The work of the material
Jean-Philippe Richard has been a modeller for over thirty years. His view on sculpture is figurative, exclusively exploring non-realistic female form. He is a self-taught sculptor and works without model, which allows him to overcome the restraints of reality. He is an experienced technician despite his unconventional training: his first pieces made of bronze were cast in a craft foundry he created on his own in his Provencal village, where he has been based since the mid-1970’s. He then became intereted in in crystal casting, creating sculptures such as « Emeraude », before becoming one of the leading artists of the crystal manufacturer Daum. His latest experiences have lead him to use white or colored enamel, silver plating or nickel plating over large pieces, because, for Jean-Philippe Richard; the concept does not precede creation but is implied within the material.
His sculptures are recognizable thanks to their refined shape, that remains partially clamped in a rough base. The result, which is always striking, is a balance between a model sticking out of a crude mass and a visible impulse that makes the work of art look like it’s ready to fly off. Rodin's influence is unquestionable. The artist does not hesitate to acknowledge the master: it can be observed in "Devant la mer" or in nude figures such as "Pleine lune", and more recently in the series of "Femmes étoiles". These highly sensual but delicate works reveal, in their smooth motion, the power of shapes. The bodies are naked, even if sometimes pieces of well-draped fold of fabric remain along the curves, as in "Angelica".
Nevertheless, the work of Jean-Philippe Richard is primarily known for a second group of sculptures, made of profiles which are easily recognizable thanks to their shape, which looks like a stretched out "S".
These sculptures display an upright lean style and the sculptor does not hesitate on reworking the sacred Korè, an ancient Greek sculpture of the archaic period: serene face, thin body, arms restrained by a draped fabric, and, towards the bottom, the base may come back to its original, mineral form. Paradoxically, even though the bodies of his women are restrained and stretched out, they are also respected and idealized. The artist does not hesitate to emphasize on the anatomy of his models in order to reach his ideal of beauty, as Ingres did. Thus, for his full-length works, the artist is fond of a solemn hieratic figure, cut off the outside world, sculpted in the round. The sculptor shows in these works the manifestation of sensitivity; these women are beings lost in a parallel world that we are looking at from the outside, a world of a binary rhythms, symbolized by both strength and gentleness.
In this way, Jean-Philippe Richard gives to contemporary figurative sculpture a new simplicity in the representation of women as in ancient statuary. Classic and contemporary, he is an uncommon but popular artist, even if he has gone against the grain of the contemporary art world: the sculptor directs his work more and more towards timeless concepts of art: harmony, beauty, sensitivity, feelings. He has said: "Each sculpture should constitute an absolute maximum with few elements. Especially for the essential things: for example, to be able to see an expression even in an eyeless face".
Interview width Jean-Philippe
When did you entered for the first time in this studio ?
In 1980, I began to sculpt here.
The studio has seen so many studies and so many various experiments that I can not see myself working elsewhere. This place is part of me.
How do you create ?
I always start with no preconceived attitude : put in shape a new piece, add and remove clay and wait to be surprised by what happens. At one point, the sculpture is completed.
Or maybe never, actually.
In the studio, I remove the plastic that keep humity on the piece in progress, I water it to make it looks soft and shiny.
I always hesitate to restart, to get into what will make me spend great energy : to change some volume, or the position of a head.
In the morning I start with a fresh look at the work left at night in the dark. The sculpture is underway on its structure, I turned around and I rediscovered it, I assess the progress of work, and so on for several weeks or months.
What kind of clay do you use ?
I started right away with Bollène’s clay. I like a clay with a lot of chamotte. The colo ris also very important to me. When heated in the kiln, I adapt the temperature to achieve to find this pink beige color that varies with the strength of the Mistral wind.
What are your tools ?
Some pieces of wood and stones.
The studio appears also an experiment space for you ?
There are always in progress many tests of ongoing project , on enamel, metal, glass, marble or on other clays.
How do you do your bronzes ?
The original terra-cotta is removed from my studio by the foundry. It creates a first mold for the wax and then another one out from the wax for the bronze. The bronze sculptures come back to me raw. All that is welding, chasing and patina are made in the studio here by my assistant, Eric Ortiz I trained myself.