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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Didier Mouron

Didier Mouron Self-portrait                                       
The Passage, 1983, Didier Mouron
My interest in art as a child was more architectural than graphic. When I was about six or eight years old, my mother began thinking about our building a new house on a vacant lot next to where we live. She began studying house plan magazines. So did I. I caught the building bug. Mother never built her new house on the lot next door but I did. I built several there, in fact. I would took a rake and lay out life-sized (for me at the time) "houses" by raking grass or leaves into imaginary walls. My "houses" were all on one floor, of course. I never figured out how to rake grass or leaves into a two-story structure. Later, I began doing the same on blank newsprint, and sill later on graph paper. The house we live in now was design and built from quarter-inch graph paper. by the time I was a senior in high school, I wrote a research paper titled, "Planning a Practical New Home."
Sailing Unveils, 2002, Didier Mouron

The Gesture, 1985, Didier Mouron
That was about as far as my architectural career would go. It was about this same time I realized I didn't have the math prerequisites to become an architect. Slide rules were the rule. Pocket calculators and Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software were decades in the future. So, I began to draw faces, both from life and photos. Preferring photos, I developed a simplified grid utilizing a line across the eyes and down the center of the face. Measuring and enlarging along those axes usually afforded me a good likeness. They didn't always produce great art, however. I was in my twenties, in the air force, before another artist taught me to produce high contrast drawings, and that all pencils were not No. 2. Only then did I begin producing any sort of artistic renderings. About the same time I began painting my drawings and thus drew little that didn't get painted over. By the time I got through four years of college, I knew how to draw and draw well, but still considered it simply one step in the painting process. Even as I began teaching drawing at all levels in a public school, I did little drawing as a medium of self-expression.
The Argo, 2007, Didier Mouron
To the Sound of the Body,
1999, Didier Mouron
After I'd taught about ten years, an artist friend of mine named Richard Hackett taught me how to draw, and most of all, sell pencil portraits. Only then (I was in my mid-thirties by this time) did I begin to grasp the expressive potential of a thin, soft, stick of graphite encased in wood. My pencil of choice became the Eberhard Faber "Ebony" pencil. For about twenty years I produced hundreds of portraits in pencil and later Prismacolor pencils to the point they became my major source of art income. I often wonder, had I not been so enthralled with paint at such an early age, had I learned to draw well before I began to paint, if my work today might not be quite similar to that of the Swiss-Canadian artist, Didier Mouron (top). A developmental sampling of his works from The Passage, (1983) to To the Sound of the Body, (1999, at left) displays what Mouron chose without the benefit of a single drop of paint or colored pencil.
Didier Mouron "paints" with a pencil. It's not my old, beloved, Ebony but the Caran D'Ache Fixpencil 22 precision mechanical instrument (above) made in Switzerland and selling for about $23.50. Born in 1958 in the town of Vevey (western Switzerland on the French border), Didier Mouron was the son of an artist also quite adept at drawing. He taught his son everything he knew, though the son quickly surpassed the father by extending the range of his content into landscapes, urban scenes, figures, and Surrealism.

The Vagaries of Aphrodite, 2005. Didier, Moron
Mouron's work in more recent years is not easy to follow. There is just enough latent realism and Surrealism to be intriguing, but it also leads into a deeper, more personal realm that, if not unfathomable, at least challenges the viewer to think, probe, and pursue various avenues of meaning. Painters have long gone this route. "Pencilers" have generally trekked a narrower, more obvious course, inviting the viewer to admire the technique, but in so doing, allowing them to abandon any more profound contemplation. Much of Mouron's work not only invites a deeper involvement, but comes close to demanding it. The Vagaries of Aphrodite (above), dating from 2005, is one such example.

Heterogeneous, 2008, Didier Mouron
Yet, not all of Mouron's work is so ephemeral. His Heterogeneous (above) from 2008, does not leave the viewer mystified so much as fascinated, amazed at the artist's mastery of graphite on paper, but likewise surprised at the evocative warmth and loveliness of his "stop action" drawing. The same mindset, with a nostalgic, ghostly twist, permeates Mouron's The Room (below) also from 2008. We see a childhood of innocence long lost to the spherical worlds of present and future realities.

The Room, 2008, Didier Mouron
One of Mouron's more fascinating recent endeavors is what he calls TOTM (no indication of what the abbreviation derives from, if anything). It follows along with a recent "Off the Wall" theme in which the artist foregoes the flat hanging surface in favor of a black, aluminum easel which is easily transported and erected in various colorful settings, then photographed. Thus Mouron is able to add rich color to his art without adding color to his artwork.

TOTM--off the wall color.

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