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Albert Coste

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Photo Greta Wehbé
Brochure du l'exposition "Peintures et Estampes"

Interview with Marc Tanguy (February 2022)

What region are you from? What is your background?

I was born in Paris, my story is not exceptional: modest family, carpenter worker father, stay-at-home mother, suburban house, very close to immense fields of wheat or corn beets, then came to Paris for the high school, and art schools. My family environment knew nothing of the painting that I discovered late, or sometimes in a roundabout way on chocolate boxes, or the beautiful Matisse postage stamps. But I was thirsty for images, and I devoured comics, and gazed with reverence at certain paperback covers. 

From childhood, I was able to benefit from calm, benevolence, and a garden. I developed a love of life, plant forms and colors. I had a naturalistic and entomological period, collecting animals of all kinds that I was trying to adapt, when they didn't come by their own means: frogs, salamanders, hedgehogs, insects, fish, etc. A real miniature zoo, but without locking them up. I already had a keen sense of ecology (scientific ecology): the relationship of living things to their environment. 

Butterflies fascinated me, and I was less of an environmentalist there, since I collected them pinned in glass boxes (I also collected caterpillars to follow their metamorphosis). And it is perhaps with them, by studying them, that I now have this taste for colored harmonies. 

Life and its processes have always fascinated me. I have probably unconsciously developed similar ways of doing things in my painting. Chances and necessities. An instinctive part, a little animal perhaps, is present in the painting. 

And then History, of which it seems to me that I have been deprived. Painting gave me the feeling of being able to participate in History at my level, of clinging to something that was missing. The suburbs are empty of history, they are places of oblivion, at least in the 1960s, where its inhabitants, emigrants or not, only wanted one thing: to forget the war and to have a life "without history". . Painting is a great way to see History, it crystallizes its essence.

I have really been painting since the 80s, when I left school (ENSAD and ENSBA), before that I drew a lot, among other activities. There was a double revelation: on the one hand a trip to Venice, Venetian painting (Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the following...) and then the Bonnard exhibition of 1984 at the Center Pompidou, not to mention the Louvre and Paris, which offer a dizzying panorama of the history of art and the art of today. But Bonnard was decisive, it was a real shock, that of color (rediscovered, sublimated?) and also that of the sumptuous poetry that Venetian painting conceals. 


What kind of topics did you start with? + the evolutions, the different themes, when, why? etc...

I started by drawing and painting what I saw, in a very classic, rather anachronistic way, like Corot or Chardin, with a naturalistic afterthought: that of illustrations from encyclopedias. Italian landscapes, fruit bowls, portraits... On the other hand, I studied other artists, dead or alive. I tried to understand them from within. I experimented a lot: figurative, abstract painting, assemblages, glass, tar, photos, resins, pigments. Expressionism, gestural abstraction, pop art, I played with manners. Without really intending, just with the desire to explore and understand. 

What areas do you like to paint?

No particular regions, just visual “appeals”: lights, spaces, colors. So of course, rather the landscapes that catch the light, like the mountains, or the colors like the countries of the south. But in general, I have to be in a condition of immersion, have time and feel in tune with the place. That's the most important, the rest follows. 

What are your influences?

All painters in one way or another, but especially colorists. Bonnard, Vuillard, Diebenkorn, Peter Doig in the 90s, Tom Thomson, the fauves and the German expressionists...

What is your favorite color?

Not one color, but color relationships between them, it's infinite. 

Who are your favorite artists?

Among the painters: The history of art is infinite, each artist brings his particular universe, but let's say Corot, Titien, Bonnard, and among recent artists, the large pastels on canvas by Monique Frydman, certain things by Olivier Debré or Zao Wou Ki, from Kirkeby, but it's just as infinite. 

Otherwise, of course, there are books, films, series and music...

How would you define your style?

Style is a bit like the recognition of handwriting in graphology. It is largely unconscious. I don't know what makes the unity of my work, if not probably a certain relationship to the world, a particular style, a relationship with the material, a way of moving… the style is very physical.

What are your favorite painting mediums and supports?

Oil for the precision of colors and passages, acrylic for a few years for spontaneity, pure pigments to know the true material nature of colors, linen canvas, Arches paper for watercolours… I experiment with the pigments and the raw linen canvas, a little like one would do with paper, the monotype too, as much on canvas as on paper. I also worked on the "monotype" aquatint in color, engraved on copper. It is a long and complex technique, on several successively printed plates. Both very controlled and improvised, a bit like jazz. 

How long does it take you to paint a picture (inspiration, finding the subject, change of mind, stop for a while then resume...)

It's impossible to answer with precision: each painting is unique in its process. It can come quickly, in a few hours, or remain suspended for years in the workshop, then reworked and then set aside again. I think my record is 23 or 24 years old! But it is quite common among painters.

I also work in "series" of variations on a particular motif or theme. 

What are your other activities? 

I have been teaching painting at ENSAD (decorative arts) in Paris since 2007. It is a very stimulating and refreshing exchange.


Why are you painting?

By choice, by habit, by passion, by necessity, by ambition, by pleasure, by love…? 

Why are you exhibiting at the A Tempera gallery?

It's a curious coincidence: Pierre Coquet and Françoise Juvin lived 200m from my home in Belleville. You made me discover them, and I was immediately conquered, especially by the painting of Françoise Juvin. I could have known them. With them, there is also this relationship with Truphémus that I planned to meet in Lyon before he disappeared.

The link is invisible, the thread broken, but it is very real: an unpretentious but ambitious tradition of painting, connected to the history of art, a simplicity, a relationship to reality among these painters who worked modestly and imperturbably. We can call it authenticity, and it touches me infinitely. I think we find it in your gallery.

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