È un artista autodidatta, disegna e fotografa, si chiama Léonard Condemine ed è ossessionato dalle maschere a cui ha deciso di dare vita attraverso la scultura. Nell’intervista che segue abbiamo chiacchierato con lui di questa sua singolare passione e di tanto altro ancora.
First of all let’s start with: who’s Léonard Condemine?
I’m 24 and I live in Paris since 2010. I’m a freelance artist since 2013. I started photography in highschool as a hobby back to 2007. When I arrived in Paris, I started to experiment sculpting, painting and drawing with a fellow artist that I met few months after my arrival. By the way, her name is Tarmasz and she illustrates comics (and she makes really cool tattoos too).
I have no degree in art but while I practiced photography and crafted masks, I also studied mathematics at university. To be honest, as soon as I received my degree certificate I sent it to my mother and never heard of it since.
Please explain to us a little bit more about your Mask project.
Why I started crafting Masks. I started to craft masks merely to hide faces of the people who appeared on my pictures. I really wanted to get rid of the identity of the people who appear on my pictures. What I was looking for is an ethereal anonymous body presented in mysterious, god forsaken places .
The first purpose of the mask was to substitute the expressions of the face which I find “too appealing”. I mean it just catches all the attention; when you discover a photo, your eyes will go straight to analyzing the faces. It just didn’t fit with the atmosphere I wanted to create in my photographic work.
Moreover, since is started including my masks in my pictures, I always hear people telling me “where have you taken these pictures, it looks like you took these in a foreign land”.
I believe it’s one way to explain how my masks galvanize my pictures. To be honest I made all my pictures in France: in the areas around Paris (north of France) and around Montpellier (south of France).
How the masks became an obsession in my work. From this conception of the masks as accessories for my pictures, I started (in late 2012) to have a great interest in the Finish of the artwork. I also wanted the masks to be as different from a human face as possible. Thus my masks have nor a mouth, neither a nose… In fact you only recognize it’s a mask because of the eye holes and the leather straps to wear the mask. My masks became more and more the sole purpose of my creation. The compositions I paint on my masks became more and more complex and detailed. I spent more and more weeks for each masks, and I started to think of the installation of the masks on walls (using plinth, painted walls, and a specific use of lights).
Eventually, after my last exhibition (at Gallery “espace quinzequinze” in Paris), I started to work with many different materials. To find out more you’ll find a detailed description of these new artworks on my crowdfunding.
By the way, if you wonder why I keep on crafting masks instead of anything else, I’d simply say I’m kind of mesmerized by masks and specifically by those I crafted (the more distant I am from the time I made it, that more intriguing they look to me). It’s ironic but I started creating masks to replace faces, but now I almost find these as eye-catching as real faces. By the way most of the people who I lend or sold masks reported me very similar opinions.
You’re a sort of multitasked artist interested in many media. From what or who are you most inspired?
I’m really fond of art through many of its media,, I visit at least one museum/exhibition every week since I arrived in Paris and I believe I am merely influenced by each exhibition that I visit.
You know I have a diary in which I write every detail that inspires me in every day’s life.
Most of the time there are very simple things that no specific artist could claim so I’m not sure I can associate it with any specific artist. When I merge all the ideas I’ve been writing down for the last few months, it ends up with a complex association of shapes, materials, light effect and eventually different composition for the picture that will present the mask.
Nevertheless I could mention some contemporary artist that I really like.
Paul Toupet who uses many materials including ropes, papier maché and second-hand clothes to craft amazing gloomy dolls.
Jan Fabre because his interest for entomology and taxidermy really appeals me. But also because he works with incredible materials such as iridescent beetle shells, gold leafs and natural feathers…
Eventually, Théo Mercier, who’s artworks are more linked with conceptual art, I heard about his work because he also crafted some masks few years ago. What’s really appealing with his work is the whole installation he presents in a gallery to galvanize his work.
Which of your mask is the favorite one and why?
That would be impossible for me to choose only one mask. I wondered many times “if my flat was to burn, which ones I would save?” I’ll widen your question to a range of three masks (like the 3 artists before).
This one is called the “Masque simien” it means it faces looks like a monkey one. That’s the last mask i crafted which has a mouth hole. Moreover it’s my favourite mask of the collection “zoomorphic masks” that I crafted from 2012 to early 2013.
This is the “shield mask”, like the previous one, it’s the last one of the collection I created from 2013 to 2014. I’ve been working over a year and a half on these complex compositions of shapes, patterns and drawings that you can see all over this mask. Moreover I added fluorescent painting that allows this mask to react with black light in order to give to this mask a second face: “un deuxième visage”.
Eventually, I’d chose this mask which still hasn’t been titled. This is the last mask I crafted, a month ago, it’s made of pewter, natural feathers and rock crystals… I’ll make many other masks like this with several new materials that react to light. I planned this collection of masks to fit with an installation of the masks using black lights, stroboscopic lights, that whould be hanged on a vegetal wall or a wall covered with fur and leather…
Talk to us about technics and where do you find the materials for your creations.
The techniques I use are kind of archaic, my masks are all made of papier mache. Like the so-called “Venetian masks” actually. My masks are made of several layers using different materials such as painted leathers, natural feathers, metals, rock crystals, mirrors, glass and even vegetal plants. I find most of these in nature or in trashes. I’m definitely not the first one to be amazed by the way people just throw incredible things away.
About the choice of the materials and the gathering that occur on my masks, it’s definitely not as random as the way I collect these. Sometimes I have to “force my luck”, for instance when I look for mirrors, glass or wood boards, I’ll just wander in Paris, near waste disposal of abandoned places with my bike, and then I walk all the way back to my flat which these treasures…
Recently I visited the exhibition of David Altmejd in Paris, I’ve been surprised by the beauty of his use of materials. And for instance I started using rock crystals few weeks after seeing this exhibition.
Your personal goodbye to our readers.
I believe my artworks aren’t really easy to appreciate because masks could inspire fears. I hope you find them more welcoming now. By the way I made no allusion to the so called primitive arts that you compare to my artworks. I’m really fascinated by aboriginal and African masks, nevertheless I believe the filiation my artworks add with tribal arts slowly fade away and just completely disappeared with my most recent collection.