First published: Summer 2020

For French artist Jean-Marc Renault, his portraits and embellished hoods are about creating – not hiding – his identity

Jean-Marc Renault is a teacher, specialising in the support of pupils with learning difficulties. He is also a family man and a self-taught artist. He lives with his wife, three daughters and his grand-daughter in the Paris suburb of Bezons, and works five days a week in a local school helping young children to master reading and counting. In his spare time, he draws portraits and makes dolls. He also creates – and wears – brightly coloured, face-obscuring hoods.

Renault’s compulsion to create is fuelled by his need to say something, and he finds that in the freedom of expressing himself he becomes oblivious to the passage of time. Born in Argenteuil in 1964, his first significant creative inspiration came when he was ten years old. His mother used to give him postage stamps depicting well-known works of art, which young Renault then reproduced on paper. These artworks – by Derain, Dufy, Seurat, Cézanne, Rouault, as well as some paintings of the Lascaux caves – provided him with a foundation of artistic knowledge.
 

Hood, 2015–2019, fabric, embroidery, thread and mixed media, 8 x 15.5 x 10 in. / 20 x 40 x 25 cm, photo: Christophe Sabaratos

He started drawing in earnest when he was 18 or so, first in pencil, ink and acrylic paints, then moving on to ballpoint pens: just black ones at first, then ones in vivid colours. This medium – which he has been using in his drawing ever since – was chosen for its simplicity and efficiency, he says. Later, in 2010, he also began using colour pencils and felt pens. Some of his drawings take just a few minutes to complete, others are created over a few days, but either way Renault likes to work in daylight to achieve the colours he wants.

In 1985, Renault found another way to express his creativity. He had seen Ran, a Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa, and although – not speaking Japanese – he couldn’t follow the plot, he was struck by the on-screen images of soldiers facing one another, each with a coloured flag. This inspired the artist to collect multi-coloured fabrics: t-shirts, jackets, shirts and other garments. Later, he specifically gathered the old clothes of his children and other relatives, thus creating a kind of conceptual family tree. In the early 1990s, he moved on to using the material to make rag dolls.

Renault had his first exhibition in 1999, showing his postage stamps at the post office in Liège; then, in 2004, his drawings and dolls went on display for the first time, in Jacques Noël’s renowned bookshop, “Un Regard Moderne”. That same year, his dolls, drawings, paper skulls, and monotypes were exhibited at the gallery of Halle Saint Pierre in Paris.

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #106.

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