The encounter between the Painter Chantal Westby and the Multimedia artist and Photographer Lénaïc G. Mercier, was one of those fortunate meetings between two artists who immediately realize they share a common vision. This meeting, and the realization of their shared passion, occurred at the time of Chantal’s exhibition “Kaleidoscope” in Nantes, France in 2014.
Although traditionally Painting, artistic photography and multimedia are considered parallel disciplines, they decided to combine their talents in a collaborative project entitled “FIAT#LUX”.
Lénaïc’s unique photographic gaze imparts a dreamlike quality to the scene as Chantal creates highly emotional works utilizing Chinese inks and natural mineral pigments.
Before the camera’s eye the painter’s hand poses the brush on the canvas and the ensuing mixture of inks and pigments is registered in a unique combination of two artistic disciplines.
Multimedia comes after that to bring the painting to life recreating what the painter was visualizing in her mind while creating the painting.
Chantal and Lénaïc during their first meeting at Galerie Loïc Vallée in Nantes in 2014.
PHOTO CREDIT: Marita Lakatos
Everything started with a personal photographic and video series project, called “À Deux Mains - Made in Hand”.
The main purpose was to immortalize hands creating something, with a very artistic, sensitive and unique style of image, created with a special technique during filming.
I did the first episode of this collection with my father-in-law while he was building a big Titanic model. I filmed and photographed him during an entire afternoon, with the idea of following every step of the building of this model coming back to shoot him four times a month until the completion.
Unfortunately, he passed away a few days after.
by Lénaïc Mercier
When I was contacted by Agora Gallery in late 2015 to present an exhibition in New-York City, my first thoughts were for him and this series project.
Since our first meeting in France during the opening reception of one of her exhibition, I wanted to work with Chantal. I saw this proposition like a beautiful opportunity to realize my dream. I immediately contacted her to propose a collaborative project centered around the creative process of her paintings.
Without a minute she responded with an enthusiastic “YES”, and four month later, I was in her Philadelphia Studio to start working on the project.
It was not the first time for her to be filmed in her studio. She had been the main star of a well known and critically well received six part Belgium documentary film called “America, America”, directed by the talented Anne-Marie Avouac and broadcast in France on the popular documentary series “Strip-Tease’. It was also widely distributed throughout Europe and the entire world. But this was the first time for her to be followed, filmed and photographed in the heart of the intimate part of her creative process, at the moment when every artist is most vulnerable.
She opened her doors as well as her heart to me.
During ten entire days, we have lived a connection like never before. It is not easy for a painter to have someone turning around you with a camera while you are creating.
And because of my special filming technique, the camera needed to be very close to her hands. It was impossible for me to use a zoom. For the first hours, we searched for a comfortable physical collaboration..
We never talked. And before we knew it, her brushes and my camera had started to become one. It was natural and the light was reflecting off the canvas while it was entering into the lense of my camera. The ink was mixing effortlessly with the mineral pigments, just as our two forms of artistic expression began to mix..
Without any planning, the first painting Chantal did represented a black hole, the source of creation,the first and most powerful energy in the universe. Once again, the light was at the center of this project.
This is why, when the time came to find a title for the project, the Latin expression “Fiat Lux” was an obvious choice. This expression can be translated by “Let there be light” and would have been the first words pronounced by God before the Creation. It was not a question of religion, it was a question of creation and origins. Chantal and I are both of French origin and the French language come from the Latin. As well as being a reference to our origins,it also reflects the light shone by my Father-in-law’s legacy on this project.