Keep art to silent conversation
In an effort to make art all-inclusive, Jean-marc bustamante talks about the layers within the frame with an ability to evoke intense emotions. By Ramya Palisetty
Optimistic and enthusiastic, Jean-Marc Bustamante has the purity of intention and genuine commitment to change the current art scenario. The vision of the artist is to create a museum as a machine of learning. It should be a destination for individuals to feel comfortable, take pleasure in the artworks, enjoy a cup of coffee, grab a quick bite, have access to touch the collection and soak in the scent of old books in the national library.
The new director of the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris is heir to the Académie founded in the 17th century by Louis XIV. A self-taught artist born in 1952, he has been a professor at the school since 1996. Throughout his practice, Bustamante has engaged in dialogue between photography and painting as well as painting and sculpture. Bustamante’s first series was based on photographs which marked the beginning of this medium in the art field. He experiments with a wide variety of media, creating innovative visual suggestions. His works have been featured in many reputed international collections including the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Tate Modern.
Bustamante first gained recognition with the release of Tableaux series in 1977, comprising 120 colour photographs depicting desolate landscapes reminiscent of traditional landscape paintings. Said the renowned artist, “I use landscape as a metaphor in life a lot. I began my journey as a photographer to create simple landscapes. The idea was to invite another person to look into the frame where a story is being narrated. The spectator can feel the light, air, chaos and silence.” On a lighter note, he added, “There are times when I have arguments with my wife and I request her to sit into the landscape of our living room.”
In an era of digital media, we have to accept that individuals have the opportunity to express themselves with innumerable tools. Said he, “Fifteen years ago, I participated in a meeting in Paris where people were convinced that we don’t need objects anymore with the innovation of screen and computer. Though digital art is easier to produce emotions, images and space but the art of painting is not dead yet.”
The situation is a little complex with the evolving definition of art which encompasses music and dance. But the artist feels that these are forms of entertainment. “Art is mute. The relationship with art is personal, a silent conversation. Too much talk about art is not my cup of tea. I like to look at art and feel its essence,”said he.
While the younger generation is trying to replicate artworks from the renaissance, romanticism and impressionism era to garner success, they are losing touch with their inner selves. “Each artist is unique. It is crucial to develop an individuality based on experiences and find ways to express it through art. They need to add value to their work because it has to survive the test of time.”
Beaux arts is a school of utopia and creation. There are classes to support dancing, comics and cinema. “I have seen my students sitting in the chapel with a canvas to add an element of spirituality to their work. It is essential to have a space to create your work but it doesn’t always help in achieving greatness.”
Art is a question of how one feels but what one feels doesn’t always sell in the market. Balancing these two aspects can push an artist towards insanity. There are various reasons like older artists stealing the limelight, luck, personality and the gallery one is associated with, that defines an artist’s worth. Art dealers want the same magic to be recreated which puts the artist under immense pressure. “Unlike many who are disturbed by the market, I like the unpredictability. I feel like I am a gambler at the casino.”
In a country like India, art is confined within the elite society making it inaccessible to general public. People are reluctant to go to a gallery because they are intimidated by the the price tags. We have great museums but individuals do not know how to talk or promote the art that is sitting there. On the other hand, we have galleries with great collections but the primary focus is on the collector. The DAG is trying to bridge that gap and working towards the democratisation of art. Said Bustamante, “ I am here to find a solution. France can help India because we have the expertise to contribute towards this cause. I am open to questions, developments and student exchange programmes.”
The artist chooses to exhibit his work without any information about specific locations or chronology, it’s the photographs alone that must provide all the information, as the viewer examines the minutiae of each printed surface. “One doesn’t need to explain their work as most people require explanations. Art is vivid and artists try to define their work through walks, creation of templates, and catalogues. But, with visual art, one needs to take time and look at the piece rather than reading the story of its conceptualisation. There is an enigma, a mystery to art and it should remain that way.”
The long preserved state art collection was enormous. Most directors would have preferred the easy way out and distributed the artworks among schools and museums. But Bustamante was keen on keeping it intact. “I began the process to declare the collection as proof that we have the required resources and infrastructure to manage and open a museum for students. I always had this dream of creating a museum as a tool for experimentation for true conversations and for opening the doors of opportunities for future generations.”
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