Raphael Maman (1993) is a Paris based contemporary artist currently working at ‘Atelier Tatiana Trouvé’ at Beaux art, Paris. His working practices are crossed with graphic design and sculpting. In this interview, the artist talks about his evolution as an artist, working patterns, art during the pandemic and his future career.
Pranitha Elizabeth Joseph: You studied graphic design at ‘École Nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs’(2014), Royal Academy of art-The Hague(2016-2017)and then ‘sculpture and installation’ at Beaux-arts(2019-2022). You have a very strong academic background in arts. Could you explain your evolution and change of interests?
Raphaël Maman: Getting into ‘Ecole des arts Decoratif’ and the department of graphic design was my way to get into graphic design. Even in ‘Royal Academy’ I pursued the same subject . But currently, I question the position of a graphic designer. When I wrote my thesis in 2017, I focused on the lack of artistic elements in graphic design. I believe that graphic design need not be restricted to specific standard rules. I think of how I can go out of a paper, a screen, or the tools we use in graphic design software. During my six months in the Royal Academy, I always tried to break the rules for the projects undertaken. I tried to do it differently, but it was hard since the college was strict. When I joined Beaux-art, it was a new experience for me. We had the freedom to do our work from our own perspectives. By then, I was professionally-oriented with my educational background in Art Decoratifs. Hence my artistic and professional way of thinking was in balance. I have evolved so much and currently I don’t think of going back to graphic design. I prefer to go with the flow.
PEJ: The prominent feature in your work is the combination of art and architecture. According to you, what is the most fascinating concept of this combination?
RM: Architecture is a very important factor in my work because architecture is a part of our life. Also it is the idea of a conceptual space, a place. For example ,an A4 size paper when scaled to a higher ratio, becomes A0 which has an area of 1M2. Thereby 2D(A4 Size paper) forms a connection with 3D as the 1M2 is as an architectural measuring unit Thus in this loop everything is connected: the paper, the house, the world etc. We do not realize how much the world is connected. Therefore the idea of space is important to me.
PEJ: You are very inspired by the ideas of Architect ‘Ernst Neufert ‘.In one of his books ‘Architect’s data’, he said, "Anyone who intends to learn how to build should start by visualizing the size of rooms and objects as clearly as possible”. Do you take a similar approach before you start your work?
RM: Of course. It is also my method. When I visit the space before starting work, I observe thoroughly. Recently for an exhibition at ‘Le Mur’, Moret-sur-Loing, Paris. I realized that a false ceiling was constructed at 2.4m height, which was 10 cm lower than the concrete ceiling which was at a height of 2m50, which corresponds to the standard measurements of partition walls made of plaster used in almost all interior construction work. I decided to divide the room with partition walls, without cutting them to fit the height of the room. The only way to get them in, was to force the walls into the roof thereby cutting the false ceiling automatically. When I erected the walls, the false ceiling was damaged, revealing the traces of the gesture. The erected walls stood steadily, stuck between the ceiling and the floor. Likewise, I always search for real/original elements of a space to reveal the invisible aspects of the space.
PEJ: Another exciting aspect of your work is that you start your work by analysing an object, and you try to reverse or rethink its functionality and standards like layout, ergonomic standards, weight standards etc. This practice was very prominent in the work ‘Charge’.Could you tell us the idea behind this strategy?
RM: In a home, normally, we see a brick wall on four sides, which creates the space for a bed. In this work,I tried to inverse it. Here, the bed creates the space for the brick walls. There is a connection between the standard measurements of bricks and mattresses, so by stacking bricks I can obtain the exact size of the mattress. The idea of this work is to show the impact or weight of a person on a mattress . I borrowed this mattress from a person who happened to sleep on one side. When I placed the bricks on the mattress, the weight of the bricks revealed the traces of how he used to sleep every day. If I had used my own mattress, the imprint of the bricks would have been on the centre. The most interesting concept about these traces is that it shows the connection between the body and the bed. It takes the weight of the body, it takes the shape of the body and eventually becomes the body. I initially wanted to just portray the connection between the size of brick and size of the mattress but when I saw these undulations in the bricks, the concept took a whole new turn.
PEJ: Do you choreograph the movement of the spectators in your works?
RM: Yes, for sure. I think it is very important. When you decide the movement, you can easily calculate what they will see first and their first and last impressions of my work. So I take the choreography of the spectators very seriously. At times, I place my work for the spectator to walk on it and leave traces; The trace of time, the trace of movement, everything. For instance, I had made a work called "Mise en charge d'une dalle de béton" for the exhibition "L'énigme est de ne pas savoir si l'on abat si l'on bâtit" at Le Mur, France. Before building the concrete slab on the floor, we conducted a loading test to test the capacity of the concrete just to make sure that cracks are formed when a person walks on it. During the entire exhibition, people walked on it, and I filled those cracks with mortar, thereby making the cracks more visible.
PEJ: The confinement of ourselves in space has been very prominent during the Pandemic. How has the concept of ‘Domestic spaces’ or ‘Homes’ changed during the lockdown?
RM: During the pandemic, I tried to work with things which I had at my home. I chose an A4 size paper which is a very basic thing. I tried to renovate my space temporarily using paper. I made a column using paper. I made bits of mosaic with paper and laid them on the bathroom floor. I added an extra 1cm to the partition walls using the paper. I was utterly rethinking the space with something very basic. I rethought the size of my wall and the mosaic on my bathroom floor. Until the pandemic, I had never looked at my place so closely. My routine was always to go to work, come back and sleep, but the pandemic was the something which opened my eyes.
PEJ: Currently you are in ‘atelier Tatiana trouvé’. How has the workshop influenced your working practices and artworks?
RM: We continuously see so many works in our life, be it online, exhibitions etc. We are constantly under some influence, and I am definitely influenced by the work of Tatiana and other artists, including the artists in my studio atelier Tatiana trouvé. Tatiana always asks us to think and do what we really want to do. She gives us the freedom to think from our own perspectives; This helps me to rethink existing materials and my work.
PEJ: Being an emerging artist, What do you think about the current status of the art market, its digitalisation, promotion of emerging artists etc.?
RM: I think when you "enter" the art market as a young artist, you know that the institutional and commercial art spaces play a big part in the game, but I think it is quite possible to work with other self-managed spaces or more do it yourself while continuing in more conventional spaces, the two are not necessarily antagonistic.