Mythology and ritual: The explorative paintings of Jean-Pierre Roffi

Today we talk with Jean-Pierre Roffi about his entrance into the art world and his unique approach to creating work. His paintings will soon be exhibited in our Winter Exhibition.

So who are you Jean Pierre and what do you do?

I’m a French painter from Perpignan who’s not really lived much in France. My parents have Spanish and Italian heritage and I’ve been travelling my whole life. I was born in Laos, my parents were scientists and I was brought up in many places including Asia and French Guyana, but that’s a long story! I came to art quite late. I had been working for the UN for many years as a translator in places like Rome and Bangkok before moving to London which is how I ended up here (at the Make Space Studios)!

When did you become an artist?

About fifteen years ago, it started as a hobby whilst I translated full time. I’ve always been very interested in languages, but as a translator this can be very boring. It’s not what you might expect, it’s often very corporate and commercial.

The Pub, 2015 | Mixed media on canvas | 100 x 76 cm | £1,500

I started initially as a cartoonist as I liked telling and inventing stories. As a traveller I found this was a good way of telling stories about the things and places I saw. I joined a group of cartoonists and we published as a group but nothing very big came of it, over time the group dissolved so I decided to take up painting and began to really enjoy it.

What influences you and your work?

I am very influenced by mythology and rituals. Lots of types old and new. Ancient and modern. I’ve done a series on zombies and I have done a series on football fans. These are the modern rituals, you know being in the pub having a beer and meeting your friends.

I take a lot of my inspiration from multimedia. I was very interested in photo processes, in particular older photos and cyanotype photography. I loved this for a long time, but am now moving away from this as I was doing it so much and now in London I cannot do so easily because there is not enough sun!

Bundao, 2018 | Mixed media on canvas | 40 x 30 cm | £220

How do you paint, can you describe the process?

I like the word process! As this is exactly what I’m doing. I use all sorts of different paints and I like to mix everything. I’ve attended art schools where they teach you how to paint, but I just didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do it differently. I wanted to do it my way. I went to Wimbledon College of Art as a mature student but didn’t like the way things were taught.

When I do a painting I start with an idea then I look at writing and research. I’m not the kind of painter who works from life. I work from photos, computer mediums and the internet. I’m now using all types of acrylic which I mix with oils and it reacts very strangely. I also use commercial paint. And recently I have discovered bitumen paint - usually used for roofs and roads. It’s very thick like a jelly. I like to experiment and now I use anything.

Why do you paint?

Why paint? it’s obvious for me. I like to paint, I like the colours and it’s easy! You have the paints right there in front of you and you can create. I like to tell stories I don’t use it as a therapy or something. For me now it’s a necessity. I have fun, I love it. I’m not trying to be commercial, but as long as I have fun I will keep on doing it.

Some people use fine objects, I use fine images. I like to find an image and then appropriate it and tell my own story with it. For instance this is a series of portraits I have done on ‘challenged people’ - mad, homeless, elderly. I don’t know them so it's important not to have any connection as I create my own character with them. Like in a cartoon.

Old Soul 2018 | Acrylic on canvas | 40 x 30 cm | £220

What’s the next project you have planned?

I love old painters, so this is an idea in my head. I want to reexamine the older classical painters and reinterpret Old Masters paintings to make them alive again. A lot of people forget about them but I still have a strong connection to them. I want my next project to address this topic and bring them to life in a new way.

Jean-Pierre shall be showing his latest paintings in our Winter Exhibition this week at the Menier Gallery from Wednesday - Saturday.

The private view will fall on Tuesday 11th December from 6pm onwards. To RSVP please click here.