Once upon a time, there was a line! Alexandre Benjamin Navet
“Everything starts from the drawing.”A few words as a manifesto from a cheerful and spontaneous artist. Designer, painter, illustrator, interior designer but above all draftsman Alexandre Benjamin Navet is a multidisciplinary artist whose work is characterized by a bright, joyful line and pure and vibrant colours Grand Prix Design Parade Toulon – Van Cleef & Arpels 2017, Camera Camera Award 2017 with the Double V Gallery, Alexandre has a series of exhibitions and collaborations, the most recent of which is the creation of a fresco in situ to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. His decorative universe, his singular craftsmanship favouring simplified volumes, clear-cut colours, his lively gesture bring him closer to bothHenri Matisse, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso. Moreover, they share with his three elders, this attachment to light and its impact on colours and the ordering of the composition. Finally, Alexandre is passionate about the multiple possibilities offered by drawing and its application on different supports, making it possible to give it a singular rhythm, to make it leave its bi-dimensionality to bring it into a volume or an architecture. At the heart of his reflections is the fresco in situthe realization of a mural drawing inside a living room. A drawing that sometimes ends up invading all the components of this room, from the floor to the objects, to achieve an artistic unity.
Marlene Pegliasco : Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
Alexandre-Benjamin Turnip: I am an illustrator, designer, interior designer… But drawing is really a trend towards which I am moving the most because in the end, everything starts from the following question: how to draw the object? During my studies at theENSCII became interested in the art world. In addition, my parents owned a gallery and very young, art and design dialogued to invest my research and projects. Very quickly, I came to question the notion of art objects and design objects while wondering how to get the drawing into an architecture.
M.P. : The answer came with the in situ fresco, the realization of a mural drawing inside a living room?
A.-B. N.…………………………………………………………………………. Indeed. I make the volume feel through the drawing through a mise en abyme in perspective, trompe l’oeil, open doors to fictional corridors and horizons. The particular point of the fresco in situ is that it is a living place, in the heart of a particular environment and a distinct architecture. This project is in line with this question of dialogue between art, design, architecture and drawing because we are intertwining a place, a project, an atmosphere, an architecture for the realization of a drawn work. This job is what interests me and amuses me. This fresco project in situ really started with my participation in the Design Parade Toulon festival – International Festival of Interior Architecture – where I designed with Paul Brisonnet a Mediterranean living room. Then I pushed my research further, on the question of drawing and its support, on other volumes and for the collector’s salon presented during Design Parade 3 this summer, the drawing completely invaded the room. It was on the walls, furniture and on the floor. I push the possibilities of drawing to the maximum, I penetrate other worlds, I develop other reflections around drawing, on vases, fabrics and even other materials since for this collector’s show, I collaborated with the company Codimat for the printed carpet carpet. This experimentation meets my current desire: what will be the next mediums on which I will continue my empirical research on drawing?
M.P. : Tell us about your work process.
A.-B. N. : At first, I worked with coloured pencils on a notebook and when it came time to move to another scale, I wanted to keep the same relationship, this homothety. So I use a more suitable tool, the trace is on the scale of the architecture and therefore the impasto is more important. I need the scale ratio to be respected, that you feel like you’re entering my sketchbook. Then I work with the natural pigment, I don’t mix the colours, I really use them in their pure shade essences. Each time I look for the power of the colours and supports that allow me to achieve this result. A purity and intense strength that has been accentuated by working in the Var at the Villa Noailles in Hyères. I understand all the more the painters who have come here because the light is such that the colours are modified, more vibrant. Finally, when I make an in situ fresco, I draw the main lines in a notebook, a sketch in which I place the main elements, often in black and white so as not to be constrained by a colour. Then I make directly on the wall, without retouching, anyway I work with pastels and oil pencils that do not allow it. I work on the wall or I make it paper, sometimes canvas, it depends on the projects. I find myself in a huge notebook in which I draw but in vertical format. It is not a paper that I make in the workshop and then we come to apply it. The wall is prepared and then I intervene in situ directly in the room. And it’s this intervention that I like. There is a very carnal relationship with interior architecture Cocteau was talking about “tattoo the walls”, that’s exactly what it is. A strong idea where the drawing cannot be removed but must remain in a permanent way, it adds power to the project because we assume the drawing, we are in direct confrontation with the wall, in frontal exchange with the architecture, with the place and it really animates me. The piece has a lived experience, it has an emotion, sometimes something intimate and the trace of people becomes the pencil trace. Also, the room suffers from external luminosity and it is a fact that I must take into account so that each element is drawn in its right place in order to create a beautiful synergy.
M.P. : Flat surface of the wall, surface in volume, do you think differently?
A.-B. N. : Mandatory because the approach is different. The drawing does not unfold in the same way according to its supports. For example, for the carpet, the visitor had to look over rather than in front. But it is interesting to take into account the visitor’s perspective because the idea is to obtain a whole on a single piece. Another dimension that interests me is to arrive, thanks to current technical means, to make the thickness of the line, the volume specific to the pigment feel in order to transpose everything that is in the order of drawing. Finally, a wall, a vase, a carpet, these elements are linked by the chrome, by the bright and sharp colors I use because I want to arrive at a unity and give the feeling of being in my sketchbook, in my head!
M.P. : Your collaborations with Villa Noailles in Hyères and Double V Gallery in Marseille have frequently taken you south. This region inspires you?
A.-B.N. : There is a particular intensity due to the light of the Mediterranean Sea. A fullness, something out of the ordinary in my daily life in Paris that caused this change in colours: the yellows and blues became brighter. This chromatic dynamic was in me but no longer in restraint. My coming to the south was a trigger to take on these colours. My series of drawings “Discussions in the garden” representing the Villa Noailles perfectly illustrate this chromatic approach. Finally, my notebooks are full of notes: architectural detail in an alleyway, sensation… A real catalogue of images! My creation is based on these reference elements, on ancient, baroque motifs, on things taken from the environment or linked to historical things and all this is mixed with colour. I adopt a certain freedom of creation. I like the idea that it is alive, it gives an extra vibration, the gesture is lively as if sketched, we feel the trace of the drawing, the passage of the action because the gesture is not contained in a fixed idea. In the fresco in situ, there is real freedom. I will walk around the place, something will catch my attention, a dialogue is established between the place and me. The interest is to draw on parts in volume and parts in volume that become drawings. Finally, it creates a kind of blur, entangling the domains and creating an intense globality whose result is that the drawing becomes the link between the public and creation.
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