BENOÎT POLVÊCHE

   

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

 

:: Hello, Benoît and welcome to the Spheres. We are glad to have been introduced to your interesting works. To get us started, could you tell us a bit about what you do and when did you start this project?

I started this project more or less twenty years ago. At the beginning, I was studying Plastic Arts and at the same time I was very invested in an artists’ associations creating events. There were some places we needed to furnish and I have created a series of tables and chairs in an »art-brut-industrial« way,  composed of mechanical parts recovered and welded. I was  asked by the school of art to answer to multiple conceptual questions and justifications that were more castrating than liberating, at least, from the point of view of the furniture, I could just »sit on my work«. With time, my objects became more sculptural than functional and the recovery parts disappear, giving way to fully hand-made metal. So now I make sculptures with a very organic aesthetic. I mix species of the living, each sculpture being a new open way to the following sculpture.

:: In the biography on your site, it is mentioned that you have lost interest in academic teachings. What is your educational background and how relevant was it for your present artistic project?

I think I just wasted my time at the University of Arts, or rather, I spent there the time required for maturation, but I did not learn much. This teaching was purely theoretical and literary, with almost no practice in a workshop. From a technical point of view, I am completely self taught. »It’s by forging that one becomes a blacksmith« (Practice makes perfect).

:: Do you believe that some art schools nowadays are still focusing on auto-conservation and building more or less closed networks?

I don’t really know, I stopped going to schools, but it is indeed a great tendency of schools to operate in a closed circle.

:: You’ve exhibited your works in many places, how have they been received so far?

I think very well. People are generally impressed by the very organic structure I give to the metal, although generally they do not realize the work implied. Most people think that the pieces are molded and cast, and not that is handmade.

:: You’re constantly adding interesting pieces to what is growing to be a vast bestiarum. How do you choose the subjects for your sculptures and drawings?

In general, this comes by itself. I have different themes linking the bios and the mixture, the remix. The forms the feeds the technique and the technique gives access to new forms. Also, I constantly feed my imagination by visiting the museum of natural science, looking at works on insects, plants, underwater life.

:: The sculptures seem almost real, revealing a careful attention to details. Is it important for your works to »seem« real or to »become« real, thus enabling mutations?

Yes, of course! Even if they are still made of metal, the material is only  a medium that offers great opportunities from a formal point of view, in fact, all the possibilities, it is only the technique that can limit form, and our imagination, but the technique and the imagination can always be exceeded, this is what makes this research inexhaustible.

:: Your body of work seems to be very much in connection with the times we are living in: the apparent nature-technology dichotomy is not only a consequence but also a condition to functioning as a human being. How do you re-problematize this issue in your works?

No doubt that it is a strong impression given by these forms of nature embodied in the steel which is material usually used to create structures, machinery, cars. Conceiving these very organic beings in their totally opposite medium, the iron coming from a mineral and technological world, therefore a rather cold universe, gives a strong and very fertile impression for the mind when one sees the sculptures.

:: Do you believe that nature and technology should be seen as two opposing poles or it is more of one being the extension of the other?

We clearly live in a society where these are two opposite poles, but it would be good to reunite them, as far as we can. Like for instance the shamanic societies that have a lot of things for us to learn from them, and besides, more and more people bring this kind of teaching to us.

:: How does metal convey the organic feeling of your sculptures?

It is certainly the technique. I wheel a lot, for smoothing, I also work only with curved shapes, not even a piece is left without a change in shape. I come back, more and more, to a matter that is  more textured than smooth, and I work more and more with high temperatures, in the forge or with a blowtorch.

:: What are you working on at the moment?

Hmm… food orders especially, mostly furniture. There is also a large sculpture of big dimensions around a tree at the corner of a street in Brussels. For personal work, I regularly shift from a theme to another, for the moment, there is the floral theme dominating, but I had left it aside for several years, what will it come after, skulls, bones, insects, shellfish? I think that the hysterical underwater theme will return at full gallop.

:: What elements are part of your artistic sphere, in terms of inspirations and things that you cherish?

All living forms, wholly or in detail. First, the wild forms of the aquatic world, then the bones, plants and insects, and finally the insects. In fact, all that is natural but surprising, where we can find a certain uncanny strangeness. Regarding art, what inspires me is art nouveau, the fantastic arts and the low-brow movement.

Questions | Diana Daia

Translation from French | Maria Bungău

Artwork | Benoît Polvêche. 2011. Vanitae. Courtesy of the artist

Full article here.