The following article was published in N-SPHERE June 2012 issue.

:: Hello and welcome to the Spheres. To introduce Patrick Loréa to our readers, tell us a little bit about your work and background. When did you step into the artworld?

Since I was very young, I have been strongly fascinated by the human body and its representation. My youth has been squeezed between a very strict education and my own fascination for the post punk movement and the surrealist art. This inspiration led me to drawing, painting, playing music… With these tools I was able to express some creative energy, but I felt too often frustrated about not creating a relieved feeling, until I went over to sculpture, which made me feel comfortable.

::What is your main field of activity?

I’m not working full-time in my art studio. I also work as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon specialized in hand surgery. If these two occupations may seem to be antagonist, these are two different expressions of the same soul. On the one hand, there is the artistic creativity, loneliness and complete freedom, no rules at all – the introspective part. On the other hand, there is the more social part of creativity, with many rules, constraints and schedules.

:: How do you get your work to the public?

To be honest, I am not a very good trader at all! I am using social networks and my own website to show my work and to meet people. These media environments are have very high accessibility for the entire world, if you do not fall into the potential trap. A few people I met that way became really interesting relationships and those led to events, exhibitions, collectors interested in buying my work and even close friends. On the other hand, I am represented by a gallery in Paris (Espace Saint-Germain) which offers me the opportunity to reach another kind of public.

:: How do you come by the themes you use in your projects? Are they a spur-of-the-moment thing, or are they the result of extensive documentation?  In general, where do you find your inspiration?

It’s rather a spur of the moment thing, afterwards enriched by a variable amount of documentation. Usually, I start with what I call an image. This image can be inspired by anything I may encounter in my daily life: people, concerts, performances, magazines, dance shows, books or even simple feelings. That image starts to obsess me until the concrete part of the process begins. Unfortunately,  as sculpture is a process which takes a long time, only few of these images I have become sculptures, so I am accumulating many unsatisfied obsessions.  For sure, this first part of my creative process doesn’t need to happen necessarily in my art studio. It is never premeditated and it may occur at anytime, anywhere. For me, sculpture doesn’t begin or end at the door of my art studio. Sometimes, for the technical aspect of the realization, I need more documentation, so I take pitures of a model or I am looking at some books or searching the internet for images linked to my vision. Concerning the Vanity Cases project, I have studied a number of books about the idea of death in different cultures and times. The documentation for this project was quite more detailed.

:: What does your usual work process involve?

Most of the time, the first step is the sculpting in clay (around an iron framework). Once my model is made, the sculpture in clay is then cast (with silicone, latex, resins). Then, I remove the clay from the mold and, in this mold, I make the final sculpture with various materials (resin, wood fiber, charcoal, iron wood, soil – this is my secret recipe). All of these stages of the process are interesting and important for me to do on myself and sometimes I prefer the mold rather than the final sculpture! This molding, casting process inspired me for my soft sculpture projects. For the Freeboxes project I recycled the model in clay and immersed it in clear polyester resin. For me, it has an important symbolic meaning when a part of the process becomes a sculpture in itself.

:: How long does development usually take?

Everything depends on the work required to materialize my idea and on my motivation (which often is very compulsive). It can take several days to several weeks for the modeling in clay, a few days more for making the mold and some other days to finish the final sculpture. I am creating about a 15 sculptures a year. The materialization of an idea may begin from the first evening (I love nightscapes) sometimes it can be suspended for several months, or it may never occur.

:: Vanity is a recurring theme throughout the ages, especially in literature. Where did the idea for the Vanity Cases project emerge?

At first, I have been inspired by the image of the natural mummies of Guanajuato. What I like in those mummies (opposite to skeletons) is the living aspect as a result of the variable skin and soft tissue preservation which leads to their various expressions. In the mummies of Guanajuato, in contrast with the Egyptian mummies for instance, the scenery is very impressive and some of them really seem to have been surprised by death in their daily life (some historians believe one of these was buried alive) and have only been preserved because of the climatic conditions. When the first of those sculptures had been realized, I was unable to present it nude, I felt it too hard, too crude and left it in a corner of my art studio for later. Then, haphazardly the words »Vanity Case« came up into my mind and I thought about its double meaning. I began to look (in secondhand markets) for old cases and objects linked to the scenes I wanted to represent. All of those cases and objects belonged once to someone who is now dead. During the whole project, I was fascinated by confronting the parts of somebody’s death on the one hand, with the parts of somebody’s supposed life on the other hand.

:: Your work has been described as »Notre besoin de consolation est impossible à rassasier«. Do you believe that comfort is unattainable because we project ourselves in a different manner than what we actually are? Or is it that understanding of oneself is impossible, thus making comfort hard to achieve from the outside?

This sentence was written by Stig Dagerman, an utopian anarchist who unfortunately committed suicide two years afterwards. For sure, most of us are projecting ourselves more or less in a different way than what we actually are. But that’s not the essential thing, it’s just the human comedy. The understanding of ourselves is maybe not possible to really achieve, but we can tend to that, at least we have to and we need to. We are sometimes able to reach the knowledge of what we really need. The problem is, if we do have this knowledge, that we do not always have the resources to satisfy our needs. Sometimes our actions are contradicting our needs. For instance, we need to experience dependence to understand and enjoy freedom. Comfort is hard (if not impossible) to achieve from the outside. Comfort and freedom have to be found inside of us, but as we live within this outside, we are often in an antagonistic (or in best cases diplomatic) relationship with nature and society.

As Stig Digerman would say:  »If I want to live free, I have at the moment to do it inside these forms. The world is thus stronger than me. To its power I have nothing to oppose but myself – but, from a certain view, it is considerable. Because as long as I do not allow myself to be crushed by the numbers, I am also a power. (…) Such is my only consolation. I know that relapses into despair will be numerous and deep, but the memory of the miracle of the liberation carries me as a wing towards a purpose which makes me dizzy: a consolation which is more than a consolation and bigger than a philosophy, that is a reason for living«.

:: Photography, painting and the related arts are mostly bi-dimensional pieces. In opposition, sculpture and installation art is mostly three-dimensional. Is it difficult to imagine a piece of work in 3D? Or does it come naturally?

To imagine a piece in 3D is going very smoothly, but, for sure, for its realization on a technical level, there are more technical constraints. On the contrary, it was difficult for me as a painter to restrict the things to only two dimensions. We live in a 3D world as we have the dimensions of time and motion. The real challenge in sculpture is to press the button on hold in order to stop the movement and to catch an emotion or expression.

:: Going back to the Vanity Cases project: how does the love-death dichotomy apply to it?

Let’s talk about the Thanatos and Eros drives. I’m not a disciple of Freud but I think that those concepts are fundamental to understand our human beings, and it is maybe the best way to resume most of my work, Vanity Cases included. Thanatos (Todestrieb) is our drive towards death, self-destruction and the return to the inorganic state. That death drive opposes Eros, our tendency towards survival, procreation, life, sex, pleasure.

Most people only see the pain in my work, but Eros is a blend of pleasure and pain (such as a delivery which gives birth to new life or such as a painful or anxious expression on the face during an orgasm), as Thanatos is a mixture of pain and relief. All our behaviors are either an opposition or a combination of those drives. For instance, the excess of love may lead to a murder. In the Vanity Cases I reduced the classical gap that people use to put between life and love on the one hand, and death on the other hand.

:: Is degradation of the human psyche visible from the outside? Or does it become apparent only through the passage of time?

First, it depends on who is looking. I think I look more easily inside the psyche of many of my contemporaries than I’m able to understand them. Then, the passage of time is rather helping each of us understand better the degradation of our own psyche and to hide it better, for those who want or who believe they have to.

:: You have a collaboration project with Oceane Gil, involving soft latex and mixed media. Have you also considered collaborations with audio artists, for example, or any other inter-medium mixes for you work?

Collaborations and inter-medium mixes are important to me. For my project Beautiful Agony, I made an installation where the music (a mix of Erik Satie and Melek-Tha) was quite as important as the sculptures. I often collaborate with a photographer named Olivier Lelong, by working on a set and sometimes making some Shibari (living sculptures) as it is needed for the photograph. I also collaborated with him for the scenery of a video clip he realized for the band Treponem Pal. We also worked together for other performances on scene where we adapted the use of materials mostly used in sculpture (Latex, Alginate). I am quite interested to cross the border between static (dead) sculpture and living body expression. I also have a project with a music band (Mistreated Soul) and a Butô-related performer (Yannick Unfricht). For this project, I am working on semi-soft sculptures and masks to go with the performers on stage.

:: What are you working on at the moment?

At this very moment, I am trying to answer your interesting questions!

Most of the time, I am working on different projects together. I am looking for new materials, new textures. I am working on new Vanity Cases and other Freeboxes. At the same time, I am developing the project with Yannick Unfricht.

:: What future projects are in store for you?

I have so many of them. I cannot talk about them in detail because, if I speak too much about a project, I lose some desire for it and, consequently, I lose the energy needed for its realization. But let’s say that I want to explore new materials, human expressions, I want to find the best way and moment to freeze the image and motion and to work on body-casting.  All I want is to have fun whilst finding some relief for myself

:: What are you reading at the moment?

Dans les forêts de Sibérie by Sylvain Tesson. This is the story of a writer who is going to live for 6 months in a hut in Siberian Taiga, escaping thus from Parisian life in order to experience how to find and how to manage loneliness and liberty.

:: How is life in France? Is it a fertile medium for creation?

I do not have the impression that the country where I live is important for the fertility of my work or my inspiration. On the contrary, I was born and passed my youth in Belgium, a little country and a fertile place for famous artists (Delvaux, Magritte, Wim Delvoye, Jan Fabre, Somville). Concerning France, there are a lot of great artists, but the market is maybe too feeble.

:: If you were to describe your work in 4 words, what would you say?

Human, Pleasure, Pain, Life.

artwork | Patrick Loréa. Vanity Cases. Courtesy of the artist.

questions by Thora Vel

Full article here.