Alain Séchas

Alain Séchas in his studio ©TheGazeofaParisienne
Alain Séchas in his studio

French version (click here)

Who are you really, Alain Séchas? This is the question I asked myself en route to your studio that morning.

With your characters from who-knows-where, your absurd stories, your cats and other bizarre animals, abstractions, sculpture constructions that you call “drawings in the round”…

A few days earlier, during a visit to Museum of Modern Art, I couldn’t resist your Coup de vent (Musée d’Art Moderne of Paris, from February 12th to June 12th, 2016).

Alain Séchas "Le chat écrivain" 1996 Musée d'art moderne ville de Paris ©TheGazeofaParisienne
Alain Séchas “The Cat Writer” 1996 Museum of Modern Art, Paris ©TheGazeofaParisienne


I arrive in the exposition hall and the first sculpture seems to calmly await us. It’s “The Cat Writer” of 1996, later acquired by the MAM and the first of a long series. A very realistic cat writing a letter to her dear sister, who is surrounded by large canvases where, in this instance, the cats take on human allures in a bathing suit, all surrounding this abstract canvas with acidic colors….Three different situations; the seatbelt is fastened.

But what gust of wind (coup de vent)? That of received ideas? of grimacing humor? Just the reflections of an artist? or all of the above?

I would love to know what goes on in your head when you plan these big cats slit with vertical lines.

You pass from abstraction to figuration and vice versa without flinching; you go where inspiration takes you.

The purity of brushstroke pulls you into this form of abstraction, and the exhibited work is the realization of it; it contains your own story and now that of the museum’s collections.

Naturally, you direct yourself toward a work’s complexity and use unrealistic techniques with the help of electromechanics – a spider let loose in a museum, a Jurassic-Park-like adventure. Each time you appropriate the place and you think up a work that uses all of its possibilities; you create a story in which the visitor can participate by living an experience; you play with techniques.

Musée d'art moderne
Musée d’art moderne Paris

With audacity, you take posession of the prestigious Versailles château. You place, in one of the apartments of Madames Victoire and Adelaide, a calico cat patterned with the fleur de lys, royally installed on a sofa and smoking a cigarette!

You pay homage to the chemist Emile Coué, famous for the Coué method, and, working with this idea, you record your voice saying, “I’m getting better and better,” from extreme depth to extreme shrillness, on a spiral that turns faster and faster as the voice reaches the high notes – we see what we hear!

They offer you an exposition at the Bourdelle Museum; you say, “I want to smash a Bourdelle so it can’t even stand up! It’d be the ‘Shattered Dream’ exposition.” You disparage it at first, then forgive Bourdelle’s “Dying Centaur” of 1911, which the artist considered his self portrait.

Alain Séchas "Untitled 49" 2012 Oil on canvas 235 X170
Alain Séchas
“Untitled 49” 2012
Oil on canvas
235 X170 cm

For one work you go to the Coubertin foundry (where Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” was smelt) – the plaster molds which haven’t been used in 20 years. You reunite seventy pieces in silicone in very bad shape; you restore them and create a fairly smooth shell, in which you insert a mechanism worked on by a team of technicians. The result is fascinating: the large sculpture of over three meters collapses before us and then rises again (Currently shown on Caillebotte’s property in Yerres for the Biennale de sculpture from April 9th to July 10th, 2016).

I can’t resist Yerres’s Caillebotte estate, where I witness this tour de force. It’s magical; I watch over and over as the giant tumbles down in front of me then rights itself under the eye of Bourdelle’s “Large Fighter.”

In the beginning you were a young studio art teacher in Amiens, and in giving ideas to students you realized your own desire to create.

So begins your artistic career, having taken care to kill a teacher and to imagine a suicidal class in “Teacher Suicide,” fourty balloons breaking in different ways, each choosing its own method – very somber and sinister. You nevertheless point out to me that the work isn’t necessarily about you.

Musée d'art Moderne de la ville de Paris
Musée d’art Moderne de la ville de Paris

Your artistic life is a big construction site where you describe, through all the characters in your life, a sort of repertoire of situations interpreted by your creations. The spider is just a representation of the bourgeoisie; we see ourselves through the cats; and so on and so forth.

Each time, you surprise us with your inventions. During an exposition “Jurassic Pork II” at the Palais de Tokyo, the spectators shine a flashlight on the works and encounter a flying pig!

“I rather like the idea that the artist is a bit like a magician who finds a little trick.” – Alain Séchas

You explain to me each part of a drawing’s idea, at each new exposition a type of drawing in-situ:

“For me, I associate the word “urgency” with drawing, it’s an arrow that goes very fast toward the eye.” Alain Séchas

Alain Séchas
Alain Séchas

The style of beach scenes pleases you thanks to their horizon lines, perpendicular to large, elongated figures, colored cats, made also monochrome with the use of a blue-black-indigo that gives a photographic effect.

Your artistic universe shows a great sensibility, a mirror for our society: like blotting paper you transpose it with a grain of humor and delicacy; through your characters to the society in which we live with all these contradictory feelings. You’re like an art magician, and I can only advise amateurs to let themselves be transported by your imagination…

“I really like this element of the artist’s absurdity because my main victim is the artist himself, the possibility to critique the artist, the place, the power that he takes on, having distance. Everything is connected, you can’t retreat.” – Alain Séchas

Florence Briat Soulie

Translated by Landon Kramer  Vassar College,  Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris Fall 2016.

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