Guy pictured with his showcase called “Les Joueurs”
“The interesting thing is that I like being in the unknown”- Guy Clement
Guy Clement was born in Egypt in 1951 to a French Jewish Father and an Italian mother. His family was forced to move to France when he was just five years old and from there he immersed himself in the culture, including a lot of art. After having a successful career in the high tech world as an electrical engineer he decided to step away from the technology field and step forward to pursue his passion for the arts and now specifically, creating sculptures. We had the privilege to sit down and ask him a few questions about his life, journey and how he became the artist he is today.
*This interview took place on May 31st 2023* by Rachel Stav
Q: Can you take me back to how your career as an artist began and what inspired you from the beginning?
A: So I spent 35 years working in high tech and for most of my life I was raised in Paris. However, I never realized how deeply French culture was within me. If you visit Paris you will quickly notice that art permeates through every aspect of life. The French people love to do art everywhere - in food, clothing, relationships, and going out. But that was hidden from me for the longest time, so after 35 years in high tech I lived phenomenology in my career in high tech where there were no standards and no Microsoft. As time went on I thought that there must be something else to life than just high tech and the tech world has changed a lot, imposing a lot of constraints on us. That is when I decided that I needed to do something else and wander around a bit. As I was roaming around an arts institute studying, I looked at the different art work that was there and the sculptures really jumped out at me. So I decided to go back to school to learn how to sculpt and learn more about the art world. It was an intriguing journey because I had to literally un-learn a lot of things, shedding the “I know it all” mentality that you learn as an engineer. But in art you don’t know anything about what you are doing, where you are going, and feel good about not knowing. That was such a change for me but in a good way. I was also taught as a child when in darkness to turn on the light, but in art, I learned to enjoy the darkness. Most of the creativity for me happens in darkness and if you think about it, babies are born in darkness, the seas are in darkness. So as an artist, I love being in the darkness.
Le joueur 3 by Guy Clement
Q: What was the process like for this specific exhibition?
A: I don’t really like to copy reality. I can do it, but it’s not something I want to do right now. I like to interpret reality in my own way and I like to take an image and transform it. Sometimes I transform an image so much that it just goes too far so I go back a little bit and that is my process. I played tennis and squash for a very long time and so I thought I want to relate that in my artwork. The French people love to play in every aspect of life. We consider life as a big playground, so that is what I was inspired by.
Le joueur 4 by Guy Clement
Q: What are some main themes that you use in your artwork?
A: I like sculptures a lot, especially stone/wood sculptures. I think those are the very few art forms to get to where you want. I think a lot of mental health issues require you to remove stuff to get back to being healthy. I at least dig into it to get in contact with the real truth.
Le joueur 1 by Guy Clement
Q: How does the artwork you create as an artist relate back to mental health?
A: We adopted two kids and one of them has major mental health problems. She was hurting herself a lot and so we went through a lot of mental health issues and a lot of trying to heal her. We sought after many different avenues of medical attention from psychiatrists. So I connect to mental health because of our situation. It's really hard when your daughter doesn’t want to wake up in the morning and then you have medical professionals take them to the Emergency room, or psychiatrists say that she is all better, but she’s on all these drugs. It goes up and down emotionally and physically. So my art this time is about players and I would say especially in America, if we were all able to take life as a game as a play then we would have a lot less mental issues. Everything right now especially is super serious and so stiff that I see a rise in mental health issues. I think there is a very significant process in creating these sculptures that correlate back with mental health because at the very beginning you are forming and it’s very physical where you can get splinters and rocks jumping back at you. But then you get into a mode where you are filing and then it gets friendlier where it almost becomes more sensual and everything is so smooth and you take it with the bumps. I think there is a lot of healing when it comes to sculptures.
Mademoiselle Squash by Guy Clement
Q: What were some obstacles you had when creating your sculptures and how did you get over them?
A: Yes, I had a lot of obstacles. The interesting thing is that I like being in the unknown, and when I would come across some challenges, I would meditate before I start a sculpture to help clear my mind and put my work in with a clear mind. This helps me when I have issues that come up. Sometimes, what happens is I am working late at night because that is when I am very creative in the dark and I wake up in the next morning and think to myself “this is horrible” and so sometimes the piece and I don’t talk for a long time. So that is why it is important for me to start by meditating and have a completely clear mind.
Q: How has your career developed since you started?
A: One of my art teachers, when I started to learn, told me to start with competitions. Because I wasn’t as young anymore, he challenged me to learn this way. So I was very lucky when it came to a competition, because he handed me a piece of paper that was advertising a competition. I was then even more lucky because I won first and second place for that competition and the gallery approached me and asked me to show in San Francisco. I was so excited and of course just said “sure!”. I was still in school so I was very, very lucky. So I was with that gallery for about four years and knew nothing about the art gallery process and kind of like a mentor, the man I worked with took me under and helped me understand the structure and everything. Since then, my career really started to grow and I did more sculptures.
Les Joueurs Exhibition by Guy Clement
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give out to other artists?
A: Be okay not knowing. When my grandchild was four, we would love to put a piece of paper on the breakfast table and have all kinds of art supplies for him to draw. I would tell him this is breakfast, and now he is stuck. As my grandson got older he started to complain how he no longer knew how to draw what he used to and unfortunately a lot of his creativity is gone. So the biggest advice I have for others is try and go back and channel your inner youth to find that creativity you had. I think we have been polluted by schools and systems that they want you to fit in certain molds and sometimes that’s not the answer. There is no manual to life and so try and enjoy and remember that creativity you have.