled by a garden, a hill and was located within a national park.
The distinct way you interact with your medium is seen across your works where there are areas of defined details and other areas that are not as elaborate, it’s almost synonymous to the memory process. How do you translate your mental landscapes into your composition?
A memory is never precise, it’s always with selection. We interpret, we forget and we recall things that never happened but we put it in the same time and space with something that did. I like the idea of the in between, I want my paintings to bring the viewer somewhere and have them lose themselves. A painting is to give the sensation of a reality but it is not, it is a manmade memory we try to reconstruct and reproduce through the composition with familiar objects that creates a reference point or a trigger to prompt the illusion. When we want to construct a tropical greenhouse we first think of what defines ‘tropical’? We then choose plants and objects that meet this desire. Thailand is a great example as there are many resorts, where you have villas in the middle of a fake tropical forest with a swimming pool that looks like a lake or a river and then you have people there serving you. It’s the recreation of a special environment – a fantasy, I put this idea into my composition.
Yann Lacroix. Photo credits Pierre Evariste Douaire
How is your relationship to landscapes and memories depicted from your childhood?
When I started to paint landscapes it was purely from my feelings and sensations, I tried to uncover the unseen pieces of my childhood. In childhood, many significant things happen that constitutes to who you are.
The most intense memories are the first images you can recall, the light, some lines or motif patterns, and for me it were those images from my childhood that were most vivid. The painting becomes my mental landscape where the fragments of memories I pick creates possibilities and visions of ideas, but it also becomes a point of reflection for myself.
You work on two very different scales, have you always worked this way or has this developed over time?
I’ve always worked on two scales, though as a young painter the large scale oil paintings were what I wanted to confront first. To me it represented the Old Masters and to discover the mystery of Old Master techniques as you would see in the museums. It was something really important in the process of discovering painting as a medium, and in a certain way you have to confront yourself to the big scale works to be defined as a painter. For me the large scale works become immersive as it’s your own point of view, your own scale of the way you see the world experienced by the viewer on a human scale. It’s a different technique to the way I would work with my small scale paintings, the way I interact with the canvas is much more physical, embracing the accidental.
I like to be really close with my material and create this window of existence. In contrast to the large scale paintings, I believe the small scale paintings are more meditative for both myself and the viewer. I started to paint the small scale works because as a young artist I was truly amazed by the works from Camille-Corot’s trip to Italy in the 1820s – 1830s, especially with the fact that he made those little paintings simply because he could not carry big material along with him during his journey. When you have that in front of you there is such life and such perspective, it can speak to you greatly. There was everything within his small little paintings, you go inside the painting as you view it.
Sunset until Sunrise, Artist in Residency studio view at TARS Gallery. Photo credits TARS Gallery
You have participated in numerous Artist Residency programs in various territories, how do you believe the representation of time and space has evolved in your work as you become exposed to different contexts and environments?
Memory and landscapes were the engine and the mechanism that had already started to run. For years I would only paint purely from my sensations and memories but once I created a complete circle, I needed new stimulation so I decided to use my own images and images documented on the internet to fill my landscapes. The phone images are taken from my own experiences and it allows me to expand the possibilities of the composition, the usage of these images didn’t stop me from thinking about the same topic in my works. You’re always looking for some stimulation to understand where you want to go further because the first way you used to paint became enough.
Of course, the temperature, the light and the vegetation have influence on my work but I believe my work is continuous and isn’t specific to any location as it’s from my experiences and memory. I take many photos and take the time to digest it, the images I take help me create a different context even when I am back in France, the experiences I have build on the mental landscapes and exoticism I want to depict from my mind. I like the idea of intrigue and I want to express it in my work. The systems of layers and elements that are prominent or disappearing with the idea of an unknown location or time speaks about the fragility of our existence and what we have in front of our eyes, the question of what is real becomes fundamental. This is much more true when you don’t see anyone in the painting, there are no characters, and maybe the only character is yourself left to your own interpretation.
How do you feel your Residency at TARS Gallery is continuing this journey?
My Residency at The Casa de Velázquez in Madrid gave me the possibility to come back to my work 8 to 10 months after I began, all this time that you have with your work is very beneficial. From that time spent reflecting, now that I am here in Bangkok, I now know how I work, how I want to work and how to bring out the images inside my mind. I know that 2 months for this Residency at TARS is enough for me to create something, I take this time constraint as a way to stimulate myself. It permits me to immerse into my work and digest it as I go. Sometimes I may have taken too much time to reflect, I asked too many questions and it became unconstructive. I was always so concerned about making everything crisp but now I tell myself that even if you make mistakes, you keep moving because it’s the process of how you work.
How has your time in Bangkok shaped the works produced for “Sunset until Sunrise” during your Residency?
Something interesting to address is how our minds structure and define a landscape. In the last few hundred years the exploration of territories, colonization and the question of exoticism has contributed to landscape works. New Western discoveries of tropical vegetation and civilizations built the idea of exoticism, and the landscape paintings created became representative of the perspectives and experiences of Westerners in faraway places.
Being in Thailand, I wanted to interrogate and understand what this could be now as a perspective of a Westerner in a modern, urbanized landscape. As a Westerner the idea of faraway territories being defined as exotic is embedded into our minds, it’s a land of escape and fantasy. But as modernization is happening on a global scale and the context of the world is changing it’s important what marks were left in the past and how it has changed today. I wanted to address this idea through my perspective, the canvas is a physical space where my memories, landscapes and history live together.
Yann Lacroix’s solo exhibition Sunset until Sunrise produced during his 2 month Residency at TARS Gallery will be on display until the 29th March, 2020.