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More about Thibault Huysmans

How did you choose your means of expression?

I, like many others, chose it when I was little. My parents provided pens and pencils with which we could express ourselves, tell stories and sketch our fears or moments of joy. Drawing has always been, much more than an extension of spoken language, a natural desire like any other. I later understood that I chose drawing as it acted like a bridge between two operating methods that interested me: pictures and writing.

Is this medium secondary to or closely linked to your subject?

I am interested in what I express and how I express it to the same degree. I represent a person’s passions through the restlessness of my hand. This means that I refer to the body of another through my own body. My medium and my intent are closely linked and well balanced. It’s all about bodies, in both what I seek to communicate and the way in which I give form to it.

What material do you use and why?

At the moment I only use wax crayons, graphite, lead and charcoal. These materials enable me to reduce my colorimetric range and reduce my drawing to form a simple, honest and almost photographic vision.

How does a work session take shape?

Each session is different and requires fine-tuning according to the energy that the drawing requires and my degree of concentration. A few elements are present each time: semi-darkness, music, pencils and paper.

Can you explain to me how your work has evolved since starting out?

What differs is the work method, the requirement in the graphic choices. Regarding the subject in question it has always involved research about forms of portrait, methods of representing individuals and their world, their internal domain.

ON A
PERSONAL NOTE

Do your origins and culture play a role in the works that you produce?

Yes definitely. My father gave me a taste for reading and my mother a love of pictures. I am from a generation that learnt a great deal from the television, and today via other screens and networks. I am from a generation that through these same networks creates its own ‘personal mythology’ by learning to represent themselves, by multiplying images of themselves and featuring themselves in the artwork. This is certainly one of the reasons why I examine, without passing judgment, images of the body whether physical and/or spiritual, fictional and/or real. So yes, culture and the period in which we are living greatly influence who we are, the questions we ask ourselves and by extension what we can produce.

Which events have influenced you most?

Meeting as well as being separated from people.

What are your sources of inspiration?

There are many of them. All the films that my mother showed us as a kid influenced me, particularly those by Hitchcock. The statuary of certain heroes and heroines that is undermined when they become victims, half-crazy or simple conspirators was fascinating. Beautiful overshadowed creatures. In painting too, the first real pictorial emotion I experienced was in front of the ‘Portrait of Sylvia von Harden’ by Otto Dix at the Centre Pompidou. I was literally hypnotised by this ambiguous and sexual figure, conveying something grotesque and desirable. Then in the crudity of Nan Goldin’s ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.’ And then ‘The Blair Witch Project’ in 1999 that was just as crude, realistic and super scary. In addition trivial drawings by Picasso in brothels, poetry by Baudelaire and fantasy literature by dandies like Poe, Wilde and Barbey d’Aurevilly, etc. In short, there are many influences but the inspiration comes from other people, from their psychology and potential.

Are there any anecdotes that enable
the genesis of your work to be understood?

There are several! I remember wanting to have drawing lessons as a child. The teacher asked us to draw a tree. He said to us, ‘there is only one way to draw a tree: you begin at the root and continue until the end of the branch. These lines are repeated until the thickness of a tree is achieved’. I only went once. The idea that there was only one impersonal way of drawing annoyed and made me reticent. Later when I discovered my grandfather’s house and his works (birds painted on the doors, portraits of Elvis on the staircase) I learnt to be at ease with drawing. This daring and freedom obscured my former prejudices.

Are current events taken into account in your production
or on the contrary do you distance yourself from them?

I distance myself, as I’m not looking to create in a reactionary way. Current events disturb me superficially but never deep down, where aspirations are played out.  I prefer ageless stories and personal myths to fleeting scandals and unfounded controversies.

ON A MORE
PHILOSOPHICAL NOTE

Are your works more of a dialogue, a trace or a denunciation?

All works are intended to dialogue, at some point, with the sensitivity of the viewer. But in my work it is more of a question of traces. Traces, like notes of what I have observed, dreamt, fantasised, feared, imagined and projected. Illustrated traces of my reflections and passions.

Do you wish to make viewers wonder or do you prefer to question them?

I do not deliberately seek to create a reaction from the viewer. If it happens it is the result of an intimate link between the person looking and what is being looked at. At that moment I am no longer taking part in what I have created.  Maybe a romantic view but I believe in the potential chemistry between human beings and the artwork.

How do you view human beings, and consequently your work?

Human beings intrigue me in many ways. I like the ability of some to rise above themselves or to tell real or imaginary stories.  I think that what fascinates me the most about humans is in fact the expressive potential: what someone else is prepared to reveal or to simulate about their dramas, joys and passions. Through my portrait work I’m intrigued to encounter these characteristics that resonate.

How would you compare your
last work with the next?

I try to avoid any comparison. It makes things sterile.

Is art poetry or social intervention?

I understand and appreciate art as a social intervention, art as an expression of vanity, art as entertainment or even art as an instrument of power. But I have a preference for art with a poetic value, that is art as a personal language that reflects a sensitive logic.

IN
CONCLUSION

How do you view your own work?

I look at my work with humility. I’m not into self-admiration as I have learnt to be critical while trying to keep a form of innocence, self-indulgence and simple pleasure in what I do.

What are your current and future projects?

I’m working on several projects at the same time: I’m currently carrying out several studies of woodland scenes so as to produce them in large format with dry tools (coal, charcoal). At the same time I continue to work on portraits from my own photographs or family photos that I hybridise through collage. I wander in the midst of these notions of desire, melancholy, the sublime and the outrageous, the profane or sacred, in short, fictions and/or individual memories. I’m also contemplating focusing on the issue of anonymity and to come back to the theme linked to bestiality. There are many opportunities open to me.

Do you have anything else to add? I’ll let you have the last word…

I have a quote to perhaps better understand the act of drawing: ‘Drawing is the difficult consolidation of the heart.’ I no longer remember where it is from but what is important is to capture the poetics of drawing.

Translated by
Louise Jablonowska