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Interview with Maxime Duveau

San Clemente Charmed, 80 x 106 inches (205cm x 270cm), Charcoal, stamps and silkscreen on paper, 2020

By SIMONE SUSANNE KUSSATZ, February 2020

Maxime Duveau is a Paris-based artist. I met him at an art opening at Nazareth Market in Paris, which currently presents a group exhibition curated by 7000 Art Company, a catalog in French and English, which accompanies travel exhibitions in France and abroad. Since his works were fictitious worlds of two cities I had lived in, San Francisco and Los Angeles, I felt intrigued. So, I sat down with Maxime, who had just received the 2019 Young Creation Award by 7000 Art Company, to find out more about his work.  

Simone Kussatz: I’ve noticed on your website that most, if not all of your works have an American theme, how did that come about, thus, what makes America so appealing to you as a subject matter?

Maxime Duveau: I’ve always listened to a lot of Rock ’n’ roll music, especially the music of the 60’s and 70’s by California bands. At the end of my studies at Villa Arson in Nice on the French Riviera, I decided to go on a pilgrimage to the « holy land ». I took a lot of pictures in California and wrote a short-story about all my adventures there. Ever since I came back from my trip five years ago, I had the idea to draw from those images. My aim was to transcribe my trip. My work is a mix between « reality » and the place in my imagination, hence those images that I’ve always had by watching movies that took place in L.A, or by reading the books by James Ellroy, or listening to the Beach Boys. As time went by, my trip to California, my reflection on it and how to draw it, became a really important subject for me. Since, then I’ve tried to « exhaust it ». 

Mosquito Tropical Flower, 30 x 22 inches (76cm x 56cm), Charcoal and silkscreen on paper, 2020

SK: What were your subject matters when you started out as an artist?

MD: When I first started to draw, I would usually select pictures that had an echo or a reference to the Rock ’n’ roll history. For instance, I would draw some toilets of the CBGB, a music club in New York, which I found on the internet or I would draw the stages of concerts from a magazine. At the end, I wanted to create my own series of images and create my own history, so that’s why I went to California to create the material I needed. 

SK: Your technique seems multi-layered. Could you please tell me a bit more about it?

MD: My drawings are a succession of different steps. It’s similar to a palimpsest. It starts with the pictures I took during my trip. I then draw them and later photograph the drawings and then re-draw the results. Next, I turn it into a stamp and create a backdrop that I rub and scrap back, lifting off layers, then adding others, cutting up, gluing and obliterating in a process of disappearance but also of revelation. 

When I reflect on my memories those layers become kind of « stratums of history ». Each drawing carries the past ones and joins my “bank of images” just like the first pictures I took in California. I am very interested by the fact that the old images in the backdrop emerge in the front and parasite the image on the top, and create a new image or at the end a « matter ».

SK: You stay away from colors, is that a result of your technique, a matter of aesthetics or does it have another reason? I’m thinking of psychology here. There is the term splitting, also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking, which is the failure in a person's thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a realistic whole. And since your works are America-themed and America is the birthplace of positive thinking, I was wondering if you toyed around with that idea?

MD: I am not sure if my work is really about positive or negative thinking. First of all, the black and white is a result of using charcoal and then I think it’s rather an aesthetic choice, maybe a choice, which was influenced by the Ed Ruscha’s works I used to see or the early Jim Jarmusch movies. But mostly, my idea was not to draw Los Angeles the way Europeans usually get to see it, which is often portrayed with these beautiful colors, showing the palm trees, the neon lights, the sunsets and all that. 

I would say that on the one hand, being a huge fan of the books of James Ellroy by Polar and of David Lynch’s movies, these atmospheres have inspired me too. I wanted to see this in my drawings which were my fictional ideas of Los Angeles. On the other hand, it was also a choice to create pictures that are « out of time ». In my approach to « exhaust » this trip and my pictures I found that that these were the right colors to use. 

SF Ghost House, 80 x 53 inches (205cm x 135cm), Silkscreen and stamps on paper, 2020

SK: You are currently in a group show with Maya Mercer, Philippe Maurice and fashion photographer and artist Peter Knapp at Nazareth Market. From an artist’s point of view, how does your work relate to Knapp’s art? I see the commonality in working with black and white and greys. Yet material-wise and technically, I see quite a difference.

MD: Well, first of all, it is a huge honor for me that I, as a young artist, am exhibited with this famous artist and that this establishes a dialogue between our works. I think more than a mutual love for just a color/no-color, we both are interested in photography and drawing. Each in his own approach, but I guess the idea was to have our works confronted with each other and to present them the way we both understand those mediums.

SK: Who in the arts is your hugest inspiration and why?

MD: There are lots of people, but each person in a specific way I would say. There are the music bands I listen to - the Beach Boys, the Doors, Frank Zappa or Tom Waits. There are also writers that inspire me like Thomas Pynchon or the Fante family. I am a big fan of Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez movies as well. As far as contemporary art, my first crush was Cy Twombly, I saw one of his paintings when I was 15 years old at the Centre Pompidou and without knowing why, I was completely taken by it. Recently, I’ ve been very interested by « serial » painters like Wade Guyton, Josh Smith or Harold Ancart. They all use colors, which is sort of funny considering my work is black and white. 

SK: Do you already know what you’ll be working on next, or do your inspirations come, during your travels?

MD: As soon as I’m done with this series of my «California trip », I intend to work on the city I have lived in since I was a child. It is located in the suburbs of Paris, a very residential area I’d say. It will be quite different from LA as you can imagine but I am quite excited about it and in a hurry to work on it! 

SK: Last but not least, where will we be able to see your work next?

MD: I have started working with a new gallery in Paris this year, which is Backslash. I am very happy about it, and we have planned a solo exhibition in June, so if you’re still in Paris you should come and see it! WM

Simone Kussatz

Simone Kussatz is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She has written numerous articles in the field of the arts for international and national magazines published in Germany, the US and UK, China, Iceland, and Switzerland. Kussatz was born in Asperg, Germany. She holds a Master's degree in American Studies, journalism and psychology and received her education from Santa Monica College, UCLA and the Free University of Berlin. In 2004, she produced and hosted three TV-shows under the title "Metamorphosis", where she conducted interviews with Jewish artists in regard to the Holocaust. Kussatz has also worked in theater in the position of stage supervisor and manager in the plays “Talley’s Folly” and “The Immigrant.” She has taught English as a Second Language and served at Xiamen University in China, as well as EC Language Center in London.

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