On May 16, the contemporary French artist Daniel Hourdé will present an exhibition entitled “So Close to Paradise” at La Chapelle Saint-Louis de la Salpêtrière. In partnership with l’Assistance Publique—Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), the exhibition will feature new works, including four bronze statues and installations of colored paper and charcoal drawings of the human form. For him, it’s a dream come true.
“It is a dream to see my work in such an incredible space,” says Hourdé. “The history of the site, the austerity of the interior, the dramatic spatial opportunities for my larger sculptures and installations—it reframes how one interacts with the work and breathes new life into the religious symbolism that has been a great influence.”
Ahead of its opening, we spoke with the artist about the new show, his very first work of art, and where in Paris he likes to go for his art fix.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your latest exhibition, “So Close to Paradise.”
DANIEL HOURDE: It is an exciting experience and a challenge to exhibit in La Chapelle Saint-Louis de la Salpêtrière—a place of such an architectural dimension where I am preceded by prestigious artists such as Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer, Gerard Garouste, Nan Goldin, and Ernest Ernest Pignon.
Moreover, I am convinced of the persistent links between the sacred and Contemporary art. The themes of my sculpture include more or less conscious mythological or biblical reminiscences. Classical, and all the more so Judeo-Christian, iconology is inscribed in our DNA.
The immensity of the central dome of the exhibition space immediately inspired me to create a work with an equally immense vertiginous fall. I imagined an installation, an accumulation of thousands of anatomical charcoal drawings on metal rather than paper, transforming the drawings into sculpture. This inexorable departure evokes a joy of going down to Hell as much as a perilous adventure mounted towards Paradise.
WW: The show includes four bronze statues and installations of drawings printed on metal, and you’re known for drawing inspiration from biblical stories and symbolism. How do these installations follow that creative thread?
DH: Indeed, the biblical stories are at the heart of the inspiration for these new sculptures, but their interpretations belong just as much to personal mythologies. The theme of the central installation is both the ascent to Paradise and the descent into Hell.
Four large monumental sculptures and two other installations occupy the naves. Among them, a mysterious bronze boat stranded on the edge of Hades, whose shipwrecked passengers seem to have fled to Paradise. Some of the sculptures evoke more or less the resurrection, while others evoke characters trying confusedly to escape their own demons. In addition, two huge crowns of celestial blue spines filter the zenithal light of chapel’s stained-glass windows.
It is in order to better translate the mythologies of our time that my sculpture reinterprets the classical cannons.
The printing of drawings on folded metal in space allows me to change dimension and move from drawing to sculpture.
The choice of using the traditional material of bronze made with the art of lost-wax casting is deliberately provocative in the context of Contemporary art. These pieces draw further integrity from this architectural space, built in the seventeenth century at the request of Louis XIV.
WW: What theme is conveyed in “So Close to Paradise”?
DH: We are never far from Paradise. I recently had a tour of exhibitions at historic locations throughout Brazil titled “Paradise in Progress.” This exhibition, “So close to Paradise,” continues along this them. As for the next… I will see where it takes me.
WW: What was the very first piece of art you ever created?
DH: I painted olive trees in Provence. It must have been premonitory of my sculpture.
WW: Tell us about an average day in your studio. What is it like?
DH: In the morning, I work with my assistant to make waxes for the sculptures. In the afternoon, I draw. It is a quieter time, more conducive to inspiration.
WW: When in Paris, where do you go to see art?
DH: I go to museums regularly to see and review works from the permanent collections. The Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre of course, but also the Petit Palais Museum, the Musée Victor Hugo, and the Quai Branly Museum.
WW: What are you working on next?
DH: I am working on extensions of this exhibition, “So Close to Paradise,” in other places, likely next year in Venice. The transposition of a part of the exhibition I had made on the Pont des Arts after its collapse is also in progress for the passage Récamier in Paris. In terms of brand-new works, I am realizing a sculpture of lightning12 meters high in a property in Sologne, the creation of a new altar for l’église de Saint-Sulpice in Paris and a huge book in shimmering stainless-steel sheets.