JEAN-PAUL GOUDE

---

As part of 'Image-Makers' exhibition at 21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo, Japan
Full interview for Ala Champfest Issue #9 (2015)
all images © Champ Magazine

---


Jean-Paul Goude.
One of the greatest creative visionaries of our time.
Creating truly iconic imagery with using mixed- media to express his ideas and using an ultimate ingredient - imagination. From photography, to the moving image, illustration, choreography, and crafted sculptures all used to accentuate his images of an alternate world.

French-born and NYC-based, his background is as fascinating as his now accomplished 74 years of age.
From a young age he possessed an inquisitive, sincere and genuine nature, even befriending the son of a zoo keeper of a fake-dreamed African zoo set up initially as an exhibition. Those days, he would enthusiastically and influentially flip through very early Vogues, Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire sent to his household. Later on, as Art Director at Esquire in New York and through his collaborative work with Grace Jones, his prominence in creative concepts for numerous brands came under his own direction, such as Chanel, Citroën, Kodak, Galeries Lafayette, and Azzedine Alaia just to name a few.

Using his imagination and his hands to create, it was his own cut and paste technique used to collage the accentuated extension portraits of Grace Jones or Farida. A technique now only too-often used in digital manipulation, but also one he uniquely adapted to, with the same composition digitally now re-created and seen in one portrait of singer/ artist Bjork. The variety of Jean-Paul's work has a stamp of originality and authenticity, a distinct and recognisable mark of creative flair.

The truth is, he is simply a thoughtful and eccentric visionary. Seeing the world with his eyes, no backroom, undertones or ulterior motives to investigate - it is simply an expression of a vision from a remarkable childhood in France, and time spent in New York in his adulthood (an emphasis on the 70's and 80's). One of the most delightful people to speak with, his honest and genuine demeanour is a reflection of his fascinating life and remarkable achievements. ?"It had nothing to do with politics, it had to do with books, dreams, memories, the museum. "

CHAMP spent the afternoon with Jean-Paul in Tokyo, on occasion of the monumental exhibition, “Image Makers” at the Tadao Ando-designed 21_21 Design Sight in Midtown. Curated by the brilliant Hélène Kelmachter, the group exhibition was a visual feast, showcasing the work of 6 remarkable ‘Image Makers’ highlighting a contemporary trait of ultimate creativity, the undefinables working in cross-over disciplines and untitled roles. Jean-Paul Goude, Jun Miyake, Robert Wilson, David Lynch, Noritaka Tatehana and Photographer Hal all exhibited their diverse works from video, sculpture, photography, moving image - each inventing a world of images and fantasy that cross diverse fields of creation and making them truly forward-thinking creatives of today.

----

CHAMP: Let us begin with what is currently inspiring you now:
JEAN-PAUL GOUDE: I just read in the paper that one of my all times heroes, David Byrne, wrote a musical about Imelda Marcos, it’s apparently very successful. I’m happy for him, and I’m dying to see the show. I think he is one of the most inspiring pop musician of the century.

C: How you have been influenced in relation to your creative vision, from your experiences and the places you have been. And also from your upbringing with your father and mother, are their any pivotal moments for you in this time?
JPG: My parents were very colorful characters, especially my mother and I think that all the work I have ever produced is deeply related to my childhood and my upbringing.?I was born in a small petit bourgeois suburb of Paris, a bit like Jean Paul Gaultier, who comes from the same sort of neighborhood. If I mention Gaultier it’s because we just talked on the phone a few minutes ago...

C: A coincidence?
J: Sort of, he called to wish me good luck for the show.

C: It must be late, Paris time?
J: Yes, it probably is. Or maybe it is early in the morning...! Going back to inspiration and where it comes from, I would say that most of my work is definitively based on my mother’s influence. She had been an American dancer who met my father in New York, at a the time when she was co-starring with Clifton Webb, a famous actor of the period, in a Broadway musical entitled Flying Colors. My father was first introduced to her backstage after a show. He had come to America to seek fame and fortune right in the middle of the Depression and couldn’t find any work...?It’s a long story: my dad had been raised in Paris in an orphan- age, after his parents who were in their early 30’s and owned a small ladies’s fashion store right across the street of Galeries Lafayette, had died accidently. With very little education and not much hope for the future, he was released at 14 years old into the world and had to go to work as a laborer until he met this famous French operetta singer who took him with her to New York. But as she eventually married an American millionaire, she left my dad out in the cold.... By the way, this is all true! My Irish American mother was an extrovert, full of fantasy, very outgoing, my French father was more factual and quiet, even though he had great style. They completed each other perfectly. But I think that if I inherited any talent for style, it can be traced back to my grand-parents and their store.

C: And now, what a coincidence you just worked with Galeries Lafayette.
J: Indeed, what a coincidence!

C: It seems that your work has grown naturally, and you have been presented with jobs have been thrown your way. For example, you went head first into the role of designer at Esquire, but also through your relationship with Grace, you created her identity and visuals. How did you approach these projects?
J: I approached them like any other designer would...Let me explain! From kindergarten to high school to college, I was always a very bad student, even if I had some facility for drawing. And since I was an only child, my father kept pressuring me. I was terrified of the future; “what am I going to do in life?” I was miserable. Then, one day I real- ized that I could draw for profit when a friend of mine, a rich kid from the neighborhood, asked me to draw a vintage car on a lampshade in his room (the Little Prince syndrome if you know what I mean?) This was my first job, and I got paid for it. We were both about 14, and that sort of rang a bell.
My cousins from the States regularly sent us books and especially magazines like LIFE, Mc Calls, Harpers Bazaar. I loved these magazines, the layouts, the graphics, the combination of fashion drawings and highly stylized photographs – Avedon, Penn, Hiro, all these guys back in New York revolutionizing fashion photography.

C: How did you archive the creative collection? Or place it in your memory bank?
J: I stuck it in my memory bank of course.?I was about eighteen and I was doing so many things at the same time. I even tried to be a dancer for a very short time, after seeing Jean Babilée (the greatest dancer France has ever produced) rehearse “ Le jeune homme et la mort”. We were in the late 50s.?Very muscular, Babilée was more of an athlete than a dancer. I said to myself “I want to be just like that”. And that was it. So I tried for a couple of years. But as much as I was good at dancing socially, I wasn’t so keen about ballet or its discipline; its obsolescence was too much for me. Besides I was not athletic enough. So I dropped the whole thing and went back to drawing.

C: Do you remember the first drawings or illustrations you did, for school or fun?
J: Like all kids, I always drew cowboys, Indians, African warriors, you name it! Luckily my mother saved the good drawings, which enable me to show them a half a century later at my Art Deco Retrospective.
We lived near the so called museum of the colonies, a beautiful Art-Deco building, right across the street from the Saint Mandé zoo, a gigantic make-believe rock about 200 feet high that dated from the 1936 Colonial’s exhibition. I spent my child- hood in an artificial dreamed Africa: lions, tigers, elephants; there was no cages, just large deep pits and fake rocks. The animals seemed to be in their natural environment, even though the setting in which they evolved was fake. I didn’t care, I made friends with the son of one of the zoo-keepers and we’d hang out there almost every day after school when the crowd had left.

The museum, where France would celebrate its territories for some time to come, was as I said just around the corner from where we lived. Covered with carved jungle animals and landscapes, it was the enormous frescoes of half-naked African, Asian or even Arab women that caught my attention. I had no idea at the time that a half-naked sculptures of an Arab woman might have been an insult to Muslims. And when I did fall in love with an Arab woman later in life, I realized how sensitive these matters could be. The work I did with her had nothing to do with politics. It had to do with furtive imagery, dreams, memories.

[Points] That’s my mom, here on stage in one of her first jobs, she’s just a little kid.
[Points again] And that’s her later next to Ethel Waters, one of the great colored en- tertainers in America at the time. At home, there was lots of talk about the beauty of black chorus girls. My mother would imitate their gestures, their body movements (my mom was a terrific dancer). But, if she was sensitive to black culture, she didn’t necessarily have liberal ideas. After all, she was Irish American, and was definitely not involved with any kind of civil rights movement.
[Points to another photo] This guy was my hero. I would have given anything to be Sabu. Sabu was a very big star in the ‘50s, he made several movies with Michael Powell, the famous British film director. My favorite was ‘The Jungle Book’. Again, an ethnic character fighting tigers with only a knife, Sabu was my very own Tarzan and I started drawing African women in a crude childish way. My drawings became more sophisticated as time went by, though their subject matters remained the same.

C: What a great narration of the book, thank you! The images of your work with Grace is so iconic. Do you think you could create such strong images without a subject like Grace?
J: Probably not. You’re right. She was an extremely stimulating talent. If I participated in this Tokyo show entitled ‘Image-Makers’, it is because image-making is something I have done all my life. Whether with Grace, or any- body else. Grace and I were living together when to her demand, I became involved in her career. I had all the reasons in the world to help her since she was my girlfriend. My motivation was simple: I was going to show everybody that my girl was much better than these tired models who looked all alike and I decided to introduce to the world my very own concept of what a brand new female heroine should look like.

J: By the way, did you know that in a way it’s Issey Miyake who started Grace’s career? She was one of the 6 black girls Miyake brought to Japan at a time when Grace had just started to sing. She respectfully asked Issey if she was good enough to sing in the context of his fashion show and he encouraged her. The show was a big success and this is how the buzz about Grace started.

C: In the same way that Matisse did his cut- outs, you have created your fantastic cut-outs also. With the new Bjork images, how did you find working with both digital and analogue.
J: I use the technology profusely, yet I am verymuch aware that it is an extremely power- ful tool that can produce the worst kind of imagery if it’s not used properly. I’d like to think I use it well. I don’t draw for a living anymore, the computer is my tool. Changing proportions, assembling shapes, it’s drawing without a pencil. If the Bjork image is done with the computer, Grace’s was done with a stiletto and scotch tape. But it is all the same. Like this film clip we’re showing that was lifted from an American television show that invited me, in the 70’s to explain what we called at Esquire ‘The French Correction’. Which in fact was nothing more than a chronicle that ran on 8 pages on how to improve ones appearance with the help of different tricks and prosthesis. Like lifts in one’s shoes, shoulder pads in one’s sweaters, Op-Art underwear to dramatize one’s basic equipment and so on. The whole thing looked like a big joke when actually I was dead serious. I thought that if every narcissistic human being wantied to be sexually appetizing, I had the solution!

C: How did you create the analogue cut-outs? Did you cut the contact sheets?
J: No, just transparencies. I’d even cut-up 35mm. Small. Very small. Which meant that every time I would try to cut up - for example a head - to try to photomontage it on another transparency, I’d sometimes get in trouble. I’d cut : clac clac clac clac and ping, the head would spring onto the carpet and I’d be on my hands and knees looking for it all night!

C: I’d like to quote George Loïs, and how he wrote, “A trend is always a trap, instead go for thenew.’
J: I agree, George is the greatest. One should always follow George’s advice! He does know best. He’s been my guiding light for almost forty years. Did you know he wrote an in- troduction to the catalogue of my Art Deco show illustrated by Andy Warhol who took our picture while we were having lunch with each other at the Four Seasons in NY in the 70’s? FIN

JEAN-PAUL GOUDE

---

As part of 'Image-Makers' exhibition at 21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo, Japan
Full interview for Ala Champfest Issue #9 (2015)
all images © Champ Magazine

---


Jean-Paul Goude.
One of the greatest creative visionaries of our time.
Creating truly iconic imagery with using mixed- media to express his ideas and using an ultimate ingredient - imagination. From photography, to the moving image, illustration, choreography, and crafted sculptures all used to accentuate his images of an alternate world.

French-born and NYC-based, his background is as fascinating as his now accomplished 74 years of age.
From a young age he possessed an inquisitive, sincere and genuine nature, even befriending the son of a zoo keeper of a fake-dreamed African zoo set up initially as an exhibition. Those days, he would enthusiastically and influentially flip through very early Vogues, Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire sent to his household. Later on, as Art Director at Esquire in New York and through his collaborative work with Grace Jones, his prominence in creative concepts for numerous brands came under his own direction, such as Chanel, Citroën, Kodak, Galeries Lafayette, and Azzedine Alaia just to name a few.

Using his imagination and his hands to create, it was his own cut and paste technique used to collage the accentuated extension portraits of Grace Jones or Farida. A technique now only too-often used in digital manipulation, but also one he uniquely adapted to, with the same composition digitally now re-created and seen in one portrait of singer/ artist Bjork. The variety of Jean-Paul's work has a stamp of originality and authenticity, a distinct and recognisable mark of creative flair.

The truth is, he is simply a thoughtful and eccentric visionary. Seeing the world with his eyes, no backroom, undertones or ulterior motives to investigate - it is simply an expression of a vision from a remarkable childhood in France, and time spent in New York in his adulthood (an emphasis on the 70's and 80's). One of the most delightful people to speak with, his honest and genuine demeanour is a reflection of his fascinating life and remarkable achievements. ?"It had nothing to do with politics, it had to do with books, dreams, memories, the museum. "

CHAMP spent the afternoon with Jean-Paul in Tokyo, on occasion of the monumental exhibition, “Image Makers” at the Tadao Ando-designed 21_21 Design Sight in Midtown. Curated by the brilliant Hélène Kelmachter, the group exhibition was a visual feast, showcasing the work of 6 remarkable ‘Image Makers’ highlighting a contemporary trait of ultimate creativity, the undefinables working in cross-over disciplines and untitled roles. Jean-Paul Goude, Jun Miyake, Robert Wilson, David Lynch, Noritaka Tatehana and Photographer Hal all exhibited their diverse works from video, sculpture, photography, moving image - each inventing a world of images and fantasy that cross diverse fields of creation and making them truly forward-thinking creatives of today.

----

CHAMP: Let us begin with what is currently inspiring you now:
JEAN-PAUL GOUDE: I just read in the paper that one of my all times heroes, David Byrne, wrote a musical about Imelda Marcos, it’s apparently very successful. I’m happy for him, and I’m dying to see the show. I think he is one of the most inspiring pop musician of the century.

C: How you have been influenced in relation to your creative vision, from your experiences and the places you have been. And also from your upbringing with your father and mother, are their any pivotal moments for you in this time?
JPG: My parents were very colorful characters, especially my mother and I think that all the work I have ever produced is deeply related to my childhood and my upbringing.?I was born in a small petit bourgeois suburb of Paris, a bit like Jean Paul Gaultier, who comes from the same sort of neighborhood. If I mention Gaultier it’s because we just talked on the phone a few minutes ago...

C: A coincidence?
J: Sort of, he called to wish me good luck for the show.

C: It must be late, Paris time?
J: Yes, it probably is. Or maybe it is early in the morning...! Going back to inspiration and where it comes from, I would say that most of my work is definitively based on my mother’s influence. She had been an American dancer who met my father in New York, at a the time when she was co-starring with Clifton Webb, a famous actor of the period, in a Broadway musical entitled Flying Colors. My father was first introduced to her backstage after a show. He had come to America to seek fame and fortune right in the middle of the Depression and couldn’t find any work...?It’s a long story: my dad had been raised in Paris in an orphan- age, after his parents who were in their early 30’s and owned a small ladies’s fashion store right across the street of Galeries Lafayette, had died accidently. With very little education and not much hope for the future, he was released at 14 years old into the world and had to go to work as a laborer until he met this famous French operetta singer who took him with her to New York. But as she eventually married an American millionaire, she left my dad out in the cold.... By the way, this is all true! My Irish American mother was an extrovert, full of fantasy, very outgoing, my French father was more factual and quiet, even though he had great style. They completed each other perfectly. But I think that if I inherited any talent for style, it can be traced back to my grand-parents and their store.

C: And now, what a coincidence you just worked with Galeries Lafayette.
J: Indeed, what a coincidence!

C: It seems that your work has grown naturally, and you have been presented with jobs have been thrown your way. For example, you went head first into the role of designer at Esquire, but also through your relationship with Grace, you created her identity and visuals. How did you approach these projects?
J: I approached them like any other designer would...Let me explain! From kindergarten to high school to college, I was always a very bad student, even if I had some facility for drawing. And since I was an only child, my father kept pressuring me. I was terrified of the future; “what am I going to do in life?” I was miserable. Then, one day I real- ized that I could draw for profit when a friend of mine, a rich kid from the neighborhood, asked me to draw a vintage car on a lampshade in his room (the Little Prince syndrome if you know what I mean?) This was my first job, and I got paid for it. We were both about 14, and that sort of rang a bell.
My cousins from the States regularly sent us books and especially magazines like LIFE, Mc Calls, Harpers Bazaar. I loved these magazines, the layouts, the graphics, the combination of fashion drawings and highly stylized photographs – Avedon, Penn, Hiro, all these guys back in New York revolutionizing fashion photography.

C: How did you archive the creative collection? Or place it in your memory bank?
J: I stuck it in my memory bank of course.?I was about eighteen and I was doing so many things at the same time. I even tried to be a dancer for a very short time, after seeing Jean Babilée (the greatest dancer France has ever produced) rehearse “ Le jeune homme et la mort”. We were in the late 50s.?Very muscular, Babilée was more of an athlete than a dancer. I said to myself “I want to be just like that”. And that was it. So I tried for a couple of years. But as much as I was good at dancing socially, I wasn’t so keen about ballet or its discipline; its obsolescence was too much for me. Besides I was not athletic enough. So I dropped the whole thing and went back to drawing.

C: Do you remember the first drawings or illustrations you did, for school or fun?
J: Like all kids, I always drew cowboys, Indians, African warriors, you name it! Luckily my mother saved the good drawings, which enable me to show them a half a century later at my Art Deco Retrospective.
We lived near the so called museum of the colonies, a beautiful Art-Deco building, right across the street from the Saint Mandé zoo, a gigantic make-believe rock about 200 feet high that dated from the 1936 Colonial’s exhibition. I spent my child- hood in an artificial dreamed Africa: lions, tigers, elephants; there was no cages, just large deep pits and fake rocks. The animals seemed to be in their natural environment, even though the setting in which they evolved was fake. I didn’t care, I made friends with the son of one of the zoo-keepers and we’d hang out there almost every day after school when the crowd had left.

The museum, where France would celebrate its territories for some time to come, was as I said just around the corner from where we lived. Covered with carved jungle animals and landscapes, it was the enormous frescoes of half-naked African, Asian or even Arab women that caught my attention. I had no idea at the time that a half-naked sculptures of an Arab woman might have been an insult to Muslims. And when I did fall in love with an Arab woman later in life, I realized how sensitive these matters could be. The work I did with her had nothing to do with politics. It had to do with furtive imagery, dreams, memories.

[Points] That’s my mom, here on stage in one of her first jobs, she’s just a little kid.
[Points again] And that’s her later next to Ethel Waters, one of the great colored en- tertainers in America at the time. At home, there was lots of talk about the beauty of black chorus girls. My mother would imitate their gestures, their body movements (my mom was a terrific dancer). But, if she was sensitive to black culture, she didn’t necessarily have liberal ideas. After all, she was Irish American, and was definitely not involved with any kind of civil rights movement.
[Points to another photo] This guy was my hero. I would have given anything to be Sabu. Sabu was a very big star in the ‘50s, he made several movies with Michael Powell, the famous British film director. My favorite was ‘The Jungle Book’. Again, an ethnic character fighting tigers with only a knife, Sabu was my very own Tarzan and I started drawing African women in a crude childish way. My drawings became more sophisticated as time went by, though their subject matters remained the same.

C: What a great narration of the book, thank you! The images of your work with Grace is so iconic. Do you think you could create such strong images without a subject like Grace?
J: Probably not. You’re right. She was an extremely stimulating talent. If I participated in this Tokyo show entitled ‘Image-Makers’, it is because image-making is something I have done all my life. Whether with Grace, or any- body else. Grace and I were living together when to her demand, I became involved in her career. I had all the reasons in the world to help her since she was my girlfriend. My motivation was simple: I was going to show everybody that my girl was much better than these tired models who looked all alike and I decided to introduce to the world my very own concept of what a brand new female heroine should look like.

J: By the way, did you know that in a way it’s Issey Miyake who started Grace’s career? She was one of the 6 black girls Miyake brought to Japan at a time when Grace had just started to sing. She respectfully asked Issey if she was good enough to sing in the context of his fashion show and he encouraged her. The show was a big success and this is how the buzz about Grace started.

C: In the same way that Matisse did his cut- outs, you have created your fantastic cut-outs also. With the new Bjork images, how did you find working with both digital and analogue.
J: I use the technology profusely, yet I am verymuch aware that it is an extremely power- ful tool that can produce the worst kind of imagery if it’s not used properly. I’d like to think I use it well. I don’t draw for a living anymore, the computer is my tool. Changing proportions, assembling shapes, it’s drawing without a pencil. If the Bjork image is done with the computer, Grace’s was done with a stiletto and scotch tape. But it is all the same. Like this film clip we’re showing that was lifted from an American television show that invited me, in the 70’s to explain what we called at Esquire ‘The French Correction’. Which in fact was nothing more than a chronicle that ran on 8 pages on how to improve ones appearance with the help of different tricks and prosthesis. Like lifts in one’s shoes, shoulder pads in one’s sweaters, Op-Art underwear to dramatize one’s basic equipment and so on. The whole thing looked like a big joke when actually I was dead serious. I thought that if every narcissistic human being wantied to be sexually appetizing, I had the solution!

C: How did you create the analogue cut-outs? Did you cut the contact sheets?
J: No, just transparencies. I’d even cut-up 35mm. Small. Very small. Which meant that every time I would try to cut up - for example a head - to try to photomontage it on another transparency, I’d sometimes get in trouble. I’d cut : clac clac clac clac and ping, the head would spring onto the carpet and I’d be on my hands and knees looking for it all night!

C: I’d like to quote George Loïs, and how he wrote, “A trend is always a trap, instead go for thenew.’
J: I agree, George is the greatest. One should always follow George’s advice! He does know best. He’s been my guiding light for almost forty years. Did you know he wrote an in- troduction to the catalogue of my Art Deco show illustrated by Andy Warhol who took our picture while we were having lunch with each other at the Four Seasons in NY in the 70’s? FIN