L: Like Père Ubu I would say the brain, in decomposition and being nibbled on by maggots, functions beyond death, and it is its dreams which are heaven…
G: I distinguish different moments in violence: its premonition, its execution and its result… I noticed that in your drawings those three moments seem to coincide… Are you not fascinated by some kind of damnation, post mortem suffering and a sin which never ceases to be accomplished?
L: Certainly not, the only thing there is after death, if we aren’t mummified, is the decomposition of our body’s tissues. I am totally free of any religious preoccupation and in general so are my images, neither while I draw them nor afterwards.
I try to fill the surface with a maximum of intensity, in each case with the elements which I find graphically - and therefore intimately - satisfying: it is perhaps here where the vice lies. You never knows why this or that form satisfies or displeases you. It is without a doubt a kind of abundance whithin the image which gives you the impression of simultaneous moments, an atmosphere of generalised violence, which is, from my point of view, difficult to dissect into a sequence. Anyhow, I’m generally not in favor of psychological interpretations of works of art, and I’m not talking only about my own images. I certainly would have difficulties drawing a flowerpot; and I also viscerally reject the sketchiness of a certain kind of pseudo-contemporary drawing.
G: It seems like the things you reject, find disgusting or hate are the same as mine… disdain and lucidity simply are delicious means to enter into a highly subjective view: I was very touched by your affirmation of intimacy. Am I wrong or does it seem like your drawings are evolving towards a certain “harmony” or at least more of an equilibrium in the characters’ relations, more ambivalence? There seems to be a growing restraint in them…
L: I have the impression that as time passes we find sneakier ways to say things which we used to assert in a more straight forward manner before, in art or any other practice. Language is becoming more complex because our vocabulary is growing, at least it ideally should be like that. One should try to become more and more radical but in a more and more subtle way, in a double self-contradictory move: these are great principles though, easier to proclaim than to follow.
G: Yes, I used the word “baroque” more or less like that: cluttered, but also in terms of the line, which is not “ideal” but mostly vivacious, stark and with various ruptures. I wonder about how you draw… Do you think you’re rather nervous, dreamy, precise, slow, or fast in your gesture?
L: If the line isn’t ideal, it is actually in spite of myself ! I can’t do better. I am slow and precise, and very compelled by engraving. Always weighing the pros and cons, trying to harmonise as one goes along. It is quite laborious with rather long periods of discontinuation. Maybe the ruptures result from this. I must be lazy, incapable of working tightly all the time. Well, the best things generally come quickly, that is quite evident. However, there is no absolute rule: sometimes it is torture to achieve a satisfying result.
L: On the contrary, to me they are dead objects, rather mummified, fossilised… Products of taxidermy. In my mind, they have to be ancient things, or impossible to date. Also, I need to be scared when making them, and as a result they cause some kind of deadly fear in the viewer. Here, causing reactions is easier than with two-dimensional images; but again I try not to get as dark and disturbing as the “Grand guignol” (puppet show). Im not sure if I mange to…
L: I don’t do drawings, except for some sketches here or there, I exclusively do engravings - for its rigid rules, not because of a taste for constraints, but enables me to canalise the mess a bit. There is the resistance of the technique.
You’re right to speak of a “collection”. It is when seeing how we worked at Le Dernier Cri, with Pakito Bolino and Caroline Sury, that got the taste for the adventure of working in a collective and I felt like “publishing” those friends, whose graphic oeuvre I admired and, when done as engravings, I thought would produce great results, and it wasn’t a failure.
They conceived the drawings, then etched them on plates that I had given them. At this point I have printed about twenty etchings: four portfolios by Remy, Caroline Surry, Nuvish and Anne Van der Linden who, by the way, goes on doing engravings at my home and with whom I’m doing an exhibition soon*.
L: It is my home, I live in it: my engraving workshop is in the lounge, the acid trays are in the garage or in the bathroom during winter. I tinker about a little bit in every room. I varnish my copper plates in the kitchen, the dolls are in the cubby-hole and on the walls, and I fabricate them in the garden when it’s sunny outside.
G: How much do your working materials cost?
Anyway, as a general rule, in addition to the material cost the artistic practice -like culture itself - isn’t a very democratic thing. If only for the time which it takes, it is relatively incompatible with salaried employment.
G: How long does it take to make an etching ?
L: That’s a question which often turns up. It’s difficult to quantify. It depends on the way each one works, Remi for example can work quick and effectively, while Nuvish will obsessively perfect his lines. I for my part am rather slow, it can take three or four weeks to make the drawing if I work on it a bit every day, which is scarcely the case. Sometimes I put the plate aside for six months if I don’t get the results I wanted, and then I take it up once more. One cannot expect to produce more than fifteen good engravings in one year. And I don’t even think I’ve ever managed as much as that.
G: How many printings are possible?
L: At the moment I’m doing drypoint engravings on zinc; there I will get less than twenty good prints and not even ten definitive achievements. It’s possible to do fifty prints from an etching on copper, but I never did as many from an engraving, I favour small editions. The biggest print runs were the ones for the portfolios I edited, between 20 and 30 prints.
G: Have you ever tried the mezzotint?
L: I think that the drypoints that I do at the moment look like mezzotint, setting aside the laxness. I won’t engage in this technique which is, after all, quite boring. It would require employing a rocker for days to roughen the plate, or buy plates already prepared, but those are very expensive. But I generally find that this technique produces somewhat weak images.
Right now I’m hesitating between two contradictory plans: either going deeper into what I’ve already been doing with the same people, and try to do it a little better still - or quitting this deplorable artistic activity to exclusively devote myself to the practice of curling, trying to be good enough to be selected for the next world championship… which, considering the small number of practitioners of this sport in France, shouldn’t be too difficult.
* Anne Van der Linden et Ludovic Levasseur : Gravures et dessins, du 27 février au 27 mars 2010. Galerie Une poussière dans l’œil, 17 bis, chemin des Vieux arbres, 59650 Villeneuve d’Ascq.