Studio Sundays: Sébastien Layral

"Sebastien Layral comes from the woods and the earth. He carries the proud serenity of the Causse on his shoulders. Born in Rodez, the strong hills, he immediately became part of the elements. To note his belonging to a lineage, he readily evokes rough men, a direct relation to things and beings, an art of being camped on one’s ground.

Primitive roughness ... today the brute canvas of the paintings which he stretches and prepares himself, laborer of the initial earth. From childhood, which he barely talks about, emerged the fiery desire, from the age of eight, to take a different path. Not that of the father or the clan, not that assigned by other people’s judgments, conveniences or norms. Far from the sirens of possession, it was a question of creating, of imagining ... After dreaming of being a surgeon and then a priest, he was caught in the waves of a constant desire to draw. A certain continuity, if one looks back. Desire, which is the focus of the subject, can no doubt be formulated thus: to move between the lines, to take place where no one expects it, to become something other.

After a Bachelor's degree in applied arts, his experience at the Fine Arts Institute in Toulouse, from 1992 to 1995, placed a thorn in the wound opened in these days. Painting was no longer fashionable at the time, figuration even less. In between the student Layral and the school existed a profound misunderstanding. Dismissed without explanation before the end of his third year, he developed a bitterness at the time which has transformed, in retrospect, into lucid thought. The lessons of this disappointment are diverse and essentially fruitful. First a stubbornness: if painting was so badly considered, then this was the path Sebastien was to explore. Then, after closing the door, he forgot the history of art. The matter was closed. No hard drive, only random access memory. Finally, as if in order to fill a vacuum, he developed a strong taste for philosophy.
Little by little, the tripod he set up became his guideline : think, say, do.
A balance between concept, relationship and experimentation.

To be an artist is above all to explore the field of possibilities, to examine closely the main principles in order to better shake them. Becoming oneself by questioning what is and what once was, through the rigor of the process and faith in the adventure. A nomadism that evokes Robert Filliou’s formula : whatever you do, do something else. A funny paradox is that the Air Force, where he performed his military service as a photo lab manager, offered him a large room where he could do whatever he wanted ; paint.

Every course conceals its steps, its back roads. In reality, these are very often approaches. Before opening an art studio in 1998 and thus making art his career, Sebastien Layral worked two years in an institute that worked with young autists. The concept was to produce an exhibition of their art work. One can easily imagine what was at stake in this project in the light of the artist's future approach: to hear the voice - even unlikely, even tiny - of the other, to put oneself at his service, in one way or another and follow his point of view. My nature is not my nature, it does not bother me to change it. At the end of this necessarily experimental parenthesis, the path was laid, plowed by reason and emotion. The artist knew that to advance was to question (onself), and that the answers were not the goal. He knew how to advance in a sick society, which admits only one point of view and imposes it violently.

For several years, Sebastien Layral lived an internal crisis that almost secluded him in the art studio and at the same time unleashed a fiery search. It is difficult to say for the artist what questioned, consciously or not, and guided this quest. Maybe this: who am I? How to be the tree-self in the forest of other-possibles? In this great rustling silence, self-portraits and portraits would be the path, enriched, enlarged from one experience to the next.

From the outset, the artist inscribed the presence of others in his own appearance. By inserting his face into bodies borrowed from the clichés of press magazines or downloaded by Internet users encountered on a forum, he initiated with this "common self-portrait" an interactive approach that was to become enriched.

I am (in) another. You are (in the heart of) me.

At the beginning of the years 2000, Sebastien Layral placed the construction of each (self) portrait as a game of exchange, relation and gesture, via tools - computers, webcams, screens ... Even if for a very short time, the model’s intervention guided the painter’s work, even contradicting it. The model is for me the center of everything. The exchanges, virtual or not, very quickly cross the tactile and the flesh: texts of hidden conversations in the canvas, the artist’s imprint, and later tattoos performed in public. By giving the model the opportunity to observe, comment, guide, and soon intervene in his work, he revisited the art of the portrait fixed by centuries of convention, rigidified in a relation of domination in which the subject tends to become an object: inert, consenting, mute.

Conversely, Sebastien Layral has constantly introduced the model on the canvas to give him or her the tools of his or her own emancipation.

The "peintomaton", developed in 2004, marked a form of orientation for performance art. Visitors at the exhibitions were invited to become models, instantly. While the audience attended this live painting, the painter adapted his movements and even the changes made by the model.
In this way, the ideal triangle was formed : artist / model / public, where everyone’s position changes, where the desire to be the other, even if only for a brief moment through a repositioning of acquired positions invites the subject to come out of his comfort zone.

As of 2005, several exhibitions whose subject were the "ego" becoming an abundant @go, Layral refined the principles that shaped his work: think, say, do. His art gradually increased his reflexive dimension, expressed by values r virtues: openness, emotion, doubt, energy, desire. Faith in the power of words - his own, those of others - was also widening: whether it was said, inscribed, coded, tattooed, they anchored the painting in a momentum that goes beyond the mere act of painting.

An ever-broader confidence came when the public, visitors, close friends, strangers adhered to his dream of sharing with the public. My act of rebellion is to love, unlike what our society proposes.

As for the power to do, it also intensified when the artist agreed to give up details in place of energy in his exhibit INO ONI (2011-2013): made unsacred, fragile, ephemeral, painting was even more so a path leading to the other.

A retrospective in 2012, spiced up with a touch of self-derision, confirmed how this double movement - art in series and constant renewal - led him on the river banks of becoming a fully mature artist. Another relationship to time was emerging: slower, longer, more abandoned to patience. The time it takes, how good it is to lose some in order to gain something else ; increased balance and density. The artist’s early beginnings in Aikido revealed a journey in which everything is linked: painting, writing, inscribing, tattooing, grasping, falling, and rising.

Dispossession, which was a watermark from the very beginning, more recently translated into the series DESIRE (2014), was indeed the breeding ground for the roots of the tree to infiltrate.
By depositing the arms of ego, erasing narcissistic temptation as much as possible, humans become subjects and mirrors of each other.

Today, Sebastien Layral works in an open art studio that you can see from the street in Châtel-Guyon.

In summer, he installs a small living room on his doorstep: a bench, a ficus tree, water or coffee. His models are often those who stop to visit. In this former store, he trades proximity, love and peace. Painting is a way to enter a person’s truth in an affirmative manner."