Born in Paris on 10 February 1964, Hélène Jacqz grew up in Fontenay-aux-roses. She moved to Paris in 1982 and enrolled at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris (Beaux-Arts) in 1986, drawing from nature and at the Louvre. An admirer of the nabis, she obtained her diploma in 1991 as well as two scholarships, in 1991 and 1992, to study at the Parsons School of Art in New York (Fullbright and Lavoisier). She returned to France in 1996. Since then, she woks in her studio in Montrouge and shows her work in galleries, Art Centers and in international exhibitions in France and abroad.
From a young age, Hélène Jacqz’ family spent their summers in Bordes sur Arize, in l’Ariège, among the 300 residents of the village of her great grandmother. This place took a strong hold of Hélène’s mind. Wading in streams, running through forests, or riding her bicycle on abandoned paths while gazing out to the Pyrénées mountains beyond the plains, Hélène’s emotions awakened and deepened. Her connection with nature would influence her in many ways throughout her life.
Having been born to two gymnastics professors would seem to have pre-destined Hélène to a career in sports. After graduating from high school where sports commanded much of her attention, she immersed herself totally in dance, and kept a feverish pace at it for eighteen months, until she became nearly paralyzed. Here the history of her father, Alain Dugros, becomes pertinent. In 1955 he contracted tuberculosis, which resulted in his spending two years in a sanatorium, where his life changed course. He read a lot, and acted on his interest in ceramics, drawing, and painting, fine arts which he would continue when he eventually got back to teaching sports. Even though his sincerity in amateur painting and his conception of art didn’t extend to impressionism, and he remained closed to modern art, his innate sense of color and his enthusiasm for creation would become focal points for his daughter’s later research. Thus both father’s and daughter’s paths were alike in that their physical limitations opened them to the world of art.
After Hélène’s forced discontinuation of dance, she began a period of great creativity. She made unique jewelry from found and recycled objects, she worked for an artist, took drawing classes, and finally decided to become a painter herself. Other young artists encouraged her to attend a fine arts school, which she did in 1986.
Benefiting from the great autonomy granted her and her colleagues at The Institute of Beaux Arts, Hélène stuck to a strict regimen of drawing for two years. She would frequently draw at the Louvre, studying the masters first-hand, where she began to sense the internal and intimate construction that is the foundation of any work of art. She began to really enter into paintings and in her third year of art school, she herself began to paint, in the line of Nabis.
Outside of the Louvre “conceptual” art reigned, and new technologies amassed followers, but she was
moved by Vuillard, Bonnard, Corot, and the Primitives.
In 1990 she won her school’s first prize in drawing, the Pierre David Weil Prize. She graduated in 1991, and both that and the following year she won Fullbright Scholarships for international exchange from the United Nations and the Lavoisier scholarship from the French Foreign Affairs ministry. These grants
enabled her to attend Parsons School of Art in New York, where she earned her Master’s degree, and discovered a new culture.
The New York Period
Her five years spent in New York radically influenced Hélène’s artistic concept. She felt the limitations of her realist approach to painting, and began to paint freely, following her emotions, and departed from the reassuring analysis of her work. Inspired by the Cobra movement, and especially by Joan Miro, her work with lines and blotches brought subconscious expression into question. Encountering
American painting, in particular that of Motherwell and de Koenning, inspired more personal explorations. Evolution has been the cornerstone of Hélène’s work ever since, and specific influences therein are continually less and less identifiable.
“I was already very interested in primitive art and it’s vital energy: rupestrian art, art of ancient civilizations, Egyptian, Greek, pre-Colombian art…At the time I was still very attached to art as the representation of reality. Then I discovered jazz, through meeting a musician named Vincent, my future husband.
“Immediately I saw a parallel between jazz and painting: in jazz, while improvising on a theme, the musicians react musically to each other’s ideas, apparently without conscious reflection. The musicians are close to being in a trance, where one’s self-confidence is fundamental and the need to take risks
is paramount. Yet what appears to be freedom is founded on first having achieved great technical mastery of one’s instrument!
“All of this made me reflect a great deal. My contact with and reflections through jazz music were essential for me to arrive at my beliefs about the essence of artistic creation.”
Like two sides of a coin, daily life and artistic expression are inseparable for Hélène Jacqz. “The spiritual freedom that I constantly search for is far from innate, I force myself to cultivate it daily. The work is in reflecting. In painting there is a moment when everything comes into play at once, when
the painter must give her all without reservation. It is in complete confidence and a purposeful letting go that the painting appears. Painting is a work of perseverance:
It’s the accumulation of efforts over time that teach me to negotiate those crucial moments of truth and little by little, to achieve authentic artistic expression.”
Spiritual freedom. Work. Letting go. Giving everything. Perseverance. Authenticity.
These are the catchwords of this artist. If all of this can make sense to her painting’s beholders, it is due as much to the tangible presence of her personal inner inquiries as to the paint itself. Beneath the colors, shapes, and textures we sense the harmonious complexity of the moment of creation of each work: material meets spirit, the spontaneous yet demanding gesture, the flash of intimate expression, the culture of the times and the perseverance through the ages, shadows haunted by light. In other words, vibrating before us is a poetic history of the elements (Earth, Air, Water) and the reigns (Vegetable, Animal,
Mineral). A living tale.
Do not seek uniformity in Hélène’s painting, since the challenge to explorers of new fields always brings unexpected fruits: variations in register, landscapes which give way to colors and vice-versa; passages between dimensions (vertical to horizontal) which are dictated by tonicity, by explosiveness, by
“tales of energy” she says.
Rhythm, space, light: three fundamental elements which join in color to create a dance of sensations to share, which invite meditation, which give birth to a star.
-Maïté Vienne-Villacampa, May 2008
-Translated from French by Larry Browne, December 2008