Perhaps it's time for you to let your eyes wander across a few of the Greenwich-inspired canvases of French artist (and local resident) Jean-Pierre Jacquet.
Be aware of the process as your mind moves to derive narrative from Jacquet's unsentimental depictions of empty streetscapes and the play of light across urban architectural surfaces. You can almost hear the sounds of not-too-distant traffic bouncing off of brick walls and the whisper of wind whipping through the taut power lines above a temporarily quiet railroad bridge. By keeping his renderings free of people, Jacquet creates a scenario where we tend to put ourselves into the paintings. We listen to the fall of our footsteps across the sidewalks and pavement as we approach recognizable snippets of our neighborhoods which have been re-imagined with a generous splash of Edward Hopper's aesthetic thrown in. Something about alienation. Something about how we can still feel alone, even surrounded by buildings full of people.
And driving it all, actually bringing these vivid meanderings to life within our heads, is Jacquet's artistic ability to take ordinariness, local landscapes with no action occurring, and somehow infuse them with an evocative dramatic tension.
"I devote most of my painting activities to 'plein air' painting, or, as the French say, 'peinture sur le motif', i.e on the spot painting," states Jacquet. "I like to paint what I see, rather than what I know, and try to uncover the hidden designs in my subject matters, be it straight nature scenes or urban landscapes. I am partial to free and bold brushstrokes which help me keep a certain sketchiness to my paintings."
Jacquet has exhibited in galleries in Paris, New York, and Greenwich.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Jacquet a few questions about his work and process.
This Is Our Conversation
Can you speak a little to your background?
Even though I was a professional artist most of my life, I was not trained as such. I studied literature at the Sorbonne in Paris, political science and law also in Paris, and I hold a LLM degree from Harvard Law School. I practiced law for a couple of years in Paris and hated every minute of it. Then I was a journalist for Le Monde, very briefly, as all I aspired to do was to work in the film industry. So defying all logic, I ended up in an animation studio in Hollywood. About 15 years ago I decided to try my hand at figurative painting and am now an avid plein air painter.
What drives you to approach the canvas. What motivates you to do the work?
Painting is a very selfish intimate enterprise. There is a joint physical and emotional aspect to the process. I approach my canvas with a plan and dive into it with my whole being. The plein air painter is in love with his subject and there something carnal about pushing paint on the canvas. I see it as a one on one conversation with my chosen landscape or cityscape and I eventually invite the viewers to eavesdrop on that conversation and share my emotions.
What are you working on these days?
At first, my subject matters were somewhat cinematographical, à la Edward Hopper. Lighting and composition are second nature to me and I apply it always, whether dealing with a still life, a street scene or parks in the southwest. In terms of technique, I work very fast with hardly any actual drawing. I just finished a series of some fifty plein air paintings done in France over the past few tears. It was to be a solo show at the Salmagundi Club in New York, but it is now postponed because of the pandemic.
What are your biggest challenges as an artist?
My biggest challenge is self-imposed. I work with a minimal palette of 3 the primary colors, blue, red and yellow, and white. I find that 95% of what’s out there can be painted by mixing those colors.
Tell me about a specific artwork you were exposed to at some point that had an impact on your life or your work. What did it teach you?
I saw an Edward Hopper retrospective in a museum in Marseille in the 90’s. I was intrigued by the anecdotal nature of his work, like a frozen still from a movie. And the quality of his paint application is quite unheralded. So my first efforts were Hopper-esque... Hopper’s work taught me that human emotions can be depicted with the flimsiest of means.
How has Greenwich, Connecticut had an impact on your art?
Greenwich impacts my art on a very basic level: the beauty of the town, the variety of the scenery, from street traffic to beaches and parks and its backcountry, where I’m privileged to live. As a student of history, I feel a tenuous kinship with the early American impressionists who used to spend summers in Cos Cob and visit one another all the way up to Old Lyme.
Has social media played a role in the advancement of your art career?
Social media has been essential to my work, from its infancy until now. Through Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, I have been able to create a network of colleagues, art institutions and collectors. I remember flying back from a workshop in Sedona and making a sale on the plane to a person who had just seen a painting I had just posted.
Paintings By Jean-Pierre Jacquet
Connect With Jean-Pierre Jacquet on Instagram
See more work by Jean-Pierre Jacquet: jpjacquet.com
Interview and writing by Eric Taubert (Taubert Gallery - The Fine Art Photography of Eric Taubert). Find him on Twitter at @erictaubert. Find him on Instagram at @erictaubert.