Can you tell us more about your concrete experience of the lockdown ?
In the evening, after the lockdown was announced, I was in a “Walking Dead” mode. The suitcases packed, the car decked out with fuel, water, food, triple-thickness toilet paper and a very sharp machete, ready to ensure the survival of my family. I wanted to flee the Paris region where we currently live and go to the countryside. But to go where? And for how long? And above all, my wife, requisitioned for her work, could not leave with us... We therefore confined ourselves to our apartment in Ville-d'Avray, a nice suburb located between Versailles and the capital. Our apartment is on the sixth floor of a ten-storey tower. A dozen identical buildings, modern dungeons, make up the very chic “Résidence des Cèdres”, surrounded by trees and greenery, on the edge of the Fausses-reposes forest and the Corot ponds. Finally, the area is not so bad. I emptied the car, put away the machete, but my suitcase is still ready.
The nonchalant behavior of people at the start of the lockdown scared me, so we limited our outings to the residence. My son can let off steam a little, ride a bike or play football and we can still feel the effects of this singular spring on the nature around us.
The virus is present in the building, we know that neighbors were contaminated, fortunately not seriously. We go out with gloves and masks and we wash our hands thoroughly on the way home. The residence employs people to manage garbage cans, cleaning the premises, elevators, stairs and we are fortunate to be able to count on their efficiency and good humor. Every day, everything is clean and disinfected, with a smile. I salute here these people who also work for our safety and our morale.
What is your personal state of mind ?
At the beginning, I was divided between reality and fiction. Was this epidemic real? Was it a big joke? Was that the beginning of the end, a virus? And then, with the measures put in place and the evolution of the situation, reality caught up with fiction. We had to get used to the idea of simply fighting this virus while staying at home. We have a small house in Corrèze, both a holiday home and an artist's studio, unfortunately not fully habitable yet, finally, for my wife and my son. No kitchen, no bathroom, no hot water, no internet.
I was supposed to spend a week there during the school holidays in order to continue the renovations and enjoy a week of solitude and wild life, essential for creative inspiration, a bubble out of time and everyday space. This lockdown thwarted my plans for rural solitude and I was angry. We had to resign ourselves. Today, with the announced deconfinement, it is impatience that wins me over. I can't wait to find this house and its garden, the smell of flowers and freshly cut grass.
I need to mow.
Does the lockdown experience have an impact on your art ?
This lockdown did not change much about my artistic approach. I regularly confine myself, both physically and mentally, to produce. I just had to adapt the organization of my projects with confined family life. In Ville-d'Avray, in the apartment, I have no workshop or dedicated space in which I can spread out and leave everything out for the time of creation. I work in the living room and this room is also used for my son and my wife, every day. I had planned to attack my third robotic sculpture but this activity generates noises and dirt over a very long period. Difficult to live properly in the middle of aluminum bars, rolls of electric cables and other molten plastics. So I concentrated on a silent and clean activity, drawing, and reduced my work surface at the living room table.
Do you practice your art during the lockdown ? if yes, can you tell us about your new pieces ?
With this time available, I was finally able to finish a series started in Saint-Barthélemy. A series of 6 canvases, format 100x100 cm in acrylic and Indian ink, 6 plans of capitals “rewritten” in my red square language on a white background, highlighting the communication networks and the arrangement on the ground in order to bring out the “cellular” structure of each of these cities.
I am now looking at a series of 20 drawings in Indian ink, faithful to my series of “Practical Works”, one of which was made in and on Saint-Barthélemy.
It was a period prior to my 5 years in St-Barth, when I lived in Tours, sharing with my brother in an incredible house, conducive to celebration and creation. A moment of my surreal and wacky life when we had a great time everyday.
So, while waiting to mow, I decided to laugh a little each day by making these drawings.
- Emmanuel Leprince