Born in 1979 in Montpellier and having grown up on the tropical Island of La Réunion, French artist Brice Guilbert merges abstraction and his creole heritage to create lyrical paintings. Standing at the intersection of human experience and the natural world he uses various highly pigmented oil sticks on wood to create layered, gestural marks, imbuing each semi-abstract rendering of a volcano with different moods and resonances. Using abstraction as a means of engaging with meditative, spiritual and philosophical understandings of nature, his work showcases an ineffable, nostalgic quality that defies any fixed narrative.

His meticulous, repeated hand-drawn renditions of the same image mirror the techniques of artists like Andy Warhol, who utilised screen printing to replicate their artworks. This process blurs the lines between human creativity and mechanical reproduction, questioning the roles of the artist and the machine in the contemporary artistic process.

Portrait of Brice Guilbert. Courtesy of Serge Leblon

This month, we sat down with the artist to discuss his inclusion in our latest exhibition, 'Double Take'.

Your ongoing series, Fournez, presents the recurring motif of a volcano. Can you tell us a bit more about where this symbol comes from?

BG: I lived my entire childhood in the south of the Réunion Island in the town of Saint-Joseph. Located very close to the foot of the volcano Le Piton de la Fournaise, this image corresponds to one of the landscape in which I grew up. From this geographical point of view, it is not possible to see the volcanic eruptions, nevertheless the impact of their presence was sufficient to give rise to a recurring motif in painting for me.

Brice Guilbert's studio. Courtesy of the artist

Despite the repetition of the image, each work presents a striking individuality. How did you come to explore repetition in your work? Does this theme hold a particular significance for you?

BG: I have been exploring repetition for a very long time in my work, the series being most often limited in time to one or two years. In my practice I have often worn out subjects quickly. It has only been since 2016, having completely found myself with this subject, that I stopped to develop it. In this continuous practice I have not yet found myself in the situation of boredom. And it is precisely in the search for intrinsic qualities specific to each painting that it is a question of reinventing one's own process so as not to go in circles. First of all, I try to take great pleasure in making each painting and to treat it as a unique piece.

Concerning this eruptive and volcanic theme, it was first of all a question of evaluating its authenticity and originality. The theme has not been developed serially in the history of art or at least not in such a concise and repetitive manner. Some painters have developed this subject from several points of view but not by repeating the same point of view.

Your work is being presented alongside a Shadow painting by Andy Warhol. Famous for his expansive production through screen-printing, his intention was to reproduce the same image an infinite number of times.  Have you ever considered his practice an inspiration? Were you inspired by any other artist included in the show?

BG: Andy Warhol is obviously a reference in terms of repetition and expansion of the subject and concerning the limits of use that can be made of painting.

For my part, I develop a single subject in relation to a place from my childhood, this story inevitably plunges me into an intimate relationship with this symbol. Andy Warhol is an inspiration for a whole generation of artists who succeeded him because he engages the creative process and the gesture in new relationships. It can be seen as a liberation as much as a defeat of the imagination. In any case, I like seeing it like that.

Exhibition shot of our exhibition 'Double Take'. Courtesy of Benjamin Westoby

Your works have a profound physical aspect, your thick applications and layering of oil sticks build a texture that provides them an organic nature.  Have you ever thought of exploring other media or production techniques? Have you ever considered exploring digital tools in your practice?

BG: I haven’t really considered it for my painting practice. The only digital tools that I have been able to use are in relation to my music. I have produced various albums of songs since 2005, the recording and production of these records was possible thanks to these tools. I mainly play acoustic instruments, but digital sound interfaces have allowed me to make recordings.

Brice Guilbert's studio. Courtesy of the artist

Another artist in the show, Oliver Beer, uses music to create his paintings, being a musician and singer yourself, has it ever informed your practice of painting?

BG: There is a priori no direct correlation between my musical practice and my pictorial practice. However, the theme of Reunion Island, of Creole roots, of my identity is a common thread in all my work. Even if my music does not influence my painting, these two practices feed off each other and allow me to consider different transports towards these Reunion landscapes.

Brice Guilbert's studio. Courtesy of the artist

Following your inclusion in our show, do you have any upcoming projects ?

BG: My next project is the publication of a monograph in collaboration with Zolo Press, which will come out later this year. This book will bring together around a hundred paintings created since the beginning of my series entitled Fournez.