Curiouser and Curiouser

French artist Le Gentil Garçon takes us on a fascinating journey into his world of imagination and play.

Interview by Charlene Chan 
Photographs courtesy of the artist

A few minutes into his presentation at Aloft at Hermès, Le Gentil Garçon (or “The Nice Guy”) rises from his seat. He turns his back on the audience, and proceeds to draw on a sheet of brown paper taped to the wall behind him. As he starts drawing— first a single oval, then the + symbol, followed by another oval—he recites: Zéro plus zéro égale la tête à Toto. In English, the phrase translates as such: Zero plus zero equals the head of Toto. It is the character accompanying this narration that forms the basis for a couple of projects he calls Totologie.

Le Gentil Garçon’s creations seem to draw from concepts and resources as diverse and unexpected as his portfolio of projects. To delve into their underlying stories would be to unearth a mine of information; a glimpse of which he offered during his presentation. With no way of knowing what to expect next, we reach out to him in an attempt to understand how his ideas take root.

Please tell us a bit about your background. Was art something you thought you would get into while growing up?

When I was a child I was always drawing, constructing or inventing things. I was the kind of child that would take apart a radio to understand how it works, and to see if there was someone inside. My first ambition was to become a cartoonist.

I was also very interested in the sciences, and chose to do mathematics and scientific studies while maintaining an art practice. I realised then that I could not seriously conduct both practices at the same time, and decided to make the switch to study art in a school specialising in comics, illustrations and animated movies. In fact, my way of working on art pieces is very scientific. Now I feel as if I’m continuing with the things I was making in my childhood room…but with more resources!

Read more in The U Press N˚16 (Singapore edition).