The construction of compositions created by models who choose their square among the 42 unnamed squares presented on a 6 x 6 sheet of graph paper.
I sit down in one of the chairs on the Promenade des Anglais; facing me, an empty chair. I have an artist’s portfolio on which I have put a 450 x 320 sheet marked with forty-two 60 x 60 squares. At my feet, an bottle of Chinese ink and a penholder. I ask those passing by, “Do you have five minutes to spare?” In response, I may witness indifference, escape, ignorance, curiosity, and yet, often, I get their five minutes.
The model sits on a chair facing me. I ask him or her to choose the square where he or she wants to be drawn. As the days pass, the compositions ordered by my models thus develop. These compositions are not completely random because each model is influenced by the place of previous portraits or by the white sheet. It is I who decides when I consider the composition to be finished.
(This work is divided into two stages: the first, when it is the models who choose their squares, and the second, when it is I who chooses their place following protocol I establish for myself.)
The majority of people naturally pose facing forward and often look me in the eyes. In general, it’s the first time they are posing. They accept that an unfamiliar eye is watching them and, for me, it is a naturaing calling into question of the academic and aesthetic portrait classically accepted; I am not a portrait artist.
We are used to being represented in groups of belonging, such as class or family, but we have rarely been represented in a group in which we ignore all of the other members. The average person on the Promenade is unlikely to have his portrait in an exhibition venue or museum. Artist or amateur artist, I do my best, and deep down inside them, my models have the common desire to take center stage, to go down in history, even if it’s for no one.
It’s also a bit off balance thanks to me because the portrait does not always resemble the model; I do not have the solid training of a portrait artist. The use of a pen and Chinese ink does not allow for touch-ups. It can make the model seem younger or old, it can resemble the model closely or not at all. The passerby is sometimes surprised by the difference between his expectations and the image before his eyes.
What I like, on this Promenade, is the sociocultural intermixing of the place, where each person feels at home. Following the person who is facing me, I become an Artist or a portrait artist apprentice. The desire to exit anonymity is one of the drivers of my work and is also that of the models.
Each model is warned that this work will be exhibited. If they give me their address, they will receive an invitation.
This work falls under the theme: “It is not my drawings that resemble us but indeed us that resemble my drawings.”
I did approximately 500 portraits and a great part of compositions were exhibited October 8-31, 2002 at the Brêche. A great number of people present were there looking for their own portrait, more in fact than the number of people there for the exhibition itself. In this wink at the ego, the theme became “It is not my drawings that resemble you but me who resembles my drawings.”