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Le Minh’s unique approach to painting is evident as soon as you enter his studio. Through his paintings, he has created a distinct artistic dialogue between traditional fine art materials and unconventional found objects. Read on to explore his practice.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to be an artist…
I was born in 1989, in Paris. I was raised by my grandparents in a small town on the west coast of France. I gained my independence quiet early, right before I turned 17. To support myself, I was working every night in a restaurant. At the time, I was finishing high school - I had about 8 hours of plastic arts practice weekly. Later on, I got accepted to a preparatory school in Paris. I spent a year working on my portfolio to enter a university. This got me into Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts in London. Spending four years in London, and in particular at this university, was truly one of the greatest academic creative developments that one can hope for.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I remember going to hardware stores with my grandmother when I was a teenager. This is something that I still do on a weekly basis. I’ve started developing a virtual cabinet of curiosities. From the shape and texture of the shovel, to the color of the lawnmower, I collected and cultivated this interest throughout my creative process in Paris and London. Experimenting with unconventional raw materials such as thermoplastic, foam, rubber, dried cut-out pieces of acrylic for example and merge the modified ingredients with the canvas surface has always been a stimulating challenge for me. It is about surfing on a wave of control, satisfactory moments, happy accidents and unpredictability.
Jean-François Le Minh says
“[My work] is about surfing on a wave of control, satisfactory moments, happy accidents and unpredictability.”
Describe your work in three words...
Spectrum, Materiality, Utopias.
What is your creative process?
The beginning of a new work always involves a theoretical stimulus or material impulse that I want to explore and manipulate. The intellectual aspect of it can either be the fragment of an idea that I read in a book, an article or even heard in a conversation.
My friend introduced me to the Sternberg Press years ago - It has been one of my main theory resources since then. Also, it often starts from a work seen within a museum or gallery institution or simply on the street. For years now, I have been sensitive to random elements that the world outside the studio can offer. A construction site and its surrounding tools - the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete look of a wall in New York or Paris.
What messages or emotions do you hope to convey to your audience?
Nowadays, our informative cycle is saturated - I’ll be satisfied to attract the audience’s attention for a minute or two.
What led to the evolution in your work from sculpture to painting?
I usually translate ideas previously used for a painting to a three dimensional form. But also, sometimes, the process of making a sculpture is a project faithful to the medium itself that stands without any other component.
What makes you laugh?
What makes you nervous?
The weekly cycle.
What makes you excited about the future?
Why is texture an important element in your work?
A few years ago I started developing a language of my own composed of traces, marks, and interventions on the canvas’ surface. Through acquiring traditional techniques but also with an ability and aspiration to redefine and challenge some of the technicality in painting. Composing my own mixtures and constituting particular textures and colors allowed me to start establishing my own painterly writing - a three-dimensional sculptural expansion came up from this process. The consequence is a product of rhythmic action and a search for forms under the influence of time with the intention of directly engaging with a language of painting instead of an appropriation of its vocabulary.
Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history who have influenced you?
Picasso and my dear friend and fellow painter Magda.
How do you approach different materials? For example, what changes when you work in acrylic versus oil paint?
Working with oil paint was a natural way for me to nourish a desire for challenge, but also a spontaneous urge for discovery in order to bring a fresh representation to a few ideas that I am working on at the moment. It is also strongly associated with the fact that I intentionally disrupted the way I used to work in order to awake unfamiliar events and learn new craft skills which I think are crucial to the innovative power of the creative artistic process.
For my most recent paintings, I wanted to control the quality, character, and saturation of my paint. I was researching a lot about natural pigments before my recent trip to Mexico.
Once there, I found some cochineal ones. This is something that I am still exploring today. By making your own oil paint I learned about gaining a better understanding of the characteristics of various pigments and how they channel color and light. Using fresh raw materials allows me to mix only what I need and avoid adding unnecessary preservatives and anti-settling agents found in store-bought paint. Bulking up, making large quantities of paint is much easier than finding suppliers that stock oversized containers of the colors I need. With raw pigments, I can also produce and reproduce color mixtures specific to my palette.
About Jean-François Le Minh
Jean-François Le Minh's work pushes the boundaries of traditional painting and art paradigms. Mixing numerous materials from his studio, his paintings culminate as interventions with the canvas’ surface, manifesting a unique artistic language.
Jean-François Le Minh is a French visual artist, now based in New York, NY. His work pushes the boundaries of traditional painting and art paradigms. Mixing oil paint with spray paint, acrylic, enamel, thermoplastic, stationery and various debris from his studio, his paintings culminate as interventions with the canvas’ surface, manifesting a unique artistic language.
b. 1989 Paris, France Lives and works in New York, NY
“It is probably excellent to study the ancient masters to learn to paint, but this can onlybe a superfuous exercise if your goal is to understand the character of the present beauty.” - Charles Baudelaire
Baudelaire urges us to use our intuition as the answer— what feels to be true. When we question phenomena, events, and experiences, there is always this need to understand it through some conscious schema, while our ambiguous, often primeval notions are neglected for a more clear and unequivocal mode of thinking.
My work seeks the former: a pure form of human reasoning behind the everyday throws of life, where uncertainty and feeling reign true. I use stream of consciousness, spontaneous material experiments, ambiguous and serendipitous actions through an entirely intuitive process to deliver unseen fecked capacities.
The substance of the painterly writing is color. My color is like a body without organs. It would be remiss to call it a “system” or “structure,” instead the tones and palettes are blended and fused to elicit diferent temperatures, moods, and analogous imagery that are in dialogue with one another. Everyday objects, memories, observations, ephemeral movements, postures, urban landscapes, and history comprise the content of my work, yet the objet d’art is not my primary aim, rather the underlying material processes, initiation of actions, and unconscious mining make up my fnal products. While color generates fluid relationships in my work, the forms and constellations generate their energy where each shape possesses its own verb. Their instinctive placement and asystematic patterns captures a natural logic.
We see geometry as shapes that function to ft and measure, yet my paintings break this standard. The work features ambiguous geometry in which color, robust forms, intuitive details, and process outplay linear and synchronic modes of painting. Just below that seductive languor, however, is the power of tightly coiled springs. The paintings often begin with a mapping of the found objects on the foor. I reinterpret them through a series of physical interventions.
My work includes pure pictorial discoveries and play through a development of the material itself. The familiar becomes strange, it’s about taking these objects out of their context and stripped them of their original function completely. Explicitly site-specifc, in my hands these items feel so far removed from that functional use economy as to render the reference meaningless. In this language, which performs the potential of reordering and transformation, they are signifers of kinetic energy. My work speaks to the potential of medium, the possibility of crafting new language from old words — not so much where have you been, but where are you going?
Hunter College, The City University of New York, MFA Studio Art, 2017 - 2019 Central Saint Martins, BA Fine Art, 2012 - 2015 Central Saint Martins, Foundation Diploma in Art & Design, 2011 - 2012
FORMS OF FREEDOM, Plomo Gallery, Mexico City, Mexico, Upcoming Solo Show.
The Collector’s Den, HWD Gallery, Sheung Wang, Hong Kong, 2019 (Solo Show)
The Origin of Who U Are Right Now, KVADRAT16, curated by Simon Ganshorn, Valby, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2018
Fragments Of, The Blue Factory, London, UK, 2015
Show One, Central Saint Martins -Degree Show, London, UK, 2015