Press: The Jakarta Post

19 June 2006

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Jakarta Post, June 19, 2006.

French artist shows daily life through his ’Passages’

Rita A. Widiadana, The Jakarta Post, Gianyar

Bali and Balinese themes have been an end­less source of inspi­ra­tion for many artists. French artist J-Philippe, nat­u­rally and beau­ti­fully used the island as inspi­ra­tion in the 30 works recently dis­played at the CSIS building in Jakarta.

Under the theme Passages, J-Philippe brought viewers to the idyllic land of Bali through his imag­i­na­tion and artistic expres­sion. The dis­played works mostly reveal ordi­nary old men and women working at tra­di­tional mar­kets and in the rice fields. Young female dancers fit­ting their glit­tering cos­tumes, beau­tiful girls, women and their chil­dren often appear in his can­vasses.

In his work enti­tled Passage VI, J-Philippe por­trays a grand­mother, with an old, wrin­kled, sad face, sit­ting with three boys. Two more old women chat­ting can be seen in the dimly lit back­ground. In his works he pre­sents ordi­nary people with ordi­nary lives.

"Maybe because I came from low-class society in France’s rural area, it has been easy for me to vividly cap­ture their feeling, their emo­tion and their everyday activ­i­ties."
"What is so spe­cial about ordi­nary people," he said, "is that they lead a simple and honest life."

Born in Orleans, France, 37 years ago, to a tal­ented artisan, young J-Philippe entered the pres­ti­gious Ecole Boulle art school in Paris.
"My grand­fa­ther was a farmer, while my father is a skillful artisan. Every Sunday, he did his painting work just as a hobby," he quipped, adding he might have inherited his father’s artistic prowess.
Upon grad­u­a­tion, he worked on the restora­tion of antique French fur­ni­ture. In l989, he joined the monastery of Saint Benoit sur Loire,
A year later, the National Service Volunteer appointed him to serve at the Sasana Hasta Karya Art School in a vil­lage in Gianyar regency, thou­sands of miles away from his country.

"Since I was a boy, I had always dreamed of working as a vol­un­teer some­where far­away from my home. I meant a per­ma­nent vol­un­teer, not just a tem­po­rary one who came and went in a cer­tain period of time," he said.
J-Philippe was sent to Gianyar on a spe­cial mis­sion to become a ded­i­cated art teacher to dozens of young artists, many of whom were school dropouts.
A devout Catholic, J-Philippe said he did not come to Bali to become a painter or as a tourist.

"I landed here fif­teen years ago just to serve the com­mu­nity — equipped with my knowl­edge on arts and my com­mit­ment," he said.
At the Gianyar art school, founded by French Catholic priest Father Le Coutour, J-Philippe devel­oped new art teaching methods in the making of fur­ni­ture, drawing, painting, carving and machinery.
Upon arrival, he stayed at Puri Abianbase with the royal family, where he learned about Balinese life and cul­ture.
He became a member of the palace’s tra­di­tional music troop Ble Ganjur.

"I started painting seri­ously in l997," he explained.

"Being a for­eigner was quite dif­fi­cult some­times. After 15 years in Bali, I feel quite com­fort­able here. When vis­iting my home­town, I feel like a for­eigner," he said.

For J-Philippe, art is an effec­tive tool for bridging two dif­ferent worlds, the West and the East. "Art is a uni­versal com­mu­ni­ca­tion means that can reach any person, beyond geo­graph­ical, cul­tural and social bound­aries," he said.
Every morning before teaching at the art school, he hides him­self in his lum­bung (gra­nary) studio on the slope of the river in Kubu Bingin art vil­lage in Gianyar.

When vis­iting his studio recently, J-Philippe dis­played some of his unfin­ished works.

"I think of the back­ground of my painting before putting objects on it," he pointed at a canvas already painted with soft-pastel colors.
"Just follow my mood and emo­tion," he exclaimed. After com­posing struc­tures and colors on the can­vases then he inserts objects and char­ac­ters that fit with the mood of the sur­face.

Art critic Jean Couteau said of J-Philippe that it was it was "def­i­nitely color that struc­tures the painting."

Couteau said the works were mainly abstract, that their main was was their color com­po­si­tion.

"A `sen­si­tive’ answer to the problem of the encounter of genres, J-Phillippe’s paint­ings are exactly at the cross­roads of abstrac­tion and fig­u­ra­tion; and of pho­tog­raphy and painting," Couteau com­ments. J-Philippe is also an accom­plished pho­tog­ra­pher.

The inclu­sion of his works in dif­ferent genres does not bother this artist. "I only focus on my work," he said.

It was indeed dif­fi­cult to per­suade him to dis­play his works. "It requires a very strong com­mit­ment and effort when you agree to do an exhi­bi­tion," he added.
Talent, he said, was not enough to be a good artist. An artist should have pro­fes­sion­alism, patience, per­sis­tence and self-dis­ci­pline.

"You can’t accept any invi­ta­tion to exhibit your works when you do not have some­thing good enough to be shown to the public," he said.

In his cur­rent exhi­bi­tion in Jakarta, he dis­plays 30 paint­ings, the prod­ucts of a year of hard work.

J-Philippe did not mean to over­es­ti­mate his works; rather he had to explain his lim­ited capacity as a painter and as a human being. "We have lim­i­ta­tions — of ideas, of time and energy."
Market pres­sures have often drawn artists to end­less work.
In the last ten years, J-Philippe wit­nessed many young tal­ented painters walk across the Indonesian art stage.

"They were pro­pelled to rich and fame instantly thanks to the power of media and art dealers."
However, many of them are now drained of fresh ideas after suc­cumbing to the market’s demands.
Painters, he said, needed a good patron to pro­tect them from the glitter and fussy market world in order to main­tain their fresh ideas, their talent and the con­sis­tent quality of their art works.

"Galleries, art agen­cies or any par­ties can play this role," he said. The artist, on the other hand, has a respon­si­bility to create quality work.

In J-Philippe’s mind, painting expresses his idea of humanity; of friend­ship and of life and cul­ture around him.

J-Philippe’s works can be viewed at the Bamboo Gallery in Ubud, Gianyar, Bali.

[Passages VI, private Neka Museum ]

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