Pascal Coffez: Tribal and High-Tech Art
French-Swiss artist Pascal Coffez lives in retreat in a castle on the outskirts of Zurich. Every day, he draws dozens of people and artefacts all of which have their origins a very long way away from him. It is like his mind is welcoming characters from other eras. There are mysterious characters, a warrior in armour, a king, as well as common people, but also, everyday objects, jewels and bronze sculptures, all of which appear as if from a dream.
The artist's creative spirit enables us to grasp the intrinsic quality of these forms and their ancestral purity. Thus, we rediscover a beauty which is, at the same time, immutable and continuously renewed, in a manner that closely parallels just how the artist's insightful gaze addresses the invisible.
Pascal Coffez is able to grasp the source of an art which is then magnified by the poetry of his eye. The artist juggles radiance with matter. Sign and light undoubtedly forming the pillars on which Pascal's work develops. It is also some sort of quest, in search of a timelessness which can be perceived in the very structure of the painting, whose format reflects the clever entanglement of both spirituality and modernity.
Inspired by the uncanny and dreamlike appearance of Sumerian artworks, and thanks to his fruitful interpretation, he succeeds in capturing the emotional impact of these jewels, these sculptures, these paradoxically archaic and modern vessels. In these artworks one can find infinite richness.
These extraordinary works allow for images born out of lucid dreams to well up, in only a few short minutes. The artist is able, in just a few strokes, to cross centuries and convey to us his most deeply felt interpretations of these vestiges of the past. But there is no reflection, no planning: the brush runs across the sheet in a sort of shamanic trance, welcoming this cradle of Humanity into our time.
That is when technology offers Pascal Coffez the biggest amazement, as a revelation: a new painting appears, digital this time, supplying the painter with new colours, and revealing, through the play of shadows and light, new shapes and new outlines. The result comes from work in constant progress, which grows and amplifies its developments in time as well as in space.
The final stage is a three-dimensional impression of the work: out of the painting comes the sculpture, living bronze which breathes life into the canvas, a materialisation of it, like a fugitive escaping from his prison.
Pascal's pictorial work combines drawing, painting and digital art. It is, at the same time, both tribal and high-tech art.
Coffez: “It’s a Tightrope Walk”
- What is the process through which you create your images?
When there is magic at work, drawings create themselves, already perfectly balanced. The exact representation of my vision.
Other times, in order to materialise my dream, I may have to start over from scratch several dozen times. Each time, I start from the beginning.
To be precise, I don't redo the same drawing, but I work based on the same intention, the same feeling. This produces a series of images in the same vein which are nonetheless, ultimately, all different.
I say drawing, but it's actually more about drawing and painting in the same movement, at the same time. Everything is synchronised without having to think about it. Instead of thinking about perspective or angle of view, I try to stay focused on the impression, the feeling, the energy inside me.
It's a tightrope walk: I look for the thread to allow me to take one step and then another, but if I start to analyse what is happening, the thread begins to slip away and then vanishes. The balance is upset. Like during meditation, when the mind takes over, the meditation stops.
- What media do you use?
My work can be printed in very large format on metal, plexiglass, paper or in a quality suitable for museums as well, professionally framed. They can also be disseminated as digital paintings, new artworks can be created by modifying the colours or the rotation. This flexibility offered by technology adds to the originality of my work.
Some may feature a very slight, slow movement, slight colour changes. Some portraits are intended to be printed as 3D sculptures, in metal (this work is in progress with the help of a professional engineer).
I am also passionate about the fab opportunities offered by NFTs. Like the famous Beeple, I also produce, every day, serial digital works in order to share them.
With my software, I open the images, reverse them, and the work appears.
When necessary, I only allow myself the decomposition of white light into red/green/blue, as I did for the triptych. In principle, I refrain from any changes to the outlines: I do not want to pollute, with my artistic vanity, the inspiration, which is something greater than myself.
- What role does technology play, in your opinion?
In my opinion, the digital and technological aspect is not essential: it is just a tool, if nothing else, to give life to my "epiphanies".
- This all started at the end of last year, in your Rheinfall workshop, didn't it? Can you tell us about that "first time"?
Broke, confined, banned from drawing outside. I mull over the possibility of painting large artworks on metal (140/140). But I only have A4 size paper. I think of Jean-Pierre Desclozeaux, who used to draw incredibly graceful designs on postage stamp formats, which ended up plastered on the walls in large format.
I follow the trail, and I imagine each drawing in negative, with the colours reversed. This is actually perfect, since I have neither gold nor metal colour in the little material I have. However, with the blue and my tablet, I can make them appear like magic.
I make some attempts with music. This lasts entire nights. When the inspiration is there, the artworks are born in bundles, like flowers.
Technique must give way to something which is not completely thought out, rational. Strictly speaking, it's not drawing, but rather the materialisation of an intuition, of a voice which only asks to burst out without my involvement.
This approach is rather the opposite of that when I force myself when I draw for the press (rough, improved rough, drawing then inking). This is not about going through a rational, mental and technical process in order to deliver a finished product. I forbid myself to intervene with any correction.
Sometimes, an original drawing emerges spontaneously, as if by magic, and expresses a grace and poetry which cannot be compared with that of planned, thought-out drawings. The “Sumerian Revelations” are part of the same lineage.
When I make an illustration, I draw with my hands, controlling the line: I am the only master. With the "Sumerians" I draw with my heart, letting myself go, letting my feelings and my impressions take control.
- How do you feel about the viewers' gaze?
Each of my creations takes time to reveal itself to the viewer. A single glance is not enough to grasp its complexity. If a canvas attracts you, you just need to look intensely at it and let yourself be carried away, with a free spirit and no assumptions: in a few minutes, images will start to appear. Each observer will have their "vision", just as when you look at the clouds. A change of light or angle provides new shapes and new interpretations. There is no right or wrong: everyone sees what they think they can see in it. Comparing these visions is infinitely enriching. Large format prints favour such an "appearance" of successive images. And the viewer's gaze is central in my approach. It enriches my own interpretation of the artworks. I have had people passionately explain to me what they were seeing. And in turn, I was able to see their vision.
- And how about you, how do you see your artworks?
I discover each "major" work like an image enclosing a secret. I myself am the spectator, a spectator facing a revelation, hence the name "Sumerian Revelations".
Initially, there is my reading, or rather, my readings, since each time I go back to the artwork, new images are offered to me. Then comes the reading from the Other, who helps me see what I cannot see. Each sensitivity sparks new visions.
It's like having a stroll when the weather is changeable; you need to take the time to progress in steps, accepting you'll never be able to see the same painting twice. Or again, as with a melody: you have to listen to a succession of notes in order to get the idea. Otherwise, you can't see anything.
This is the price at which my works can disclose their richness.
Not knowing how to present a production which is "bigger than me", which comes from elsewhere, I refrained from any communication on the media. As a result, to date, I have only sold three works from this collection, notably a triptych to a Parisian collector (8,000 Euros) and another painting outside Paris (1,800 Euros).
Therefore, my works are almost completely exclusive.