Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Interview with Ludovic Levasseur

G: Would maggots in the nose be an acceptable mean to heal the brain?

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: Your drawings of carnage (which have a baroque aftertaste) suggest some effort of staging or composition; how much of it is improvisation?

L: By the same logic of there not being any preconceived idea or imposed significance, I don’t anticipate any composition a priori, the whole arranges itself –or doesn’t - in the course of something like an improvisation. All my difficulties come from that. In fact, I spend my time pruning, trying to harmonise something which is often wobbly. Well, it doesn’t seem to me that I make so many carnages… The baroque aspect - as you call it - of my backgrounds probably stems from a slightly decorative anxiety, a will not to end up in the total violence that the elements of the foreground would often suggest.

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.

G: The dolls, being material entities detached from context, agonise or exult in there innermost being. I’m curious; could you to tell us more about them, their fabrication, their sizes and maybe the little more sentimental things which are related to them…

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…

I started with little runts of 15 cm and ended up with adult size mannequins, with some baby sized and one or two adolescent sized monsters along the way. I’m more attached to some of them, not for sentimental reasons but quite simply because I feel like they’re greater thechnical achievements. It’s a practice to which I’ve devoted myself for only a few years now , and it used to function as a sort of recreation in relation to engraving. I more or less invented my mixtures myself and, if it can be said, I “progressed” rather quickly in this bizarre technique. In general I oscillate between the two practices. At the moment, I’ve stopped with the dolls. Anyhow, there isn’t necessarily a link between the two activities, in some ways, they’re each other’s polar opposites.

G: You pursue quite a wide range of activities; in addition to drawing and the dolls you also produce etchings. Anne Van der Linden, Nuvish, Remi, Caroline Sury have a collection of images which you printed for them…

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*.

In my mind, by conceiving those engravings the four of them have delivered the most intimite part of the oeuvre, the one which touches me in their respective art. The emulation is mutual, it in turn motivates me to try to do things a bit better than usual. It is an adventure which permits you to move away from your own little artistic narcissistic belly button. There are few things more interesting to do with people than working with them.


G: What does your workshop looks like?

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?
L: After having frequented a workshop for a long time where all materials were there, but where I couldn’t work at my leisure, I bought a second hand press a few years ago. The principal expenses concern the paper and especially the copper the market price of which hasn’t risen for few years but underwent a surge some time ago. I always keep an eye on metal prices, I’d really like to print on silver and gold, but it is too expensive. The dolls are predominantly made up out of found ingredients, culled at the beach and pulled out of the dentists’ and fishmongers’ garbage cans.
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.

G: How do you evolve in your artistic environment?

L: I’ve made very few efforts to artistically socialise, very few efforts in general, except the ones which seemed worth it; this could appear flimsy, but I’m satisfied with it: I exhibited in the world‘s best library, Un Regard Moderne in Paris, I publish and exhibit with the best editor of the world, Le Dernier Cri à Marseille, and I worked with artists who are among the closest to me, the ones I mentioned, as well as Marie Noël Döby, whom I made hybrid dolls with, or Le Tampographe Sardon who edited “Poupée Viande”, a box of rubber stamps.

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.


Liens :
Gravures (et portfolios) : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ah-pook/
Anne Van der Linden : http://heavyshop.free.fr/


Human Mollusk said...

Really interesting interview, reading it and looking at the pictures made me want to go back and do some engraving (it's been many years).
Digital art is so awfully sterile in comparison.

Baiihin Gobulblœme said...

Yea... That's right, being more rigourous and stiff tempt me. Thank you mate for the translation help. It was much apreciated.



Aeron said...

I've been a fan of this artist for awhile, thank you for this intriguing interview.

Paleo said...

I sometimes get the (quite possibly erroneous) impression that Levasseur's dolls are so James Cameron like spectacular that distract people of how good his engravings are, interesting that he will be focusing on the slow like snails engraving.

crippaXXXalmqvist said...

veeery interesting interview! good work there, gaspard.