I meet the peculiar man that agrees for my interview. « Peculiar » cause I saw him at fashion shows or in street many times and found him intriguing with his ancient long dress of Mandarin : « very useful and bought at the Beijing Thieves Market. And the shawl is a coat, like an ancient toga, the Masai shepherds or the Tibetan monks ». I knew his draws for the Bon Marché advertising : Hyppolite Romain is a precious multi talented artist and the director of Le Jardin d’Acclimatation in Paris. And he also works in fashion for twenty years.
Late in the seventies, Hyppolite Romain works as journalist, then quickly draws for Pilote, Libération (very famous newspaper), Sandwich (Libération supplement). For Palace Magazine, he draws every nights, the incredible nights of the Palace (mythic nightclub of the eighties in Paris) for five years. And Anna Piaggi, the icon journalist of Vogue Italy and Vanity Italy commissions him thirty pages every quarter:
– I followed all shows around the world. It was “The Devil wears Prada”. I drew four hundred eighty draws in five days during the Collections.
– Garment, first is a superficiality. I’m not interested buying fashion. I am an artist and live and I wear as an artist. I am a real provocation. It ties up with freedom. I’ve always wanted to keep this freedom. I’ve always been my own sponsor. And I became a clown, I directed, wrote books, cooked. And I’m a complete autodidact.
And a painter:
– I paint as a Chinese calligrapher. I paint like I breath: you paint what you’ve got inside you. I’m human.
Madame Figaro sent Hyppolite Romain in Beijing, thirteen years ago : « It’s a meeting ». He owns an ancient traditional house in those small streets called Hu Tong. The Intimate Beijing I really enjoy. Both forbidding and very alive.
– I dream, I buy furniture, I cook. I live like an old Chinese, like a Mandarin. Without any nostalgia. And I wrote a historical book : « Sur les Traces d’un Jésuite en Chine » ( Following a Jesuit in China).
I admire the Chinese superb huge bed of the 12th century. The flat looks like a very refined boudoir.
He thinks after the O.J., in Beijing there will be « an economic tsunami » :
– Who will determine the next after-communism dynasty?
This interview was made before the recent events in Tibet.
– We live a culture shock, we’ve discovered we were nothing, the U.S., a giant with argyle feet. The twenty first century doesn’t have ideology: we are in a big lottery, there is no rule. We became weak consumers. France is a small cautious and extremely corporatist country: the Sarkozy bling bling, a troubled short man in a too big suit.
– It’s not possible not being engaged. I am one of the rare painters that paints his time exactly like Lautrec, Bruegel. I describe my time.
Hyppolite Romain, the erudite autodidact, found of the 18th century and the 17th century (he recently discovered), is also a « real artisan ». And he compares his relationship with food to love :
– For thirty five years I’ve cooked. I make porcelain for famous Limoge porcelain fabrics (Raynaud). For example: the “Marchioness and Mandarin” set, we use at the tea house of Le Jardin d’Acclimatation. Sometimes it takes fives centuries to some cultures to make a bowl. First it has to be functional and ergonomic: a manufactured product is not a work of art. Everything is definitely not a work of art! No!
The painter created a circus: first “a draw of an ideal circus on a tablecloth”. Then friends (including Karl Lagerfield) lent him locals in Paris and some of them became artists in his circus, like the Financial Manager of Le Nouvel Observateur (formal news magazine) in a position as a “Trainer of Goldfish in Ferociousness” (Dresseur de Poissons Rouges en Férocité). A surrealist title that makes travel. His circus presented sixty unique shows :
– This dream lasted sixteen years.
Today he extends this dream in his small theatre : “Summertime at Richelieu, I make a show : Chinese Tales under the Moon”.
Here the Paris of this real Parisian kid (we call it “Titi parisien”) born in 1947 rue des Martyrs “behind Medrano Circus” that could come from a Poulbot draw:
– Montmarte without la Place du Tertre, where it looks like the paintings of Maurice Trullot. Le Petit Musée de Montmartre, Le Lapin Agile. Les Quais de la Seine, Palais Royal, l’Ile Saint Louis, la Place des Victoires, le Musée d’Orsay. Cities talk, Paris murmurs, today the intermingling is not here anymore, times change. The Parisian slang like in Michel Audiard‘s movies dialogues, the Parisian accent, a heritage. The Parisian woman: a silhouette, a type.
When I ask me to describe himself with few objects, he takes from his bag a red clown nose, a Tibetan rosary and a metal “in vermeil”:
– Because it’s a sign of civilization. I try to be a honest man like the world citizen of the 18th century. I left the coat of mail to achieve to the embroidered waistcoat.
Thanks Monsieur Romain
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