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Mind in Art: Exploring the origins of artistic creativity

An interview with the artist Hervé Constant conducted by Madelyn Freeman

PANDEMIC Acrylic on canvas 50x42in Hervé Constant

I am intrigued by the idea that the arts expand the ways in which we can explore human consciousness. I wanted to enquire further into where an artist finds meanings, so I contacted the artist Hervé Constant to ask about the possible sources of his creativity.

In writing this piece my aim is twofold: to introduce you to the inspiration behind Hervé’s paintings and to give you a virtual tour of his studio: 

MF: Hervé, what inspires you to paint?

Hervé responded first with a quote from Seneca (circa 4 BC – AD 65), the Roman stoic philosopher:

‘We must wander like the bees gathering nectar from the flowers and combine these cells to produce a unique flavour for ourselves’

HC: ‘I paint in order to deal with the Gods, to reveal to me an inner expression and personal description. It is not about copying what I see in the material world, it is about recreating my surroundings.Working in my studio, for me, is like being in a religious setting. I need to feel a spiritual calmness. The work must talk to me, to the extent where my mind is involved in the process, rather than in the end result.  I have no real control over the work tempo, or the flow that will carry me along on a designated path, to arrive at its raison d’être.

Primordial in origin, an inner vision can change direction and seek self-expression. It has to come from something deep inside me, from something that I do not know, although I may return to a painting years later, wanting to change it’.

ISOLATION Acrylic on paper 10x10in Hervé Constant
Private collection Basel Switzerland

MF: How curious are you to explore your inner world?

HC: ‘My understanding of creativity is that it relates to having increased sensitivity. I say this because my favourite artists, in any creative field, seem to be extremely sensitive people with their own understanding and perception of the world surrounding them. Creating art is a complex study, yet I will still feel a child-like excitement, because a certain alchemy will always surprise me. 

I understand that my mind is on a new journey. It takes courage to step out into the unknown and this can feel quite uncomfortable at the beginning of new work, but later on the rewards are there.

I will paint a series of symbols as objects making me question a certain value related to the natural world, since these forces of nature – earth, wind, fire, water – remind us of a greater, timeless truth.

We pass by, but nature remains the eternal force far greater than ourselves. It is important to remember to place ourselves within this wider context. This is why I paint visual statements which I refer to earlier as wanting to be with the Gods, to acknowledge the eternal beauty into which our individual lives have been created, and poured into being’.

TRACES Acrylic on paper 20x16in Hervé Constant

MF: I wanted to dive deeper into the possible source of Hervé’s imagery, as seen in many of his paintings, and asked if he thought there was a kind of shamanic quality about his work.

Hervé said he seeks to represent a ‘sensorial’ framework, by retrieving memories which would otherwise remain lost or hidden from view, and mood figures in many of his works.

Thorns’ for example, was derived from the ‘Crown of Thorns’ said to have adorned and mocked the head of Christ. ‘Layout of Stones’ appears to depict a stone-age labyrinth or maze, reminiscent of those ancient representations of a cosmological order seen in the midnight sky. Perhaps such imagery has been derived from archetypal or symbolic representations, whose recognition is common to all, throughout time?


THORNS Charcoal on paper 30x20in Hervé Constant

Having reflected on Hervé’s work, I suggested that perhaps having an ‘artistic eye’ takes us on a journey based on those subtle sensations emanating from an intuitive function. In so-called ‘depth psychology’, this function is understood to operate as an unconscious information gathering process, occurring outside our usual range of perception. Socratic wisdom reminds us there are limits to our knowledge.

I am also thinking of Hervé’s earlier paintings, which today may be perceived as having foretold something about our current experiences as they relate to the pandemic, since these earlier works only now seem to have reached their fuller capacity to communicate meaning. For instance, in the painting ‘Incarceration’, we sense the impact of solitary confinement.

INCARCERATION Acrylic on paper 15x12in Hervé Constant

For me, Hervé’s explanations of the reasons why he created many of his works provides insights into a deeper understanding of the ‘mind in art’ or (as the ancients might have paraphrased it) of the arts as a possible ‘window into the soul’.

The mystery of creation is so profound, and so far beyond the scope of science alone to apprehend, that perhaps art provides us with a way to explore, with an open mind and heart, our sense of wonder and appreciation of our being in the world? By exploring the origins of our creative forces, and using art to raise questions, perhaps we can strengthen our sense of awareness of these mysteries? 

Madelyn Freeman

STUDIO 29: Hervé Constant

OPEN STUDIO July 2020 Hervé Constant

Posted on:Tuesday 11th August, 2020