Roman Moriceau

First, would you introduce yourself in few words please ?
In this context, I’m a visual artist.


What first drawn my attention to your work was the visual aspect. Looking attractive then, your work becomes even more interesting once we are aware of techniques that you are using. These techniques appears more or less common to visual arts or at least less « sexy », can you tell us more about it ? (Also it reminded me to Felix Gonzalez Torres and his candy stacks where viewers were able to pick up a candy which appears to appeal the viewer with the idea to put something sexy in their mouth while the purpose of the work is about AIDS, as serious as it can be).
Actually, it’s about going with the flow according to my desires. The relation to aesthetics or visual has two sides, at the same time I want something for its form and its result. Since my studies, for each of my project the form was bound to the project and needed to find its justification in it. At the end I would like some pieces more than some others. Still, with this pejorative dimension, sometimes I would have to justify the necessity behind a shape more than another, so that it wouldn’t be only attractive. With time, it changed, I’m more free from this. Thus, there is always this relation to subterfuge in the way that everything is not what it seems. It’s also a metaphor of life in general, if you pass by something quickly you will never get any access to it. Only if you stop you can get it.
Moreover, I like that my works can be misinterpreted. You can look at my works, they remind you to something else and quicly the relation you create brings this work somewhere in your brain where you make your own connection. And if you look closer on a work, you will notice that there is something behind which is often the opposite or at least something different.


Eventually, are you trying to explore artificial sides of the world ? Especially with some of your work where you use techniques from everydaylife ?
It’s true, some sort of aesthetics appeals me but at the same time, it’s a seductive way to stop the viewer’s gaze. And also, when I realized I created a work, which is not in some sort of shape, I don’t get that pleasure. But shapes can be numerous, it’s about the context too. Also, I noticed, the decorative dimension gets some interest as it can also be perceived with a negative dimension. So I enjoy playing with this conditioning part we have with shapes. Because we don’t have our own connection to things, but this connection appears mostly determined by social norms or taste. Still, my aim is not to just create something beautiful.


Each of your project seems to be related to a new technique, how do you decide this ?
This relation to subterfuge and the connection in between meaning and form appear to be related to experimentation also. For each project I experiment a technique that I’ve never used before. And each time I understand and master the technique a little bit too much I stop using it. This occurs when I can guess the result before finishing the work. I like the naive side of using an unknown technique. Because when you master it then you just repeat it to make it perfect again and again. Thus, it’s also interesting because you can improve, but without noticing it you close yourself and at the end you don’t let any error happening because you don’t want it.
For example when I started doing analog photography, I rent a photo studio with machines and filters but I never used this before, so there could be many mistakes that I wouldn’t even be aware of. After all, you’re quickly limited by the unknown technique, but at the same time you open all possibilities. For this project, I used an analog camera, had a light source shot filtered with random plastic bags. I had no idea of what would be shot on the film. And in this photo studio, when I played with negatives and filters there was no real direction for the colour as you wouldn’t have it if you shot a landscape where you know the sky is blue. The question was also what does it mean to do photography today ? I wanted to do it and get my own appropriation.
Now with computer, internet you can create images, instead of having the image coming to you, it’s you who creates the image. It becomes yours. And suddenly, I had few images and I would say one is better than the others. Thus, I kept many of them because with time, some appear less beautiful that those of tomorrow. It’s interesting to think about the same serie exhibited in a different way through the time. Because at first, you chose what you recognize from what you know but because you change, your gaze change, and you realize what you couldn’t see before.


As you are not a photographer but – as you previously said-, it’s mostly about experimentation, why analog and not digital images for shooting plastic bags ?
Actually here, even if I used plastic bags, it’s not the essential subject of the work. How to use something from daily life, which is over produced, and at the same time very cheap, with some irony appears nearly a joke. Also there is the idea that everything occurs from a filter. I mean, you take a digital picture translated by your computer, which gives something to see. Thus, you don’t see what you took in picture but its digital screenshot. Actually, analog is all about light and chemical reactions. It’s full of imperfections that you wouldn’t find in digital and that’s what I think is beautiful. Somehow it is organic. It’s imperfection without being imperfect. Where is the necessity to print a digital picture ? Because it’s shot for digital support, no need to get its image. However, most of the time new technique tends to have a relation with past.
Also let’s consider David Hockney’s works on Ipad. What is the reason to print them ? they are beautiful still on paper but are they not made for a digital support? but there is no value for the market and that’s beautiful even though they printed some and added a value on it. Still these prints are already different from originals since it’s translated onto papers.


Can you tell us more about the Nebula serie that was part of your first exhibition at Galerie Derouillon ?
This serie appears to be related to the life cycle in the universe. It’s the creation of stars and planets out of dust and gas. And after a while it’s thick enough to create either a star or a planet. All these dust and gas are the substance. At some point, some gas will miss and the star or the planet will burst and become dust and gas again. That’s the permanant life cycle of universe. In a way, we are all composed from star dust. All atomes from our bodies are stars atoms with the idea that nothing gets created but transformed. Everything is here, only the shape changes. No substance death but substance change.


Also it was exhibited along with some unexpected sculpture right ?
Also there was the sculpture of the feather less chicken. A scientist from Israel created and developed a feather less chicken breeding. Life animal reduced to its protein. This man seems to be like a mad scientist. But he thought that chickens suffocate from heat in some countries so they use more air conditioning and water, so with this it would be economical. He created a first generation, but they caught sun burns. Then, the second generation got mixed with a chineese chicken because its skin is darker but chickens were smaller. So the third generation was a chicken that get fat pretty quickly. So you ended up with fat chickens that can’t even stand on their legs and featherless. When I saw the image of this chicken it didn’t have any connection to the present time, nothing contemporary. It could either be from prehistoric time either from the future. And, I wanted a classical sculpture that would reminds to early XXth century that you could find inside a sculptor’s workshop. I borrowed the shape from hyperrealistic movement. Also, usually clay is not for finished sculptures but for studies or molds. The point of this work was to make something unfinished. And also with the idea that clay is dust with water related to the idea that God created the humanity from his fingers and soil.


How do you consider the question of preservation since it seems complicated or delicate for some of your work ?
Actually for the serie Nebula where I used car oil, it’s possible to preserve thus it’s very fragile and it never dries out. But nothing lasts, that’s the idea. It’s about time, even a stone, its shape will change with time. I like fragility and things changing. Also I like not knowing how things will change and that a work changes with you. For example, in the work Botanishe Garten, copper dust will oxidise and oxidise time depends on how the work will be preserved and its surrounding, so it will change at the same time with you. Artworks are consumed as any other products. I use delicate materials and some who changed with time but not materials without distance.
One of the most delicate works I did are this watercolor works with water icecream. It is fragile, sensitive to UV and humidity. colors gets easily distort. It is just for a moment. it has a certain beauty to be ephemeral.


While I did some research about you, the concept of the butterfly effect occurred few times. Can you tell us more about this idea also related to Human action on its own environment ?
My first image with waste oil was the idea of a fossil image. It was plant which was endangered. Though, in some years when petroleum will be replaced, both of them – technique and image – will appear as remains from our time. The plant won’t exist anymore and petrol will be replaced. Also, there was the link with oil painting related to art history and it was giving a sepia look. Going back to the 50’s they thought the future would be free thanks to technique and happy with consumption. Actually it didn’t happen this way. Most of all I had this freedom feeling and realized that flowers and plants was a way to speak about myself and the world. Also, the still life idea was there connected to transformation, nothing die. I’m aware that my desires are related to the contemporary world I live in. When I did palmtrees it’s probably because I saw many of them elsewhere without noticing it, it’s about time we live in.

Actually, I noticed that I work on human beings without them in it. I don’t depict them while at the same time it’s central. Human as a part of nature tries hard to control it, while thinking nature is something else. It would be same to me if you try to control some part of your body while actually it’s your body, you can’t control only one piece.
I’m pretty concerned by ecology. And part of our time lacks of spirituality. There was the death of utopian dreams, then there was the neo liberalism and we found ourselves in a consumerist society, full of images where the personality cult stands as the main thing, seeking for « I ». However, we are related to common codes even if you seek to define yourself as unique.
Through my works there is no critic, I don’t denounce something but I highlight things. It’s my own relation to my environment, full of contradictions. I’m concern by ecology but at the same time I use toxic materials such as waste oil. For example, copper, even though it’s natural, it’s toxic. It’s about conditioning.


In fact, you give same impact on visual aesthetic and to the meaning of your work. Is there any primacy on one over the other ?
I do it with the idea of a twist, reaching a problem from sides. For example, I wanted to do photography but I needed to get my own appropriation of this object, that’s why I didn’t really do photography. There is no subject, no image, only the object, the photosensitive paper and all classical techniques around. And I ended up with colorful abstract shapes that can be appealing but it symbolized emptiness. Nowadays, everything turns around the action of taking a picture, which symbolized the interest of one moment.


So to me, you seem to play on different interpretation levels or at least different way to read your work. From the appealing look, to the technique in order to articulate a purpose about environment or the politic occurring through human actions. Are you aware that a part of your audience can pass through this and stop at the visual look ?
It always occurred through my work without especially wishing it. It means anyone can access to the work. At the same time, I like the subterfuge side, what you think you understand is not what it really is. And it gives a free access and interpretation to anyone. Complexity comes with appropriation. The work is yours through appropriation, the story behind the work, it’s is you who’s telling it.
For example for a show I made a work for the viewer who’s looking at nothing. So I used transparent painting which shows colors with the sun effect. It was a work without any indication, just for the bored viewer who would be the only one noticing what others wouldn’t see.


Also, some utopian/ dystopian feeling can be seen through your work or maybe more as a nostalgic relation to things, do you have anything to see about this?
A lot of nostalgia occurs through my work but it doesn’t mean that yesterday was better than today. I think there is this poetic dimension, I need to be surrounded by things giving me pleasure as an aesthetically pleasing relation to the world. I can quickly feel uncomfortable with a relation to the world that disturbs me in its aesthetics. It’s not about being beautiful. I like the idea of creating some ideal of the world yet not related to beauty.
Through subjects I have, some kind of fatalism can be found. It takes place as a violent way to realized how we are in the world. Since we are in a century where mankind damaged its own environment, and its environment is mankind itself. I keep the subtle side of things I work on, from shape to purpose but when it’s finished there is some kind of nostalgia, as it can be beautiful but slightly serious.
For Botanishes Garten, I took pictures in these gardens where plants gather together according to their type and not to their geographical space. The first one was in Bruxelles and I took pictures of Meise Botanical Garden with ruins and remains from Henri II’s colonial garden, so with many plants from Congo. And you had this exotic places with plants from Asia, Africa and South America together which wouldn’t possible to see in a natural environment. So, it appears as a kind of translation of these « exotic » geographical spaces as some kind of cliché of « the other ». So, on my pictures I removed the architecture around and put them together to create some mass, at first it would look like a jungle. I got interested with it because there was some feeling about utopia related to the idea of paradise. In a idyllic place everything would get mix up with balance. For this work I created a collage of theses pictures using copper dust on paper, who gonna oxyde after time.
About the piece « In heaven everything is fine », 2016. who is a mix of singing from extinct birds , (from different times (60’ until now) and countries (all around te world), I also added and recreated the sound of dodo) a sort of paradise birds jungle. when I listen to it while it’s not that crazy, just I find it beautiful and sad at the same time once you know they all disappeared.


Any influences that you would like to mention ?
Would be plenty of artists, musicians, movies, political figures, humans stories…
couple of years ago, a show I visited in 2001, came back to me.
At Pompidou was this exhibition named Elysian Fields. Curated by Olivier Zahm & Elen Fleiss (Purple Institute). This was the last exhibition from the nineties I remember, as a crossover exhibition. There wasn’t really an hierarchy in the set up. Some more amateur productions and major artists, with a music installation. I was a student at the Beaux arts of Angers at that time, it fitted perfectly the world I was mentally living in. It really seemed to be about giving and sharing. I couldn’t find such feeling afterwards.


Any dream place where you would like to exhibit your work ?
Would be more about which who I m working with for the show. People you meet and connect to, who brings you further.


What does the word Art mean to you ? 
Art is one way to answer to this need of communication but it could be something else. It’s straight to some codify fields. Inside art there is a lot of freedom and also an aim. It’s about what I want to share and what is useful to share. This communication should produce a reflection, a feeling, a discussion and brings you somewhere else. It’s an exchange. Human beings spend their time trying to communicate in all the way possible. Art is more or less about this to.
Art is a way to resist against being conditioned and it appears complicated in a world ruled by money, even as an artist who depends on success and money and you need to play the game and accept to leave some freedom.


Interview by Fiona Vilmer, writer specialized in contemporary art.

Photographs and text courtesy of the artist.