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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Jérôme Lagarrigue

Jerome Lagarrigue (b. August 18, 1973) is an award-winning French painter and illustrator. His illustrating and painting work ranges from boxing scenes to children's books.


Lagarrigue was born in Paris, France to a father who was an illustrator and painter, and a mother who was a journalist and writer. As a child, he was schooled in France, but spent summers in New York, where he now lives. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, with a major in illustration, in 1996. Two years later, Parsons School of Design made him professor of drawing and painting.

Jérôme Lagarrigue
Born in Paris in 1973, lives and works in New York.



Rhode Island school of Design, BFA, Major: illustration


Recipient of the villa Medicis grant and residency program, Rome, Italy

Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe award for best new talent (for Freedom Summer, Simon & Schuster ed.)
Ezra Jack Keats award for best illustrator (for Freedom Summer, Simon & Schuster ed.)

Marion Vanett Ridgway award for best illustrator (for My Man Blue, Dial Penguin ed.)

Joseph Lefevre excellence award in painting, Rhode Island school of Design

Excerpts from an interview with the artist during his exhibition « Paesaggio del viso » at the Villa Médicis in Rome (september-october 2006)

Federico Nicolao: Your representation of faces makes us experiment a kind of new attitude, far from the traditional descriptions one can find in painting: as if your portraits aimed at penetrating an « elsewhere » of your characters.

Jerome Lagarrigue:  (…) Intimate architectures such as faces, developed on a very large scale, become a territory of encounters where I get in relation with a person seen as an architecture which I ignore myself. (…) On over-sized dimensions, the brush-strokes, a shade of tone, a move of spatula, tell us what is hidden behind what we saw a thousand times. In this spacial context, one can feel the parallel between the idea of a portrait and that of an architecture, as if it were the right direction to try and answer the dilemmas each painter is supposed to confront himself with. Like this old story of the fragile frontier between abstraction and figuration. Sometimes, as I observe the way a look, a smile, a thought or a nose appear, through brush strokes, with immense zones to fulfil, I assume that we try to give human figures to what does have any.

J.L. : One thing which I particularly like is using printed materials or their equivalent on a computer screen in order to fragment the portraits I paint. Division and fragmentation of the model are an aspect which has always been worth of interest and new technologies seem to push always more in this direction: watching deep within the substance of the subject. Artists have always been motivated by a desire to free themselves from a necessity to stick to reality but, paradoxically since almost a century, new tools such as photography, cinema and satellite views allow the artist to broaden his vision and pursue his personal quest.

"Boxing" by Richard Peduzzi and Cecilia Trombadori.

At first hand, Jérôme Lagarrigue seems to fully reveal his infinitely complex and yet infinitely simple nature.  His roots are composite: he is French and American, his education and *spirit roaming freely between two continents.  He owes his artistic sensibility to his father, Jean Lagarrigue, whose work is a great influence.  The two now seem to be passing the torch back and forth, Jerome in return influencing his father, with whom he shares a fascination for what lies in the depths of a man’s glance.  Everything in his painting becomes tinged with humanity, the walls of the Coliseum seemingly turning and revolving around themselves, much like the Earth itself. In the manner of a tightrope walker, Jérôme is constantly seeking out the balance and bond linking the different origins emanating from him, which dance to the sound of swing or be-bop and can be sensed as much in his vision as in his way of moving, speaking, observing, painting and portraying the world.  Perhaps it is this internal rhythm that guides him along, bringing his soul’s temperaments together in harmony, the various viewpoints livening his gaze and assembling the vivid identity that is his, which far from being artificial and contrived is revealed to us as something quite straightforward, natural and spontaneous.The paintings created by Jerome during his stay at the Villa Médicis in 2006 were the result of his study of the human face, and more particularly that which resides in the eyes of men, in relation to the architecture and the geography of the urban landscape; he roamed the city of Rome and the Romans’ faces, tamed them through his hypnotic movements, painted their portraits.  The Villa and the city were somewhat of a live working laboratory to him, a constant source of inspiration, creation and freedom of expression.  The result was stunning; larger-than-life sized portraits and landscapes, each containing several paintings within, each piece part of a larger ensemble of work and yet all stemming from a different perspective: the emphasizing of light or of shadow, of depth perception or color, blurredness here and contrast there… he seems to want to gather together all possibilities in one single solution, constantly approaching and then backing away from his subject as if to better grasp it, searching for everything in a detail and the detail in everything, practically physically confronting his subject as if to possess it while constantly maintaining eye contact, as if in dance, or even and precisely so, in combat.  To never let one’s guard down, to never look away, to scrutinize the opponent’s slightest of moves in order to guess his/her thoughts, emotions, weaknesses as well as the forces that will him/her to exist.This may be the origin of the new series of paintings that Jérôme will be showing in his Parisian exhibition.  It’s as if his search, which during his stay at the Villa Médicis was still in an exploratory phase and moving in different directions of attraction and sanctum, has finally found its true course and a more defined objective.  He seems to have taken a step back from the heart of the action, no longer residing in the midst of combat, his perspective having changed to that of invisible and privileged spectator to the most intimate and hidden moments, and movements.  Jérôme’s vision has moved closer to the subject at hand, poring over passing glances, perceiving and transcribing a pause for breath, the variations of heat emanating from the flesh, as well as the feelings that bring it to life. There is once again the longing to penetrate the canvas’ space and render it accessible as well as vibrant, as if the image itself isn’t enough on its own to satisfy his desire for understanding and portrayal, as if he wants to incorporate other possibilities to the painting such as theater or film.  We are constantly penetrated by the intense and even violent passion of his work, the faces’ and shoulders’ features, his touch and workmanship as well as his choice of colors and very unique way of “framing” his subjects, extremely forthright and often stark and brutal. And yet, there is always a strong sense of tenderness and goodness in his paintings, feelings that resemble his true nature.  In the depth of his own eyes can be found an element of surprised and sincere curiosity, detailed attention to and a particularly profound respect for that which, and those whom he paints.  Far from conveying the rambunctious animality of hand-to-hand combat, he chooses to transmit a spare and silent image, just like the memories one has of a dream: the detail of a wounded eye, the white of a towel against a dark nape, the choreography of two souls facing each other in the dark: breathless and tense, fastened together, skin on skin.The day he presented his work to the Academy of France in order to become a resident, Jérôme was smiling; a powerful yet light physical energy, also to be found in jazz musicians, dancers and boxers, sprang from within him.

"Boxing" Texte de Richard Peduzzi et Cecilia Trombadori

Jérôme Lagarrigue semble révéler, dès le premier abord, entièrement sa nature, à la fois infiniment complexe et infiniment simple. Ses racines sont composites : il est français, et américain ; son éducation et son cœur se promènent entre deux continents; sa sensibilité artistique il la doit à son père, Jean Lagarrigue, influencée par le travail de ce dernier, un passage de flambeau s’est installé entre les deux hommes; à son tour il semble influencer son père ; comme Jean, il est fasciné par le regard des hommes; dans sa peinture tout devient humain, les murs du Colisée semblent, tel le monde, tourner et se déplacer sur eux-mêmes. Comme un funambule, il cherche constamment l’équilibre et le trait d’union entre ces différentes origines qui tour à tour s’emparent de lui, comme dans une danse, qui ressemblerait à un swing ou à un Be Bop, qu’il porte en soi, tant dans sa manière de voir, de se déplacer et de parler, tant dans sa façon d’observer, de peindre et de représenter le monde. Peut-être est-ce ce rythme interne qui le guide, qui réunit et harmonise les différents tempéraments de son âme, les différents points de vue qui animent son regard et recompose cette identité bariolée qui, loin d’être artificieuse et affectée, se révèle à nos yeux simple, naturelle, spontanée. Les tableaux que Jérôme a réalisés lors de son séjour à la Villa Médicis, en 2006, étaient le fruit d’une étude du visage humain et du regard, en particulier, en relation avec l’architecture et la géographie du paysage urbain ; il a rôdé dans la ville de Rome et sur le visage des romains, les a apprivoisés de ses mouvances hypnotiques, en a fait des portraits. La Villa et la Ville semblaient être pour lui une sorte de laboratoire vivant, une source constante d’inspiration, de création et de liberté d’expression. Le résultat était surprenant. Il s’agissait de portraits et de paysages réalisés en grand format, à l’intérieur desquels il était possible discerner de nombreux autres tableaux, représentant chacun une parcelle du tableau d’ensemble, et chacun effectué selon une perspective particulière : par ici domine la lumière , ou une ombre, par là ressort un relief, ou une couleur, l’un est flou, l’autre contrasté, … il semble vouloir rassembler chaque possibilité en une seule solution, approcher et reculer constamment du sujet pour le cerner entièrement, chercher le tout dans le détail et le détail dans le tout, l’affronter presque physiquement pour le posséder, tout en maintenant ferme le contact du regard, point de départ et feu crucial, comme dans une danse ou même – et justement - un combat. Jamais baisser la garde, jamais détourner les yeux, suivre et étudier les mouvements de chaque centimètre du corps de l’adversaire pour en deviner les pensées, les émotions, les points faibles ainsi que la force. Telle est, peut-être, l’origine de la nouvelle série de tableaux, qu’il présente à l’occasion de cette exposition parisienne. C’est un peu comme si sa recherche, qui lors de sa permanence à la Villa semblait encore en phase de fouille, se dirigeant vers différents points, à la fois d’attraction et de repère, avait enfin trouvé une issue, une cible plus définie. En effet, il semble ici avoir pris du recul par rapport au cœur de l’action, il ne se situe plus lui-même à l’intérieur du combat. Sa perspective a changé: il observe cette fois le mouvement en tant que spectateur - mais un spectateur parfois invisible et privilégié qui aurait accès aux moments et aux mouvements les plus cachés et intimes, qui aurait droit à une vision plus rapprochée du sujet - ; il scrute les croisements des regards, devine et transcrit les pauses de respiration, la variation de chaleur émanant des corps, ainsi que les sentiments qui les animent. Encore une fois on y retrouve une volonté de pénétrer l’espace de la toile et de le rendre accessible et dynamique à la fois, comme si l’image ne suffisait pas à elle seule pour satisfaire son désir de compréhension et de représentation, comme s’il voulait intégrer à la discipline de la peinture d’autres possibilités, relevant du théâtre et du cinéma. On est sans cesse pénétrés par sa passion intense, presque violente, par les traits des visages et des épaules, par sa touche et sa facture et par le choix de ses couleurs ainsi que par la façon si singulière qu’il a de « cadrer » ses sujets, extrêmement directe, souvent crue et brutale. Et en même temps, on voit jaillir de ses peintures tendresse et bonté, sentiments qui lui ressemblent.. Dans son regard, une curiosité étonnée et sincère, une attention et un respect très particuliers pour ce et ceux qu’il peint ; loin de vouloir nous renvoyer l’animalité bruyante du corps à corps, il nous en transmet une image épurée et silencieuse, semblable au souvenir que l'on garde d'un rêve: le détail d’un œil blessé par ici, le blanc de la serviette contre une nuque noire par là, la danse de deux âmes qui s’affrontent dans l’obscurité, pantelants et tendus, accrochés l’un à l’autre, l’un contre l’autre. Le jours où il a présenté son travail au concours pour devenir pensionnaire à l’Académie de France à Rome, Jérôme était souriant ; il émanait de lui une énergie physique, puissante et légère, la même que l’on retrouve chez les musiciens de jazz, les danseurs, ou les boxeurs.

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