“I want it to be a beautiful object, an object of desire”
Julien Colombier’s condensed small works for the Hennessy's Limited Edition cognac bottles are hypnotic, like something you want to touch, hoping that a door to that luscious nature will open and transport you to a parallel universe.
The artists that get under your skin are humble. Blithely, they acknowledge the immense richness of what they take from others in order to sustain who they are – head first they face that blank canvas and fill it with the ideas on their mind. In Julien Colombier’s case – a self-taught painter from Paris, with a profound love for chalk – that blank canvas is a black canvas.
“When you want to do something chic, you begin with opening credits that are black. The minimum. So, I want to build on this idea – beginning with a black background and presenting the picture in the middle. It’s a bit like putting it in a jewellery box. So, then it shines really brightly.”
With a steady hand, Colombier creates vibrant shapes. What is especially compelling is the way that he builds up a painting’s surface with the right amount of illustration, vivacity, and recognition.
“I want my art to be accessible to everybody. That’s why I’ve taken nature to be the central point, so that no one, no matter what country they're from, needs an instruction manual to understand what I want to say. Colours, simple shapes, universal subjects and above all a lot of feelings. Everything passes through feelings and emotions. In fact, I’d prefer that things pass through the heart first, and then through the brain.”
In his collaboration with Maison Hennessy, the design spotted on the Limited Edition cognac bottles is of petite measures, and the relative smallness of the illustrations underscores not only its density but the way that it seems to move beyond the frame, like a dream that stays with you long after you wake up.
“For Hennessy, I went to seek out motifs that are really specific to the brand. I was interested in the vine stems that decorate the bottles, and which are also the fundamental element of the cognac. So, I leaned towards new leaves, new structures. Bunches of grapes, vine stems, that I had never used in my work before, and that allowed me to compose a fresco with the DNA of Hennessy.”
Contrary from what one might think and from what meets the eye, blue isn’t the dominant colour in this creation. One can spot a series of earth tones – browns and greens, with a little dash of yellow, reminding us of sunlight peeking through the bottom of a door frame. Colombier’s fresco creates a crisp allegorical vision where the earth tones in the end make up most of the picture, balancing out the Yves Klein blue, with its evocative mingling of sharp shapes and magical realism.
“The role of colour, of light, in my art is really very important. I use contrasting colours so that they enhance each other. I start with a black background and the colours bring out the shapes as I go along. In fact, the keyword here is contrasts, very big contrasts. Especially with the colours, red and blue. Colours can be so versatile – it’s not the same when you put another colour beside it, and that blue for example is a lot bluer when you’ve got pink beside it, it’s a richness of interactions, of mixtures. So, the interest is in how things interact. It’s a big mosaic of things that come together to make a total work.”
Colombier has total control over his creation – de facto, he is never not in control. The artist’s understanding of how nature and light combined can create a kind of visual turmoil wreaks havoc on the senses like eaux-de-vie descending from verdant vines. When our eyes meet his final work, we can experience something like delirium in the elements. And just like that, thanks to colourful pastels, Colombier managed to turn nature and paint into a feast for the eyes.
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