Vol. 4 Num 305 Wed. April 07, 2004  

Jean Dometti, a major painter from France
The artist and his lyrical mixed-media at the Bengal Foundation

Having met Jean Dometti -- a superb painter, based in Paris -- four times in Dhaka, one offers yet another slice of French 'sweetness and light'. This was done at Ambrosia Guest House recently, arranged by Andre Raynouard, the French Counsellor for Cooperation and Cultural Affairs. What has been possible and probable to deduct in ten minutes flat, with the help of Marie Crevecouer, a visiting French critique, is offered as below:

The Daily Star (TDS): Where do you think is the seat of fine arts now people say it is in New York or London. What is your conjecture?

Jean Dometti (JD): I believe, at this moment, it is London and nowhere else.

TDS: Have you had the opportunity to meet and examine some of the works of the artists of the Indian Subcontinent?

JD: When I go to various galleries, whether it be in Rio or anywhere else in the world, or even when reading magazines (that contain reproductions) about the works of Indian Subcontinent artists, I have always tried to examine their paintings, wherever I have been. In this manner I have gathered as much knowledge from their art, as I could possibly have done at this juncture of my life. Last time, I was here I had the opportunity to meet some of the Bangladeshi artists. I have spoken to some of the well-known artists that I came across at the Bengal Foundation press conference, and I find them adequately informed about what is going on in the parallel fine arts world in the West. Incidentally, I was born in Tunisia, once a French colony; today I'm 54 and what I have gleaned from the east too, I shall keep in my mind, as I go about my work. Even coloured saris, put out to wash, which I saw in my earlier visit, fascinated me and gave me food for thought.

TDS: You had the occasion to meet important artists of Bangladesh, ranging from Mohammed Kibria, to Rokeya Sultana and Ranjit Das during your last visit to Dhaka.

JD: Yes, I found that a superb evening with pleasant conversations. I hope to meet some more Bangladeshi artists during this visit, and I will be even visiting a tea garden, hopefully.

TDS: What is life like for a senior artist like you in Paris? Is it a "bowl of cherries" do you have a studio, house, car, contented family life, and other requisites of harmonious existence?

JD: (who had blushed deep on an earlier occasion at The Bengal Foundation Gallery, when asked about his vie d'amour) I am absolutely contented: I could not have asked for more.

TDS: How do you manage to concentrate and manage to fling unnecessary matters in life out of the window, as you go about your work?

JD: When I am in my studio I concentrate on my work, make a lot of sketches, preparing materials for my mixed media works, such as colours, canvas etc, and go about creating my large-sized paintings. This takes time, and bit by bit I get my work done.

Since I work on canvas, to put everything in place to give a 3-D effect, eventually, takes time. First of all, I have to prepare myself by drawing, which I must explain is very important in my work. I feel I'm like some archaeologist, I create an archaeological survey of places, which have disappeared. I do not represent the human figure but man is always present in my work through the tracks, signs and symbols, which are registered in each of his living spaces.

In my paintings I want to evoke timelessness, unchanging forces like the primal elements. I create the statements of these places, from them I draw: the essential, unchanging and timeless forces. My plastic approach is articulated around a fundamental technique which banishes the short-lived for the benefit of the essential. Meanwhile, as I go about my work, I do listen to music, which ranges from Mozart to Jazz; I read Louis F Celine and other French classical writers.

TDS: What did you think of the questions that the artists gathered at the press conference, held at The Bengal Foundation yesterday?

JD: I was not ruffled by the questions about the manner of creation of my paintings. They were there to gather information and I hope I provided them suitably. They asked about my vision and we had adequate rapport. What more could one ask for?

TDS: What were you carrying on about the "east" and the "west" during the press conference:

JD: I had said that Mohammed Kibria, one of the senior-most artists of Bangladesh, deserves more exposure in the West which will naturally take time. He deserves international artistic recognition. Kibria is definitely an artist whose works are definitely interesting I must add that there are a lot of informed and talented artists in Bangladesh. You understand that your country and its artists remain isolated, viewing the matter from an international angle.

Jean Dometti, born in 1950, has been living and working in Paris since 1960. He won the Young Engraver Prize in 1988. He has held over 15 exhibitions in Paris, Dublin and Quebec. His group exhibitions in France include five displays; his overseas expositions (between 1985 and 1986) include ones at Seoul; Mexico City; Beirut; Zamosz; Venice; Lunberg; Venice; California; Montreal and Quebec; Barcelona; Groningen; and in Dublin.

Jean Dometti's paintings in private and public collections in France and abroad include ones in France and Beirut.

'I want to evoke timelessness in my paintings' - Jean Dometti