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

Jacques Poirier

Jacques Poirier

Jacques Poirier was born in Paris in 1928. His mother was a painter. In 1945 he went to the French National Art School in Paris. The following year he organized his first exhibition with three of his friends.
From 1950 to 1981 he continued to secretly paint when his work as an illustrator left him the time. In 1981 he declared that "the desire for happiness and security becomes more important with age" and decided to devote himself totally to painting.
During his childhood, Jacques Poirier lived surrounded by "things" that very often he did not know for what reason they were used. He used to hear words, and he didn't know what they meant. The vacuum cleaner was a horse, a set square was a gun, and the cat was hunted down game, or a sick person to operate on in emergency, with a Moorish style paper knife.
In a modest suburb, the grandfather used to live in a big house, that he in part built with his own hands. Antique columns in stucco made to look like veined marble, a sculpted stair bannister, panelling, doors with small bevelled window panes, lights and ornaments rescued from demolition companies.
Interesting discoveries were renewed all the time in this house, whether it be in the cellar, the loft or in the garden, that offered a vast expanse of land to explore.
And, there was the road... While, at the Parent's home, in Paris, where from the window of the minuscule habitation in the attic, you could see, by leaning forward, a noisy road, full of cars and adults. Here, in this road, along a rubble wall in ruin, covered in graffiti and sentimental low reliefs, Jacques Poirier used to meet up with his friends.
Close by, there was an abandoned empty lot, with wicked vegetation. In a vast pit with an indistinct shape, accumulated a great number of the most varied "things" that were of absolutely no use. This is how that the "gang" - with the rolling balls that they had discovered there - had made skateboards.
The most brilliant of all games, was the expedition "to the quarry" (1), at the top of the hill. This was strictly forbidden by the grandmother, because of the risk of triggering landslides and tragic death by suffocation."A mouth full of sand," she used to say. However, there was no possibility of acting a coward in front of his friends.
At the bottom of the quarry, on a network of narrow tracks that went into obscure tunnels, small carts were transformed into toys, until a dirty old man appeared and chased the gang away screaming obscenities and a kick in backside.
With an awful din, the fugitives hurtled down the hillside lanes on skateboards. On the paving stones, where they fell brutally, and most probably more that once, Jacques Poirier returned home to his grandparents, with bleeding knees and a kind of pale egg emerging from his disorderly hair. Of course, he did not talk about the quarry. It was only at school, when he was singing this verse of the Marseillaise, called the children's verse, that he shouted heartily: "... We shall enter in the quarry when our elders are no longer..."
After the bandaging, the Grandmother used to take out of the cupboard a little phial, announcing: "we are going to treat the bump with Arnica ."
When he was sternly told to stay quiet for the rest of the day, Jacques Poirier used to go and join the grandfather in his studio. A strong odor of tobacco, turpentine and dried roses, greeted him there. The cat hurried onto the sofa, and the grandfather, who was working on a painting installed at the easel, began to tell "jokes," as he used to call them. Funny stories, pun making, recollections of Art School with pranks and mystification, elaborated like genuine works of art.
The universe that he used to evoke was reassuring and very different from the miserable future predicted for Jacques Poirier, after having read his school reports (particularly in mathematics, where he did not have a "bump" but, it seemed to him a kind of cavity).
Finally, the grandfather, now perhaps aware of the dangerous illusions his words could have created in his grandson, got a grip on himself and concluded: "I certainly do not advise you to embark on this career ! As a job it's the pits! As a job it is no longer a career at all! Today, who still knows how to do the sculpture in the round ?"
Putting down his palette, brush, and his hand rest, he used to get up. "Come on! I am going to show you how people used to work!" From a filing cabinet, he took out wonderful charcoal drawings, that had been drawn on Ingres Paper. Nude men and women, in flesh or in stone, tragic or grotesque masks, chapiter ornaments, low reliefs (it's the sculpture in the round, he specified).
In fact, the subject of these works did not really appear amusing to Jacques Poirier, but he associated himself kindly with the admiration that the grandfather expressed for the "accomplished" and the "rendering" of these severe studio studies.
The grandmother and grandfather left this world a long time ago, with the house, the things, the cat, and the academic drawings. Today, there are no more expeditions to the quarry, no more bumps under Jacques Poirier's gray hair, but he continues to make puns and things.

The artist plays with the homonym of the words "carrière" and "bosse" wich are impossible to translate into English, while keeping the funny side of pun, that there is in French.

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