Thibaut Gleize, the imagination’s craftsman
From anthropomorphism to total absurdity, Thibaut Gleize handles his images with humour and accuracy. His numerous technical abilities and diverse influences merrily blend together to create ironic and mischievous pieces inspired by day-to-day life. We met up with the artist whom we collaborated with on our 2016 Spring-Summer collection.
I think it’s the other way around, actually: illustration and my creative side lead me to doing these courses. Even though I never truly practiced those jobs, I learned a real savoir-faire and a methodology that I’ve kept up in my drawings and installations. As for my experience as a graphic designer, it helped spark an interest for illustration, graphic design etc., and it’s most definitely the combination of these various routes that lead me to illustration.
Your style is really offbeat: you’ve drawn a pizza box that serves as a wrestling ring as well as a parachute in the shape of a breast. What inspires you?
Lots of things: American culture, the television from my childhood, a great deal of Internet as well. Food, chavs, the Landes… I start off with an idea, pizza for example, and I ask myself what funny thing I could do with it; I do look for that offbeat side. The final idea will only interest me if it’s absurd and funny.
Why do you choose to distort the real nature of these everyday objects and people? What does that mean to you?
I try to draw a personal illustration that fits me best using real or fictional objects and people from my everyday life. I mix them with one, or a few, crazy ideas and try to harmoniously blend them into a composition. Sergeant Paper once said: “Beasts look like men whilst men look like beasts”; I think that sentence sums up my approach pretty well.
The easy answer would be to say my self-portrait, but really, I’m a cross between a sausage Michelin man and a fat lady languorously lying on an Asda flip-flop.
Like Martin Parr, a photographer you admire greatly, you have a passion for junk food and North America. What do you find fascinating about these things?
I grew up in the 90’s and they were part of the popular culture at the time, through cartoons, adverts… And especially films, which we wouldn’t even be able to make nowadays because they used to glorify a flashy kind of capitalism, yet an interesting one with hindsight because it was opulent, too much, colourful, gold, shiny…
At the time I used to love that, now, from that artificial happiness, I draw an ironic, absurd vision of the world. In the same way, I draw inspiration from all of the merchandising around mountain biking, skateboarding, American sports in general, like mascots, logos, and the dream that it sells on a background of white trash patriotism. I was lucky enough to be able to rub shoulders with that world when I lived in Canada, and it was fantastic to see with adult eyes, while remaining the consumer that I am.
Is there a photo by the English artist that you particularly enjoy?
I’d say the close up of the sunbathing woman with her tanning goggles from his Benidorm series. At home, I’ve framed the Star-Spangled Banner speedos photo from the Life’s a Beach book I brought back from a trip to New York. I like telling myself it would be near impossible to do the same thing with a French flag, even on a Landes beach, because no one would ever think that being patriotic and wearing your flag as a pair of pants is cool.
What made you want to collaborate with Olow?
I heard of Olow thanks to their collaborations with various artists that I followed, and I was excited by their selection. It’s a beautiful brand, founded by two lovers of nice things, who do things well, by promoting artists while respecting their work. They’re constantly evolving, and are always open to new things, so they put their trust in young artists as well as the more experienced ones.
Let’s talk about your BRONZETTE t-shirt; why choose to draw sunbathing tourists on an American television presenter’s forehead?
My process could be placed in the “Why not” section! Sometimes, you mustn’t look for an explanation, ideas merge with already pre-existing images in my brain all on their own. Other times, I have a very precise objective, but I never voluntarily try to denounce or provoke, I only want to have fun and make people chuckle.
And as for the AQUA SPLASH t-shirt: what’s its metaphor?
The title “Aqua Splash” is a reference to the French film “La Cité de la Peur”, which is full of nonsense and absurd humour. As for the content of it, it’s once again a mix of ideas around one theme, holidays and leisure: how do you combine these two chavs’ idleness with their likely love for barbecue? It’s also a nod to the Marineland marine animal parks and everything they represent, where dolphins are above all postcard or snowball animals, kitsch souvenirs.
Last June, you self-published 200 copies of a collection of your illustrations “L’Art de se faire des amis et être heureux”. Why did you feel the need to gather all your creations in one single place?
I had already created a fanzine titled “Composition” in 2013. It’s a good way to share your work through something other than social networks. It’s an object people can look at, and was a very good medium for conversations and meetings. I wanted to renew the experience with something a bit more accomplished; not so much a photocopied fanzine, but more a full on book. This project began in 2015, when Sergeant Paper offered I do an exhibition in June: I therefore found a common theme to my last drawings, and continued down that route. We took advantage of the exhibition launch to bring out the book. I’m also a member of the Disparate association, a “fanzinotheque” and much more, so I’m very involved in the worlds of self-publishing and graphzines. That motivates me to publish books, prints, etc.
What’s your next project? When is your next exhibition?
I’m currently working on a new screen-printed book project by Mehdi Beneitez with Parasite Editions.
Ideally, it will lead to an exhibition in 2016, like what we did with “L’Art de se faire des amis et d’être heureux”. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.
A big thank to Thibaut for his answers.