‘Beauty shall not be an opiate that puts you
to sleep but a strong wine that fires you to action,
for if you fail to be a true man or a true woman,
you will fail to be an artist.’
‘Decalouge of the artist’, IX, Gabriela Mistral
There are many reasons why people from all over the world dream of visiting Paris. They want to feel the unique atmosphere of the vibrant, Parisian cafes, restaurants and museums, take a long walk surrounded by the exquisite architecture, taste the delicious latte and croissants early in the morning – hoping that Louvre, the art galleries and art fairs soon open for the curious eyes that are hungry for beauty.
Tsuguharu Foujita, Paris Street, 1930, Private Collection
Tsuguharu Foujita, Paris Street, 1955, Private Collection
But there is something more than just a need for experiencing beauty of the surroundings. What people are really looking for is ‘the scent of love and romance’ they hope to find in the magical “une ville d’amour.
Talking about magic. Let’s stop for a while and think of the capital city of France, 100 years ago. If I were to ask you to mention 3 names of important artists that you associate with Paris of ’20 of last century , whom would you choose? I am sure that most of you would go for a Spaniard Pablo Picasso, the Italian Amadeo Modigliani and the Mexican Diego Rivera. And how about Foujita? Ever heard of this extravagant, Japanease artist whose distinctive and flamboyant works brought elements of Japanease Art to Western oil painting?
Foujita, Autoportait, ca. 1923, Private Collection
Foujita and his wife and muse Youki, Private Collection
To me Foujita was a very important figure in the hermetic artistic circle of the interwar period in France. The greatest contribution the history of art by this Japanease-French artist are displayed in his depictions of female nudes and cats and his special white paint upon which he could draw a masterful line, one that seemed to outline a woman’s whole body in a single unbroken stroke. There is one more thing that makes the works of Foujita unforgettable – the subject matter of his work, beautiful women with certain sadness in their eyes, that expressed the artists own emotions, the secret longing for something that the heart is hungry for and cannot live without.
Tsuguharu Foujita, Reclining Nude with Toile de Jouy, 1949, Private Collection
Formento & Formento, Nicole IV, Los Angeles, California 2012, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston
Formento & Formento, ‘Circumstance’
Why do I want to speak of Foujita? First of all he his works are outstanding and have got that ‘exotic sensuality’ that attracts and delights in a very special way. But there is more. Some facts of this artistic life, his tendency to depict strikingly beautiful, sad and wistful women, the physical appearance and the artists relationship with his second wife Youki strongly reminded me of an artistic couple that I met online some time ago – Richelle and BJ Formento.
The way those conceptual photographers (and in private life – a married couple) work with the light and pigment is quite remarkable and original. The depth of their works has been appreciated by international magazines such as like Aesthetica, Blink, Musee and L’oeil de la Photographie and currently represented by many international art galleries. It’s apparent that the talented couple does know how to awaken the magical atmosphere through situating their stunningly beautiful models in the Hopper-esque landscapes, making their skin look as if it has been covered with a unique blend of crushed oyster shells (as a matter of fact Foujita actually did use the shells-powder while creating his most remarkable paintings).
Formento & Formento, Lauren VII, 2010, My Web’Art Gallery
(c) Formento & Formento
Tsuguharu Foujita, Bust of recycling woman with cat, 1950, Private Collection
When I started my research on Formento & Formento what inspired me most about the couple was their love. In times when people change partners with the frequency of replacing a hat or a coat for the new season, the feeling between the photographers seems to be bullet-proof. I don’t have to mention that love and passion, if shared with the right person becomes not only the most powerful source of inspiration, but also the bridge to the greatest artistic achievements.
Frankly, I’ve never spoke to BJ and Richelle about the circumstances in which they met. For now I’d like to believe that their first meeting was as romantic as the first randez vous of young Foujita in 1922 with Lucie Badoud (19 years old back then) in Parisian café ‘Rotonda’.
Foujuta and his wife Youki, 1927, Kluver/Martin Archive
BJ and Richelle Formento, Art Basel 2014
It’s plain to see that The Formento’s work leave plenty of room for imagination. The onlooker is taken into the space where graceful women are contemplating a memory more haunting than any other. Subtle messages hover over. The mood is evoked. The stunnnig creatures seem to drift in the longing for something that has remained unattainable for a long time. The artist begin a dialogue with us the onlooker – and we witness a unique moment that is known from a movies. A touching, overwhelming ’emotion prive’ when we think of the things that we keep locked deep down in our hearts and never really reveal to anybody.
If you look closely you’ll notice that the works by Fomento & Formento are created with cinematographic attention to detail, bringing to mind the carefully composed shots and the gorgeous rhapsodies by Wong-Kar-wai.
Formento & Formento , Son XXI, Paris, 2013, Fahey/Klein Gallery
Tsuguharu Foujita, Young Japanease Woman, Private Collection
It is a true blessing that so many, incredibly talented artist from all over the world make us see and appreciate the beauty that is born of the purest form of love. In fact ‘the law of art’, something that the artist apply in their work, should be followed in every discipline and profession, no matter if it’s engineering, teaching, writing or designing – art greatest mission is to inspire and show us ‘the only, right way’:
‘You shall bring forth your work as a mother
brings forth her child: out of the blood of your heart.’
Gabriela Mistral, ‘Decalogue Of The Artist’