It’s a great pleasure for Aujourd’hui to have Olivier Kosta-Théfaine in the spotlight for one of our interviews. Born in Bezons in 1972, Olivier lives and works in Paris, where he started as a self-taught artist and graffiti writer. His work has been widely exhibited around the world with solo exhibitions at Galerie Jeanrochdard (Paris/Brussels), Steinsland Berliner (Stockholm), Underdogs (Lisbon) and participations in group exhibitions at Bryce Wolkowitz (New York), Foundation Cartier pour l'art contemporain (Paris), Palais de Tokyo (Paris) among many others. Read the interview to discover how flowers were a mirage while growing up in the suburb and why this is so important to understand his Jardins à la Française.
You are a self taught artist who started with graffiti. How did it affect your technique and your career in the art world?
Graffiti gave me the chance to look at the city in a different way, to observe it in detail. This is the basis of my work, the details, the ultra neglected, the things that other people do not see or are not interested in.
Did growing up in the Paris suburbs give meaning to the rough materials that you use in your work? How did your environment affect your practice? (Steel, Concrete, Glass, etc)
For years, the city was the only place I knew. My artistic practice is definitely linked to my own environment and the places where I used to live and came from. I was a kid from the Parisian suburbs and in my daily life concrete was definitely more present than flower fields.
Let’s talk about process. How does your work take shape?
Every work or series is created in the same conditions. Most of the time it comes from details seen in a close environment, that I archive and forget for most of the time. Then it reapers at some point, either in my studio, my computer, or next to another detail. When they match and create a new meaning and tell a new story together, it becomes an option for a future work. My work is always connected to this idea of drifting, and by extension, to fortuity. In a city that I don’t know, what I love is to get lost in the street and the goal is that I maybe make a “beautiful encounter”.
In 2014 you had a solo exhibition at Underdogs Gallery – Ideal Standard. What was your experience like in Portugal?
Lisbon is an incredible city. I really enjoyed staying in Portugal for a while and working with Underdogs. Ideal Standard was an exhibition that deals with the city, in a poetic way. The most beautiful piece in the show was definitely the lemon tree surrounded by a wall surmounted by broken glass. I discovered it in the small alleys of the old part of Lisbon and reactivated it in the middle of the gallery space. It’s a perfect example of the “beautiful encounters” that I was previously talking about.
For Aujourd’hui, "glass gardens" is one of your most remarkable works. How did the idea come about?
Originally, the “Jardin à la Française” (also know as “Classical Garden”) is a garden with an aesthetic and symbolic ambition. It carries art to correct nature, to impose a symmetry. It expresses the desire to excite in the vegetation the triumph of order over disorder, culture over wild nature, reflection over spontaneity. Long story short, the idea behind the garden was to create an aesthetically designed sculpture with objects (several tons of broken beer bottles) that usually drive a certain idea of chaos.
What is your relationship with other artists? Have you curated any projects?
To share is an important part of life. I have curated events and supported a lot of artists through the two magazines I created in the past. I always think about working together with other people.
How do you see your work evolving?
I haven’t made any plans. I just don’t want to follow any dictate, and I definitely want to stay far away from any stupid form of competition.
Any future projects?
I am in the middle of several oportunities and proposals but everything takes time. However, I have been invited by B.P.S.22 to create a permanent installation for the city of Thuin, Belgium, in the framework of Mons 2015, Capitale Européenne de la Culture. I'm also currently part of Club of Matinee Idolz at Co2 in Torino and a solo exhibition is planned at Galerie Jeanrochdard (Paris) for the end of 2015.
Exlusive interview by Aujourd'hui
Images courtesy of the artist, Galerie Jeanrochdard and Underdogs Gallery.
Olivier Kosta-Théfaine - www.olivierkostathefaine.com