A TALK WITH PAUL THOREL

Photography by Amedeo Benestante and Matteo Pastorio

 

The encounter between Paul Thorel and the amazing capacity of the analogue universe has been a revelatory event, which led the artist to abandon the painting field and focus completely on a research about the digital image. A constantly evolving study that goes on since 1979. During our meeting, Thorel told us about the origin of this avant-gard passion, his interdisciplinary creative process and the new installation realised at MADRE Museum in Naples.

 
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When did you realise you wanted to become an artist?

My parents used to spend a lot of time with artists and, of course, it partly influenced my choice. I painted for the first time at 13 years old, but I started doing it as a full time job at 18, right after high school.

How would you describe your creative process?

It consists in combining different techniques: photography, digital image and painting. I work a lot on randomness. By mixing these techniques, unpredictable shapes and lights come alive, thus creating the artwork.

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You have a thing for the relation between digital technologies and art, which brought you to begin a constantly ongoing and evolving research on this topic. How did it all start?

It happened by accident. A director friend of mine called and told me to go immediately to Paris where, in a new media research centre, he had discovered an analogical device able to create an infinite range of special effects randomly, by manipulating a video signal. It was 1979 and since that day I left painting to work on the digital image.

How does these aesthetics and languages, apparently so different, interact in the artwork?

The interactions between different techniques and aesthetics come from the real world and the nature, where I take inspiration for every shape, material, light and colour. But they also recall the oneiric work, when totally different worlds are combined into a unique sequence of a dream.

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Quite apart from your peculiar and avant-garde artistic predisposition, is there an artist from the past that you particularly admire?

Hieronymus Bosch, a Dutch painter from 1400. He has been one of the most enigmatic artists of his period. His paintings still particularly fascinate me, because they are shrouded in mystery and full of dual or symbolic meanings.

You have recently realised Passaggio della Vittoria at MADRE Museum, in Naples: a monumental installation and a virtuous practice of your own research that mixes the mosaic technique with the language of pixels. How did the project develop? Which were your sources of inspirations?

A couple of years ago, director of MADRE Museum Andrea Viliani asked me to think about an artwork for the structure. He showed me an area with some environments among which I could have chosen the one to work with, including the passage that links the main courtyard to the sculptures one. I chose it, even if I didn’t know what to do at all. A couple of weeks later, while passing through Tunnel della Vittoria, which links the East of Napoli to the West and whose walls are covered in white mosaic, I suddenly realized I wanted to create the installation with that technique.

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Mutina contributed to the project by producing special glossed mosaic tesserae for its realisation. How was to collaborate with the company?

The encounter with Mutina has been a great luck. The credit goes to Sarah Cosulich who, after talking with my gallerist Guido Costa, introduced us to Massimo Orsini. He showed a particular interest for the project since the very start and offered to help us with its realization and co-production. It took two years to realise the mosaic and, over the months, the collaboration was exciting. The realization went through several phases during which Mutina suggested and experimented different techniques and prototypes, until getting to the final outcome. Their advices have been decisive for the success of the installation.

What’s your favourite Mutina collection? Why?

It’s Puzzle by Barber & Osgerby. I find it very intriguing because of the infinite possible combinations and its chromatic elegance.

If you were ask to design a company collection, from where would you start?

The first thing to do is talking with the company, the exchange of ideas between the artist and the buyer is crucial. It’s really important to understand the context you’re working in and the modes of production. Showing up with preconceived ideas would be a waste of time.