Geoffrey Bouillot, was born in Chalon-sur-Saône (Burgundy), France, in 1990 and currently resides and works in Japan. His work is influenced by the cultural interplay between these two cultures, exploring the dynamics of pop art, cubism, and Italian futurism. Bouillot specializes in portraiture and has developed his unique style, using black and white as the only colors in his palette. Bouillot’s use of a monochromatic palette is intentional as he believes that this allows the viewer to focus more on the form and texture of the subject. His artwork reflects the essence of contemporary art culture, characterized by its clean, fresh, elegant, aesthetic, and ethereal elements.
Within his work, one can observe remnants of Manga, where subjects and compositions are meticulously separated with clean lines and a play of light, achieving harmony and balance between the artist’s other influential styles: cubism and pop art. Bouillot’s work has been described as “composed of metallic-like stacking cylindrical and spherical forms.”
To date, Bouillot has exhibited extensively worldwide.
Geoffrey! Thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Could you describe yourself to those who do not know you?
Hello! My name is Geoffrey, and I’m a French artist currently based in Japan. I specialize in creating monochromatic artworks that fuse various styles. Growing up in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, and now living in Japan, my multicultural background heavily influences my work.
Passionate about portraiture, my artistic style is characterized by clean lines and a contemporary aesthetic. I strive to capture the essence of my subjects, whether a person or a natural form and convey it through my art. Deliberately utilizing black and white, I believe, allows viewers to focus on the shape and texture of the subject.
Beyond aesthetics, my art carries symbolic depth. I seek to explore and convey messages about the past to shed light on the future. It’s important that my artworks evoke emotions and inspire viewers, inviting them to contemplate the universal themes and narratives embedded within the pieces.
What is a regular day like for you, and how is it living in Japan?
A regular day for me starts quite early. I wake up at 5 AM and begin my painting sessions at 6 AM, which typically lasts until noon. I continue working on my art in the afternoon, from 1 PM to 5 PM. However, my schedule often revolves around spending time with my daughter, who requires a lot of attention and care.
Living in Japan for the past 12 years has significantly impacted my life and artistic taste. My wife is Japanese, and I’ve embraced Japanese culture to the extent that I consider myself more Franco-Japanese than purely French.
The Japanese influence is evident in my artistic style. I’m particularly drawn to the philosophy of “wabi-sabi” and Japanese minimalism. The concept of finding beauty in imperfection and simplicity resonates with me deeply, and I incorporate these elements into my artworks. My paintings are a blend of my dual cultural background, where French and Japanese aesthetics converge.
Can you describe your artistic journey and what drove you to choose this career path?
I truly began delving into the world of painting when I came to Japan. Prior to that, I had always had a passion for creating, but I was uncertain about which artistic path to pursue. In France, I had contemplated attending art school, but my parents didn’t consider art as a serious career. They urged me to find a ‘real’ job, which led me to leave France in search of new horizons.
Ironically, it was during my early days in Japan that I attended the Marc Chagall exhibition in Tokyo, and the sheer power of his artworks left a profound impression on me. It sparked my interest in painting, particularly in 20th-century art. I became deeply passionate about that period, devouring books about the artists of that era, and my desire to become a painter grew stronger.
Initially, I faced a simple reality: I had no time, no money, and no place to pursue my artistic dreams. Therefore, I took a job in a French restaurant, working up to 75 hours a week for two years to save enough money to rent a studio and dedicate myself fully to art for a year without the need for additional work. That’s how I embarked on my artistic journey as a self-taught artist.
I believe it’s crucial for a contemporary artist to differentiate oneself through a strong and recognizable style. In a sea of technically talented artists, it’s essential to create a distinct and powerful identity. That’s why I chose black and white, along with gradients, as my artistic language. The contrast between black and white is striking and leaves a lasting impact. I also appreciate the minimalist and serene qualities that emanate from this choice.
Through my artistic journey, I continue to explore and refine my style, always seeking to push my creativity and convey meaningful messages through my art.
What does your creative process look like?
My creative process typically begins with the concept for the exhibition. I consider the overall theme, the spatial layout of the venue, the sizes of the artworks, and the desired number of paintings. Once I have defined these aspects, I proceed to work on my sketches using a tablet. I then project these sketches onto the canvas.
My artworks are composed of distinct and delineated parts. To achieve this, I use masking tape to create boundaries between each section. I then focus on working with gradients of black and white within these defined areas. Depending on the desired lighting or contrast, I carefully execute the gradients to achieve the desired effect.
In the past, I explored a wide range of themes, including pop art with cartoon characters, more traditional subjects, and even influences from Italian futurism, where the repetition of forms created a sense of movement within the painting. However, my recent exhibition titled ‘Masters of Olympus’ in Tokyo had a significant impact on my artistic direction. In this exhibition, I represented the gods of Greek mythology against a black background. The exhibition emanated a sense of ‘tranquil strength’ that resonated deeply with me.
Can we dig deeper into your unique painting style, inspiration, and message?
My painting style is centered around the exploration of black-and-white aesthetics. It all began with a profound experience I had while creating my first black-and-white painting after numerous experimentation sessions. Coincidentally, during that time, I came across the work of Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita, whose monochromatic approach deeply impacted me.
Gokita’s ability to evoke strong emotions and create a captivating visual impact using black and white inspired me to exclusively focus on this color palette in my art. I was drawn to the simplicity, contrast, and timeless quality that black and white can convey. It became a way for me to delve into the nuances of form, texture, and the interplay between light and shadow.
What are the first things that come to your mind as necessary in your studio?
In my studio, I consider productivity to be essential. It is not only a place for contemplation but also for execution. I believe that the more I produce, the more I improve technically. There is a saying in French, “It is through forging that one becomes a blacksmith,” that can be translated as “practice makes perfect.” While painting, my mind can wander, and I occasionally jot down ideas. However, I tend to conceptualize the themes for my exhibitions outside of my studio, whether it’s in cafes or while traveling.
Which of all places where your art was exhibited is the most memorable, and why?
The most memorable place where my art was exhibited is the Jinkinoko Gallery in Tokyo in 2021 (which has unfortunately closed its doors due to the pandemic). It was my first exhibition showcasing my black and white paintings. The experience was a resounding success and served as a launching pad for my career as a full-time artist.
Name one of the most memorable reactions regarding your work?
Often, people ask me and assume that my work is done with spray paint, when in fact, it’s all done with brushes and just two pots of paint! I strive to create my artwork in a way that leaves room for doubt about whether it’s a hand-painted piece. At Cohle Gallery in Paris, the gallery owner told me that someone had insisted that it couldn’t possibly be brushwork, despite the gallery owner’s reassurance. I must admit, I find this kind of reaction cool!
What simple pleasures bring you alive?
My daughter, without a doubt!
What advice would you give to artists just starting, and is there one thing you wish you would have done differently in the first years of your art career?
It’s very difficult to answer because each person is different, with different backgrounds, mentalities, and cultures. The way that works for me may not work for others.
I believe that successful people have clear goals: they know who they are and what they want.
My own journey has been empirical. I acquired knowledge along the way. Perhaps if I had attended an art school, I would have been shaped into someone different and wouldn’t have become who I am today. I’m not saying that art schools are not good, but for me, it was not meant to be, and I’m glad my parents disagreed! I have no regrets and wouldn’t change anything. The important thing is not the destination but the journey, and I take great pleasure in the path I have chosen!
I would advise this: discover what you love but especially what you don’t love. Your identity will naturally unfold from there.
What is the best advice you were given regarding your art career as an artist?
The best advice I received regarding my art career came from a friend named Davy, a musician and illustrator. We were sitting in a café in Tokyo, sketching together, when one of his acquaintances approached us. After introducing myself and mentioning that I worked as a waiter, Davy looked at me and asked, “What do you love doing in life?” I replied that I loved art, and he responded, “Then say you’re an artist, not a waiter.”
Since that day, I have always identified myself as an artist. There’s a saying that I particularly like, “fake it until you make it.” It reminds me to have confidence in myself and my artistic path, even if I may not have achieved all my goals yet.
What does success mean to you?
Success means waking up in the morning and having the freedom to choose what I want to do or become today.
How would you like to be seen as an artist years from now?
In all humility, I would like to be seen as an artist who inspires others and becomes someone’s version of Tomoo Gokita. I know I still have a long way to go, and I don’t dwell too much on these kinds of questions. The path is built day by day. My wife often calls me an “Inoshishi,” which means wild boar. I carve my own path today, and whatever will be will be!
Name three artists you follow and their journey on Instagram?
Etsu Egami: A Japanese artist whom I discovered at the Seoul Art Fair and had the opportunity to meet in Tokyo. Her portrait work, created with brushes, is both simple and profound, and it inspires me greatly.
Shigeki Matsuyama: Another Japanese portrait artist. He has a clean technique of flat colors and minimalist lines that perfectly reflects the contemporary Tokyo scene. (I believe my style lies at the intersection of these two artists.)
Romain Hurdequin: An artist from my hometown, Chalon-sur-Saône. He incorporates elements of skateboarding culture and mythology into his black-and-white paintings. He creates mythological scenes on old broken skateboards, recreating artworks reminiscent of ancient Rome and Greece. The themes he explores have a significant influence on me and align perfectly with the vision I have for my future exhibitions.
What do you dream about?
Like many others, I dream of a peaceful and sustainable future for my daughter and her generation.
Name a book or film which grabbed your attention recently and why?
I recently read “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. This book grabbed my attention due to its fascinating exploration of the history of humanity, from our early origins to the present day. The author provides a deep analysis of cultural, social, and technological developments that have shaped our species. Harari’s storytelling approach, blending historical facts with philosophical reflections, captured my interest and allowed me to gain a fresh perspective on our own history as human beings.
What’s next for Geoffrey Bouillot?
The most important thing for me is my health because without it, I wouldn’t be able to paint, and without painting, I cannot truly live. As for my artistic journey, I plan to reduce the number of exhibitions and focus on creating larger and more impactful shows.
Also, I am currently experimenting with introducing color into my work while still maintaining a monochromatic style, but that remains a secret for now, haha! We’ll see where this new direction takes me!
Finally, is there anything else you would like to share?
Curiosity is, for me, the greatest quality one can possess. It allows us to open ourselves to things we never knew existed. Keep an open and curious mind, and remember that in practice, repetition is the mother of talent!