At the occasion of the exhibition “Keith Haring, the political line” at the Musée d’Art Moderne of Paris, Artsper is meeting Théo Haggai, young 22-year-old artist, born in Paris but living in Aix-en-Provence and currently exhibited at the Nicolas Hugo Gallery.
Artsper: What did you want to do when you were a child?
I wanted to be a “plate layer” (plate up) but one day my mother told me that the profession did not exist! Both my parents are comedians, thus, I took this path when I was in secondary school and took 3-4 years of theatre class but it bored me very fast, it did not fit me. I wanted to play what my parents played, I wanted to be with them. I passed the baccalaureate and I had some interests for the photo. It began with some photos of parties and folks and step by step I was attracted by another culture, another media and I discovered a real artistic discipline. I moved on in a MANAA and then a visual communication BTS.
Artsper: So, finally, being an artist was a real ambition, a dream or a blind chance?
I don’t think I wanted it initially but I was plunged into this environment, so it has influenced my choices unintentionally.
Artsper: You began the photo as a self-taught but is it the same for drawing?
I started drawing in February 2012. It came more or less randomly. I was making portraits, it bored me and one day I drew this man on a corner table and it was off!
Artsper: How do you define yourself as a photographer?
I took some photos we can define as “fashion photos” because it was a universe that really inspired me, but I realized fast that many people were a lot more talented than I was in this field…I like the ultra-worked aspect of fashion photos which is at the same time in contradiction with the natural image that photos can produce. I’m still trying to find myself as a photographer. LaChapelle inspires me as much as Newton. But more and more, I like to put myself on a performance in my photos, play on humor and self-mockery around off-the-wall and absurd situations. Besides, I’m thinking of integrating the drawing to some of the photos I may do later but for the moment I can hardly find images that satisfy me to rework them graphically.
Artsper: Photo, drawing, painting, stop-motion, your work has evolved very fast: what is the medium which interests you the most and how do you see the progress of your work?
At the beginning, I thought that drawing was the end: I liked the idea of being able to represent what I wanted with just a pencil stroke, some black and white…Now, I’m applying myself less in my drawings because I would like to enlarge them, to use bigger formats with some paint for example. Therefore, my drawing is now closer to the sketch or draft than it was before. Then, some drawings will have no added value to be transposed to painting, since both media are independent.
Artsper: How do you build your work everyday? What does inspire you?
When I started the photo, I saw the picture of a renowned name and I was telling myself: “well, it’s cool, how did he do that” and then I felt around…I rarely reached the same result but I liked it anyway. Regarding my drawings, cinema, books and some websites really inspire me: I see a picture, I write some words or ideas…Weeks pass, I fall again on a piece of paper and tell myself “what can I do with it? What does it tell me? How can this word be illustrated?”
Artsper: You’re often compared to Haring, what does it do to you?
It scares me! I’m not scared to be influenced by what he does, but I absolutely don’t want to do “bad Keith Haring” unconsciously. For the moment, I don’t have a huge artistic culture, I learn new things everyday and this is my only inquiry, but for that I cannot say “I find myself in this artist, I’m influenced by this other one, etc”. Of course, every “Big” inspires me (Miró, Picasso, Basquiat, Haring, Pollock to only cite them). Finally and for now, I have the feeling that I’m not totally inspired, and as a result, I think it gives me more freedom!
Artsper: Haring and Basquiat often gave a political connotation to their works. Making the choice to use a recurrent and identifiable character is not insignificant. Do you want to make it the spokesperson of something one day? Is it a free figure or one day you will give it a message to give?
When we do art and when we do it this way, I think we don’t have the choice. It becomes a symbol, even a logo. We have to put the character in a particular situation. For example, when I’m drawing a character, he is often in a quiet or dead environment…In some times from now, he will have some opinions, some political or international messages to give. The graphic evolution would be to create a new universe, to have new representative color codes, new characters, etc…An unconscious representation of the real world. As I said earlier, this idea of message will come later, when I’ll be more mature and experienced! It’s not all to give a love and peace message, yet one needs to have something concrete to say.
Artsper: Your man has already seen a lot of things. What will you never show him?
Never? Nothing, I think he can be wherever. My goal is for him to be universal. At worst, I will blindfold him! He will go wherever he is welcomed, with great pleasure.
Find all Théo Haggai’s works of art at the Nicolas Hugo gallery until May 13th for the exhibition “Ma Che Bella” and sold on Artsper all year!