Expo of Claude Jammet: bestiary

For once LIBEX is not presenting cartoons, but announcing the exhibition of extraordinary paintings – where irony is not the less interesting part – by Claude Jammet, a French painter, living in Italy. The exhibition “Bestiary I Anthropocene”will be in the Gallery Everard Read, in London from 18th of October to 10th of November.

We wish we could be there. Great Art and enormous sensibility.

Claude Jammet’s first solo exhibition with Everard Read London, is a compendium of beasts exquisitely executed in oil on paper on canvas. The exhibition comprises two distinct bodies of work made over the past two years. In Jammet’s Bestiary works, the portrayal of each animal embodies a moral lesson based on age-old fables. Her Anthropocene series is a moving and chilling meditation on humanity’s far-reaching impact on the majestic creatures with whom we share the Earth. Jammet’s paintings have the ancient fragility and power of the skulls and bones she collects. The paintings are relics of everything she has lived – an archaeology of her disquieted soul, an urgent need to close the circle, a pilgrimage toward hallowed ground and precedent lives. Her reds are those of blood, her ivories those of bone, and her blues and violets those of veins and tendons.  – Alessandro Papetti, artist

All texts are from the exhibition catalogue.

Claude Jammet

Born in Zimbabwe of French parents, Claude Jammet grew up in Kenya, India and Japan, in addition to extended periods in France, before settling in South Africa where she began her career as a professional painter. Over the past two decades Jammet has lived and worked in Italy. Jammet is a self-taught artist. Painting for her is a requirement; the chosen means by which to communicate her experience of the world. Over a career spanning more than four decades, her work has made reference to the perfection of nature and man, from whichever culture. Her subject matter has encompassed portraiture but also still lifes and the quotidian. Giving her attention to people and objects, it seems, is a way of carrying with her beloved people, places and things, recording traces of her roots and offering a mediation on the fleeting and transient nature of all things. Over four decades, Jammet has held some 20 solo exhibitions as well as group shows in galleries across South Africa, Europe and Japan. Her work is held in numerous private and corporate collections in South Africa and across Europe.


Your work appears to deal with the big issues of life – birth, death, love, fear and the transient nature of all things.
You are right about the big issues, but it could be said about all those who create as opposed to those who destroy. It is a bit like giving thanks for the opportunity of this life.

You are well known for your portraits. Do you think of these works as portraits?
Portraiture has to be the most exciting aspect of painting, because it is humanity looking at itself through another. I would say most of these subjects are portraits, some more than others, like the baboon. The cat in The Crossing on the other hand, is my beloved Gargoyle who had to be put down. He really was as big as the European Eagle Owl and so similar, that I chose this mythological bird as the perfect companion for his crossing into the other world.

Your Bestiary portraits embody a moral lesson based on age-old fables. What was the impetus for using these fables as the premise for this body of work?

© Claude Jammet – “The Finish Line”

A couple of years ago whilst visiting the Sénanque Abbey in the South of France, I read the Medieval Bestiary. It is obvious that most of our prejudices about certain beasts are still based on superstitions and not on scientific fact. Initially this series started out to redress some of those myths through fable, but as I progressed I felt I owed it to the other creatures of our time – those on the way to rapid extinction, to record their plight.

Your Anthropocene series can be read as a meditation on humanity’s profound impact on our fellow creatures. Are these works a commentary on the damage we are wreaking on our planet?

© Claude Jammet – “Anthropocène” detail

My life-long production has revolved around mankind in his context of nature, but there is an urgency now to leave humanity out of the picture as the source of the decline of the natural world, and to give precedence to the species that are being wiped out daily. We are now fully entered in the Anthropocene Era and the disappearance of some of the animals I am painting is imminent, if not already a fact. This body of work is an attempt (however pathetic) to apologise to posterity.

You describe yourself as self-taught. Tell us something about your practice and your process of embarking on a new body of work.
I have had no formal art education which does not mean that I don’t continually strive to improve my knowledge of art and my technique. I am never short of inspiration, so I do quick sketches to fix the idea. Then I will set about finding the photographic reference that I need (preferably my own) until I am able to return to my studio to paint. My studio is my sanctuary where I keep little relics, my books, and where I can close the door at the end of the day leaving a big mess, in which only I know the system. For that reason, very few ever again access to that space. The choice of working in oils on paper probably stems from my early days of painting in watercolour. When I switched to oil, I simply adapted the technique of dry brush to oils. Even if I texture the paper it gives me a better result than canvas does. I still experiment, but I think I’ve found my medium.

Tell us about some of the enduring influences on your work.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what influences me because I think everything does. I am like a sponge absorbing all that passes past my vision. How this is interpreted in paint depends on my emotional response to these stimuli. However, when at age four, I decided I was going to be a painter, it was my parents’ art books that gave me the initial impetus. It was Art that inspired me, and still does.

You have lived in so many different places. What impact do you think this has on your work? Do you think you approach your subjects as an outsider, with some distance and perspective?
The different countries, the various cultures, have not just influenced me: they make up who I am. I am very privileged to have been born to parents who gave me a wide view of the world and its inhabitants, so although it has been said about me that I am the eternal outsider, I feel very much ‘in’ the picture. A wise woman once told me that I would not leave a mark on the world – because it is already perfect – but that the world would leave its mark on me.


Economist and historian, director of the Center LIBREXPRESSION, Foundation Giuseppe di Vagno

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