Starting with writing as his point of departure, Toulouse-born, Paris-based artist Jules Dedet Granel, aka L’Atlas, hopes to immerse his viewers in a sea of tranquil, gesture-filled blue set between his geometric letters and lines in his latest solo show, “Blue Corner”.
On view through October 28, 2023 at Art Works Paris Seoul Gallery in the South Korean capital, the exhibition showcases approximately 20 mostly new paintings ranging in price from ₩4 million ($3,027) to ₩18 million ($13,622).
“Blue has always held special importance and significance to me,” says L’Atlas. “It evokes infinity, serenity and spirituality. With this series, I wanted to create a corner of reflection where everyone can lose themselves in the nuances of this color. The blue canvases blend with the black-and-white contrast of the logograms, creating a visual dichotomy: an expression of the complex beauty of our inner thoughts and experiences. The choice of these blue canvases for this exhibition finds a harmonious link with Seoul. Blue, like the city itself, evokes a sense of calm and vitality. Black and white represent the duality between the modern and the traditional, a duality found in the city of Seoul.”
Another exhibition, “It Flashes Before Your Eyes” – featuring L’Atlas’ works on Korean hanji paper, original stamps, torn posters and salvaged metro furniture – will run from September 14 until October 15, 2023 at Martine Ehmer Gallery in Brussels. I sit down with the artist to learn more about his practice and his current state of mind.
All of your canvases are composed of your name, but instead of repeating yourself, how do you introduce uniqueness and originality each time?
Through the process. I like to invent new processes each time. L’Atlas, it’s the background, the philosophy, the precept, and then I’m trying to find new processes for new series, so my question now every day when I come to the studio is not what am I going to do, it’s how I’m going to find new techniques or new tools. I don’t know if I will change it one day. Next year, I’m going to do a really optic exhibition and I’m going to make two or three pieces without “L’Atlas” on them, just weavings with no name to see a little bit the reaction of the spectator. They will try to read “L’Atlas” inside of a weaving. But you know what, people don’t know sometimes that there is a “L’Atlas” in my works, so it’s the same. But no, I can’t stop writing my name. It’s not about my name, but about writing. It’s impossible for me to create without writing. Or I do only gesture or only lines? Why not? But it’s hard for me to go there because it’s not my history. But I will do some next year, and it’s important for me to have just an optic exhibition every three or four years with no stamps, no drips. And it’s harder because to produce an optic exhibition, you have to stop everything. It’s totally different. You cannot be on two sides because if you do one drip on it or it sticks out, it’s over. To do the optic series, you need someone to help you, even if it’s for psychological support. And sometimes you fail, so you say OK, I spent three days on this one.
Much of your work seems to consist of the action of immediate gesture – often momentary and fleeting – but do your ideas come from a place of gestation, incubating for several years before their final execution? How long does it take for you to create an artwork from initial idea to finished product?
It’s often between a year and two years. For example, once when I went to Korea, I saw shapes on the floor, like S’s. That allowed me to make new shapes and an exhibition two years after because there’s the time when you have the idea, the time when you sometimes forget your idea, then it comes back to you and you make a piece but you’re not convinced, and then you need the time to produce all the pieces to create a series. Yeah, it takes a year at the fastest, if not two. There’s also one thing I need to get back to, and that’s traveling. I’ve always been inspired by the shapes of architecture and the urbanism of cities. It’s true that I’ve traveled less since COVID-19 and so, of course, I was doing more in-depth research. I did a lot of gestural things, everything that was pure painting. As a result, my almost typographic work was on stand-by. That’s why I’ve got to start traveling again.
How has response been to your monograph published by Skira last October, which is the most comprehensive book on your work to date? Do you also have plans to make a volume 2?
I’ve had nothing but good feedback. I’m very happy. I made this book just for me, you know. If I’d done it for other people, I’d have done half of it in color. Here, I’ve done my first love, really what I prefer, the essence of my work, which relates to calligraphy and all that, but I’ve managed to show practically all of my different series, so I’m super happy. Now the challenge is to get back to color. What’s more, I’ve done plenty of them and I could already do a book on my work in color. There would be a lot of fluorescent, a lot of blue and a bit of red, but I’ve got to get beyond two or three colors. And that really scares me because as a calligrapher, I’ve always been into bichrome works, or a background and a bichrome creation on top of it, but more than three colors really scares me. I’m incapable of doing that. The challenge is there, but maybe with optics, I can try more easily because using lots of colors in gestural pieces, they mix together, so it’s dangerous and you can get very ugly things very quickly, whereas I can try to do lots of colors on optical paintings since I’m going to work in layers, it will be flat tints. I can do tests like that, it’s simpler. Optic works allow me each time to apprehend new colors without ending up with a big brown mess because I’ve mixed several things together, as I like to do things in one go. If you want to work well with color, in fact, you have to wait. Even JonOne, when he does one line, he does another, he waits for the one above to dry, whereas I like the background to be made from a single energy. When you use several colors and do it at the same time on a background, it mixes together. It’s not easy for me to switch to color, it’s a real challenge and I even wonder if I’m really obliged to do it. Why should I? I don’t have to either, so I’m in all this questioning about why I do things, finding a real reason, not just color for color’s sake. That doesn’t make sense. I’m in a real period of reflection.
What have you been up to lately?
I made three new kinds of shapes. I sent them to the place where they do the backgrounds. I’m going to make a dozen new shapes and try an iridescent background. The last shapes I did were blades, which were just a parallelogram. I work on the computer until I get a shape I like. I’ve also changed my logo a bit: it used to have 14 lines and now it’s 13, and I’ve put the apostrophe back in. Now the middle of the work is a letter. Before, the middle on 14 lines was between two letters. It allows me to have a bit bigger letters, in fact. It’s imperceptible, but the logo is changing. That’s what I’d like to do right now: travel, look at architecture and make a new logo, where we say it’s not the same logo anymore. As soon as I’m in my studio, I’m not doing typographical research, I’m looking at technique or the background painting.
What do you hope viewers will take away from your art?
I don’t ask myself these questions anymore. They’re questions I used to ask myself at the beginning about what I wanted people to think or feel. Now it’s not that I don’t care about what people feel, but I’m more about my feelings, about myself, what it’s going to bring me, and the challenge of continuing to enjoy making art. Afterwards, what people think about it, there will always be people who like it, others who don’t, but for me, it helps more in the end when someone tells me what they don’t like than when they say they love what I do. All that always touches me, but it brings me nothing in fact. It brings me strength and the faith to carry on, but today, I’m more interested in having practical and technical discussions with other painters. I went to see the artist Kean in his studio near Mulhouse to see how he worked. That’s what nourishes me today: it’s understanding the process of other artists rather than waiting to hear what people think of my work. It’s true, when you’re young, you have a great expectation to say do people like me, but now it’s me that I want to seduce. I’ve come to terms with that and I get the impression that most people like my work anyway, so I’m sort of cured of the narcissistic wound. Now it’s more a question of the intrinsic nature of painting itself, how and why I do things, and by dint of being only in my studio, I reach a limit. I have to go back to the museum, to artists’ studios, travel again – that’s what I miss because it’s true that when I started painting, I traveled a lot. Half the year, I wasn’t in Paris, I was meeting calligraphers, I was filming, I was going to see other artists, I was moving all the time, I was nourishing myself on a permanent basis. It’s as if I have told everything already. Now I’m in a period where I need to renourish myself. It’s just a phase, but the book really did something to me. Even when I did the nomadic canvases book, I kind of stopped doing the “Nomadic Canvases” afterwards. I changed the process by doing different canvases in each city. It’s true that when you do a book, it’s kind of an assessment. It’s not a full stop, it’s a semicolon. It was a year of taking stock, of saying here’s what I’ve done, and even if I’ve redone some things this year, they’re things I know how to do because I had to produce them for exhibitions, but now it’s a real period of introspection that we’re seeing.