Introducing Raphaele Cohen-Bacry, 9/24/19

Q: How long have you been painting?

A: I started a few years after high school and became really involved in my practice more than 20 years ago.

Q: Who are some of your greatest influences?

A: My taste evolves all the time, depending on which direction my work takes me. For example, I just re-discovered Alfred Manessier who I think has not received the credit he deserves. I feel the same way about Raoul Dufy that I consider to be a very original artist. I have avidly studied  the works of Jean Dubuffet and Bram Van Velde. Dubuffet because of his never ending creativity and uplifting playfulness, and Bram Van Velde for the opposite.  I like Riopelle a lot, Jonathan Lasker,  the sculptor Belgian Arne Quinze, Louise Nevelson, and here in Los Angeles I pay close attention to Tomory Dodge, among many.

Q: What inspired you to get into the arts?

A: My interests have always been very diverse and I never wanted to limit my mind and curiosity to one area. Everything that helps better understand the mystery of life is fascinating to me. I have always been pursuing arts and sciences at the same time. Both the artist and the scientist  must have a creative mind and there is actually little difference between arts and sciences if you approach them as a way to enrich yourself. For me, they all are means to escape mediocrity. However, being an artist gives me more freedom as I can do it whenever I want, with very little means if necessary. I often feel like an alchemist. I look at my studio and all the paintings, sketches, half done works and so on, and I see a laboratory where I conduct experiments to create images.

Q: What was the first work of art you sold?

A: A nude study made with a piece of rope on canvas (white on white). I still talk to the collector and he still loves it.

Q: Why painting rather than another medium?

A: I am comfortable with all sorts of materials and I enjoy experimenting and pushing the medium as far as I can. I particularly like working on paper. Although I am primarily a painter, I also make sculptures, generally with found objects or unusual material (such as tree bark, gummy bears and marshmallows).

Q: What are your favorite materials to work with?

A: Today I am making a lot of collages on paper and canvas and I am researching the best way to make large ones.

Q: Why do you like using acrylic more than oil or watercolor?

A: I cannot say I like it better, and as a matter of fact I used oil for years back in Paris and I think this is unmatchable. But there have been a lot of improvement on acrylic paint and it is getting very close to the results obtained with oil, although it is still lacking the sensuality and mystery achieved with oil paint. I use acrylic mainly for its unique qualities such as resistance and rapidity to dry. It allows me to work on several large paintings at once.

Q: Do you have a message in your work?

A: I had several over the years. It changes  since I am evolving and my work is too. My latest research is about collage. This is an old practice that I always felt was underused or not in a very interesting fashion. What is innovative in the way I approach collages is the fact that I am using pictures of artworks from auction magazines. I tear and assemble images of famous art to create new images of my own. These collages evoke recurrent themes such as the new versus the old, the sublime versus the trivial, the famous versus the obscure. It is a fragmentary process that resembles the method of the archeologist who patiently reconstitutes and reveals a preexistent object, or the way a detective puts clues together to unveil the truth.And this is my way of re-purposing material and paying tribute to artists that came before me. 

Q: What is the philosophy behind your work?

A: I  recently had the chance to meet with 93 year old artist and mathematician Ivan Moscovich. He explained to me that he survived the Holocaust thanks to his creativity. This was a revelation for me as I had questioned for years what makes a person an artist and what motivates her. I now understand that being an artist is an attitude towards life and in some circumstances it can be an escape and a survival skill.