2014年11月22日 星期六

Marc Antoine Squarciafichi, Marcestel

MARCESTEL - Biography
Marc Antoine Squarciafichi, called Marcestel, was born in Paris on February 26,
1943. In 1945 he came to Eze on the Côte d'Azur, where his father, Robert, ...

CULTURE & MORE: Artist explores Japanese myths and the human condition


photoMarcestel Squarciafichi signs a book of his paintings at the Ueno Royal Museum. (LOUIS TEMPLADO/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
People outside Japan often seem best at discovering the special aspects of our culture. Marcestel Squarciafichi is one of them. The 65-year-old French artist has found beauty in something Japanese people have long forgotten--Japanese myths.
Old folklore is based primarily on two ancient books, the "Kojiki" (Records of Ancient Matters) and "Nihonshoki" (Chronicle of Japan), both from the eighth century.
Japanese myths form the undercurrents of Japanese belief, tradition and state of mind.
For more than 38 years, Squarciafichi, who refers to himself as Marcestel, has used these legends as themes for his paintings.
"It's such a shame that Japanese people take little notice of something so beautiful," Marcestel said in Japanese in a recent interview at the Ueno Royal Museum, where his paintings were exhibited last month.
He added that it's quite rare for myths to be handed down in writing over the centuries as in Japan.
But Japanese people have forgotten this treasure, and "children nowadays have no idea of these tales," Marcestel said.
Izanagi and Izanami, the deity couple who legend says created the islands of Japan, cuddle in Marcestel's paintings. The sun goddess, Amaterasu, is drawn like the Virgin Mary as she breathes light into the world. Perhaps, the artist's portrayals best illustrate the atmosphere of these ancient tales and characters.
Today, Marcestel's mythology-inspired paintings travel in and outside Japan. They can also be seen at 22 shrines, including Izumo Taisha in Shimane Prefecture and Dazaifu Tenmangu in Fukuoka Prefecture. Over the past 10 years, the artist has donated many of his works to shrines around the country.
"I feel the best place for my paintings is shrines, where their spirit can stay with the gods," Marcestel said.
It was sheer luck that Marcestel encountered Japanese myths. After he arrived in Japan at age 27 in 1970, a friend gave him a copy of the "Kojiki" to help him study Japanese. Marcestel had learned Chinese at college and could read kanji. The "Kojiki" was a perfect study aid because it supplied hiragana and katakana alongside the kanji. Soon after opening the tome, Marcestel found himself addicted to the mythological world the book presented.
This interest was not surprising; he had been fascinated by myths since his childhood. His parents had owned Cap Estel, a luxury hotel overlooking the Mediterranean in Eze, a small French village on the Cote D'azur. It is not far from Nice.
Painter Marc Chagall lived just around the corner, and celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo stayed at the hotel.
This exposure to various cultures and hugely talented individuals created a mesmerizing environment for a small boy.
"The friends I played with at the hotel already spoke several languages. I was absolutely amazed," Marcestel recalled.
At school, he learned that people were often divided by color. But he was determined to spend his life looking deeper. He was certain that beneath the surface they were essentially the same.
At 7, he started collecting books of old tales, including those of Greece and Egypt, which looked back to humanity's very beginnings.
However, despite his interest in myth and culture, his father insisted that his son learn economics. Marcestel obeyed and went on to study economic science at the University of Paris as well as Russian at the University of Oriental Languages.
"But next door to my Russian class, they were teaching Chinese," Marcestel said. "The moment I saw kanji, I was taken with its beauty. The way they were made from drawings ・to me they were simply art."
Straight away, Marcestel began taking Chinese lessons. He didn't stop there. He now speaks eight languages.
With such talent for languages, it's not surprising that Marcestel decided on a diplomatic career after finishing school. The profession took him to Laos during his first year. When he returned, he worked with legendary French politician Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of the European Union.
But it was his trip to Japan in 1970--the year of Osaka World Expo--that changed his life completely.
"I stayed at a friend's house and we played hanafuda (Japanese cards) on a kotatsu (low heated table)," Marcestel said with a smile. "The picture cards were beautiful, and the kotatsu was so warm. I immediately fell in love with Japanese culture and its mysticism."
His knowledge of kanji helped him feel close to Japan. But it was an Indian ink painting at Kyoto's Kiyomizudera temple that helped him decide to remain in Japan
"The nijimi method (paint blurred on paper) was captivating, something not found in Western paintings," explained Marcestel. "And nature was drawn massively and people extremely small. I thought it was wonderful."
Having read Japanese myths, Marcestel was taken with the idea that Japanese found gods in nature--be it a river, a mountain or a tree--and lived in harmony with it.
"It would be great if we could all respect nature like that, for we humans are helpless without it," he said. "This kind of philosophy is required especially today when global warming is threatening the environment."
Marcestel's encounter with Japanese myths and the Kiyomizudera painting was so powerful that he gave up his diplomatic career and moved permanently to Japan to work as a painter.
He spent the following years trying to discover a way to adapt the nijimi method to oil painting. It was no easy task. He also visited many Japanese provincial areas in, for example, Nara and Shimane prefectures, where the myths that so interested him originated.
"You can find ki (spirit) at these places even today," Marcestel said. "Japanese nature is masculine, and can be frightening at times. It's very different from the nature I grew up in, which is more feminine."
Marcestel said that his admiration for nature comes from his childhood experience of making the most of his proximity to the Mediterranean Sea.
"I would swim 4 kilometers a day," Marcestel recalled. "I preferred the dark blue sea compared to its usual emerald green."
His intimacy with the Mediterranean is demonstrated in the vivid colors he applies to his paintings. According to Marcestel, this is something he had in common with the paintings of his friend and mentor Taro Okamoto.
"He lived five minutes away from my place so I would often visit him for breakfast," Marcestel said of the artist, who died in 1996. "We had the same birthday, Feb. 26. We would often celebrate it together."
Okamoto was also fond of gods and myths. "We would often engage ourselves in conversation regarding these topics," Marcestel said. "But quite frankly, I never saw him at work in his studio. I think he was very lazy, to be honest. Oops, sorry sensei (teacher)."
Marcestel views Okamoto as an artist whose greatness was only truly recognized after his death.
Marcestel said it is disheartening that it is so difficult for Japan-based artists to secure financial and practical support.
"I've contacted big companies and politicians for support, but none of them have shown any interest," he said.
Because of this lack of interest in Japan, Marcestel recently decided to move on to interpret myths of other countries, starting with China and then South Korea.
He has just finished a painting that blends both Chinese and Greek myths, a project commissioned by a Chinese art foundation to commemorate the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
Marcestel's quest for myths continues as he travels between his five studios around the world.
"There are no borders to myths," he said. Ultimately, there is only "one myth in the world," the universal myth that conveys respect for nature and humanity.
Recently, he believes he has come close to the ideal he sought as a boy. "I've come to be able to believe that people are little different underneath," he said. "They believe and cherish essentially the same things."
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Marcestel Squarciafichi's paintings are on display at Dazaifu Tenmangu in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, until July 27. Call 092-922-8225 or visit &(IHT/Asahi: June 20,2008)



名 称  マークエステル絵画展
会 期  平成26年11月19日(水)~11月25日(火) 
      13時~18時 ※最終日は17時閉場
会 場  大丸心斎橋店 南館8階 美術画廊
マークエステル来場予定 会期中連日 13時~17時
名 称  マークエステル展
会 期  平成26年12月2日(火)~12月10日(水) 
      10時~19時 ※入場無料
会 場  静岡県掛川市 淡山翁記念報徳図書館 2F