The thing about someone whose work traverses painting (although the term is non-conclusive here), music and writing is that, she/he can really fathom a coherent language in any form to hit a dissonant note but still leave you strangely affiliated inside. Cheyenne Schiavone’s watercolour is one as such, an unshrinking but recognizable scrutiny of us and “the others” marked in permanent paint.
You studied history prior to becoming a painter and DJ, has that intellectual engagement determined your thinking as an artist?
Choosing studying history was more of an evidence to me, but it has probably strengthened me in my core logic: in any field – whether it’s art, thought or practice of any kind – I’ve always been thinking in terms of origins, aspects and then consequences. As everyone knows, it’s also the basic schema of an essay. I guess this is why the conclusions I use to give as an artist are not particularly gentle.
Take one example from the series No Future, you wrote “On ne nait pas femme, on le devient.”(One is not born a woman, one becomes.) How much volume does text speak in your paintings?
Let’s say that my work doesn’t consist so much in the representation of what it depicts, but rather in the analysis of a particular topic. This is mainly observations of a very contemporary social malaise, and the text is of major importance to me in order to confront a lot of ideas so that their manifestations in the final work are not exclusively emotional and may cause a kind of break in the minds of people I’m talking to.
This year you have handwritten Le Petit Prince with illustrations on a sketchbook. Was handwriting the entire story a form of meditation?
In a way, yes. In fact, this project was born as a result of an umpteenth reading of the original work by Saint-Exupery. It then became clear to me that the thought put in abyss through the various protagonists that the Petit Prince meets throughout his journey naturally unravels a major part of the problems that the human faces in his lifetime, making it more of a philosophical manual than the childish tale you are given as your first book – which seems quite a heresy but can do no harm. The message it delivers is indisputably universal; so, although I was seeking it out someone in particular, this work made possible reactions on my own and of course of a wider audience.
The paintings are bemused in either a moment of disposition or a fleeting gesture of the body. Do you consider your work a swift, impressionistic rendering or a meticulously built composition? How much planning goes into it?
It is an established fact that I bring more attention to the idea of hich result my painting than to its rendering: it consists more of a process of dislocation and renewed perspective of human emotions and expressions of a troubled time than to a substantive pictorial work. These paintings are only messages, sometimes abrupt and wild, tending to express one of these obvious issues and disorders that a thought, such as emitted in Le Petit Prince for example, could likely resolve. It is a thought ahead report, but intuitive in its realization and expression. As such, time is not particularly to take into account.
Do your characters all have a reference in real life?
No, my characters are just nowadays’ human beings, therefore experiencing major issues arising from the progressively installed existentialist doctrine of our time, scanning numerous theological, philosophical or moral concepts which, although perceived by contemporaries as a form of obscurantism, enabled man to rest on a few fundamental rules for his balance.
Do you ever project yourself in the paintings? How do you think about self-portraits?
I practiced a lot self-portrait, and will probably do it again in the future; not by self-interest but because I felt that these visions were mine. They echo an analysis of a question I digested my way, but which are rooted in the human, and then not necessarily me. That’s why the characters I paint have less and less overt signs of particular identity. It’s more in order to express really personal primal screams that I sometimes still go through it.
Bearing many roles – painter, DJ, scriptwriter – how do you balance the ears and the hands at work?
The balance among the three roles comes naturally because, somehow, I express the same things in all these areas: things that are inseparable from the information we have all more or less assimilated so far, which make some of us not pessimistic but skeptical and willing to move forward without forgetting the considerable luggage we are dragging up that hill.
Which one of these roles took shape first?
It has probably all begun with writing. This, of course, left the door open to many other forms of expression: words and shorn thoughts are the raw material of the atmosphere that can be found in what I do.
Do you see these roles as separate or a unity?
Definitely as a unity. I’m not free, I’m three. Maybe more… who knows?
How would you say your perception of painting has evolved thus far?
I don’t really consider my work as painting but like “journalistic pop art”, in a way. Besides, I don’t hide my shortcomings in terms of technique, so what I do hasn’t affected my vision of painting in any way: facing a painting or any other pictorial work, I keep an ignorant look. I don’t deny having received a good culture nor appreciating the finesse of a well done job, but I could never let these things take precedence over the shock that happens – or not – inside me.
Your latest exhibition at Young International Artists (YIA) is open now in Paris. What’s to be expected?
The exhibition “Sang Neuf” is part of the YIA, a FIAC Off art fair and dedicated to the French artistic new guard. It’s a great privilege to exhibit during the contemporary art week in Paris… so I’m really glad to be part of it and there will be a lot to see. But as far as I’m concerned, I let the bad student raging in me talk and made of the space that was given to me, with the kind support of Arnaud Faure Beaulieu (mister No Mad Galerie), a place where words and slaughters will know no compromises.
Exhibition Sang Neuf is open now in Paris, 22 – 26 Oct