Jacques Benoit

Art, they say

Here are the testimonies of some authors from various artistic disciplines, who have shared their point of view about art. They are musicians, songwriters and performers. Or filmmakers, architects, writers, essayists whose work, artistry and thinking have had a major influence on my vocation, thus on the resulting pictorial work of mine, over time.

If for my part I appreciate these authors' statements, it is for their authenticity, sometimes their humor or their poetry, always for their lack of dogmatism. If these authors' words seem sometimes blunt and withouy qualms, it is simply because they refuse the compromise in that case. These statements never sound pretentious, elitist, or obscure to me.  Finally they seem to hoist the colours of what could - should? - define art, ultimately.

When I consider the evolution of art, through its various forms and manifestations all combined from the last century up to the current one, I cannot help thinking that the simple notion of "art" has become so multiple and so blurry that the word ends up sounding hollow and meaningless, by revoking all possibilities of identification. Particularly in the category of art bearing the label of "contemporary". This discipline, a polymorphic phenomenon in the best case (I do not know quite well how to define it), is peopled with expressions claimed as "artistic" by their authors. But the viewer or sometimes even the somewhat enlightened amateur, do not necessarily understand what these expressions have to do with what basic intelligence identifies as being “art”, or what the senses intuitively perceive as such.

For decades, these expressions, these manifestos and their authors have been everywhere before our eyes. Institutions, merchants, art fairs and galleries have made them popular. That is a fact. But what do these works correspond to, and what is their primary or occult meaning? Many times I could not tell -an ignorance attributable to my lack of culture in this area, probably.


Sometimes I see the half and not the whole
Sometimes I see the face and not the soul

Shawn Colvin
"New Thing Now" (" A Few Small Repairs" - Shawn Colvin / 1996)


The work of those I quote on this page unquestionably pleads for the legitimacy of these artists and/or intellectuals' statements. And fortunately, their work has helped me to prune and clear up confusion in my own path. Thanks to the mind which questions, explores and formulates, with the help of the ear which organizes the sound and makes it become music, thanks to the eye and the hand which transmute matter into drawing, painting, image or volume, thanks to the example given and the talent shown by these authors and artists, I have sometimes succeeded in considering the forest more, and in paying less attention to the tree. By attempting to follow their example, I have tried to forget the face in order to discern the soul better.

However, some questions persist. Does one become an artist? Or is this vocation, this dimension innate, predestined by the stars? Is one proclaimed an artist only by decision of experts, or is someone a self-proclaimed artist because (or as soon as) one produces any "work", whatever the latter's nature and quality might be, assumed or evidenced? And therefore, who has the authority to declare this work to be a "work of art"?

These questions have always been asked. But for more than a century (can it be that long already!...), they arise under the advent of urinals, then canned feces, then the showcase of animals once alive but put to death to be chopped up in order to display their corpses’ stagnant entrails in formalin aquariums, then the exhibition of a sick dog left without food or drink tied to a wall in a contemporary art fair -under the alibi of a "happening" claiming to be the paramount expression of Conceptual Art's noble societal denun