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December, 7th 2020

Between the freedom of thinking and the annihilation of individual thought, Christophe Avella Bagur’s art explores tensions of the human condition and challenges society’s mindless consumption. Here, the french artist recalls his travels backpacking, shares advice for the youth and explains the problem behind art decorating living rooms.

Words By Marina Hoyer

Christophe Avella Bagur has a habit of working late into the night. Surrounded by darkness and a peaceful silence pausing the clamor of his contemporaries’ lives, he creates his art. Being an artist is his professional occupation, but for the 52-year old, it is not just a means of financial security. It is a necessity, an imperative, a fire that burns and allows him to release his energy. When asked if he was born an artist or became one, Avella Bagur replies: “I was born a creator and I have become an artist.”

It is the answer of a man humble enough to recognise the discipline and hard work behind an artist’s success but confident enough to be aware of his innate talent. The Spanish-Italian-French born in notorious 1968 has always had a connection with art. Growing up with parents who encouraged him to follow his dreams, he lived his childhood in touch with nature, spending his time inventing, drawing and constructing. As a young boy, he loved the sky and always felt a desire to understand the depths of the universe. Perhaps this is why he was torn between two callings: artist and astronomer.

Fortunately for his fans, Avella Bagur ultimately chose art as his destiny and took up studies in Fine Arts, graduating with a Master’s degree from the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne. Whilst his current portfolio consists of 80% paintings, he initially experimented with photography too, being fascinated especially by photographic documentaries of the Vietnam War. For ten years, the artist split his time between painting in his atelier and discovering the world through the lens of his camera. Avella Bagur believes that his development as an artist was strongly nourished by his photographic reports. Here, he used photography as a means to capture reality, a visual documentation to understand humans and the world around him. He recalls: “During my travels, I walked a lot. I had my backpack and my Nikon F and FE2 with me, and the rest was all about feeling and intuition. I let myself be guided by the paths I followed and the encounters along them. Then in Japan, around 2000, all my previous thoughts suddenly crystallised. When I returned to France, the emblematic series of Face Floating Soul [one of his collections] was born. I had synthesised and agglomerated knowledge and experience — and that is how I finally stopped photography to focus only on painting.”

Up to this day, painting is the focus of Avella Bagur’s work. With the human condition as its central theme, his art explores tensions between consciousness and unconsciousness; between the standardisation of the world and the singularity of the individual; between the freedom of thinking and the annihilation of the individual thought; between history and the individual; and between the use of humans as objects and as beings. Through his art, Avella Bagur aims to transform society; merely illustrating is not enough. “I don’t create paintings to make somebody’s living room look pretty. I paint so that the people who buy my art, who live with it, see it as an expression of the human experience. My work questions the current status of mankind and that must be felt, experienced, seen. I try to touch intellect and emotion at the same time.”

Avella Bagur’s art is difficult to categorise. When asked which genre his art falls into, he simply replies: “I think I belong to the kind of artist who questions us humans.” Still, there are artists that he names as his influences, such as Bruegel, El Greco, Goya and Caravaggio. To each of them, Avella Bagur relates in a different way: “Bruegel is empathy, Greco is spirituality and freedom, Goya is the inner voice and violence of the world, and Caravaggio is the theatre and human decadence.” Apart from other artists, he also sees the Japanese poet Ishikawa Takuboku as a source of inspiration. “Takuboku is a poet who describes life with simplicity and power,” he says, “with a creative melancholy that moves you. Although he lived around 1900, he will never cease to be contemporary.”

Similarly, Avella Bagur has also always had the desire not to be fashionable, never to follow trends. “I paint today for tomorrow,” he states. “I want my art to be looked at, read, perceived in a way that can be grasped in 300 years — if our planet is not destroyed by then. Even if the aesthetic style may seem old, the strength, power and presence of the work will prevail universally and timelessly.” When asked how he would like his art to be characterised in an art history book of the future, he contemplates: “That’s a good question, thank you. I hope for my work to be seen as a gift that an individual human being, me, made to the world in the form of a thought. If my œuvre was defined by its strength, maybe by my empathy towards my contemporaries, by a non-religious but humanistic spirituality, that would make me happy. I don’t know if I believe in the ability of man to make our world beautiful, but deep down, I hope for it and work on it every single day through my art. Perhaps somebody might say that I contributed to making human beings more aware and conscious of their surroundings.”

For Avella Bagur, the quality of art to transcend time, to be inscribed for eternity in human history, is also what makes it sustainable. However, to him, it is also the individual artist’s responsibility to consciously bring sustainability into focus: “For years now, I have refused excessive artistic production devoid of reason. I create, I don’t produce. I have no interest in mass production. What I want is a small amount of artwork per year, in which my hand and the thought of my mind shape my work. I don’t want to be a machine like Warhol. I am not a machine. We can see where our society of mindless consumption has taken our planet and mankind. I personally cannot follow this path, also because I strongly believe that art has to be moral and guide the way. I cannot be an artist If I am uninterested in the impact we make during the life we are given. This, to me, would contradict the idea of creating.”

If he could give his younger self some advice, he would tell himself not to be afraid, but aside from that, the artist has more interest in shaping the future than pondering about the past. He would rather redirect his words of wisdom to today’s youth, the generations that have the power to change the world. Avella Bagur wishes them “to have confidence, to always learn, to cultivate yourself infinitely, to be curious about everything. To have strong opinions but no certainties. To be open to the world, to know how to listen, to know how to choose, to be generous, and not to be jealous out of vanity. To be simple, to live simply. To respect people, to respect nature and to understand that Man is part of it. In a way, to give yourself to the world.”

Wonderful advice from a wonderful person that we at Staiy will follow with a fond heart. To find out more about Christophe Avella Bagur and his art, visit his website