Absolu Travel : How did you become a painter ? You have been painting from a very early age, how did this develop?
My father, my grand-father, my brother are journalists. We have a very strong writing ethic. But before my father became a journalist, he also painted, as a young man. He was very good and won competitions. When I was growing up and also won competitions, my father said that it was very good, but also that artists lead miserable lives, that they don’t make any money, that people don’t respect them. He did anything possible to discourage me. So I became a politician! But people had even less respect for politicians… But I’ve been painting and sold paintings since I was 10 years old. I had a number of passions. Painting was one, but I also wanted to change things, and be involved in the political process. And I’ve done both.
A.T: Can you tell us more about the way you work, and your creative process?
20 years ago, I would have had a totally different answer. Back then, I was into expressionnism, abstraction, conceptual painting. I wanted my work to be cutting-edge modern painting. Now my work has become more and more conservative. I respond as a visual artist to the things of beauty around me. I’m less concerned about making powerful statements that I am about paiting something that moves me. I feel that a lot of young artists feel the need to reinvent painting. I no longer have that feeling. I paint oil on canvas. I throw a lot of paint on, water. I cover the surface. When I travel, I build my paintings from photographs.
A.T: If you could choose one work of art, which has inspired you the most, what would it be?
It’s a very hard question. Rather than one painting, Picasso and Matisse were the great masters of the last century. I also love Bacon, Hockney. I saw my first Picasso painting in Brisbane. It was La belle hollandaise. It’s a small painting from the pink period. That didn’t change my work but I wanted to know more about Picasso. Picasso said that modern art is mostly a fraud. He talked about learning how to paint, and then unlearning. Now I understand what he means.
A.T: How do you feel about Paris, how do you perceive the city?
It’s the most beautiful city in the world. I love the idea that certains parts of the city haven’t changed a lot. Sure, there are cars, and telephones, and computers… But essentially, the city is the same beautiful city that it was 100 or 150 years ago. Paris is a person to me. I’m in love with her.
A.T: How do you feel about the Marais in particular?
The first place I stayed at when I came to Paris in 1974, it was a youth hostel in the Marais. I don’t know where it is now. The building would still be there. Obviously, in the last 30 or 40 years, the Marais has become more and more popular, trendy, stylish, and therefore more expensive. Back then it was not considered a fashionable place for tourists to be staying. It has changed like all inner-city areas of all the big cities around the world. They discovered the center of gravity, the center of their soul, in the old parts of the city. I’m also an urban politician. The city is both my job and my passion. The area I represent in Brisbane is in the center of the city.
A.T: You will soon retire from your political career, what are your projects?
Painting. That’s it. I’ve been a consellor for 24 years.
A.T: How did your stay at AbsoluTravel apartment go?
Fantastic. I always travel to apartments, I don’t like hotels. It is exactly as it is advertised. It’s a good price. It gave me the ability to paint.