‘ArtBookGuy‘ Michael Corbin calls artist/designer Arnaud Chevalier ‘the ultimate Francophile’. Their shared passion for art and all things French got them talking…
Michael: Firstly, you are very French. Your name is very French. What do you like most about France and being French?
Arnaud: Thanks for ‘ArtBookGuying’ me! Indeed my name is very French, but can be easily translated; chevalier means ‘knight’.
For an art and history lover like me, France is a constant source of inspiration. My art is closely linked to history, and my art is very French. Anywhere I look, I can see fascinating things and not only in Paris, everywhere in France. There are small cities and villages, unknown by the public, that are real jewels. There you still can find an old church with its original antique sculptures and a preserved interior. It is weird in this very fast and noisy world to suddenly find such quiet and timeless places… Each part of France has its own influence that you can see through the architecture, but also through the food, the language and the way of life. But we are all linked by a common history. In a way, we are all the keeper of the flame. That is the real French treasure. Our real wealth is our heritage.
Michael: What was your childhood like? How did France influence you?
Arnaud: My childhood took place in an old large house, set within a walled garden, on the top of a hill. It was an ideal place to create… But I was not drawing and painting the usual childish things. I was already drawing the way I still do. The Fleur de Lys was my favorite motif. It was a pattern I used to draw everywhere.
Nevertheless, I was not copying anything. I was reinterpreting the most well-known symbols to make something new. I had a huge interest in history. At the age of 7, maybe 8, I read numerous books about Egyptology. I was fascinated by books and wanted to be an author…
It’s hard for me to say how France influenced me, as it is so deeply written in my soul.
Michael: I’ve seen some of your framed paintings on your website. They look like stencilled etchings. What are they?
Arnaud: They are very decorative small paintings, handmade with a gold paste. This is typical, very classical work. I like the contrast between the black color and the gold motif. It takes me a long time to make each one, as it demands a lot of concentration. I always say that being an artist is 5 per cent inspiration and 95 per cent work.
An example of Arnaud’s paintings.
Michael: Many Americans and some other Europeans view France as very fancy and having an exaggerated sense of art. Do you think this contributes at all to how France is regarded in diplomacy and business?
Arnaud: It is even a point of view that is shared by French people, including me. I am sincere enough to face the reality and admit that France is not the powerful country it used to be. Our art, way of life, even our fancy image shared by many foreign countries has not seen a break for centuries. I wish to take the example of Louis XIV, as he is probably the most famous French king. While thinking of art, dance, leisure and while the court of Versailles… France was the most powerful country in the world. We also have to remember that until the World War II, France was the official diplomatic language and was spoken by the European aristocracy.
Michael: But things changed radically…
Arnaud: Of course, the two world wars have weakened the French power, but it is also true that we have since been unable to bring enough ideas, wealth and probably suffered a lack of political will to face new challenges. A brilliant history doesn’t always make for a brilliant future. France forgot to move ahead and preferred to rest on its past. But we really have to move ahead if we don’t want to become only a ‘museum land’, without any political power.
Now this is still a very observed country. Everybody has an opinion about France and French people… I believe this interest is explained by French history and art. Thanks to that, France is still the first tourist destination and in every country, especially in big cities, you can find famous French brands (still owned by French groups) and symbols of luxury. Not every country can claim that.
Michael: Paris is one of the world’s top art cities, but what is it like for everyday artists like you?
Arnaud: Paris is certainly the most well-known city for fashion designers. But despite the fact that Paris fashion week still benefits from a great reputation and has a huge impact on the fashion world, it is mostly a big show. Fashion designers are now more and more based abroad in London, New York and Milan.
It is the same for designers and painters. Twice a year, there’s the Salon Maison et Objet, but the majority of exhibitors are not based in Paris… Plus, the largest group of art buyers and collectors come from foreign countries. They are American, Russian, Chinese, etc. This is the law of the market, and their taste really decides what happens on the Paris art scene.
Nevertheless, being a French artist from Paris is still an interesting seal to own because of the reputation of luxury, excellence and impeccable taste that the city keeps in the collective memory!
Michael: What do you want to say about your work and how it defines you and your goals?
Arnaud: My work… is not really what people are expecting from a young artist… French art lovers are all around the world and many of them want to own contemporary art objects, but ones that are very French. That’s exactly what I’ve done with the collection ‘France, Mère des Arts’. It’s a reinterpretation of the most well known French symbols within a very contemporary piece of art… I sign them for the Emaux de Longwy and it’s not by chance that my work pleases a large clientele in Russia and China, two huge emerging countries.
I love French art, antiques and architecture, but I am a man of my century and of course, contemporary art and design speak to me as well. I am unable to make a choice between any periods… I don’t like to divide art into tiny departments. Beauty is everywhere and it’s very interesting to mix several influences. I am very free with my art. I do what pleases me without any limitations. The limitation locks the art.
An example of Arnaud’s other incredible artworks.
Michael: Thanks Arnaud.
Arnaud: Thanks to you. It was a pleasure to answer your questions!
If you would like to find out more about Arnaud Chevalier, see his website.
Thank you Arnaud for sharing these insights about your art and France with us. Thank you also to ‘ArtBookGuy‘, Michael Corbin for letting us republish this interview. To see the original, longer interview, click here.
Images credit and copyright Arnaud Chevalier.