Pierre Duret


b. 1963

Self-taught sculptor; also a journalist.

First artistic revelations: Brancusi and Giacometti at the Centre Pompidou in the late 1970s. Followed by the Port Saint-Bernard sculpture garden in Paris, including César and Poncet, not to mention all sorts of other places and artists – and Calder most of all!

Learns arc welding from André Dubreuil in the Vitra workshops at the Domaine de Boisbuchet; then oxy-acetylene welding from Paul Flury in his workshop in the Creuse département.

1990s: makes furniture and lamps, and begins experimenting with steel reinforcing rod sculptures.

His first successful reinforcing rod pieces appear in the 2000s, and little by little he adds to their number.

Around 2010: begins working on his sculpture on a daily basis. The next step forward is his first exhibition, at the Racont’arts gallery in Lyon in 2014.

And the work goes on…


2014 October – November
Équilibres et vibrations poétiques
Racont’arts Galery– Lyon

Since 2014 Novembre
Two sculptures on permanent display.
Sylvie Garrigue’s Galery – Lyon

Artistic approach

Space and movement

Calling space into being. By which I mean bringing one solid form, then more, into an emptiness, linking them with lines and organising the interspaces that give them resonance. Calling space into being. By which I mean summoning up something enigmatically self-evident: the existence of space as a presence made manifest in whispered conversations between solid and void.

My work is a kind of assembly process. Metal rods function as lines of force, ligaments, vectors. Cut, curved, bent and welded, they encompass simple volumes made of wood, cement and modelling clay, and structure them. Sometimes ramifications appear – a kind of efflorescence. A construction is born, a kind of punctuation.

Driftwood and little bits of hammered brass add their own distinctive feel. There are interactions between rhythms, textures and colours, all of which have been chosen for their vitality and power, and for the interplay prompted by their combinations.

Inscribing signs in space then orchestrating them reassures me: whew, reality really exists!

I love triggering the obvious this way: suddenly something comes fully to life, in a pulsation I try to summon up but have trouble actually stating. At the same time I love it when a movement – an oscillation, a rocking, a gyration, fast or slow and barely perceptible – injects an element of doubt into this certainty, a touch of fuzziness into this order.

I try to conjure up this « poetic » moment. The vibrant, astonishing certainty that something is at stake in this space.

Drawing, intentions, desires

No rules in advance, but a few recurring desires: the work has to have just that right « ring » to it. The laws of equilibrium and gravity play their part: tensions arise between the necessary vertical and the obliques – it has to hold together! And for a third way to open up, all that’s needed is the slightest breath or touch of the fingers: the pieces oscillate, movements happen, coming together or counteracting each other. Mobility or simple flexibility: it has to hover.

I make no preliminary drawings, I don’t go looking for any two-dimensional form on paper, except, maybe, for a few technical sketches or explorations of proportion. I draw no plans, espouse no concept whatsoever. I simply do my best to engage with the shapes and mental images I’m drawn to, which I see as inherently « poetic » and imbued with a force of their own. It’s only afterwards, when a piece is finished, that I can endow it with an intention – with an expressive title. I like to think of a craftsman assembling pieces of wood as his personal pleasure dictates and then, once the object is completed, telling a curious visitor, « Oh, yes, it’s a chair; I hadn’t planned that ».

Certain desires, no drawings – purposes seeking themselves out. Self-confident credos leave me very sceptical: there always has to be a mysterious side to this uncertain game.

Composition and narrative

Like it or not, in the final analysis there’s always narrative. Invariably the viewer launches into a « that reminds me… », beginning an account of what the artwork « relates ». Me too: as the work advances in the studio I develop, « on the quiet », a kind of story made up more of possibilities than intentions – even though the initial concept, the mental shape that set me working, is a response to an idea and a desire that are purely visual. This is how a construction envisaged as a kind of spatial punctuation culminates in a merging of more or less archetypal reminiscences including boats, buildings, birds, flowers and faces.

Composition equals merging equals composition. The work is only complete, as I see it, when it has been through these stages. If indeed a poetic force emerges, it seems to me that it hinges on the conjunction between spatial resonance and an evocative power within the composition.

Even so, I mistrust narrative: too clear – too « figurative » – it would bore me, although less by its clarity, it should be said, than by its unity and unequivocalness. I prefer multiplicity, equivocality. I accept narrative in its « active » state; in other words when it sparks a whole set of reminiscences and associations each viewer can work through freely.

That’s the way I’d like my output to work: solely through evocation, with the « meaning » or meanings left hanging, floating…

All of us can unreel stories, all of them both possible and different – that’s great! It’s almost a rule of thumb for me: stick to the fringes of narrative, and preferably outside it, so as to preserve this multiplicity of potential stories.

I could, too, opt for cutting back the narrative aspect, in favour of more « abstraction ». I’m often tempted, but for the moment I’m not sure I know how to go about it. Maybe it will come some day.

Daydreaming in space

The artistic values I love and which are reflected in the objects I make have to do with construction, wear and tear, and past magnificence. As well as with verticality, that alliance of the deep-rooted and the ethereal. I move ahead through these evocations and associations, I conjure them up, I blend and expand them – all the while carefully keeping association separate from identification.

Among the things I make you might detect the traces of my love for the Bauhaus and Art Deco, African and Outsider art, the Modern movement, the architecture of the first half of the 20th century and the sculpture of the second half. I’m not trying to make a case for them: I freely acknowledge their presence, that’s all. After all, how not to pay these continents the homage they deserve? These traces are part of my desire for a world of evocations conducive, above all, to a state of daydreaming in space.

In this regard, and in my fondness for hands-on craft work, I love Gustave Moreau’s characterisation of the artist as a “workman and assembler of dreams ».