Artist Q&A with Jacques Jarrige
Jacques Jarrige is a Paris-based artist working in the confluence of fine art and decorative art with sculptural and functional objects in relation to the body and human scaled spaces. He is represented by Valerie Goodman Gallery in New York.
Who is your favorite artist of all time?
I love the work of Henry Moore. I first saw his work at the Château de Bagatelle in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, which is famous for its rose garden. In this naturalistic English landscape style park setting, Moore’s work gave me the feeling that I was meant to be a sculptor. It was his work that made me believe I was meant to do it.
How did you become a professional artist?
I have always felt strongly connected to art. My father was an avid art collector, so there were a lot of paintings in my home as a child. There were also two small, distinctive Rodin sculptures that were always in the house, and now, in the back of my mind.
Through studying architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts and decorative art at Ecole Supérieure d’Art Moderne, I became drawn to creating more sculptural works. The first object I created was a chair made of rebar I had envisioned in my mind. I bought a welding gun and created the piece in my kitchen. By physically creating a work of art in this manner, I understood it more and became less reliant on drawing in my practice. I was inspired that I could directly create what I had envisioned.
In school I was not interested in pursuing anything other than drawing. Not music, math or any other field, and later architecture wasn’t really satisfying. I didn’t want to become a painter as I liked the physicality of sculpting. At first, I needed to create art with function; something that was more approachable.
In retrospect the only other thing I could have possibly considered was being a dancer. Ballet is an expression of being present with the body, and creating movement. I express through my body while creating, so dance resonates strongly in my work. Whether it’s a table or lamp, it has form, gesture, and expression. A chandelier or chair that I create is an expression of my movement; I created it through my gestures.
When is a piece finished for you?
A work really starts to come alive during the realization of it. Chairs, tables, lamps—sculpture has to come to life on its own. In my practice creating jewelry, the outcome is more immediate because the works are smaller.
The work is completed when it’s completed. Similar to a dance performance, where all the parts have been presented, the audience has a natural instinct that the show has concluded. Once I finish a section of a piece, and I know it’s done, I don’t go back to it. Similar to a second act in a ballet, I move on and continue the journey toward completion focusing on how each part dialogues with one another, on its balance. I don’t create pieces in a traditional manner like a cabinet maker, or a typical artist would; I create my pieces more like a choreographer step by step.
In the Fiori chandelier I created, I used one sheet of metal to cut strips in it without discarding any part. I then twisted and shaped it, and the creative process started to feel like a plant blooming. I don’t add material in my work; I only carve out. I like to be in dialogue with the medium from the beginning and through the whole process. I know where I want to go with the piece, and it’s finished because it’s all there, each gesture of the process apparent in the final work.
What are the influences and inspirations in your new works?
Everything I create is related to the body. My forms are figurative in all my works, full of tension and elements of movement. When I was growing up in the 6th arrondissement of Paris there were a lot of galleries focusing on African art, and it became a strong inspiration for my own work. Today, I still appreciate African art, which has in the last couple of centuries maintained a natural aesthetic, a strong, soulful human presence, and sometimes even features animals in vibrant scenes and stories.
How is your work different than everything else out there?
I’d prefer to let my work speak for itself, but I hope to be unique in my artistic vision. I always want to be present in my work, but the work is not really about me, rather it comes through me.
The one big thing that let me take more chances and to be freer in my creating is beginning to work with my dealer Valerie Goodman who has a gallery in the Upper East Side of New York. Earlier in my career I relied more on the public response to my creations, whereas now with such an appreciating audience, I am able to explore further. I feel that there is less of an emphasis on an artist’s CV or museum credentials in the United States, and it has given me a freedom to take more chances and really show the world my vision. I am now free to work.
Tell us about a few of your career highlights or moments that greatly affected your career?
Over the years my work was added to some phenomenal public collections including the Musée des Beaux Art d’Orléans, Mobilier National, Centre National des Arts Plastiques, and recently at the Rockland Center for the Arts in Nyack NY that owns a major outdoor sculpture created in hammered aluminum.
Valerie Goodman Gallery recently presented a virtual exhibition on Artsy of my pandemic-born project Wave Sculptures in Nature which was created at my family home in the Massif Central in Southern France. This show, which was comprised of aluminum pieces planted into the landscape of volcanic rock to create a universal dialogue between art and nature, was truly a highlight of my career.
What’s coming up for you?
Besides working on new commissions, Parisian-artist and ceramist Claire de Lavallee and I have an upcoming exhibition that will take place this year at Valerie Goodman Gallery in New York. I have admired her work for a long time and this collaboration will be our first artistic collaboration and I am very excited to share this new work.
I also designed Valerie Goodman’s new ground-floor gallery space that will be opening very soon in the Upper East Side.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out today?
First of all, work hard and hone your talent. It’s not easy being an artist, but be confident in yourself and with your work. Trust what’s inside you and stick to your vision. Finding your audience is also extremely important. I found an interested audience in New York and the U.S.
Who are some of your favorite under-appreciated artists that you don’t think get enough attention?
Without a doubt Claire de Lavallee. Her work is different than mine, but I see the kinship between us. Her work is also based on the body, and she’s very confident in what she does.
To learn more about Jacques and see his current work, please visit www.ValerieGoodmanGallery.com.