Richard Texier, the Enchanted Pantheism
What made you want to go from sculpture and painting to digital art? What was the trigger?
Pantheo-Vortex happened about two years ago. I’m going to tell a foundational story about how I found myself in a changed state of mind. Why is it that sometimes you wake up in the morning and the world looks different? That morning I was eating a pear, a Passe-Crassane. What happened? I looked at the pear like a Brancusi. I saw the living pulsation of a whole enchanted mechanism around me, and I studied it closely the way you’d look at a major artwork. I saw the subtlety of its skin, the little dots of ocher and sienna dotting the surface. I looked at it, turning it around and around. I saw how the primordial flower had changed into a little anus, and the umbilical chord that connected it to the tree as it ripened. I cut it, and found that the flesh was white, tasty, with a unique odor. A minute later it was gone, and I said to myself, “You’re a barbarian. You just destroyed a natural masterpiece. You don’t feel the slightest guilt and you don’t know how to put it back together again.” That’s the essence of barbarism. And then I said to myself that nature, the whole enchanted pantheist package around us, is always giving us presents: a cool rain in winter, a little breeze, a sunbeam, running into a friend, wonderful, complex odors when you walk through a park or the countryside, a fish that ends up on your table… There are so many of these gifts, so abundant and wonderful. Why don’t we see them more often? Can an artist, in his own modest way, try to represent that magic, that mystery, in an undogmatic and nonreligious fashion? Does that fall within the operational field of his skills? So that’s what I tried to do, but it was a long shot. As everybody knows, the zero degree of painting is the monochrome. We’re familiar with how various artists have explored them in different ways. But what’s the zero degree of the image? I thought that a white egg against a white background would be pretty close. So I tried it. « Elasto-génèse ». 2014. Installation au parc Montsouris, Paris. (Ph. Jade Quintin ; © Richard Texier).
“Elasto-genesis.” Installation in Parc Montsouris, Paris I began to paint when I was very young, when I was about 11 or 12, in the most classical way, with oils. It was natural to use this basic vocabulary. I composed a white egg against a white background on a 180 x 120 centimeter canvas, a format big enough to enter into a dialogue with the body, a kind of 2D alter ego of the human presence in the world, and also big enough for energetic brushwork. I started to paint that egg right in the middle of the canvas. After friends, intellectuals I knew, came to visit, I realized that they were all impressed with my virtuosity. They had no idea that I could paint in such a classical, simple style, displaying so much technique. So I stopped, because the trompe-l’oeil egg was too much like hyperrealism, and that approach was exhausted in the 1970s. There’s no point in doing something, no matter how well, if others have already done it a thousand times better. That’s when I got the idea of working with the most advanced tools of our time, taking advantage of the possibilities technology offers today (Photoshop, for generating images, and Photoshop pro). I took up this project methodically and pugnaciously. I organized a team with some very young people who were completely at home with these tools and more or less willing to act as my digital paintbrushes. I quickly realized, thanks to them, that it would be possible, if still difficult, to render the world’s mystery and magic. We used this software as a talisman for our project. Each stage was assisted by the most advanced technology and materials. We used organic porcelain, which is very white, to isolate the images, and Diasec prints on specially made pearlized paper. We thought through all the parameters we set. Everything was carefully considered and collectively enriched. The point was to re-enchant the world while rethinking the image? Right. That was reinforced by a recent residency in Burma, where nature is still like it was at the beginning of time, incredibly generous and luxuriant. The fruits, trees, plants and flowers there are unique. It’s really a virgin area. My trip was a voyage in time as well as space. The West and its madness haven’t reached Burma, not yet, though it won’t take long. The people are very Buddhist, very spiritual. They live according to an ancient tradition that’s basically a celebration of pantheism. I wasn’t really influenced by that because I was already going in that direction, but it made my intentions more radical. When I got home I threw myself into it very seriously, with a lot of commitment to this new artistic strategy, and at the same time I worked very calmly, as if carrying out a personal experiment.
A BRANCUSI PEAR
This new series seems to condense and simplify all the questions you were posing and all the answers you were looking for. There are fewer elements, less profusion. The complexity is reduced to the interior of a single visual element. Do you feel a kind of concentration, in the questions and answers? In fact, a simplification of visual effects was a working hypothesis for the Pantheo
Vortex. The composition is without artifice—just the pale structures, opals suspended as if they were hallucinated— which make its harder to read the images and the complexity of what I was trying to do, the attempt at an artistic resolution. It became almost immediately apparent that I had to eliminate any artistic or compositional effect. I didn’t want to rely on my skills as a painter, so I just forgot everything I knew. I needed to act using totally new means of expression, and at the same time I was obsessed with giving praise to the whole enchanted pantheistic presence that I felt all around me and that every day beautifies our lives, the succession of minutes of our days, the presence in the world of this mechanism that is so phenomenally generous with us. We Occidentals don’t want to see it; we’re in a state of obsessive denial of that reality.
Which really, we’re ruining. Yes. Maybe what needs to be done about that is something cathartic. Maybe art is a valid way to do that. If that were so, it would be marvelous, even though I’m