The private message
Bruno Leydet, "The private message"
acrylic paint on canvas
Nov 30, 2020 at 11:22
In your works, at first, I notice how you play with the viewing directions of the people you portray, how the play of gazes is contained in the image. By leaving some figures undressed next to dressed figures, or by showing skin, the connection between the figures is tightened. On top of that, I find how you position the bodies in the frame, how you visualize the different planes of the bodies, very precise and touching. For me, all of your works generate a very dynamic and stimulating connection with the viewer through all of these different aspects. The many actions and facets working together within the composition can tell us something about the act of looking. Can you give me specific insight into how you came to a layered compositional image and what choices you made for the image in particular?
Nov 30, 2020 at 19:32
Good evening dear Karel,
What you are saying about my work is very interesting, and in the case of the paintings that include two or more models, yes, one can talk about layering. And definitely, it is about looking and being looked at.
It's quite clear to me that I am not a conceptual artist. I'm very much instinctive and the process is often organic, and things come along as I paint. In some cases, however, I do start with a specific idea that I want to put across. But very often the concept comes as I am painting, and as I am asking myself questions about what I am painting and what meaning(s) it could have.
In some paintings the models are fictional - they are not real people and I inspire myself from random faces/bodies that I see on the net. I modify it to a great extent. Before, I used to only use models that I would photograph myself, and then work from that material. But rarely did I find models that I fantasized about (be it sexually or just aesthetically). So I started doing fictional models.
My studio is full of paintings and I don't really have room any more to bring models to pose, and with Covid-19 that would just not be possible anymore. Now, with having more followers on Instagram over time, some of these people that love my work have inspired me, so I have asked them if I could use them as inspiration. Some followers propose themselves to me without me asking.
Sometimes I use a photo or several photos from their feed. For the nudes, these men sometimes send me private photos that they have made in the past, but very often they take photos specifically for me. More often they are not just taking selfies, but they are looking at themselves and photographing with their cell phone in a mirror's reflection. There is already one layer. However, I don't like the idea of only making paintings of people taking selfies, so very often I replace the cell phone with another object, and then in the painting, the subject is no longer gazing at himself but rather being looked at by the viewer directly. Also, you must understand that in some cases the photos are of good quality and lighting (made better when the person uses a timer on their cell so they are not seen holding a phone), but very often I have to use several photos because of poor lighting, meaning that I have to do a sort of
reconstruction of ‘reality’. Sometimes, I use one photo for the body but another for the face. And when it’s a selfie there is even more collage-like work to be done to reconstruct the body, to be able to translate it into my painting universe. Very often the selfies will give me challenges to overcome, and also that challenge will give me the meaning of the painting. The solution I find for a problem will give meaning to the painting, as a sort of narrative. Sometimes it coincides with something that I have thought of before or something that is happening in my life or the world.
In the precise case of the painting you have chosen, it was inspired by a series of selfies sent to me by a young psychology student from Istanbul. So I constructed this image from selfies that were taken in the same mirror in different poses. One photo was used for the face, and three or four for the body. The lighting in the painting is quite different from the photo. For some obscure reason, it became evident to me that I wanted to play with the mirror idea, to show the body in two different angles, and make the two a bit different so that there's a slight ambiguity. So that it could almost read as two different people at the same time.
For me, to change the image from a selfie to someone who is looking at the subject adds a voyeuristic aspect, which also adds an erotic tension. Nothing is happening in the image, but the gaze upon the other is sort of a narrative in a way. So in this painting, we are looking at someone who is making an image of himself, revealing himself to someone else in the virtual world, but also who is aware of being watched in this intimate action, by the viewer.