Born in a village near the French Pyrenees in 1947, Jean-Paul Chambas chose painting at the age of 20. He regularly contributes to exhibitions, in France and numerous other countries. He has designed many decors, posters and costumes for theater and opera and has decorated subway station ceilings and walls in Paris, Toulouse and Mexico City with frescos. He is now working on the decors for a festival of Greek tragedy in Syracuse, and has an exhibition at the Galvani Gallery in Toulouse.
Your painting for the Colas Foundation seems to tell your own story…
Well, yes, you can see a truck from my family’s company, Alex Chambas, which Colas bought out in the 1970s, with its oval logo on the cab door, and, pointing toward it, the yellow-and-black Colas logo. And there are also two writers who have influenced me – a portrait of Jack Kerouac, who wrote On the Road, and the figure of Ernest Hemingway, nobly posing as a road laborer, which is a job I did for a while in my dad’s business. You can also see a foot print on the road, like a souvenir of my own footsteps…
Do your life and your painting overlap?
When I was twenty, I refused to join my dad’s company, and I set out on the road, armed with no more than my brushes and canvases. Ever since then, all my life has been in painting. In my pictures you find a parade of my heroes, whether literary (Blaise Cendrars, Malcolm Lowry, Arthur Rimbaud and James Joyce) or historical (Marx and Robespierre), a statue of a red devil, a souvenir of Mexico… and my native village, Vic, a well -knownvenue for bullfighting. But when I paint decors for theater and opera, then I am representing otherpeople’s lives — writers or directors.
It is hard to categorize you in a particular artistic genre.
Yes, I try my hand at lots of things… which should put off all those who like to stick labels onthings! Multiple sources of inspiration call for varied means of expression! There’s always something happening, characters come into my universe…Quite simply, that’s where my paintings come from.