Ri­chard Pe­duz­zi The Soul of Dra­wing

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Dra­wing is of­ten as­so­cia­ted with a tra­di­tion that has been in­ter­rup­ted and whose conti­nued exis­tence is threa­te­ned. Why do people consi­der it a prac­tice whose time is past?

The prac­tice of dra­wing has ne­ver been out­da­ted. From when I was a child through to­day, I have al­ways drawn. To­day, more than ever, dra­wing helps me see and un­ders­tand what I ob­serve. I lear­ned to draw both from my fa­ther and the on­ly tea­cher I ever had, the sculp­tor Charles Auf­fret. La­ter, when I was di­rec­tor of the École Su­pé­rieure des Arts Dé­co­ra­tifs, I in­vi­ted him to teach there. All the stu­dents lo­ved his courses. At that time dra­wing was a way to es­cape the dis­course and ex­ces­sive theo­ri­za­tion that do­mi­na­ted tea­ching. It was and still is an im­por­tant part of the trai­ning of all young stu­dents. It edu­cates the eye and the hand. Dra­wing pro­vides the es­sen­tial fra­me­work and the real back­bone for ar­tis­tic edu­ca­tion. I would even say that dra­wing makes it ea­sier to un­ders­tand and take up the new tech­no­lo­gies. There’s no rea­son to be afraid of using cer­tain tools like a T-square and a plumb line. It might seem old-fa­shio­ned, but this kind of ba­sic trai­ning is ne­ces­sa­ry. Just as lear­ning to write re­quires mas­te­ring gram­mar and spel­ling. Dra­wing teaches how to see, it shar­pens the eye and brings to­ge­ther tech­nique and emo­tion.

What per­so­nal need does dra­wing ful­fill for you? Does it give you some spe­cial sa­tis­fac­tion vi­sual­ly? Does it have to do with your thea­tri­cal vi­sion as a set de­si­gner?

Wi­thout a pen­cil bet­ween my fin­gers I can’t get hold of what I’m loo­king for. I al­ways have a pen­cil in my hand or my po­cket when I’m thin­king and loo­king. I draw eve­ryw­here—in the mé­tro, res­tau­rants, while tra­ve­ling, and on any­thing at hand. These free sketches on pa­per are like the mu­si­cal

scale from which forms arise. When I have an idea I turn it over again and again in my head un­til it’s rea­dy and I can set it down on a blank piece of pa­per. I need to work out all the va­ria­tions on my ideas. Of­ten I start with a mi­nus­cule sketch and then make it big­ger so that I can find the scale and balance of the shapes, to get their pro­por­tions just right.

That’s how you come to de­si­gn your sets.

I use dra­wing to find a way to keep the va­rious ele­ments from floa­ting in space and make them form an en­semble. As Mies van der Rohe fa­mous­ly said, “The more I ad­vance the more I erase.” I think that cor­res­ponds to my dra­wing pro­cess. I try to find just the right pers­pec­tive. On pa­per I try to use lines and style to achieve an open­ness to the in­fi­nite and make the space breathe along with the ac­tors. The set is a cha­rac­ter in its own right. I need to fi­gure out its func­tions and the right balance in re­la­tion to the text, the di­rec­tion and the ac­tors. When I ac­com­plish that, that’s when I feel like I’ve done my job pro­per­ly. When I work with a text, I al­ways try to bring it in­to my world, to re­pro­duce the land­scapes and buil­dings that trouble my dreams. It’s al­ways by loo­king and sket­ching that I es­ta­blish a re­la­tion­ship bet­ween a play, a di­rec­to­rial ap­proach and my own work.

Dra­wings re­veal the ten­sion bet­ween the quest for the per­fec­tion of line, with all that en­tails in terms of the length of time re­qui­red, and the plea­sure of ra­pi­di­ty, the quick sketch and the heat of the mo­ment. Which as­pect do you pre­fer? Or do you al­ter­nate bet­ween them?

I love the tos­sed-off cha­rac­ter of cer­tain dra­wings, even their clum­si­ness. They make it pos­sible for me to see more dee­ply, more pre­ci­se­ly, to give form to my dreams. A sketch conveys a fee­ling of in­fi­ni­te­ness, the en­chant­ment of ra­pi­di­ty. In sketches that so­me­times pro­duce that mo­dern sen­sa­tion of un­fi­ni­shed­ness, you don’t see the ef­fort and the work in­vol­ved. A dra­wing should have no­thing ti­red about it. Its light­ness comes from the heart and the sprit the heart im­parts. Dra­wing al­lows me to ar­range forms so that they en­ter in­to a dia­logue with each other, whe­ther I’m loo­king to pro­duce a har­mo­nious fee­ling or to shat­ter that fee­ling. I try to in­tro­duce so­me­thing like the march of time in­to my work: be­fore dra­wing a wall in ruins I like to un­ders­tand, through dra­wing, what the buil­ding loo­ked like be­fore its des­truc­tion.

Do you have pre­fe­rences?

There exist so­me­thing like fa­mi­lies that ar­tists feel they be­long to. Once when I was wor­king at the Louvre on an ex­hi­bi­tion of dra­wings by Claude Lor­rain, I found a wall that re­sem­bled a dra­wing of a buil­ding I had once made. I said, jo­kin­gly, to the conser­va­tors around me, “Hey, look, he co­pied me!” Art his­to­ry is a line that goes both ways. You can find links bet­ween to­day’s art and the dis­tant past. For me, more than ever, the goal is to seek the best in dra­wing.

Do you thin­king a dra­wing can be com­pa­red to a pia­no so­na­ta?

There’s music in eve­ry good dra­wing.

I can’t for­get so­me­thing you said to me one day, ear­ly in the sum­mer, be­fore you left, “The de­fi­ni­tion of hap­pi­ness: to draw in Ita­ly.”

That’s right. The de­fi­ni­tion of hap­pi­ness is to tra­vel, watch the land­scape go by, draw in Ita­ly sur­roun­ded by the people I love.

Trans­la­tion, L-S Tor­goff

Stage de­si­gner Ri­chard Pe­duz­zi did the sets for all of the ope­ras and plays di­rec­ted by Pa­trice Ché­reau since 1968 and al­so of his films. He works re­gu­lar­ly with Luc Bon­dy and in­ter­na­tio­nal mu­seums. He was the head of the École Su­pé­rieure des Arts Dé­co­ra­tifs in Pa­ris from1990 to 2002, and then of the Villa Me­di­ci in 2002-08. Georges Ba­nu is an aca­de­mic and es­sayist. His la­test book is Amour et désa­mour du théâtre, Actes Sud.

Page de gauche / page left: « Quai Ouest » (B.-M. Koltes, 1985). Mise en scène Pa­trice Ché­reau. Théâtre des Aman­diers, Nan­terre, 1986 Stage de­si­gn for “Quai Ouest” by B-M Koltes Ci-contre / op­po­site: « Peer Gynt ». (H. Ib­sen et E. Grieg, 1876). Mise en scène Pa­trice Ché­reau. Théâtre de la Ville, Pa­ris, 1981. Stage de­si­gn for “Peer Gynt”

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