Arrival in Phnom Penh, the Land of Smiles, Cambodia.
All around, these warm faces portray this will to live by the rhythm of time which soothes us. The Khmer smile gently invites the foreigner to be patient and respectful. It is an enigmatic smile like the four-faced towers of the Bayon temple.
The color of old edifices engorged with history, the bright and gaudy hues of the bustling streets. All this gives me a burning desire to start painting this Asian scenery as soon as possible.
Today I would like my colors to become more arbitrarily bold and dominant in this luminous and unique whirlwind.
Do I dare?
January 2012 - Bangkok
The last few years spent in Thailand have aroused my senses to the brilliance and pure, frank colors that are a part of the daily life of this megalopolis. I have, however, never dared to venture to paint "straight from the tube".
This past year we spent a few weeks in Brittany on the island of Sein. It is impossible to leave that place without painting. That is why, I am exhibiting these canvases which depict this magnificent and mysterious stretch of land amid the breaking waves.
Having been unbridled recently (in my life) by very intense moments and complex human reactions, my spiritual environment has been somewhat shaken.
As a result, without immunity, I have been influenced by the fallout from this and like a raised shield, as a reflex, I have dared to throw splashes of direct color on my latest paintings.
My research continues and as I have said before "nothing is ever definitive and nothing is ever finished".
The adventure continues...
Each day passes without resembling the next. Time trickles by at a pace seen only here in asia, the search for colors remains as provoking as ever...
November 2009 - Bangkok
Our little family has become a tribe, Saul, the boy of the family was born November 4, 2009. The Thai name given to him is "Ton Khao" which means "rice tree" to help him grow big and strong. Thai poeple are really a wonderful people.
(Elianna 9, Saul 9 months & Maïa 4 1/2)
January 2008 saw our abrupt departure from New York and subsequent arrival in the magical land of Thailand. Gold, glittering gems, yellows—everything is here. Harmony, richness, colors, respect for the Other, wisdom of the spirit "Sawadee!".
The unexplored of my karma is opening to the great gateway to Asia, a continent I dreamt of knowing.
In Bangkok my art work is still based on acrylics and oil but now I add the gold leaf I have discovered in Thai culture.
My artistic approach is as always dominated by my environment and events that exert an irresistible influence on my day-to-day life. The urge to paint is like a fire within me which it is now impossible for me to put out.
My nomadic life across the South Pacific, Africa, America and now Asia has infused my being with colors and inchoate ideas.
The flame within is permanent but it is my story which is unfinished.
The distant scents of Brittany and Normandy float up intensely against these horizons of marvelous colors.
Painting is above all existing, freeing my troubled spirit through creativeness in the strict sense of the word, with the invariable struggle between colors and forms, the thick and the thin.
Today in 2009 nothing has really changed since I first discovered painting in 2001. To create is a constant back and forth, a struggle generated by instinct with flows of adrenaline that I project onto my canvasses as a poor unfortunate, inebriated by an impalpable love which drains me yet brings with it a needed calm.
My hand, surer now, has made progress, but in reality everything is still to be done. I know nothing.
My paintings take form by themselves. My senses guide me and I improvise without intention. Nothing is ever defined and nothing is ever finished.
My work will evolve, but how I need freedom. The freedom that has eluded me from the beginning, beholden as I am to the world of Foreign Affairs which sustains my career and our life.
This year, I finished my 189th painting in the Kingdom of Siam.
On March 3, 2009 I had the honor to be made a chevalier in the Ordre National du Mérite in the splendid residency of His Excellency Laurent Bill, Ambassador of France to Thailand.
I want to become an Artist. My whole being wants to paint and more than ever to realize the dream of any painter: to imagine that one day in the future someone will stand in front
of one of my canvasses in wonderment, “overcome with emotion,” and will look at it transfixed as I have always been before the corn fields and black crows of Vincent Van Gogh.
I extend my thanks to all of you who have taken the time to linger a few minutes before one of my paintings. The story continues….
Christmas 2006 - New York
In 2005 we welcomed the birth of our new 'artist in the making', little Maïa, born December 13.
(Maïa 1 & Elianna 5 1/2)
Sylvain Chopard – the Artist
I was born in Besançon, (eastern region by the river Doubs) France, in 1956 to a family of modest means where I was the eldest of three children. I was a child of the land. I used to dream of the sea as some far away inaccessible country--we were country folk. We spent our time in the fields, woods and lanes. For swimming we had streams, the river and ponds. The smells, the noises and sensations were of grass and meadows, trees and undergrowth. There were cows, chickens, horses, crows and small birds. Sea birds were an exotic species from another world.
After high-school, there was no chance of going on to college. Family difficulties after my parents divorce only exacerbated our circumstances. The germ of an idea, going “to other lands” began to take hold in my mind—I was searching for light.
At 18, I signed up for the French Navy and passed a nursing certificate. A few months later, I shipped out for the Pacific. Assigned to a patrol ship, La Paimpolaise, I spent the next four years discovering the islands of the South Pacific and learning to know the Polynesians with whom I felt an extraordinary rapport, a strange sensation of being in an extra-temporary world.
The return to France was far from easy.
I spent several years at the military hospital in Lorient. I passed the entrance examination to study at the C.I.L.A.M.A. (military medical college) of Desgenettes in Lyon so that I could earn a state laboratory-technician diploma. After two years of hematology, serology, virology, bacteriology, parasitology and immunology, I was assigned to the military hospital in Cherbourg, in charge of the microbiology section. On first impressions the city, still scarred from World War II, struck me as gray and dreary. Yet I soon discovered an astonishingly green countryside. The earth, the country people, the houses looked like the paintings of Jean-François Millet. The final touch was the wild coastline and, beyond, the ever-seductive, restive sea. In those early years, Normandy was still untouched by the urban world, and was a land of pastures, dark forests and jagged inlets.
Brittany and Normandy only fanned an inner flame in me—the longing for the sea and for color. The irresistible attraction of the sea seemed to stir within me the hint of a hidden talent, nothing definite, just an intimation of the future.
And that is why I’m happiest painting seascapes.
The years went by, and Africa followed the South Pacific. Two years of vibrant colors and silent sounds in Dakar, Senegal; six months on special mission, the only French marine, in Chad.
In 1998 I prepared to leave France to join my future wife, Elizabeth (a Frenchwoman of Breton origin) in the United States. While I was sitting at an outdoor café, a gypsy woman grabbed my hand to tell me my fortune. Her message struck me as silly and senseless. “I see you surrounded by colors, lots of colors, with many visitors, and people wanting your signature.”
Self-taught, I began painting in 1999, buying my first brush right after seeing a poster on the paintings of Gaugin in a Miami art gallery. When I came to the United States, I wasn’t even aware I had any aptitude for painting. It was in Florida that the realization dawned that I had a real passion for this artform. My wife Elizabeth, a graduate in graphic design from the University of Illinois in Chicago, gives me sound advice in spite of our differences of opinion about art in general.
I claim very few references from the past. I consider myself close to the Impressionists, identify with Expressionism and derive a few extra-dimensional aspects from Fauvism. Recently, Synthetism and the painting of the Pont-Aven school have been a new stimulus.
These days, I can’t imagine living without the sea. Even though I don’t actually see it, I like knowing it’s out there and that all I have to do is walk a bit to reach it. It is part of my life, as familiar to me as the forest once was. When I was a child I learned to love it and to live with its rhythms. The sea calms me, uplifts me and gives me strength and courage. Though she can be irritating in her restlessness, I respect her character when she tells me, like a knowing parent, “I need to be alone, so come back later.”
New York, I’m quite sure, will not be my final destination in life. Every day I feed on the hope of a journey to other places where light and color will be on the welcoming mat.