"ART IS THE ULTIMATE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND THE ULTIMATE EXPRESSION OF FREEDOM. JUST LIKE MUSIC, IT IS NOT BOUND BY LANGUAGE. YET IT IS IN ITSELF A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE."
Christophe Vacher was born in 1966 in Vichy, France. He grew up in the Auvergne region, surrounded by nature, Celtic history and medieval castles, bathed in the beautiful haunting light that would become so important later in his work.
His early interests in comic books and animation led him to a career of designer, painter and eventually Art Director in the animation and entertainment industry in Hollywood. Meanwhile, the tools and techniques he learned throughout his career allowed him to develop a fully personal and mature style in painting. Using refined craftsmanship and realism to project the viewers into an environment that they can still relate to, he creates dreams, symbols and visual metaphors to try and stir reflections, memories and emotions, in particular through the use of light. In that regard, you could say his approach is a very cinematic one.
The very singular aspect of Christophe’s artistic career is that it is a double career in a sense: his entertainment career as a designer and Art Director, and his painting career. The highlights of his entertainment career have been for sure his two Emmy Awards wins in 2011 and 2012 for the CG animated series “Transformers Prime.” His first serious solo painting show took place in 1998 at Galerie Morpheus in Beverly Hills, the only US Art gallery that was showing H.R. Giger’s iconic work.
Since then, Christophe’s work has been displayed in numerous shows and galleries, both in the US and Europe. One of his pieces sold at Christie’s in Paris in 2015. For the past three years, his work has been among the finalists of the prestigious yearly ARC Salon in New York and won the Best in show Award at the Safadore painting Salon in France in 2017.
Christophe Vacher worked on projects such as Treasure Planet, Fantasia 2000, Hercules, Tarzan and the animated segment on the Disney live movie Enchanted and on the CG feature film “9” (produced by Tim Burton). He was nominated for an Annie Award (the equivalent of the Academy Award in animation) and also worked in the visual development of Despicable Me and Hasbro studios on the CG animated Transformers TV series.
Through his extensive repertoire, he has provided viewers with the ability to transport themselves to magical worlds -worlds that depict much of what isn't said, but can be intrinsically felt. Vacher's works of art, whether on screen or galleries, give rise to a certain astonishment that only incites your curiosity and desire for more... A more that encompasses what is out of the ordinary and norm, and simply found in the depths of your own intricate interpretation. Vacher without a doubt, enchants us with a complex simplicity.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you, and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. I have an extremely vague memory of my first art and I don’t even know if you could call it art, but it was when my mom was teaching me how to write, I was probably about 3 or 4. She would make me trace the alphabet letters, one by one, and I would ornate them with my first attempts at re-creating comic book characters, like Tintin —which had started to fascinate me.
To the great disarray of my parents (because they could not see a real future in it), comics were my first love for art. I was going to be a comic book artist. In my teenage years, I discovered painting, and that’s when I really started to consider both a career in animation (as a background painter) and a career as an artist for art galleries.
I had the chance of meeting the head of a French animation studio in 1989 who hired me for my first job in the field. Meanwhile, I started to show my work in group and solo shows and continued since then.
It’s not an easy thing to work on two careers at the same time. But one was
feeding the other and passion was driving me. Animation has been allowing me to be part of the world, meeting other artists, learning from them, from their technique, their personal works, and producing team efforts that were greater than a one man project.
On the other hand, the saved money has been allowing me to step outside
animation and work on my personal art, develop my own parallel world. And that is eventually where I want to stay.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. Relationships are often the part that suffers in an artist’s life, if the people close to the you don’t understand the art world or the isolation necessary to the artist to produce his work. But beyond that, the sheer amount of time dedicated to the making of art means you cannot dedicate this time to something or someone else. And it is sometimes a tough choice to make.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. My style of painting belongs to what is now called Imaginary Realism, or sometimes Contemporary Imaginary Realism. This broad label actually covers many different styles and themes, but regarding my particular style, I may say that, through the use of realism, I want to plunge the viewer into a place that he/she perceives as real yet open to interpretation, a space that can trigger creative visions in the viewer’s own mind, challenging and
expanding his/her sense of reality, a parallel universe that makes the impossible look possible. It has evolved gradually throughout my career, and has been shaped by the many tools and learning experiences I encountered in my endeavors, like visual storytelling and cinema staging, in particular the use of light to emphasize drama and emotion.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. A vast number of artists influenced my work, and they also kept changing along my career, as I kept discovering new ones. But most of my influencers are people whose artworks stem from principles similar to 19th century Symbolism, where emotion, mysticism, visual allegory and the dreaming state were all playing an important part. My work sometimes draws inspiration from painting schools like the Romantics, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Hudson River School as well as more contemporary artists like Beksinski, Ugarte, the Visionaries (Les Visionnaires), and also from Russian and Chinese artists, but it remains a very personal and contemporary approach.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. I want to keep part of my work open to personal interpretation, I think it is
important to keep the viewer involved in the process of creative exchange. But just like movements like The Pre-Raphaelites, The Romantics, Symbolism, etc. were a reaction to the cold modernism of the industrial era, maybe what I am trying to express is the re-emerging desire for spirituality, emotional depth and meaningfulness, in a current world where trendy tech, meaningless rationality, political chaos and trivial superficiality have submerged our daily way of life.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. It can be lonely indeed. I dread less the loneliness than the feeling of being out of synch with the rest of humanity, when your days are all the same and you start losing track of whether today is the weekend or a week day.
I tend to counteract it by going out to meet people quite a lot, go to events,
participate in group activities. Paradoxically, thanks to the digital age and internet, it has become quite easy to meet people and have an active social life.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. Keeping in shape by working out regularly, traveling, watching movies or documentaries about science and nature, being in nature.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. When you think you have arrived at your high point of artistic maturity, think
again. You might still be at the bottom of the mountain.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. Success is an abstract concept. The question is: success relative to what?
If we’re talking about money, well, success is also relative to the amount of smart marketing you do and hype you get. Luck also needs to be counted in the mix. Commercial success comes and goes. But if we’re talking about personal artistic success, what is meaningful to you in the art sphere in terms of success, it depends on what your artistic goals are. To me, every time you cross a line of artistic clarity in your work, whether it be in the technique or the way you were able to express on the canvas (or any other medium) the truthfulness of what was inside you, that’s success. And that is lasting success, because it will stay with you until you reach your next line.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. In France, when I was 18, one of my first martial arts teachers, a young Vietnamese guy who had been through quite some hardship in his life already, told me:
“There are only a few times great opportunities present themselves to you in life. If you recognize them and take the risk, you will never regret it. But if you miss them or hesitate, they will never present themselves to you again.”
It turned out to be exactly what my life became all about.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. There is no secret. Keep learning and practicing until your last breath. That’s all there is. And it’s good enough to fulfill your entire life.