Surfing, drawing, travelling
“My name is Celine Chat, I’m 36, and I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. I started painting a lot when I began traveling 15 years ago. Before that, I studied physics and chemistry, which was totally useless. I got the desire to travel, and so I traveled...”
Céline Chat came to Vieux-Boucau, south of the Arcachon Bay, to customize a surf board which will be displayed in Peniche, Portugal, for the GromSearch final.
Here is some more info on this friendly and devoted painter.
It gave me a lot of time to create, and all the different cultures that I met inspired that creativity. I started painting a lot and trying new techniques, I was lucky enough to meet reporters who wanted to write articles about me, and then I was offered the chance to display my work. I went back to France during the summers, and there I would exhibit my work, in Biarritz among other places.
* What have you learned from all this traveling?
Little by little, doors opened and I was invited to go to the US, where I was asked to display my work at Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, in LA. Then, I was invited to join a major festival on surfing culture in Brazil. There were shapers, movie makers, artists, photographers,… it was a big deal for me because I realized that I wasn’t the only one doing what I did.
A lot of people are out there, wanting to open themselves up, to share their thoughts, their optimism, and their culture. It was such a great step for me. Recently I went to a 10-year retrospection of art throughout the world. It was organized in a beautiful setting in Manosque (French Alps), within the Carzou foundation, over 3200 sq. feet of structures and a huge sculpture.
I started sculpting this past winter; I made an 8 ft. tall, 11 ft. long and 3 ft. wide one sculpture of a strong, big-boned, Hawaiian-like surfer with a steel wave over him. That sculpture has allowed me to close the circuit when it comes to surfing. My work, nowadays, doesn’t focus solely on surfing anymore, although it still does on the sea and travelling.
My drawings and my art in general are more directed towards society. You’ll find it analyses the media, overconsumption, etc. However, surfing remains for me a way to illustrate values that I hold dear. The character that I sculpted is standing in a particular position: he has an open stance, as if he’s going forward, but at the same time he feels vulnerable because of the steel wave that represents hardships and the driving forces that push him to accomplish things …
* Do you surf?Yes, I do, it’s part of the reasons I decided to travel. Of course I wanted to discover the world, but I also wanted to see how it was done elsewhere. I needed to leave my comfortable family environment. I’m from Hyères-les-Palmiers, which is a tiny, affluent and protected town. I got tired of it; I needed a good shake up. When we leave France, my boyfriend and I spend 6 months in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Morocco, we spend the winter there.
We’re not going from place to place constantly, we take the time to set up and see how people live, to spend time with them and to reflect on the differences with our society. It’s very interesting and enriching.
* Would you say that your art evolved thanks to surfing?No, I wouldn’t put in like that, but it is thanks to surfing that I got my first interesting contacts, and my first exhibits. The most important things that happened did come from the surfing world…
* Does traveling put things into perspective for you?It does a little; it pushes me to question myself. When you’re surfing, you’re usually near small villages. Because I’m a woman, people in foreign countries already perceive me in a certain way; and in some places, women don’t have the same status as women in France. They see you as a carefree female who is surfing while they are working, taking care of their families and husbands. They’re not used to that. In some ways, it makes you realize how lucky and privileged you are.
* Is there one country in particular that has struck you most?I’ve been to Indonesia quite a lot; I know the country and the language well. I would say that country has had the most effect on me, but it didn’t necessarily impact my graphic style. I come from a region which is very rich, culturally speaking.
All the great art masters of centuries past went through there at one time or another: Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Van Gogh, Cezanne… So, not only do I have this heritage, but I also grew up in the manga era. I’m a very inquisitive person, I buy and read lots of art magazines and books, and I love cartoon strips in newspapers.
Art is made to reflect the world we live in, it must be related to our society, and so in my drawings you will find a lot of real things, like this pharmacy and the satellite dishes (editor’s note: she points to details on her board). They are representative of our society trying to offset its existential anguish rather than turning to the important things, like human relations.
My drawings reflect my way of seeing things; they have a personal touch to them. But still, my work is greatly influenced by the artists that I admire.
* When does one decide that drawing is going to be it?I don’t think it’s up to you. It’s a tough question actually (she smiles). It wasn’t easy for me, I find pleasure and satisfaction in doing it but I constantly doubt myself, and criticize my work. It’s never good enough, and that gets tiresome. Living off of one’s passion is a great freedom but a price comes with it: compromises and personal drama. At the moment, I do fine, but I get frustrated from time to time as I would really like to be working on bigger structures; however, I’m limited financially and space-wise.
I would need to rent a warehouse, and I think it’ll eventually happen, but I don’t come from a rich family, so it takes time and a lot of effort, which can be tough. I decided to make a living solely from my art 2 years ago, I don’t have another job on the side, so there are good days and there are bad ones.
* I can see that you use different techniques: collage, markers, paints…Yes, that’s also a way to illustrate the world we live in, with its diversity, its interactions and mixes. I started with acrylics, oils and collages only, and about two years ago, it’s as if all I had learnt suddenly came together. Now, I can’t create without mixing matter, colors and aspects. I think it’s also synonymous with globalization, with the growing exchanges between countries, and the cultural exchanges that are bringing change.
When I started traveling 15 years ago, the Indonesians dressed differently from us, especially in the isolated surfing spots. Now, they’re better dressed than me, they follow fashion, which is new.
* On this board we can also see references to nature, ecology, music…Yes, that’s the theme for this board. I believe that the artist must play his small part, at one point. Everybody can have their own opinion about this, but I think that if I get to display my work, then I’m responsible for the message that I communicate. Music is international.
Vibrations, surfing, rock ‘n roll, and nature, they’re all things I love. My drawings are first and foremost a tribute to all this. Protecting nature is a clear message, I think it’s understood everywhere, and I want it to be seen in my work through the use of colors, graphics, and also matter.
* Do you have some favorite artists?Many, actually. Every time I go to Paris, I visit galleries and museums, I think it’s important to see what others are doing, in order to contextualize and evaluate one’s own work. Being inspired is crucial, that’s how art evolves. When I love someone’s work, I try to understand how they did it, and I try out their techniques. Of course, I’m not going to copy their design or their drawings, but if I like the technique, I’ll try it.
Right now, I’m really into Alëxone’s work. I love his colors, they speak to me and I love how he mixes and fits loads of different drawings together. I also like Basquiat, he’s simple but at the same time strong and violent while his color orchestration is delicate and soft… I’m fascinated with how this is all contrasted.
I love Picasso, but I think I’m saturating a bit. Intellectually, I’m very much drawn to the way he worked with colors.
When you’re looking at a Picasso, your eyes get a work out, you can’t pull away. In my opinion, when a painting is successful, it will draw you from one point to another, just like when you’re watching fire or waves. If after 2 seconds of looking at a painting, you’re done, then it’s just not a very interesting one.
I also like Banksy, but he’s not reflected in my work. I loved the documentary he directed “Exit through the gift shop”. He’s a genius, he remains genuine despite the impact he’s had; and he wants to remain anonymous at a time when everyone uses social networks to try to get some kind of recognition. Maybe it’s a marketing trick to get everyone to talk about him! He manages to pinpoint what is happening in the world and to summarize it in a few brush strokes.
I love the drawing of a black kid sitting on a pile of garbage, wearing a t-shirt saying: “I hate Mondays.” What a statement! It’s really made me think about the contrast between our life and the rest of the world, about how lucky we are… You can tell he’s a very compassionate artist. Even if all the artists that went through Versailles are geniuses, something is missing, they’re not invested enough to want to try to make people think.
* You’re right, and I would add that there’s something ‘democratic’ about surfingYes, a board is not an expensive item, and you can even make one for free. When I went to Brazil, I met a guy who founded a surf club in the Favelas; he did that so that the kids wouldn’t be attracted by the drug trafficking world, but also to teach them about values – sharing, helping, fighting. There are so many spots where surfing gives kids who are too bored something to do.
* What’s next for Céline Chat?Well, I think I’ve reached my quota for flat media, for the moment. I want to do something else, to paint on other things. I’ve just inherited an old Vespa and I’ve decided to paint it. I also have plans to paint old wreckages all over the world. I painted a rescue boat in Indonesia and an old fisherman’s boat in Bretagne. It’s a good way to bring art where there is none, and it’s my way of acknowledging Street Art.
I take pictures of the finished work, and hopefully when I get to about thirty, I’ll be able to publish a booklet of them. It’s definitely a not-for-profit project, it’s my own money going into it, and I know I should try finding sponsors and people to help me out.
Being imaginative is never a problem for me, but finding money is a whole different story. A lot of people say that art is a passion, but when you go get your bread at the bakery, you have to pay for it.
The wreckage project is going to take some time, but it will eventually happen with a little self-esteem and by meeting the right people. Maybe luck has some place here too, but I think that if you want something to happen, you just need to make it happen.