Roland Cros, who are you?
I am from Albi, in Tarn, and I live and work in Paris. I have never studied art, but I was trained by my father, who was a self-taught artist, painter and filmmaker. I am a jack of all trades and I let my work be guided by whatever strikes my fancy.
In the 80s and 90s, I practiced black and white documentary photography. First in my home region, where I shot two long-term stories on rugby and bullfighting, and then in Paris, where I photographed the boxing world and the punk scene. This work resulted in press coverage and the publication of 3 books. I then produced educational documentaries for television, particularly for France 5, which enabled me to travel a lot and discover other cultures, lifestyles, economic and environmental issues that informed my subsequent reflections.
Your first material was lino. What were your key works using this material ?
That's right, I began my fine arts practice with linocutting, which involves engraving linoleum sheets to create stamps, which are dipped in ink and then printed on paper. This creates high-contrast images and a rough effect. I used this technique to create posters, book and article illustrations and a few self-published booklets.
It was only once I had already practiced linocutting for several years that I began attempting to create larger works, and that I began doing wood engravings with a chainsaw. I make wooden screens that I paint black and carve with a small chainsaw. The graphical vocabulary is similar to that of linocutting, but this technique makes it possible to create very large pieces in a very short time, to be presented outdoors or in public spaces, squares, parks...
What led you to start working with wood ?
First off, I'd say that I got used to working with wood by creating multiple chainsaw engravings. Chainsaw engravings are flat works, and I quickly developed a desire to move from 2 to 3 dimensions. Wood was a natural choice to achieve this, since I was starting to feel at ease with it. But there is a second reason, which is that the volumes I now create bear a certain resemblance to the huts I would imagine as a child, and for me, huts are always made of wood.
Why did you choose Brugère wood to create your work l’éloge de la graine ?
I discovered peeled poplar 3 years ago, when I was planning to create a very large work (a life-size crashed Airbus, 32mX32) in a difficult-to-access area (an Auvergne volcano crater). I needed to find a way to limit the weight of the materials and make it possible to transport them to the site. That is when I got the idea of using peeled wood. I figured that it had the best size to weight ratio to meet this challenge.
I got in touch with Manufactures Février, and they gave me a warm reception that was beyond my wildest dreams. Not only did the material I hoped for exist, but they offered to give it to me.
This was the start of a collaboration with your company that has since enabled me to create many more works. Not only is peeled wood light and easily transportable, which is what I needed for that first project, but I have since discovered that it has many other excellent qualities for artistic expression. In the end, as is often the case, a new idea arose from the initial constraint. Difficulties mastered are opportunities won!
Eloge de la graine, which I completed in May, is part of this study on the uses of peeled wood. It makes it possible to create large-scale works that are very flexible and organic, which can be entered, which are both sturdy and fragile, opaque and transparent. Eloge de la graine is the seventh work I've created using this material, and with Manufactures Février's support.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
I care a lot about our planet's future, and about how humans are harming the environment. I believe that we are living in a crucial period in our history, and that we are facing irreversible choices.
So I think that artists can, in their own way, raise awareness, shake up commonly held beliefs, through emotion and peaceful provocation. In any case, that is what I attempt to do. And that is why I believe it is important for works to be set up in natural settings and public spaces. In any case, outside the spaces traditionally reserved for art, which are often frequented by the elite. Art must be made accessible to the public, to those who believe that it isn't made for them or that they are unable to understand it.