is the hand and the thought”

It has been taking beauty and poetry to the streets for more than fifty years. While she exhibited 300 works for 6 months at the Hélène and Edouard Leclerc Cultural Fund in Landernauthe visual artist Ernest Pignon Ernest tells us about his installations, his drawings, his photographs, which reveal the different stages of his creations.

The Landerneau exhibition has this interest, among other things because it was very well designed by Jean de Loisy, to involve people in the work process. She answers questions about how I draw with her specific demands of working on the street.Ernest Pignon-Ernest


Ernest Pignon-Ernest, a boy from Nice, was deeply marked at the age of twelve by a reproduction of Picasso’s famous “Guernica”. “I really discover there that painting can be a blast.“, he says during the interview. How to do, as a young painter, to go after the subversive power of Picasso? Ernest Pignon-Ernest responds by choosing the street. In 1966, in effect, against the implantation of the atomic attack force in the Albion Plateau, the artist pockets the shadow of a man struck by lightning in Hiroshima on the surrounding walls, paths and rocks, in situ.

Pliny the Elder says that the origin of the design is the shadow cast by the potter’s daughter Dibutade. All my work begins with a cast shadow, but it’s not that of the sun, it’s the nuclear cast shadow that marks my generation.Ernest Pignon-Ernest

If he later changed the stencil for collage, this first intervention carries the germ of everything that constitutes his work to this day: the ephemeral appropriation and the poeticization of public space, of which he is one of the pioneers together with Daniel Buren , but also the setting in dialogue of History and the interrogation of our collective memory.

For an image to sustain confrontation and be present, it must be structured and densified. In the combination of my drawing and the place, I intend to give depth to the visibleErnest Pignon-Ernest

Reinscribe human history in places

“Ecce homo”, such is the formula, which can be translated as “here is the Man”, which he chose to title his retrospective in Avignon in 2020 and could summarize the essence of all his work. Humanist artist, Ernest Pignon-Ernest awakens the memory of poets, whether Pier Paolo Pasolini, Robert Desnos or Mahmoud Darwich, but also heroes of freedom and victims of tragic events, to question the collective memory of peoples and the excesses of society.

They take my drawings to work. In fact, it is rather the place worked by the presence of my image that is the work. Basically, I offer almost a ready-made. For “Les Gisants”, it is the Charonne metro that I expose in a certain way. We go there every day, it has become commonplace, but my image arrives there as a revealer. His presence brings to the surface the memory of the placeErnest Pignon-Ernest

As early as 1971, the visual artist impressed with the recumbent, a series of drawings pasted in various places in Paris, offering a cross-section of the Paris Commune, the massacre of October 17, 1961, and the Charonne metro station affair. Way of signifying that history repeats itself and that the streets are direct witnesses. Since then, he has pasted his smoked drawings on newsprint both in Nice to protest against the twinning of the city with Cape Town in the midst of Apartheid, in South Africa to make AIDS visible, in Algiers to revive the figure of Maurice Audin and thus designate the violence of the colonial war, or even in Naples to work on the representations of death that this city segregated.

The poets make their homeland […] Since I am an atheist, I have no saints who embody values. That’s why I take advantage of the poets. But I don’t hesitate to use saints also because, even though I am an atheist, I am heir to this culture, this painting, this dogma of the incarnation.Ernest Pignon-Ernest

Your news:

  • Exposition : A retrospective dedicated to Ernest Pignon-Ernest is held from June 12 to January 15 at the Edouard Leclerc Foundation. On this occasion a catalog is published.
  • the Gallimard Editions offer a new enlarged edition of the great monograph entitled “Ernest Pignon-Ernest” originally published in 2014.
  • the Delpire Editions also offer a new enlarged edition of “facing the wall originally published in 2018.
  • next exhibition : ” ecstasy “, by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, will be presented at Abbey of Notre-Dame de Bernay from July 2 to September 18, 2022.

Sounds that play during the show:

  • Excerpt from the interview by Erri de Luca on November 3, 2020 in “Affaires Culturelles” on France Culture.
  • Jean Ferrat singing “Carco”, on a text from Aragón. Album: “Ferrat 95” (1994) | Label: TEMY.
  • Archive of Francis Bacon at the microphone of Georges Charbonnier, on France Culture, in 1975.