At the start of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in France, the artist Jim Dine decided to isolate in his studio in Montrouge. In the quaint space, he had the ability to continue painting while accomplishing daily chores like cooking and doing laundry.
Usually, Dine is on the move. He’s spent decades working as an artist around the world, printing and exhibiting his work. He counts travel as one of his muses. Finding himself confined to home, he discovered a renewed ability to focus.
A few weeks ago, his show “Jim Dine: The Classic Prints” closed at Galerie Templon in Brussels. But for those in Paris who are now free to roam, they’re looking forward to Dine’s upcoming exhibition—a series of new paintings at the gallery there.
Whitewall spoke with Dine about his time in the studio, re-reading Stuart Kaminsky books for an escape, and how he’s been staying creative for 85 years—pandemic or lack thereof.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing during this time of confinement?
JIM DINE: Well, I have been confined since about March, beginning of March, and I chose to be confined in my studio where I have a small little bedroom, very small and simple, otherwise is a working studio, so it is like sleeping in a factory.
I cook here, I do my laundry, but mainly I paint. My life, almost all my life, I have been a restless soul and I have traveled to work on different projects. I have traveled to print all over Europe, Japan, and America, and it has been stimulating. The travel has very much been a muse, but I find that forced not to take an airplane, not take a train, not being able to move out of Paris for these two months has put me into a much more introspective state. And the painting has benefitted from that, I believe because I have given more careful regard. Not that I was sloppy before, but maybe there were things I put up with that I wouldn’t put up with now.
Every night, I am sitting in front of the painting. After dinner, I’m just contemplating and seeing things that I might not have seen or saw before. I’m very much observing, and I am very much regarding what I have done that day and what I have done for 85 years. So, it is a contemplative time.
WW: What are you listening to, reading, or watching?
JD: I am watching my paintings. I look at them very carefully. I also have in my studio exercise machines, and on my treadmill, I watch a movie every night. So, I have DVDs and Netflix, and that gets me through my exercise and gets my mind off of what is going on outside.
I am a great fan and aficionado of detective books—as they say in France, “policiers”—and I read as many as I can and then I throw them out. I also have a vast stash of my favorite author who is an American—now dead, Stuart Kaminsky—who has written about 60 books. I have a lot of them, so I read them over and over. It is a great escape.
WW: What are you cooking?
JD: I cook for myself. Actually, I cook for my wife part of the time, too. She is in her apartment, but I bicycle it over there. You can bicycle now in Paris. I would never do it for 20 years because it was so dangerous, but they’re a so few cars, so I bicycle it over there with my government permit and I drop off food that I cooked for that day, although she cooks too. I am getting tired of cooking though. I miss going to restaurants and I miss Chinese food.
WW: How are you staying connected?
JD: I stay connected by FaceTime, by email, and by Instagram a little bit. Mainly email and FaceTime, and I do it continually as though the person is there.
WW: How are you staying creative? Are you able to make work at this time?
JD: I keep working. I have always worked all my life, so nothing has really changed. I do not need to stay creative, whatever that means. I am 85 years old and I was born an artist.
Not in God; it’s in my work. It’s in the ability to stay alive; it’s in the ability to look at art in books now and on my telephone.