Interview with
Thierry Bisch

1. What were your most beautiful exhibitions (list 1 to 3)?

With no hesitation, Monaco 2016 in partnership with Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation!

2. What are you passionate about?

Wild nature, plants, insects, understanding the balance of ecosystems, and the place of humans in this balance. I learn a little more every day and this extraordinary complexity never ceases to amaze me. But also, the history of humanity. For a very long time, I have had a passion for prehistory, particularly the Neolithic Revolution. The life of the first human societies is absolutely fascinating. Not cutting ourselves off from the past, and knowing where we came from helps us understand our world. From the cave to the moon…

3. If you were at the airport facing the departure board, where would you like to go?

Well, my answer may surprise you because I don’t fly anymore! To be in line with my desire to reduce my carbon footprint, I chose to no longer fly. I can still answer that my ideal destination will always be the place closest to wild nature. It can be at the edge of the garden or face down in the grass. By concentrating a little you can discover a whole world, very rich in biodiversity, and see tiny beings struggle and cooperate to keep things alive.

4. Where can we have a chance to meet you?

At home in Blaye in Gironde, in my hut on the river, in the vegetable garden or in my studio.

5. What was the price of the first artwork you sold?

The first time I sold my work was over 30 years ago. I don’t remember the price but it must have been correct because it was paid for by a rich friend who absolutely wanted me to continue painting. The sales that followed were less glorious, ahahaha!

6. What are the flaws you prefer in others? And in yourself?

I like frank people, those who go straight to the point without convolutions. I am like that and sometimes it goes totally wrong! I prefer the brutal truth rather than too many precautions, which end up altering reality. I wouldn’t have had a chance in a diplomatic career. Frankness and honesty are not always seen as qualities…

7. An ideal food menu?

For the same reasons I stopped flying, I became a vegetarian. I love to cook and I do it every day. I have a passion for good vegetables, forgotten vegetables, old varieties that grow in my garden or in organic market gardens around my home. I still eat a little cheese and eggs from my 4 hens. The ideal meal for me would be a tomato mozzarella salad garnished with basil from the garden and good olive oil.

8. A fictional hero you like? And in real life, a mentor maybe?

The fictional character who has accompanied me since my childhood is undoubtedly Robinson Crusoe. I find the story of this man who deploys treasures of imagination and creativity to adapt and survive in a wild and hostile environment so current! I could also have cited Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn… Today my greatest inspiration is the French sociologist and philosopher Edgar Morin. He taught me to accept the complexity of the world and introduced me to complex thinking. There can’t be simple answers to complex questions and everything related to living things is extremely complex. Edgar is now 99. There is another person that fascinates me, his name is Kim Pasche. Kim is a young Swiss experimental archaeologist who studies the techniques of early humans. He lives alone as a trapper much of the year in the Canadian Far North, in the wild landscapes of the Yukon. I recommend everyone to watch the documentary dedicated to him, you will not waste your time…

9. Your favorite clothes?

Always in the same spirit of sobriety, I hardly buy new clothes anymore except underwear. I only own old T-shirts and cotton shirts inherited from my father. A few years ago, I had a very beautiful custom-made navy blue jacket made by a fashion designer friend. I love it and it serves as a gauge to control my figure hahaha!! I love the Amish outfits. If it weren’t for the obligatory prayers I could have been one of them…

10. A cause you feel strongly about?

I am extremely concerned about the collapse of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems all over our planet. I am involved with local associations and big foundations. I try to do my little part every day, especially with middle school students in my region. I regularly invite them to my workshop and I visit them in their classes. The first step in changing our lifestyle starts with education.

11. An advice or a sentence that struck you?

“Nobility is the preference of honor over interest, baseness is the preference of interest over honor” Magnificent sentence by Vauvenargues (Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues), a French moralist of the 18th century. I think that our whole life can be led by this precept.

12. A habit or an obsession?

I have an obsession with detail and it can sometimes lead me to ridiculous situations! I recycle everything to the point of absurdity, even washing a vulgar plastic bag to reuse it! I hate to throw away, I accumulate lots of little things, telling myself that one day I could do something with them. It’s quite painful for the people who live with me…

13. A movie, a book or music you love?

Oh, there are so many! For films, I would say “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Kubrick (from the cave to the moon again), Dersou Ouzala by Kurosawa, Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson or more recently, Erin Brockovich” by Steven Soderbergh or “The Revenant” by Alejandro González Iñárritu. I could add “The Bonfire of the Vanities” by Brian De Palma and so many others…

It’s the same for novels, I find it hard to keep only one. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe of course already quoted, The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo or any novel by Émile Zola or Balzac!

For music, it’s even more difficult to choose! I have a fervent and ancient passion for baroque music. The Stabat Mater by Pergolesi or St Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach can transport me to states close to mystical ecstasy where tears of emotion are never far. I also love all the Anglo-American music from the Flower Power period from the late 60s to the mid 70s, I can’t name all of these amazing bands so I’ll only name Bob Dylan and Neil Young. I am definitely an old hippie…I love jazz too, especially Miles Davis and Chet Baker, Charlie “Bird” Parker and Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan…

14. A regret? A dream?

My only regret is that I got the wrong fight in the 70s. We wanted more for everyone when in fact we needed less for some and a little more for others. Gandhi summed it up very well: “The rich must live more simply so the poor can simply live.”

15. A few words about the new series you have been working on?

I tirelessly continue my “Delete?” dedicated to the disappearance of wild fauna.

16. What makes you laugh?

Children of course!! They are an inexhaustible source of joy, humor, puzzling thoughts… they make me laugh to tears!