19 May Arnaud Nazare-Aga, Rainbow Warrior
TOTEMS & ITEMS
18 May 2018
Uplifting and vibrant, the plastic artist’s sculptures reflect well his life’s philosophy and aesthetic beliefs, positive. Some of his pieces are permanently installed in Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore, Hong Kong and as far as Italy, where one of his totems, 4.5 meters high, will be on display during La Biennale di Venezia.
Bangkok’s Nawa Min District, about 35mn from Sathorn on an urban express-way, is a well-kept secret and remains unknown to the vast majority of expatriates. Close to the movie studios there, and not far from the excellent Humming Birds Kitchen and Garden restaurant and nursery, Arnaud Nazare-Aga set up his studio in 2011.
Occupying 1,000 m2 spread over four floors, this is one of the largest in South-east Asia in its field: creation of sculptures made of resin and fibreglass and finished off with acrylic paint. Arnaud began his activities there by producing pieces for others, but the business was not profitable enough and he quickly decided to use his workers for his own creations, which now constitute the bulk of his activities, even if he does sometimes still work in collaboration with a few customers.
25 people work at PAJ’Art Studio: 13 Thais and 12 Burmese. Most of them previously did not have a trade. They are mostly people from the street, who introduced themselves to the workshop, which remains wide open to the outside. Today, they have become experts, after a fairly long training period and thanks to years of experience. Every day they can admire the pieces on display in the showroom next to which they come to clock on and feel a legitimate pride in having worked on these creations, which are among the most beautiful in the world using this technique.
The first structures on which Arnaud worked were the 4-5 metres high Buddhas which adorn the Temple of the Thousand Buddhas, a Buddhist temple in Burgundy, where he spent six years creating all of the sculptures. It was there that Arnaud learned to work with Asian artists, Bhutanese, Tibetans… and to master some techniques that he had already begun to tackle in Paris during the construction of the temple in the Bois de Vincennes. From this unique experience came the desire to create colourful sculptures.
Arnaud, your art seems totally connected with Buddhism…
Yes, for me, it is a contribution to the universal search for happiness. It is colourful art that communicates joy. I left my family at the age of 14 in order to go to a monastery and follow an education that really suited me. I have a determined character and when I decided to do the temple, at 17, I stopped school because I wanted to create, to become a builder. I can say that I really built myself with the Burgundy temple. I didn’t go to art school, but I have considered myself to be an artist since I was 18. As with the Buddhism, I learned everything from masters.
Every job I did in my life before creating my own workshop in Bangkok seven years ago brought me new techniques, which are now seen in my work. I am not a sculptor nor a painter. I am a plastic artist who combines these techniques of painting, sculpture, reproduction, varnishing, etc.
In my sculptures, the form is not sufficient in itself: the colours, the design have a part, as do the techniques for assembling the 35 layers of materials that I will apply successively using brushes or paint guns. This is what infuses a certain life to the form, a certain energy. The multiple layers of varnish allow, for example, the piece to literally absorb the light. These are techniques that are increasingly rare, as they are complicated and expensive, that I learned in Vietnam 20 years ago while working with lacquers.
When I started my workshop, I tried to obtain this quality of surface by experimenting with different materials, in such a way that they love each other. This is called cross-thinking, when one mixes polyesters and polyurethanes, for example, which do not always fit well together, finding ways to make them cohabit harmoniously. This is what gives the explosion of colours, of life, of movement, which comes from the imperceptible change of hue of the piece when we walk around it.
You were particularly showcased at the last Art Stage Singapore.
This is the third year that I do the Art Stage Singapore, and the second year in Jakarta. In January, I exhibited only pieces under my own name and not under the name Arteline anymore, due to the termination of the partnership with my future ex-wife. Using my gallery in Singapore, Artporters, I exhibited a centrepiece: a totem of 3.20 metres, which was part of the “public artworks”, a selection of usually fairly large works exhibited outside of the stands. It was a real privilege that I am very happy to have obtained.
The totem is an assembly of three sumos. The first is very stable, with both feet in the ground and his hands on his knees, representing stability and self-confidence, self-knowledge and knowledge of others and of the environment. The one above sees a little higher and, with arms open, he represents openness to the world and to others, to new cultures, to new techniques, to creativity. Finally, the highest one is daring, he stands on one leg, taking risks while remaining quite stable about his axis, in his equilibrium. He’s the adventurer, the entrepreneur, the one who realises his dreams. From the summit, he sees things that those remaining lower down do not see, giving him confidence about the realisation of himself and of his dreams. So I exhibited this totem outside and two other smaller ones inside, as well as my new collection of pop-art bears: B’Pop.
And finally, I presented a special piece: The Trump bear. It was with this one that I started to make bears. The idea came to me when Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. I felt a mixture of anger and sadness. I wanted to create a work that was engaged but cheerful, showing a melting polar bear on a melting ice floe and I created a piece about forty centimetres high. Once completed, I found that it wasn’t really me, this sad monochrome piece. I didn’t want to sign it and it began to gather dust in a corner of my workshop. But the more Trump’s stupid tweets appeared, I thought it would be nice to put him astride this bear.
The bear is also the symbol of Russia and that fitted well with the controversy over the financing of his campaign. With his unusual blue suit, his improbable yellow hair and his over-long red tie, he is unique to the point of becoming a cult. I made him removable, so that one can put him in the cupboard and only see the bear, which is self-sufficient, and then put him back on again when receiving friends for example, to amuse them or to start a debate. Then, his vice president attacked LGBT people and I decided to make the bear pink.
The piece was shown with a certain degree of success at Art Stage. Grace Fu, the Singapore Minister of Culture, stopped a long time in front of the sculpture, which caused a lot of reactions and discussions.
Your statues of the Little Prince also had a lot of success. You have some new projects involving him, I believe…
Indeed, at the moment I am preparing a double exhibition on Saint-Exupéry and the Little Prince at the Singapore Philatelic Museum. The inauguration of the first part, aimed at presenting the author, Latécoère, the airmail service, etc., will take place on 7 June. I will show sculptures of the Little Prince in colour, in a context a little different from what I have done so far on the subject in collaboration with the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Foundation. The first time in Singapore was with the Embassy of France, at the Fullerton and at the Alliance française, and then in Hong Kong, at Paci c Place, and at the National Museum of Korea for five months.
In October, for the second part of the exhibition, an installation specially made for the occasion will be revealed, dedicated to tactile sculptures adapted for the blind. These are fluorescent white pieces that can be touched by everyone, lit by a set of black lights above each sculpture and a sound system that is triggered when approached and which tells the story of the piece. I presented a similar installation at YenakArt Villa in 2016. The two exhibitions will end together in March 2019.