Interview with Théo Viardin | NBB Magazine

Posted by NBB Gallery on

Viardin's humanoid figures evoke feelings of melancholy, sadness but also of comfort and hope. Dealing with utopian visions, the French artist based in Paris draws inspiration from his practical experience as a graphic designer, but also from great science fiction authors which have impacted the philosophy behind his artistic practice. In this interview we will get an insight into these mysterious figures depicted in his works and answer questions such as whether art is capable of conveying specifically articulated messages.

theo viardin
Do you have any specific artistic influences that have impacted your artistic approach and/or the choice of themes?

A lot of things influenced me but I find it difficult to point out what mattered the most. An artistic work speaks irremediably of its author and every of his particular interests, his passions and life problematics fatally infuse his work. And in my case it is pretty messy. I think graphic design and more specifically type design played a role, for the will of accuracy in the balance of the shapes. Francis Bacon was surely important, for the brilliant contrast of sweetness and violence in his figures but also various painters, Picasso of course, Giger, Gauguin, Nicolas Poussin and many Renaissance painters.

Lately some reflexions induced by science fiction have taken a lot of place in my life and connect strongly to my work. Mostly the writings of two authors, Alain Damasio, a French contemporary author and Ursula K. Le Guin who could be qualified today as one of the first eco-feminist writers. They both talk about Utopia in their own ways, to our relationship with the alterity and with the living. I think there is currently something at play with the comeback of utopian narrative and I find it thrilling! The dystopian futures have so much colonized our screens that we almost have incorporated them as if there were the only option we have left but it’s not true. We need more positive stories, we need utopia precisely because our future seems doomed. Humans need belief to act and our beliefs are performative.

A central topic of your work is the humanoid figure. Where does your interest in opulent, androgynous bodies stem from? 

At the very beginning it simply comes from art history. I love classical painting and its timeless scenes. I like the idea of ​​being a part of the continuity of this practice as a form of heritage. I do not attach particular importance to the fact that the bodies of my figures are opulent. I draw them quite instinctively. When their shapes are large, it comes mainly from the fact that having material is useful for drawing and painting. We were talking about science fiction before and I think there is something relevant with trying to represent different humanity. Sometimes the concept used is posthumanism. It is a system of thought aiming to open the category of humanity, so that it is no longer excluding but inclusive, especially of other forms of life and other body shapes.

studio Theo viardin

You tend to use a rather toned down and monochromatic color palette which has a quite melancholic feel. Assuming color is a tool for communicating with the viewer, what is it you are trying to convey through your choice of colors? 

Tricky one because I do not overthink the colors I use. It eventually often comes down to the same palette because I find it balanced. I used to work in graphic design, I had discussions with many people on many projects about color associations and it is interesting to see that color associations vary greatly from person to another, it is something very subjective. I think that most of the time I seek sweetness though.

Is there any specific message you wish to convey to the viewers through your art?

I am talking carefully and from a very personal point of view here: I think painting is not the best medium to carry a message. In a way I think painting is an art for the eye and not so much for the mind, so a good painting should be mainly a visual shock in my opinion and should hit your visual sense directly. Then the intellect and therefore the narrative takes place in case of figurative art. But it only happens secondarily and you know you have enjoyed a painting even before realizing this. I’m probably quoting it wrong but in an interview Francis Bacon himself quoted Paul Valéry and said “What we seek is sensation without intermediary”. This is very accurate. So my process would be more to paint with my instinct. Even if my painting could look controlled I use very little references. I try to paint on the basis of feelings that matter to me and that I would like to transfer as raw as possible and the figures become the conveyers of these emotions.

Could you give us an insight to your everyday practice? How does a day in the studio look for you? How does the process of creating an artwork start and where does it end?

Most of the time it is an uneven cycle filled with a diverse amount of drawing, reading, painting, being hopeless and sad with a painting (unfortunately) and being super excited about a painting.


© Photos: Théo Viardin / NBB Gallery