A conversation with Théo Viardin on the occasion of his exhibition
Cristina Ramos: “Every presence blends with the stones”. The title of the exhibition entangles the idea that the figures belong to the soil but at the same time, it could also refer to the fact that they are made out of the same matter as stones are: calcite, dolomite, feldspar. Could a human figure become a mountain?
Théo Viardin: Maybe it might, if it stays still long enough…
Stones are interesting regarding painting because they have very particular colours, brilliance and transparency. Also, stones are quiet, still, mute – I find them beautiful because it feels like they hold a secret. There is also something touching in their permanence. When talking about rocks, science-fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin said that stones are little entities, which have a weight, a presence, and which are going to outlast us for nobody knows how long.
I try to work on my figures by connecting them to natural elements, at least on an intellectual level. It helps me to paint in a particular feeling or tonality. Also, it allows me to abstain from realistic human representation to work on more expressive shapes.
CR: In Ursula K. Le Guin ́s “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” (1986), she beautifully writes about containers, heroes and bags. A bottle is also a container, a thing that holds something else. A painting could also be a pouch. You can take it home, or store it or put it up somewhere, like in a gallery room. “Un petit peu de temps glisse entre mes doigts” (A little time slips through my fingers) depicts a robust figure that holds water in their palm though they need an external container in order to hold it. Is this a metaphor for time? Perhaps your canvases could be considered drops of water that contain images of new stories?
TV: Yes, it is a metaphor for time, but once it’s painted on the canvas, paradoxically, it’s crystallized, it can’t move anymore. We’re at the age of short-time, where everything evolves excessively fast and it tends to create a feeling of emergency. Painting slowly and meticulously is a way to capture this time. I try to see each painting as a scene, a small capsule coming from a distant time or place where time goes way slower.
CR: Are you building up a vision of human destiny in some way? As in depicting the living creatures that will be alive in a far future? Images of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle come to mind, like the Eloi’s in the “Time Machine” by H.G.Wells (1895), humanlike creatures that live in syntony with their environment once the Industrial Revolution has proved doomed. There is a sense of a cyclical movement in your paintings, also the way you have chosen to display them.
TV: Like many people in recent years, I was overwhelmed by concerns about the state of our world and our future as humankind. Even if this is not necessarily the story that I want to tell, this underlying issue necessarily nourished my work. Chances are our future resembles our distant past in many ways, and I like to try to portray this distant time in soft, serene images. Whatever might be next, we better make it desirable, don’t we?
Théo Viardin (Paris, France, 1992) is a French artist based in Paris. He studied Graphic Design in Nantes and Tolouse and co-founded Embuscade, a visual creation studio in 2015.
Having started his painting practice in recent years, Viardin works mainly with oil paint to develop a narrative-based approach in investigating human representation. Through the repetition of characters, colours, attitudes and objects, Viardin progressively represents a distant world which possess its own culture and canonical figures. Each painting is a scene unveiling a part of a distant story, or a piece of an incomplete puzzle.