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Interview of Martine Le Normand                Expositions                Publication                Criticism                Of rust and colours                Contact                                               
Martine Le Normand - Artiste Peintre
Rusted paper

- Could you introduce yourself?

I’ve been painting and drawing since I could hold a pen or a brush. I was an only child and rather withdrawn; I spent many hours alone writing poems and drawing, mostly colourful flowers and trees. Colour made me feel good.

- You’ve never stopped painting since you were a child?

There were several periods in my life when I did a lot of painting – the happiest times. I only stopped to learn about linguistics, journalism, psychology, psychoanalysis, or to write novels. I was travelling too much to be able to “settle down” in a studio.
Maybe these events made my memory learn to build and maintain a mental travel diary. I stored in it, like archaeological layers, a multitude of writings and images where I can dig today, like in a dream.

- How did you decide to let your paper “rust”, as you put it?

I spent hours studying the way sheets of steel, stored in my garden, slowly rusted. I was fascinated by the way oxidation gradually got the better of this sturdy material. I liked all its shades of colour from yellow to orange to black. I liked the way it felt, the ever-changing cartography… I think I rediscovered what, as a child, I invented while watching clouds. So I decided that that was where I wanted to dip my art paper.
I realised that paper doesn’t rust, of course! But oxidation can invade it to the point that it blackens it and “eats it up” if I leave it too long in contact with the metal. I have to monitor the progression of the rusting, and stop it at the point where something in the patterns that appear speaks to me. Something beautiful enough to make me want to paint. Something that, above all, brings back memories deeply buried in the dark corners of my mind. The faded photos of my mental diaries.

- Is it really necessary to add colour?

In the beginning, I didn’t intervene much. I didn’t dare to undo things, to risk destroying nature’s creation. But the more I move forward and evolve, the more I want to leave my mark. I compose, try to find a balance between restraint and freedom. I add colour and shapes; I modulate according to my intuition and inspiration. Sometimes I cover a good part of the rust with acrylic or watercolour, because it eventually gets in the way. “Art is Man added to nature,” as Van Gogh said.

- You metaphorically mentioned photography earlier. Are you a photographer too?

I am. I always have been. I often take pictures of washed-out pieces of wood, or flaking paintwork, or the rusted metal parts you can find in junkyards. I’m so impressed by the special, odd beauty that I see in them. One thing they have in common is the way time alters them.
With my paintings and photos I unknowingly joined a Japanese philosophic movement that dates from the 12th century. It’s built on two principles: wabi (solitude, simplicity, nature and dissymmetry) and sabi (time-induced alteration, patina and the love of old things, etc.) Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic concept as well as a spiritual inclination. Wabi is about feeling humble in the face of natural forces. Sabi is about how you feel when confronted with the labour of Time or Man.
If I had to choose an artistic movement, it would be this one. I joined it unwittingly, and it perfectly fulfils to my “Japan cravings”. I always feel at home in Japan.

- Does this mean that you are also inspired by other painters or artistic movements?

No, I’m not. To me, painting is all about the pleasure of invention. For years I “fed” on exhibitions and books about painting. I like many painters and styles from different time periods. They must have left their mark on me, and I’m probably influenced by them without me knowing that I am or by whom I’m influenced. But I don’t like to draw my inspiration from someone else, or paint landscapes or real-life objects.
If I ever start to paint a picture with a precise idea in mind, it always changes as I go along. I always look for a path and a way of expressing who I am. I’m looking for my own language, so that someday I can find out what my style is.

- Why don’t your paintings have titles?

I want people to “invent” what they see. Sometimes viewers make me discover new meanings, stories or relationships I had never seen in my pictures. Each time I make people think or feel things, I win.

- Do you think this is related to the fact you work as a psychotherapist and psychiatrist?

Painting is a way of diving deep into yourself, becoming aware of what is sleeping in or rampaging around in your soul, and giving it a visible shape. Most of my pictures surprise me, just as you might be surprised by what you find out about yourself in therapy!