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Discover who is Julien Rey

- 14/06/2021

Julien Rey says it himself: he trained “self-taught, integrating and taking inspiration from various cultures, through [his] discoveries”. A great traveler, the French artist developed work that was heavily influenced by Asian culture. Marked by the Zen philosophy and with a desire for refinement and simplicity, he produces minimal compositions that appear like suspended moments, poetic breaks in the middle of the surrounding disorder.

His unique and individual technique of working varnish worked with a knife and gold leaf inlays puts light at the heart of his works, as it plays with areas of shadow and brightness, creating slivers of black and gold. His representations of urban landscapes thus confront obscurity and light in contrasted compositions with impressionistic atmospheres. Julien Rey describes his works as “fugitive rays” or “twilight flashes”, as he attempts to capture the changing moments between day and night where light becomes divine and emotions become intense.

Trying to inspire, feel and self-reflect, the artist is not looking for a true duplication of what he sees, but instead wishes to capture and materialize the “aesthetic link between finesse and rigor, movement and perspective, emptiness and fullness”. In the end, his works capture the true heart of reality but remain distanced from that reality.

“Talent means to work a lot and achieve something” Julien Rey


1.    Introduce yourself in a few words? What is your background? 

I have been painting since my childhood, without actually thinking about going to art school or making a living out of it. I finished audiovisual school which may not have led me towards a job in cinema, but it did shape an in-depth look, in terms of alignment, composition, and aesthetic. Following which, I exhibited in little summer art market, outdoors. Simultaneously, I got the opportunity to travel, which only intensified my work. Gradually, I was able to make a name for myself and mainly develop my style. I have been making a living through my painting for the past seven years now.


2.    Your encounter with Carré d’artistes?

I always did art markets during summer like in Saint-Remy de Provence, or Aix en Provence, with the aim to display my works and face the critical look of the public. As time went by, through exhibitions and the positive feedback, I developed and asserted my style. During one of these markets, Carré d'Artistes came to meet me. I was able to offer my work and it was much appreciated. Following which, things moved forward quickly, due to the visibility which was given by Carré d'Artistes. I was able to exhibit in Amsterdam and since then, I can’t stop painting. 


3.    How did your vocation as an artist come into being?

I never chose to be a painter, in fact I feel that one doesn’t decide to become an artist, others turn you into an artist, the look, criticism, comments…One can only create works to display, do one’s best and in the sincerest way possible. However, I feel that creativity emerges during childhood, it’s something innate and one tends to cultivate it. According to me, one needs to have a child’s soul to be an artist. It’s important to have a fresh look while looking at things, to create one’s own style. 


4.    How does a painting session take place? What is the creation process for one of your works? 

I always paint very early, at three or four in the morning to be at peace and focused, along with music to pace my sessions. My technique based on lacquer and gold foil on wood requires flat work. In the beginning, I lay various layers of black and white lacquer on a wooden frame. I make up the background and the perspective with the help of spatulas, by removing the material. The second step is to add material by creating detailed contours and plan value. The last step, when the layers are properly dry, is to inlay the gold foil with spatulas. 

5.    What are your artistic inspirations, your influences, and references? 

There are painters I really love like Turner for example, his simplicity, attraction or even Zao-Wu-Ki, in another style but for the same reasons. However, the inspiration portrayed in my paintings comes from calligraphy, which I practiced for a long time. Once again in the lines of rigorous simplicity of composition and art of the line. Calligraphy art has always been part of my work. 


6.    How do you relate to the themes highlighted in your paintings? 

To be honest, the themes or the subjects of my paintings are not important, it is only a pretext to reach out to people. Besides, I really like it when artists make us "forget" their subject, this way we are totally immersed into the work. 


7.    What is the meaning behind the colors you use? Do you wish to convey a message? 

 It's a bit peculiar for me because I can't see colors. Thus, I naturally oriented my research towards compositions which are only in black and white, adding the gold foil, which took place later on, marked my style and has remained the same since then. I turned a "constraint" into a sincere and personal style. Never underestimate the positive effect of a constraint. According to me art is only coercion. 



    8.    What is the best advise your received as an artist? 

     Unfortunately, I came across a lot of poor advice, let's say trusting my gut was very liberating for me. I was advised to treat art as an experimental laboratory and was able to do things in a natural way. This is when I realized that art is a quest for childhood.


    9.    Can you tell us something about yourself that the people will be surprised to hear?

    So, for a painter it's quite strange but I don't see the colors and I don't know how to paint. I say this because I only paint what is of interest to me, which leads to a very restrained style. 


    10.    An anecdote you would like to share? 

     During a dedication in Amsterdam, I remember a young man who came to buy two small formats with his very first pay. He confided in me and told me he wanted to buy a beautiful suit but while passing in front of the Carré d'artistes gallery, my paintings made him change his mind. I was really touched. During the same dedication there was also a man who came to buy a painting for the first time in his life, a wedding gift for his wife to celebrate their 40 years of marriage, I was very touched and moved. That's why I like dedications.

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