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photographie de Laurenzo Razzino

Marc Bourlier, artist of the eroded material

Marc Bourlier was born in Saigon in 1947. His youth was spent in Africa, South America and India, in Pondicherry.

In 1975, he decided to become an artist even though he had a professional activity for a long time in parallel.  For the last ten years his activity has been 100% artistic. He works with driftwood chosen on a pebble beach in Normandy. These pieces of wood are sanded, sculpted by water and stone. They come from nowhere and everywhere. 

His artistic path has been determined by two emotional shocks and two decisive encounters…

A box of pastels leads him to his first exhibition

In the early 1970s, while working as a cameraman in Tunisia, he found a box of 70 pastels in the house he rented. These pastels gave him a huge emotional shock. As a purely self-taught artist, he began to draw and soon afterwards held his first exhibition at the Goethe Institute in Tunis.

The gallerist Iris Clert as pygmalion

Without any artistic training or culture, Marc Bourlier is looking for his way in painting and drawing. He probably needed a decisive encounter, which took place in the person of Iris Clert, the great Greek-French gallery owner. She criticized him, supported him and pushed him.

From the School of Paris to Normandy seaside

visage en bois flottés; photo
portrait d'un solitaire, détail

While he is a recognised artist of the Ecole de Paris, he is contacted in 1995 by the Director of the Poissy hospital. The latter ordered 400 painted pebbles from him.

He then went to look for the pebbles on a beach in Normandy and discovered pieces of driftwood. It was a second emotional shock that overwhelmed him.

He then worked to create a new artistic universe from these pieces of wood from elsewhere. He showed his creations to the gallery owner Béatrice Soulié and this was the beginning of a second decisive collaboration that has lasted for over twenty years.    

Gravity and amazement with universal resonance

In the past, Marc Bourlier has worked with urban pictograms, stains or pebbles. These forms that impose themselves on him have always inspired him. The same magic works with driftwood. “It is the medium that sends me a message and my job is to make this message real.”

Multitudes like Sanfourche and sometimes loners

Marc Bourlier’s driftwood compositions are very diverse: unframed or framed, solitary or groups.

Sometimes the artist paints his frames and the bottoms of the boxes with a multitude of small faces that may remind one of Jean-Joseph Sanfourche, but more serious. Indeed, there is gravity and sometimes even stupefaction in the faces created by Marc Bourlier.

Sometimes, when he finds a piece that inspires him as such, he can create a “solitaire”. He can also incorporate metal pieces into his creations : a metal plate, a piece of an old lock…  

Let's be carried away by the form and the material

The artist takes care to leave those who discover his creations the greatest possible freedom of interpretation. “A work, in my opinion, is made to live by itself”.

Thus, he avoids explaining his works so as not to confine them. He likes to listen to people’s comments on his creations. Often these comments are influenced by their life experiences. Jews have told him that they see images of the Holocaust in his driftwood, Vietnamese images of the boat people, Christians religious images… The artist, who has lived on four continents, feeds off the world and speaks to the world.  

During the lockdown, the artist created a series of drawings with a multitude of faces or characters. Each plate is entitled with the number of the day of the confinement. 

This is further proof that although artistic and cultural life was stopped, artists never stopped creating. Marc Bourlier has reinvented himself, as he has done many times in his artistic career. 

See also our article on Marc Bourlier, victime de plagiat

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The editorial team

The thrill of artistic discoveries