Artist Claude Serrile and the Impact of his Country’s Culture on the World
By Danielle Dufour-Verna
Seas, oceans, do not separate continents, countries, cities, citizens. They connect them. For fraternity to run through the veins of our earth, we must share our cultures, our differences, our knowledge. A vital part of a vibrant society, culture is expressed in the way we tell our stories, celebrate, remember the past, have fun and imagine the future. Our creative expression helps us define ourselves and see the world through the eyes of others.
In times past, the list of major arts encompassed six disciplines: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Dance, Music, Poetry. In the 20th century, a seventh art was added: Cinema.
Art and its masterpieces promote questioning, and thus support the development of cultural, individual and collective capital. French culture, the pride of French people, deserves to be discovered, given its great wealth. The richness of French culture is partly due to its diversity. Even now, French culture influences the whole world, whether through its literature or its philosophers or through its gastronomy or its haute couture. French culture is what it is today thanks to the birth of the French language and its enrichment from other cultures.
The influence of France, land of the Enlightenment, is mainly through its culture. France has a large number of illustrious painters who have left their mark in many museums around the world. Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, Dégas, Manet, Poussin and even Toulouse-Lautrec are among the most famous French painters. Auguste Rodin is certainly the most famous of French sculptors, along with Bartholdi and even Dalou. It was in the nineteenth century that France experienced a large production of sculptures. Indeed, the bourgeoisie ordered many funeral monuments as well as statues. Nouvel and Le Corbusier marked the contemporary era of French architecture. Many French châteaux are also priceless gems of French architecture.
in France and around the world, "Art Brut is an art where the individual puts himself at the service of his creation without any other consideration. It is an art of the extreme, which touches the bottom, it is linked to destitution and to a kind of gratuitousness or detachment which is a breath of fresh air in this consumer society,” states Laurent Danchin.
It is to the French painter Jean Dubuffet that we owe the concept of Art Brut. As early as 1945, it constituted a collection of objects created by residents of psychiatric hospitals, inmates, original thinkers, loners or outcasts. He perceived, in these creations from the fringes, a "pure, raw artistic operation, reinvented in all of its phases by its author, based only on his own impulses."
Although there is no exact equivalent in English for the expression "Art Brut", we may consider that the concept "brut" is linked to the adjective "raw." Raw Vision is actually the title of the main Anglo-American magazine devoted to this artistic field. English speakers often use the term "outsider art," while sometimes having difficulty separating what it means from “folk art,” a field which might have some commonalities but is nonetheless different. It is true that, in one way or the other, artists have in common being "self-taught." Several American museums, notably in New York and Chicago, showcase Art Brut canvases.
Claude Serrile is a French painter who dreams of the absolute. His next exhibition is called "J’accuse." Claude Serrile accuses to shake up the conscience. He accuses in order to embarrass, agitate, move. He accuses humanity of poverty, weakness, failure, indifference, impoverishment. He accuses men of nonchalance, levity, blindness, selfishness.
So he creates. He questions the reality that surrounds him, dissects it, captures it on his paintings, soaks his soul, naked. Striated, scratched, wounded, fantasized about. Shapes, faces, bodies move. Pain, madness, distress, gentleness, dreams animate them. They exist with their own life, devour the surrounding space, come out of the web, stand up, ready to hang our consciousness. They question us, bump into us, overturn our reasons. The feeling is no longer in the emotion alone.
The dominant colors: black like blood dried on burning tar, black like freedom that is chained, red like the cry of the innocent, yellow bursting with fire and blue like a sky at dawn, flow from one to the other, emphasizing, whispering, shouting, screaming, showing the way like smugglers, marks of time. Therein lies the strength of his creations. They draw this common thread from the talent of their creator, which makes Claude Serrile’s work unique. It is the prerogative of the great, of those whose passion and life make them major artists.
Richness of forms, aesthetics, perfection of lines, purity, explosion of feelings, Claude Serrile's paintings broaden our horizon. They are the dynamic reflections of an artist, witness to his time who, going off the beaten path, pleads with the world for a leap of humanity.
Claude Serrile accuses in order to better understand. His unvarnished painting, his desire to surprise, the plastic strength and the richness of his palette pigment his life and surprise ours. Claude Serrile's creations are not supplements for our lives, they make us grow, connect us, move us, jostle us, stimulate us. The work is the moment of truth for those who discover it. Claude Serrile offers us a glimpse of a new day.
This exhibition took place in Marseille from October 1 to 4, 2020. Out of love for contemporary art and more specifically the Art Brut movement, artist agent Vincent Bonduelle and Cabinet Jurisconseil, part of the Simon Avocats network, pooled their passion around an exhibition dedicated to Claude Serrile, an artist who accuses, a rebel dreaming of a gentler humanity. Through his pictorial work, Claude Serrile denounces with conviction and gravity the evils of the society which surrounds him, hoping to awaken the conscience of everyone, in order to live in a better world. Therein lies its whole raison d'être. Today, the painter’s paintings, true indictments against injustice, invent a place where equity triumphs.
“An artist who accuses. An artist who transcribes what he feels, unvarnished. All this other humanity in turmoil, revolted, hateful, racist, unequal and unjust that he paints in his own way, trying to awaken as best he can the conscience of the human being in hopes of building a better world where women and men evolve in peace. Utopia, dream, fantasy? He believes in it, persuaded, bewitched by this desire to reconcile the universe and its diverse nations. Every pain that hurts a human physically, psychologically, or spiritually upsets him, makes him scream, makes him cry. Feminicide, rape, a cry for equality, a war, a new apartheid ... favorite leitmotifs and themes so dear to the artist. It is from this suffering that he draws a persuasive force to transcribe it in his own way in his pictorial work. "J’accuse par Claude Serrile", the name given to this exhibition, is far from being a coincidence. The artist never ceases to accuse, with faith and gravity, that which disturbs him. Claude Serrile will continue to accuse until he is convinced of a better civilization he so hoped for. I invite you to discover his works with as much conviction and admiration as they give me," Vincent Bonduelle, the agent of Claude Serrile, who is also a collector (contact phone number: 0033 6 84 84 56 56).
"I am from the north of France, where I did all my schooling. I then went to business school in Paris, where I stayed for 27 years. I was involved in events and then one day I discovered Marseille through my profession. I have loved this city once, twice, three times. In 2010, I left Paris to settle in Marseille. It was my 50th birthday, in 2012. I considered stopping my events-related activities and devoting myself to my passion, which is contemporary art. Claude's work is, above, all a work of denunciation. He is an artist who is so sensitive and on edge that he describes in his paintings and his pictorial work everything that is wrong in this world. He quite brutally denounces the evils of society in a painting which one might think is figurative but which shows very crude and very abrupt lines. There are always many messages that are relayed through his work and his painting”, said the agent.
His interest in Art Brut began nearly when he weas born, since his father was passionate about Contemporary Art, passionate about artists, a collector.
“I myself have been a collector since I received my first salary at the age of 25. Since my most tender childhood, my father tried to train my eye to appreciate art and particularly Art Brut, and he did it wonderfully. At the age of 12 or 13, he took me to fairs, to museums, in France, abroad. There were two artists, mainly sculptors, Jean Roulland and Eugène Dodeigne, two Art Brut artists from northern France. I grew up around these artists, I grew up around these works, in the studios of these artists. My father was a fan of the COBRA movement (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam). A dozen artists from these three countries came together and created this movement, and my father particularly liked Karel Appel and Guillaume Crow. So I was born into Art Brut, it has stuck with me, and I continue to strongly appreciate this current and this movement,” explained Bonduelle. “I discovered the works of Claude Serrile during an exhibition by an association, Vœux d´Artistes. I fell totally in love with his works, which I bought from elsewhere without knowing him. I was introduced to the artist and it was artistic love at first sight. I always say that the agent-artist couple is a couple in love. It’s obviously not physical, but it really is love. We saw each other once, twice, three times, and then one day I went to his place and I said to him: ‘Listen, Claude, let's clap and we'll work together.’ I work by instinct, according to feelings. There is no contract. There is nothing that unites us administratively. We walk in confidence and above all in love for the artist, his work, and his possibility of sharing. We are two sensitive souls. I don't stop after discovering a painting. I like to meet the artist. For me, human relationships have always been extremely important. Being an agent, I couldn't imagine this profession if I couldn't approach the artists for whom and with whom I work. It is very important to me. I need to know their feelings, their joys, their sorrows, their anxieties, and to know why, through it all, they made this painting. It’s a discovery every single time. The visual appeal of the work is not enough for me.”
Initially, the Serrile show was supposed to take place in April. Due to COVID-19, it was postponed to the end of June, then to October.
“A lawyer, in love with Claude Serrile's work, offered to provide us with the ground floor of his mansion, which he mainly devotes to exhibitions. We thought that the name we came up with for the exhibition was good, as it is evokes law firms and is perfectly in line with the work of Claude Serrile”, stated the agent.
The artist himself, much like his agent, discovered a passion for art ever since he was quite young.
"I never knew my father, who is Italian, because my mother separated from him. When she remarried, I lived with my stepfather, who was a father to me. When I was very young, I developed a taste for painting, decoration, and 18th and 19th century furniture. I have always loved architecture. In fact, I have often told my friends and my mother that I didn’t follow my calling in that regard. My father was a masonry contractor and I worked in the building industry. Yet it was art that interested me the most. At 12 or 13 I was already visiting museums. As a teenager, I was very interested in Italian Renaissance paintings. I also liked the Impressionists. I used to go to the Louvre to see young art students who reproduced the works. A friend in Marseille had opened a contemporary art gallery: monochrome, conceptual art, abstract art. I told him: ‘I would never like this kind of painting.’ I was still classic. I loved Provençal painting. I am from Marseilles, so that goes without saying. I knew the painters of the South. This gallery owner predicted that one day I would come to love this type of painting and what I would not even look at all that I had known until now. She was right,” remembered Serrile. “Little by little, I got used to this kind of painting, but I continued to look at other styles. Marcel Duchamp, marked by Dadaism and the surrealist Klein are two artists who have influenced me. Other artists, like Jacques Villeglé, who worked on street posters, also interested me greatly. So I worked a lot on street posters as well. I put faces and text on them as well. Then I discovered Jean-Michel Basquiat, the artist who struck me the most.”
Serrile makes Art Brut, and he says it was Jean Dubuffet who called it Art Brut in the first place. It was while visiting hospitals for children with neurological problems that Dubuffet realized that their treatment included drawing and that they were doing extraordinary things, so much so that he acquired several works made by these patients in a hospital environment.
“In Art Brut, we denounce facts. I think that a work must have a meaning, a language. My work is what it is, but we recognize it. I am a road, a direction from which I do not deviate. To come back to the way I paint, drawing doesn't interest me at all. Great artists like Francis Bacon did not know how to draw or might draw very badly. The message is paramount. We are in front of a blank canvas and it is sometimes the disorder of the canvas when we attack it that shows us the way. For example, two days ago, I dipped a toothbrush in India ink, which I very rarely use, and I made a drawing. I don't even think about what I'm going to do, it's a simple motion. I do not ask myself a question. My painting is a space, a question, because afterwards it no longer belongs to me. It belongs to whoever looks at it. I paint with acrylics and work with oil sticks, oil pastel. It was Picasso who commissioned this from a color merchant, especially for him. And since they work very well, they are now found commercially”, said the artist.
When galleries host a show, they often use the artist's name. This time around, Serrile didn't want to do a normal exhibition, but an event over several days.
“We needed a name that stood out. I was won over by the title ‘I Accuse’ which has nothing to do with Zola's ‘I Accuse’ or the Dreyfus affair. But we chose "I Accuse" for several reasons. One was the even location, a law office. Also, because I blame the gaze of society. The words "I Accuse" make an impact,” Serrile said.
The painter believes that art is deliverance and has his own thoughts about happiness.
“Even in suffering, art is deliverance. I would like the people who run the states, this country, to look a little further at what is going on, to pay attention to Man. My paintings are a reflection of today's society, a language, mine. The art that I practice is total freedom without any organization, which shows the clumsiness of life, its anguish," Serrile said. “To me, happiness is being at peace with yourself. If you are not at peace with yourself and if you are not at peace with others, you cannot be happy. Real happiness is feeling good about yourself. Don't do anything bad. Be very open-minded. If I had to assign a meaning to the word happiness, I would use two words: peace and sharing."
Claude Serrile does not hesitate to donate his paintings to charitable organizations such as 'Vœux d'Artistes', an association for children at the Timone Hospital in Marseille, or the Red Cross, where his paintings were sold. Galleries in France and abroad show his art. He will soon be in Strasbourg, as well as in Taormina, Sicily where projects of his are underway.
His desire, no matter if he’s in France, Italy or even on the pages of this Los Angeles-based magazine, is to bring people together and build kinship.
Paintings by Claude Serrile
Artist Claude Serrile
Painting by Claude Serrile
Painting by Claude Serrile
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