Viewers might be hard put to explain the sense of warmth and richness they feel when looking at Thomas-Pierre’s paintings, but the effect is deliberate.
Among other techniques, the French artist applies a golden glaze over his paintings so that people will see the work in a different light each time they move, drawing them into the image.
Everything in Thomas-Pierre’s acrylic works has been meticulously conceived—every line tried and tested. As can be seen in his exhibition “Terra Cognita,” or known land, opening tonight at hotel Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, his approach is classic in a contemporary way.
In the series, Thomas-Pierre’s works carry a tinge of nostalgia for an era when travel truly meant discovery, with so much remaining to be explored. As the mononymous artist explained, an 18th-century French map of the world in the exhibition is missing Antarctica and only shows half of Canada, as those regions were not known to Europeans at the time.
The “Terra Cognita” presented in the exhibition is a record of countries and places that Thomas-Pierre has visited over the years.
The tone is set by the magnificent painting “Galerie des Glaces,” of the Hall of Mirrors in France’s famed palace of Versailles, which is the first work one sees when entering the exhibition space. Why? Because that is where it all began.
Thomas-Pierre was born in the city named after the palace. In his teenage years, he said, “I was rowing in the gardens’ big canal at Versailles.”
There is the painting “Riad” of a palace courtyard in Morocco; a scene of Balboa Park in San Diego, California; and a painting of the causeway leading to the Angkor Wat monument.
The exhibition also includes unusual sculpted objects: his notebooks containing sketches, scribblings, illustrations and even old photos on topics ranging from Greek statues to Cambodia’s landscape. The books are laid open, with only the illustrations on the exposed pages fully visible.
Even in his paintings there is relief—lines or features done in thick outlines produced through various techniques involving paper and different types of glue.
The 41-year-old, who studied painting in France and Germany, has been an artist all his life. He went through an abstract period— maybe in reaction, he said, to his parents, Jean-Paul Morin and Marie-Odile Huard, who both are figurative painters.
“It was imperative for me to develop a personal technique, a personal touch,” Thomas-Pierre said. “I wanted something original that would serve as my trademark.”
But like any other art student, he had to start with the basics.
“You must take all this in, grasp it, and then you must move beyond all you have learned, and this takes years,” he said.
His artistic journey brought him to a classic style, his work radiating the tranquility of a person who sees the beauty in a landscape rather than the ills it may hide.
The exhibition at Sofitel runs through March 14.