For its cinéma Le Méliès, we go a lot
For the friendliness and sense of community
For the great circle of friends
The closeness to Paris(even if I go less now)
the accidental artist
No-one could have predicted Frédéric's artistic career because he always wanted to become...
A virile and manly job, both a mental and physical challenge.
Yes, that's right he was supposed to be on the high seas now, far far away from artistic dilemmas and other such frivolous nonsense.
It's also important to state that he never once showed any interest or particular talent for art either...until that fateful month when he really was getting ready to sail off into the sunset and then...the doubts crept in.
Leave the family behind and be left in the hands of mother nature?
During the physical, he decided that life on board was not for him.
That was in 1975 et Frédéric was 16.
So what could he do? Let's just say he didnt look far from home. Il decided to follow in his big brother's footsteps and try to get into art school (where there were also considerably more girls than in the Navy!).
He went to an open day at l'École Duperré and the romantic image of the curtains flapping in the wind across the beautiful big windows had a profound effect on him. He decided to give it a go.
At the entrance exam he came 7th, and since then he's never looked back.
"Now when I think about it I dont know why I wanted to become a sailor, maybe a childhood dream, it actually worked out for the best because later on I was diagnosed with severe sea sickness!"
A PAPER VESSEL
If you know lower Montreuil, you've probably seen Frédéric's house, if not, you must! He's lived there with his partner Evelyne since 1995. For the last 10 years he's covered the entire exterior with a bright, colorful paper collage. Maybe he didn't go to sea, but he's certainly captain of this unique vessel in the heart of rue de la Révolution.
It goes without saying that he's passionate about paper, it's the material that he works with on a daily basis to create his art.
But before working with paper, he mastered several different artistic domains, because our sailor is actually rather talented in everything he puts his mind to.
For a young man who was never interested in art he had lots of talent deep down in the depths.
LA MAISON DU PAPIER
A QUICK COMIC CAPER
After he specialised in comic book art in his school (the prestigious École Duperré) he was immediately hired, after just one phone call, by the famous French comic book "Pilote", where he worked on the last 5 editions before it went out of print. The experience was short but sweet, learning a lot in a very brief period of time.
After this lightening passage in the comic-book world, Frédéric turned towards ceramics.
He was inspired and completely taken aback by the Frederico Fellini film, Casanova, where, in the first scene, he saw a magnificent chapel covered in hundreds of little tiles.
The film hit him like a ton of bricks and he knew that this was what he wanted to do.
That same night he started working with ceramics and did so for the next 20 years.
"This film took me to another place , it opened my eyes to everything that I should be doing with my life"
As he worked on this new-found passion, he thought about going to "Les Beaux Arts", another prestigious art school, to perfect his technique but finally decided to immediately start his own ceramics business instead.
He started off making tiles out of plaster and it was a multi-layered process. He would make the tile, then engrave the plaster, wax the plaster to see the engraving then paint the engraving by hand, creating a unique painting every time.
From tiles he moved onto clocks you could piece together like building blocks and then onto temples. He started to make a living from his art.
He was represented by several galleries in Paris but both he and his brother did not have a good experiences with that set...pieces going missing, disputes over money...Frédéric decided that world wasn't for him.
CONCRETE JUNGLE WHERE DREAMS ARE MADE OF...
In 1987 he headed for New York (without speaking any English!) because he had some Amercian clients.
After just a week, he managed to do more networking and get more meetings than in 3 years in Paris. A friend of his would take the yellow pages and ring every gallery in the book. When they agreed to a meeting Frédéric would turn up with his suitcase to show them his clocks.
His pieces start to sell.
After a few trans-Atlantic back and forths, he tried his luck with a renowned gallery by leaving 2 small, tatty photos he had of his work, the next day he was lunching with the gallery curator and shortly afterwards he had a solo exhibition. Only in America!
Unfortunately the exhibition wasn't as successful as expected because the gallery was asking way above the market value for Frédéric's pieces. Frustrated and disappointed he came back home and has never returned since...a decision he now regrets. But as I told him...it's never too late.
"It was quite a spectacle when I used to go around to show my pieces in New York, because I would turn up with
my old suitcase and mount the clocks right in front of them, I don't know what they must of thought of me!"
AND THE WINNER IS...
After his Big Apple debacle, Fred wanted to work with architects covering whole building facades with hand-made ceramics, but his ideas fell upon deaf ears. It wasn't the fashion.
So instead of private buildings he turned to something in France where 1% of public money has to be given to art projects on public buildings. He participated in several competitions over the years and won quite a few.
(Here we see the Town Hall in Voisins-le-Bretonneux from 1995 and the junior school "Collège des petits sentiers" in Lucé in 2000)
And it was one job in particular which brough him to what he does now as a painter.
He had to hand-paint some designs and stick them onto the tiles, and retouch these paintings several times over and boom! It was a revelation. He picked up his paint brushes and a renewed passion for painting and collage was born...his collage obsession began.
He was 40 at that time, he decided that this was his calling and for the last 20 years, he has dedicated himself to that.
"I got my old brushes out and as I was free to do what I wanted on that job, I got a real kick out of painting and repainting these images that I had to transfer onto the tiles.
It made me want to paint again and immediately I started creating these humongous collage artworks.
I couldn't sleep I was that excited, I became obsessed with it"
OUT OF THE FRAME
Today Frédéric still creates huge pieces - brightly-coloured paper sculptures (watercolour paper and gouache).
He lets his instincts guide the structure, wherever he feels the "electricty" is taking him during the creative process.
Just like a wild plant, each piece grows in its own unique way, is its own universe.
He feels that each creation takes him on an adventure, an emotional journey.
He adds on pieces from older creations, sculpts and resculpts the shape.
Fred keeps every single bit of paper he has ever used.
He wants to continue working "outside the frame" too, meaning he's not ready to put his work behind glass.
Just like those wild plants, his creations must breathe and be free.
Frédéric doesn't have Instagram, his clients get to know him through his exhibitions or through word-of-mouth, but as I said to Frédéric, for me the best advertisement for his work is his magnificent coloured vessel, his house which perfectly reflects his spirit and talent: warm, cheerful, imaginative, free and unique.