Art is My Soulmate: Interview with Roger Salucci

6 years ago

Roger Salucci was born in Provence, France in 1942. He was a caricaturist, stage manager, film scenographer, designer, illustrator, art teacher, and most of all, an artist. Roger began his artistic career at the age of 16 as a caricaturist, and later received his artistic degree from the Beaux-Arts School. He was the winner of First Prize of Poster at Nimes Fair, First Prize at 1970 Autumn Salon in Paris as a “Painter of Less Than 30”. At the same, Roger was the first designer of Modes et Travaux (a French magazine), and later an illustrator for Playboy. As part of his many accomplishments, Roger’s artworks have been exhibited in numerous art exhibitions around the globe; and has attracted the attention of many collectors, including the Town of Paris, Francis Lai, Philippe Sarde, Régine, Maurice Garnier, etc. In 2015, Roger was invited to exhibit his artworks in both the Biennale of London where he was awarded the London Biennale Art Prize, as well as in Florence.

OGP:Roger, “astonishing” is the only word we could think of when looking at your artworks, which are exclusively unique and unforgettable. Your canvas transforms into different stories; it can be wild, serene, exciting, relaxed… Your brush strokes are like the notes of a beautiful piece of music. Now, your artistic career is just as remarkable. Could you tell us what is it that prompted you to become an artist?

Roger:I lived in Provence during my childhood, very close to the seashore. My father was an executive in the brewery “La Meuse” in the south of France. His family was from Florence. My mother was born in Andalusia. Her family was Argentinian. Neither of them were artists, nor did they possess particular artistic talents. I didn’t need to become a painter. But for me, the choice was evident and without hesitation; it came so naturally to me. As far as I could remember, I had always wanted to draw and paint. As a school boy, I often escaped from noisy games to sit in a corner with a piece of paper and a pencil in hand. In my youth, I discovered several painters through art books. At first sight, I loved painters such as Leonardo da Vinci (1*), Jérôme Bosch (2*), Vincent Van Gogh (3*), Claude Monet (4*), Maurice de Vlaminck (5*) and Fujita (6*). I was also fond of engravers like Gustave Doré (7*), William Hogarth (8*) and Honoré Daumier (9*).

OGP:You have mentioned several prominent artists. Many collectors are avid fans of them. For instance, Leonardo da Vinci was a significant figure during the renaissance period, and was often referred to as one of the Three Giants of the Renaissance period along with Michelangelo and Raphael. As a genius, da Vinci’s accomplishments was not limited to the artistic field. Vincent Van Gogh is the sole most renowned post-impressionist artist. Globally, he is one of the most famous artists, and is adored by many art enthusiasts - at least nine of his paintings were sold for over 35 million USD. Another artist worth noting is Hieronymus Bosch, one of the pioneers of surrealism in the 15th century. Some of Bosch’s works reside in the Prado Museum in Spain; his most famous artwork is “The Garden of the Earthly Delights” which predominantly focused on the theme of the beginnings and characteristics of human societies, through the topics of devils, hell, and the last trial. “The Garden of the Earthly Delights” reflected greatly on the plague and religious wars present in the society at that time: people's anxiety, fear and madness. Bosch’s artwork was discussion provoking; he was a very distinguished artist. Now the last three artists you mentioned: Gustave Doré, William Hogarth and Honoré Daumier. Gustave Doré was a famous French illustrator in the 19th century. His works have been referenced numerously; and was known for his humourous depictions. William Hogarth was an acclaimed British caricaturist. His works scoffed at the politics and customs at the time. As for Honoré Daumier, he was a renowned French satirical caricaturist. Many of his works are collected in Le Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. All three of these artists explored multiple artistic fields, including illustration, cartoons, paintings, printmaking, and sculptures. Were you initially interested in these artists because your experience was similar? You also had experience as a caricaturist and an illustrator. The age of 16 is the common age for exploration, and it is often unexpected that these youths would deliberate decisions thoroughly and maturely. However, at the age of 16, you have already began publishing your works in the local newspaper.

Roger:Exactly. In 1958, at the age of sixteen, I went to the Beaux-Arts School of Avignon. During my studies, I wanted to make my own living, I first drew caricatures in “Le Midi libre”, a French newspaper and later in “Le Provençal” newspaper. As you can see, I rarely had free time. Afterwards, I became a graphic designer before being a journalist in Provence. I was really happy for the opportunity to combine my passion for art with an artistic career. When I went to Buenos-Aires, Argentina, I became a stage designer in the Opera Theatre and I worked as a scenographer in a film with Gori Munoz (10*). Thanks to this film, I was able to experience some audio-visual techniques on TV as well as on the radio. In France again, I became a set designer and an illustrator for magazines like Playboy and Week-end. In Quito, Ecuador, I was at last an art teacher. You can imagine the richness and diversity of my career. Nowadays, I am retired in Paris. If I am not travelling as much, I spend some time in the beautiful park, “les Buttes-Chaumont”. But I only draw and paint at home.

OGP:You definitely had an array of artistic experience, exploring “art” itself rather than a specific stream. When we speak of the artistic style of an artist, it can be limiting in terms of audience appreciation albeit being unique is an excellent way to ensure customer loyalty because you are the only one who exploit your own technique. What are your thoughts on this?

Roger:When I paint, structuring is essential for me. From abstract elements, I find figurative forms. I always use pure colours because I don’t want to mix them in order to obtain special effects. If you see a work of mine, it will appear very different from various angles and distances. My hope is to be read by my audience. My paintings are descriptive of my thoughts and emotions. It is “writing” in my own language. I have my own signs in each painting. If you try to understand them and if you are lucky, you will perhaps manage to discover some secrets in my works and connect the meaning. I do not see anyone else who paints in the same manner as me. I admire other painters, but why should I copy them? It is useless as they already exist. For my part, I don’t belong to a school, a movement, or a tendency and I never will. I will always paint in my own way. From the perspective of the audience, it is simple: either people love my work, or they hate it. There is no middle ground.

OGP:We agree with your wisdom. A great artist needs absolute faith in his or her works; copying others is a meaningless act. A true artist is an original creator, and counterfeits should be avoided. Many people nowadays choose different channels to purchase artworks, but our organization follows the traditional path of auctions and private museums, directly from artists, or from other OGP members. All these are implemented to ensure the authenticity of the artworks, and authenticity is quality which we will never disregard.

Roger:I am happy to have many buyers of my artworks, and was lucky to now have some of them as friends. Among the known ones, composer Francis Lai (11*) has 40 of my paintings. I admire him very much. I met him when I was young, and we have been faithful to each other since then. We are always in pleasant moods when we see each other. My artworks are also enjoyed by audiences in Latin America, Los Angeles as well as Europe. Unfortunately, so far I do not have any connections in Asia.

OGP:That is amazing! Francis Lai is doubtlessly a big fan of your works having collected 40 of them! In fact, in the time frame of half a century, there aren’t many composers who can compose as many masterpieces as Francis Lai: “Un homme et une femme” in 1966, “Love Story” in 1970, “Ballade pour ma mémoire” in 1981, “Hasards ou coïncidences” in 1998, and “Ces amours-là” in 2010. Francis Lai became recognized at a young age. He received various music awards, including Academy Award for Best Original Music Score and the Golden Globe Award for the Best Original Score. In 2014, Francis Lai was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at Film Fest Gent and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Soundtrack Academy. He is an amazing musician, and we are very happy for your friendship. Did you ever incorporate any musical elements in your artistic style?

Roger:I try to ignore and not use those kinds of elements. In fact, ideas come to me so naturally it seems to me that nobody has influenced me whatsoever. I always aspired to be unique and for my works to be one of a kind. To create, loneliness has invariably been the best companion to my soul. Nevertheless, being healthy and content are necessary for me to paint. In finding inspiration, I love to be surrounded by nature and familiar life. Generally, I listen to music while I paint. My musical companions include W. A. Mozart (12*), Serge Rachmaninov (13*), Claude Debussy (14*), Frederic Chopin (15*) and many others. But sometimes, I prefer silence. When I paint, I unleash my imagination and let it go free. I always have hundreds of paintings in my head before my brush touches the canvas. In the past, I have been inspired by people when I drew caricatures and both in my linear period and during my anecdotal period. Nowadays, I feel more attracted to nature.

OGP:Your current artworks share some characteristics with optical art, but with your individual features. Optical art is a style of visual art that uses optical illusions, and is mainly comprised of either coloured or black and white geometric shapes, arranged in such ways so to display a sense of movement. Op art neglects all traditional artistic techniques, and brings a different kind of visual astonishment. It is a mixed genre: from the spatial perspective, it is impressionist, abstract, cubist, and futurist; in the use of colour, it seems influenced by neoclassicism and constructivism. Op art has now been adopted in other areas, such as fashion, architecture, graphic designs, etc. What types of themes are you currently exploring?

Roger:At any moments, I explore impressions and memories of my own mind. At first, I liked portraits, then I enlarged this subject with life sceneries. Nowadays, as I mentioned before, I am inspired by nature. Only my early works were in black and white. I experienced what was called op art later. From this, I created my linear style. I kept this style until 1990. I painted differently afterwards from 1990 to 2007. Nobody told me to change in the 17 years until I wanted to try something else out of curiosity. I call it my anecdotal period. l was delighted to use humour when I painted people in a French Embassy, for example. However, this period did not last, as after deliberating about the real pursuit I desired, I realized that I missed my linear style very much. So I came back to it in January 2008. This is what I continue doing now.

OGP:Yes. I believe your artistic style is too unique and genuine. Pure colours are the hardest colours to manage, as you would need absolute control over the visual effects of the colours. Your audience appreciate your style and would want to see it change. The greater the artist, the lonelier he feels; because their artistic expression is rarely understood by others. For instance, you have previously mentioned Vincent Van Gogh and Maurice de Vlamink. It is said that Van Gogh sold only one painting during his entire lifetime; and de Vlamink’s works were incomprehensible to most people.

Roger:Actually, Vlaminck’s work was incomprehensible in his first period called the fauve period. Later he was very much appreciated. Some painters engage in seeking collaboration with other artists. It is not my case. Moreover, I think that a painter who want to progress must reach the best alone. He doesn’t need anybody. His studies finished, he has to be himself. Without seeking influence, he is able to find himself. He doesn’t have to copy anybody or wait for approbation. Of course, I speak for myself. Wonderful painters who preferred to work in groups belonged to a movement, but they brought their talent and their personal touch. The French impressionists are a good example. For me, however, I will always do my exploration without other human company. I used to exhibit my paintings in various galleries in South America, in Los Angeles and in Europe. Now, however, I tend to receive people in my studio near the beautiful park of Buttes-Chaumont in Paris; although I still accept invitations to various exhibits, such as the London Biennale and Florence Biennale in 2015.

OGP:The Biennale originated from Venice, Italy, and has a history of 240 years. Every two years they invite the most active artists, as well as those with the most potential around the world to attend. It is one of the best international contemporary art exhibitions. The Biennale has been hosted at various locations, including Sao Paulo, Brazil; Whitney, United States; Sydney, Australia; London, England; Lyon, France; Shanghai, China; etc. There has been over 200 Biennale exhibits to date, and is influential in the artistic field. As an artist who is invited to attend the Biennale as a representative for one’s country is an absolute honour, and is a great compliment to one’s art.

Roger:It is indeed so. Nevertheless, I believe what counts the most is the act of painting. I think that as long as I’m alive, I will never stop doing so. I need it as much I need to breathe. It is a magic food which gives me the taste of people, of animals, of life, of nature.... My greatest achievement is when I paint exactly as I wanted to. My reward is to feel that I have achieved what I was looking for. My happiness is this personal success. I find motivation in my love of painting. My feelings come naturally. I don’t need to think of it. My family and friends can see what joy I find in painting. I do hope I have the health to paint as long as possible. This is something I will always wish for. I like painting so much that I can feel it in any moment of my life. After the two biennales in 2015, I plan to exhibit in London, a city I adore very much. In the meantime, I will paint in my studio with a joyful and creative mind. Nothing pleases me more in the world.

OGP:This is truly amazing, that art has become an integral part of your life. London, Paris, Florence… the artistic ambience in Europe is stronger than it is in other countries. You may have noticed that recently many Chinese artists have traveled to Europe specifically to exhibit their artworks. What are your perspectives on Asian art?

Roger:I am very fond of Asian art, especially antiques. I am even collecting pieces of Han, Tang, Wei and Ming potteries. I observe and take care of them very often. The ancient civilizations knew their art perfectly. I believe they have reached their achievement in pottery. I also like the painter Hokusai very much. As for contemporary Asian art, I know that some painters and sculptors of China come to Europe to show their works to the public. They exhibit in France too. Some mix their own traditions with modernity. Others are looking for abstract style. Their research in art is rich and is willing to develop as far as the time goes.

OGP:In the past 15 years, Chinese contemporary art has been introduced on the international stage in one of three ways: the local community shows interest in Chinese contemporary art; international collectors specifically looking for Chinese contemporary art; or via exhibitions hosted by the country’s government. The three methods are limited by the tendency, capitalization, and restrictions by the official ideology; resulting in fragmented artworks of imitated styles. We must admit that great artists are almost always lonely, because this is the only way for them to be undisturbed by people and the environment. The value in a piece of artwork is its uniqueness and originality. We believe that Chinese contemporary art can only be better displayed through more proactive attitudes and innovative spirits.

Thank you to Roger Salucci for this meaningful discussion today. We believe that your extensive experience and professionalism will inspire more artists in their artistic pursuits. Please continue to attend to  OGP, and Rhapsody of the West.

1* Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452 - 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance, whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.

2* Hieronymus Bosch (1450 - 1516) was a Dutch/Netherlandish draughtsman and painter from Brabant. He is one of the most notable representatives of the Early Netherlandish painting school. His work contains fantastic illustrations of religious concepts and narratives. Within his lifetime his work was collected in the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain, and widely copied, especially his macabre and nightmarish depictions of hell. His most acclaimed works consist of a few triptych altarpieces, including The Garden of Earthly Delights.

3* Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853 - 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art.

4* Oscar-Claude Monet (1840 - 1926) was a French painter, a founder of French Impressionist painting and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein air landscape painting. The term "Impressionism" is derived from the title of his painting Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), which was exhibited in 1874 in the first of the independent exhibitions mounted by Monet and his associates as an alternative to the Salon de Paris.

5* Maurice de Vlaminck (1876 - 1958) was a French painter. Along with André Derain and Henri Matisse he is considered one of the principal figures in the Fauve movement, a group of modern artists who from 1904 to 1908 were united in their use of intense colour. Vlaminck was one of the Fauves at the controversial Salon d'Automne exhibition of 1905.

6* Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886 - 1968) was a Japanese–French painter and printmaker born in Tokyo, Japan, who applied Japanese ink techniques to Western style paintings. He has been called "the most important Japanese artist working in the West during the 20th century".

7* Paul Gustave Louis Christophe Doré (1832 - 1883) was a French artist, printmaker, illustrator, comics artist, caricaturist, and sculptor who worked primarily with wood engraving.

8* William Hogarth FRSA (1697 - 1764) was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects", perhaps best known being his moral series A Harlot's Progress, A Rake's Progress and Marriage A-la-Mode. Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as "Hogarthian". Influenced by French and Italian painting and engraving, Hogarth's works are mostly satirical caricatures, sometimes bawdily sexual, mostly of the first rank of realistic portraiture. They became widely popular and mass-produced via prints in his lifetime, and he was by far the most significant English artist of his generation.

9* Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808 - 1879) was a French printmaker, caricaturist, painter, and sculptor, whose many works offer commentary on social and political life in France in the 19th century. Daumier produced over 500 paintings, 4000 lithographs, 1000 wood engravings, 1000 drawings and 100 sculptures.

10* Gori Muñoz (1906–1978) was a Spanish-born Argentine art director. He worked on many films including The Phantom Lady (1945).

11* Francis Albert Lai (1932 - 2018) was a French composer, noted for his film scores. He won the 1970 Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for the film Love Story.

12* Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. He composed more than 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence is profound on subsequent Western art music.

13* Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff (1873 - 1943) was a Russian pianist, composer, and conductor of the late Romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular in the Romantic repertoire.

14* Achille-Claude Debussy (1862- 1918) was a French composer. He is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he rejected the term. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

15* Frédéric François Chopin  (1810 - 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for solo piano. He has maintained worldwide renown as a leading musician of his era, one whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation."

* By OGP Editors / Roger Salucci Provides File Photos


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