PHOTOGRAPHY SIMON SCHWYZER
WORDS MARINA ROMITI
Born in France (1963) Xavier Veilhan has chosen Paris as his home base for his work, which is now exhibited in galleries and private and public collections worldwide. His works, which arise from a conceptual idea, are exemplified in a deep knowledge and ability of manufactural and technological artistic techniques: cinema, video, monumental painting, photography, site specific installations, sculpture, design, music, architecture. Many are his collaborations with artists, architects or musicians: from Daniel Buren to Renzo Piano to the Air group. From the exhibition Veilhan Versaillles (2009) he is one of the most acclaimed French artists of today.
When and how did you realise you where an artist?
When I started introducing myself to others as “artist”, I guess.
During your life as an artist have you ever destroyed one of your own works?
Oh sure. Pieces sometimes fall off the truck, you know. Accidents happen.
Modern feminism depicts women dominating or making fun of stereotypes. Through fashion women have managed to get back in charge of their femininity. Art is also working outside of stereotypes, do you also find this contemporaneity interesting?
I don’t try to escape stereotypes. I am most of the time only trying to spot them. There are strong stereotypes in art, and also some funny ones.
Do you let yourself be fascinated by places?
Most of my work consists in being aware of my environment, trying to catch its essence: so you have to immerge yourself and at the same time keep a distance from the places you are working in or with.
You have worked with musicians from Air, with Sebastian Tellier, but which music do you enjoy listening to?
Rock Steady, RnB, 90’s hip hop, radical electronic, trance, minimal, Pink Floyd, Plasticman, Glenn Gould, Frank Ocean, Debussy, Ariel Pink, Flavien Berger, Christophe Chassol, reggae roots...
Speed stimulates you, the RAL 5015 boat created in collaboration with the shipyards Frauscher is a work of art, but also a functional object. It has been written of your passion for neo-futurism, but isn’t it an idea, in a platonic sense, of the artist as an humanist and as a scientist like in the Renaissance?
Maybe it is, yes, but it is not up to me to pretend this; I do think there is a strong link between the specificity of man and making the object. We must also not underestimate pleasure. It is the reason for my love of art: it satisfies me like nothing else does.
Also the Jet d’Eau, exhibited at the Palace of Versailles, reflects an idea of the past, but through a new perception: the water is no longer the music used to delight the ear of Louis XIV, but it becomes a design that science and physics changes in the colours of the rainbow. How much of this new vision that you have given us is romantic?
The Jet d’Eau was like a hidden piece, although it was almost 100 meter high: most of the visitors thought it had always been there. My idea was simply to create this piece as I imagined Louis XIV would have done, if he would have had the same technical possibilities in his time.
The documentary “256 Jours” tells the story of your life, is it only the beginning of your own biographical story, narrated by words and images?
The life of an emerging artist can be tough but funny to look upon, because he is constantly jumping from one thing to another, escaping the chaos, just like in this movie. Jordan Feldman followed me everywhere: I was surprised to suddenly realise how discontinuous my professional life was!
In your work you use photography, sculpture, architecture, site-specific installations, video and tradition reinterpreted by the artist himself: it becomes an universal language, such as in the monumental affresco exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo. This truly is art, is it not?
I am a conceptual artist that loves making any kind of objects or images. The urge to create a certain type of work is always linked to an initial program and goal, and you sometimes find it within the object you are looking for.