PARISIAN IN CHINA: THOMAS CANTO
Based in Shanghai, the French artist transposes his vision onto canvas and through installation. His perspective and attention to detail allows you to loose yourself through space and time. We met with him for an interview about his view on art, inspiration and his own personaly history.
Thomas, could you tell us more about your background?
I have been educated about art by my family. I have many memories of abstract works that I saw in museums and in books in my childhood. When I was 10 years old, a classmate, older than me, showed me photos and drawings of graffiti in a notebook. I was immediately attracted to these new forms of scriptures, composed by arrows and improbable angles. Later I started doing some tags in the bathrooms at school, as many people of my age did.
After some years, I met with local graffiti artist in my neighborhood. I was already doing some paintings for myself and seeing these large-sized murals painted in secret places, full of colour and energy, impressed me a lot. I had found a way of expression that suited me. I think this moment was decisive for me.
However, the use of only spray paint and the set format “lettering and/or character”, representing the standard at that time, appeared to me as limits to my creation. I started using other techniques and began studying art history with my art professor.
Thus, it was natural that I developed and that I started to paint on canvas, mixing all the techniques and subjects that I knew in order to get results very distant from traditional graffiti whilst keeping the elements that interested me from this form of expression.
Today, I think that graffiti was a formative time in my life. The act of measuring myself to the creation of monumental works, doing research on the dynamics and the balance that we can experiment when working on letters enriched my perspective of art. Experienced eyes of this culture can still and roots of graffiti in my actual art pieces.
What is your earliest memory of Art? What gave you the desire to be an artist?
My earliest memory of art is a book that my grand- father gave to me. It was about abstraction and it made me discover a lot of things about this artistic trend. I spent so many hours reading this book. To- day I still keep it in my bookcase.
The reason why I desired to become an artist is the happiness that I see in the eyes of people when they look at something that gives them emotions. I experienced this first hand when I was doing graffiti in public areas. This still has an influence on the installations I do today. For me, every spectator is the center piece of each of my art pieces.
Where do you usually find your inspiration?
For many years, I worked on the representation of architectural elements, such as abandoned factories and industrial structures that favor a useful structure while creating architectural spaces. I used to find these elements when traveling, such as the structures, both beautiful and oppressive, which I discovered in Hong Kong when working on my last series. These completely impregnated me.
My paintings were, at first, quite close to these architectural elements. Gradually, I stopped working based on pictures or sketches and started using only my memories and the feelings I had when sur- rounded by these locations.
This led me to create works more and more abstract and to play on several levels of perception, which allows me to transmit in a better way my emotions to every single spectator of my art pieces. This is even more obvious for my installations, that project the viewer into a unique world, where each element, the several perspectives, the shadows and the lights are just abstract elements to me.
When did you decide to transform your paintings into a 3-dimensional installation?
In the early 2000’s, I began working on various installations with painting continuing on the walls as if it was getting out of the canvases(escaping from the canvas). It was a first step in space occupation. Then I began to work on more immersive pieces with painting everywhere, the ground and ceiling included. It is at that time that I included optical effects in my pieces such as anamorphosis.
This development of my work was mostly influenced by research of George Rousse. More recently, I started transforming the lines and shapes I use in my art pieces into 3D structures in order to increase the levels that the viewer can perceive when he/she observes the installation. The spectator can feel projected in an other dimension.
These volumes as well as the wires I superimpose on each of my canvas show the evolution of my work to a more sculptural dimension. As I am working on the link between architecture and the human being, 3D appears to me as something obvious, as a way to communicate my feelings to the spectator, which becomes the center of my creations.