“Deconstructing and reconstructing structures, experimenting with intuitive colour neighbourhoods and offering them in another context.” INTERVIEW with Pierre Juillerat

Pierre Juillerat’s paintings evoke surprisingly contradictory associations, such as calm and speed, abstraction, contemplation, reduction. Reduced on colour fields, the art works show nothing but pure basic forms and colours, volumes and surfaces, referring to nothing but themselves. The Swiss born artist, now residing in Berlin, wants to capture the tension that calmness emanates. He tries to articulate and explore the mental space between thoughts, the in-between of intuition and intelligence.

Q_46.8038, 2010, and Q_46.8037, 2010, Pigmented ink on archival paper 42 x 29,7 cm Edition of 12 + 3 EA's Dated, signed

Q_46.8038, 2010, and Q_46.8037, 2010, Pigmented ink on archival paper 42 x 29,7 cm Edition of 12 + 3 EA’s Dated, signed

Many experiences merge in Juillerat’s art, a trained architect, who also played bass guitar and violin in rock bands, worked as bike messenger, as an airline pilot, as a transporter and in a record shop. For about 20 years now, art has been the central anchor of his work.

Contradictions – or rather complexity – also mark Juillerat’s working process. “As much as needed, as little as required”, his approach could be summarised: the artist refrains to known figurative motives and reduces his paintings to colours and forms. The painting becomes an object in itself. Juillerat’s works have titles like “B_62.6 “ or“Q_46.803“. They are index numbers of the artist’s personal archive. These paintings don’t represent anything, they don’t symbolize anything, don’t create a narrative illusion – they are what they show: an image carrier covered with a painted surface, with colours, lines, fields, forms.

Yet as a painted object, Juillerat’s artworks start to react on their environment and their viewer, mirroring the outside world in its shiny surface or refusing such an interplay on matt surfaces.

C_26.451, 2010 Lacquer on metal shelves 70 x 100 cm

C_26.451, 2010 Lacquer on metal shelves 70 x 100 cm

Juillerat paints on different image carriers, such as aluminium sheets – as used in aviations –, paper, acrylic glasses and canvas, using “cheap“ industrial paint, lacquer and resin. His work makes mass production meet handicraft, seriality and technology meet singularity.. The paint gets applied in an even, consistent way without any hint of narrative structure. The  paintings seem to be industrially  conceived, but they are still created manually. On the edges, traces of paint overflow, indicating the transition from the “controlled” to the “uncontrolled” part of the painting, also revealing the horizontal application of paint. The act of painting is characterized by slowness, concentration, and every result is unique and not repeatable.

In the following interview, Pierre Juillerat tells us what working as an artist means to him, how his background in architecture still influences his art works and what he is exhibiting at SAVVY Contemporary.

(This essay and the interview were published on the occasion of the exhibition „Perspectives on in/outside“ at Savvy Contemporary, Berlin. The interview below has been abridged.)

Illustrations © Pierre Juillerat

www.pierrejuillerat.com
www.pierrejuillerat.blogspot.com

INTERVIEW

You are a trained architect. Even though you don’t work as such anymore, you are still very into it, as you say. Why architecture?

C_51.802, 2010, Drawing ink on paper, 42 x 29,7 cm

C_51.802, 2010, Drawing ink on paper, 42 x 29,7 cm

Architecture was chosen at that time because I was interested in helping to define our built environment. I was convinced (and still am) that some of our behaviours are directly influenced by the kind of spaces we live in or we go through. Sociological structures can be confirmed, dissolved or expanded by architectural intentions and I was keen to discover these mechanisms, especially within the urban context.

The feasibility of designing and developing processes seemed interesting to me, too, as I was not attracted  by a purely theoretical approach of things.

When did you „change“ to be an artist? What possibilities does art offer?

I don’t think it is a change, but a logical continuation of the architectural thinking in its essence. Art indeed offers the possibility to act subjectively within my own perception of space, regardless of the outcome. The social responsibility of an artist is also much more vague than the architect’s, who has to satisfy numerous needs not really related to his own vision of things. Maybe this grey zone within the artistic work is necessary to clear “mental fog”. Additionally, failures and successes can easily be integrated into a more experimental way of working.

You mentioned „mental fog“ – could you specify this thought a little more?

This refers to the fragmentation of the soul. In my opinion, artistic work can be a way to recollect spread soul fragments, comparable to the quest of a holy grail.

When did you discover the artistic work as your means of expression?

Back in 1985, I was tremendously impressed by a show of new German expressionists at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel. A painting by Rainer Fetting was a revelation and I headed out to start painting. For several years I was committed to this direction, which ended with the Océanautes series, followed by a transition phase where architectural elements were introduced more consciously to progressively replace human figuration.

What are you interested in? What is the subject of your work?

Q_30.341, 2010 | Q_30.342, 2010 | Q_30.344, 2010 | Q_30.345, all 2010, lacquer on canvas, 46 x 37 cm Q_30.347, 2010 Lacquer on canvas 46 x 37 cm

Q_30.341, 2010 | Q_30.342, 2010 | Q_30.344, 2010 | Q_30.345, all 2010, lacquer on canvas, 46 x 37 cm Q_30.347, 2010 Lacquer on canvas 46 x 37 cm

Deconstructing and reconstructing structures, experimenting with intuitive colour neighbourhoods and offering them another context could be described as what I’m interested in. Maybe we can also talk about acceleration and deceleration, “Verschachtelungen” (nesting), spacial disorientation, navigation and so on.

I also like the process of applying paint onto a surface very much. Painting is about paint. That’s why I do not use paint as a medium but as a “subject” in itself, trying to celebrate the energy of the pure colour surface. I believe that this way of working generates a position which is not based on abstractions of the outside world but relies solely on itself.

How does architecture influence your artistic work?

B_76.5215, 2010, Lacquer and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 160 cm, Exhibition view, "Alpha Floor", dr. julius | ap, Berlin, 09 / 2010

B_76.5215, 2010, Lacquer and acrylic on canvas, 200 x 160 cm, Exhibition view, „Alpha Floor“, dr. julius | ap, Berlin, 09 / 2010

Architecture in its wider understanding is linked to human existence and cannot be separated from my work. I think that the analysis of room defining elements, spaces and intermediate spaces are a starting point for my practice. Non-constructed spaces like “mental rooms” and intermediate “mental rooms” influence the process, too, e. g. by asking what kind of space lies between two thoughts, what kind of mental activity happens there, if any, and how can I get there?

Another point triggered by architecture is the fact that we have to move through space to perceive it and I’m interested in observing how automated these moves can be. Similar thoughts influence the representation of space in my work, using multiple vanishing points often lying outside the painting. Parallelism and symmetry of linings or colour fields are not avoided consciously, they somehow just do not happen.

How is your working process?

Work generates work … One working group will normally generate other ones. But generally speaking, I occasionally take pictures directly related to a project, but normally existing works are recombined as a new starting point; vanishing points and colour simulations are developed in sketches, drawings and sometimes with the help of a computer. As with this constructivistic approach of  conceptions, plans are established from a selection of pre-works and they are quite strictly adhered to when it comes to realize the painting. Finally, I do believe that everything can be part of an inspiration.

What materials do you work with? The Océanautes and the more recent works are very different in style and technique.

I like industrial paint, lacquer and wall paint. For drawings I use ball pens and stuff which I can find within fifteen seconds. More recently drawing ink has been used for a new series of work on paper.

Why these materials?

They are „cheap“, consistent and solid. Furthermore the surfaces offer an appearance which I could not get with „artists'“ paint. Additionally the choice of colours is endless which partially eliminates the need to mix your own colours in the studio. And I really appreciate to work with industrial colour makers, too. They are helpful to  refine colour shades which  are originally based on colour charts. The references of these customized shades are stored and the paint can be reproduced at any time. I also think that industrial applications of paint have got some qualities which are not available from manual working techniques.

Your paintings have titles like “B_62.6“ and “Q_46.803“. What do these titles mean?

These titles simply refer to my system of organizing the work. There are normally numerous steps ahead of a decision to realize a definite painting or object. Within a series of work every step and subchapter is referred to by its own letter – number combination, which allows me to trace the steps back to the origins of a piece..

Pierre Juillerat, thank you very much!.

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