Kelly Foster – I was immediately interested in your work when you applied to the open call before. At first glance, it reminded me of my own work when I used to paint in a similar black and white abstract style, although with a different concept. Upon reading your statement and learning more about it, I became intrigued by your process. It wasn’t clear to me how you make them or how you developed this consistent style that you’re exploring. I’d love to learn more about that.
Julien Rubat – Well, I’ve always had an interest in working with paper since the beginning of my artistic journey. Initially, I started with acrylic on canvas, but I quickly realised the potential of incorporating paper into my paintings. It brought depth and texture to my artwork, and I loved how the colours bled through the paper, creating endless combinations and effects.
As I continued to explore different materials, I eventually switched to using tissue paper, finding it easier to work with due to its thinness and ability to create layers and mix paint in between. Throughout my artistic development, I drew inspiration from renowned artists like Mark Bradford and Anselm Kiefer, who impressed me with their large-scale works and innovative use of tools. While my own paintings are still relatively small, my aspiration is to create larger pieces, inspired by these artists while also developing my own visual language and style, which is a process that takes time.
My artistic style has always been abstract. I have been striving to develop my own expression and visual identity, a concept that is challenging to describe but encompasses elements of simplicity, balance, and minimalism. I find that achieving simplicity is more difficult than adding complexity, and I aim to strike a delicate balance between having interesting elements in my artwork without overwhelming the viewer.
One aspect I have been focusing on recently is simplifying my colour palette, opting for a more monochrome approach. While there may be subtle differences in shades and mixed colours when observed closely, I avoid using a multitude of colours. Instead, I prefer to stick to simplicity like black and white, which is a fundamental, yet a challenging combination to work with.
As I progress in my work, I strive to gain greater control over the process, including composition and colour selection. This involves applying and removing paper on the canvas. This process of layering paint and paper, followed by intentional removal, creates different textures, depths, and reveals underlying colours.
While I acknowledge that my current explanation may delve into specifics, it reflects my ongoing exploration and continuous flow of ideas. I endeavour to maintain as much control as possible while embracing the element of randomness that contributes to the artistic journey.
KF – What is the decision-making process behind how you manipulate the paper? How do you decide where to exert control and focus in the composition?
JR – My process resembles printing, but instead of using ink, I use paint and paper. The initial imprint creates a blueprint or a foundation for the artwork. Then, I fine-tune the piece, adding or removing elements using various techniques and tools.
At this stage, it almost feels like sculpting, where I carve into the surface of the paint. Although I refer to them as paintings, they go beyond traditional painting methods. I do use a brush for details and to enhance certain areas with paint, but the entire process involves using knives to carve, removing layers with a heat gun, sanding it down and occasionally adding texture. After a series of removing and painting, I eventually reach a point where I consider the artwork complete.
KF – The various ways that you’re manipulating the different textures of the painting reminds me of the initial materiality of paper. It’s interesting learning about the various steps in the process. I think it adds a conceptual depth to the work.
JR – It is the addition of paper and the careful placement of layers that truly contribute to the artwork’s complexity. By overlapping different shades, intriguing combinations and interplays can emerge. Managing the placement of the paper becomes crucial, particularly in avoiding the visibility of straight lines or unwanted elements. It’s a delicate process that requires precision.
KF – So in a way, do you feel like there’s a bit of an introspective quality to your work? Are you sharing your inner world with us?
JR – I think it is introspective in a way. My choice of colours is quite intuitive to how I’m feeling at the time that I’m working. While it does reflect my inner world to some extent because I’m the one creating it, making choices about colours and techniques, it doesn’t delve into introspection. It’s my world in the sense that it’s my artwork, but it doesn’t serve as a personal diary or a means to explore my emotions. Overall, It’s more about the creation of something that exists by itself.
KF – Do you think you are trying to convey any emotion?
JR – I believe that it is the case, but I don’t expect people to experience the same emotions as I do when creating or looking at it. I have received positive feedback so far from people who have experienced my work. Many have described them as calming and peaceful. As I create within the confines of my studio, it brings me a sense of tranquillity, immersing myself in the act of crafting my own world of art.
It’s difficult to judge one’s own work, so I take what feedback I can get. I continue doing my own thing and I try not to make it too easy. Some of my paintings can be intense, especially when they contain vibrant colours or intricate elements. Ideally, they should evoke something in the viewer.
KF – It feels like an exploration when you’re in front of your paintings, focusing on the details and getting closer to them. It’s an experience that can’t be fully captured through photographs or online platforms. You’re trying to convey that feeling, although it can be challenging.
JR – Yes, it is challenging. I’m attempting to share that sense of being in front of the artwork, but it’s not easy to achieve through digital means. Sometimes I find myself posting close-ups of my paintings, but I’m aware that it might not fully capture what I’m trying to convey. It’s about understanding the nuances and intricacies that are missed in a digital representation. Being physically present in front of the artwork is still crucial to truly appreciate it.
KF – Your work seems to be more about the process and the materiality of paint, incorporating sculptural elements. There’s also a conceptual element in the titling system and the evolution of your body of work. It references different artists throughout art history, which adds depth and conceptual interest.
JR – Sure, there are some conceptual ideas that I am working on and incrementally improving. Continuity takes a central part in my work and indeed, my naming convention is a prime example of that.
KF – From what you’ve shared, it seems that abstract art, including your work, may be easier to appreciate on the surface since it’s not figurative and doesn’t convey an immediate message.
JR – Yes, that’s right. Abstract art allows for a broader interpretation and doesn’t rely on conveying a specific message right away. I think it is related to the experience of standing in front of a painting. The colours you use and how they interact can create a compelling experience.
Scale plays a significant role as well. I prefer working on a larger scale, such as the vertical format, because it allows for a more immersive experience. I work to create a full-scale, human-sized presence that one can stand in front of and be enveloped by the painting. The larger paintings which are usually in landscape or horizontal format enhance this experience further.
When you stand in front of one of my paintings, you enter into a maze of lines and paths. It invites you to explore and follow its intricate patterns. It seems to expand beyond the canvas, and the intention is to evoke a sense of movement and curiosity.