Born in Versailles to a family of painters, Thomas Pierre likes to combine figurative art with abstraction. Having first come to Cambodia in 2009 to paint the temples of Angkor, Pierre has moved back to his Western roots for his new exhibition, Perspective, at Meta House. Texture plays a major role in all his paintings, with effects ranging from wiry acrylic paint patterns to intentional puncture marks on the canvas. With acrylic works depicting European castles and 1950s American homes competing with textured abstracts, Pierre has created an ensemble exhibition that merges genres. Bennett Murray reports.
Why are you showing both figurative and abstract paintings in the one show?
Normally, you are a figurative artist or you are an abstract artist. But I do not like to just focus on one thing. What I like is to paint – the subject is just [summoned by] the pleasure of the moment. I’m very proud to have figurative and abstraction together, and I hope a lot of people are interested in that. It’s not easy to show the two things together.
I work on both at the same time. I really like to paint a figurative image and to stop sometimes and then go work on the abstraction.
Are you an Impressionist or an Expressionist?
I’m more of an Impressionist. For Expressionists, it is different because there is more movement. But my paintings are more still.
How did you add texture to your paintings?
For some of the paintings, I created texture with acrylics. And a lot of paper and glue. I like to mix different material. I like to work to capture different dimensions. For some paintings, I raised the canvas and put holes in it. You can see the shadows beneath the painting. It is opening from the inside.
It is very important to show with this exhibition different things. To show to the young Khmer people that you can use different materials. That it is very interesting– to try different things, to do different things.
What painters influence you?
I like [Miquel] Barceló, Henri Matisse and [Cesare] Dell’acqua. And I like the [19th-century orientalist] traveller painters.
How did having painters for parents influence you?
I’ve been painting since I was young, and I’d go up to the studio with my parents so I really knew painting. I saw a lot of exhibitions with them.
They are totally different from each other. My dad is figurative, and he is a colourist. He likes to use a lot of colours. And my mother prefers to works with black and white.
How was it to spend five years painting in Berlin?
It’s a fantastic city for the artist. You have a lot of artists, a lot of great exhibitions, but it is not easy to live there if you’re a painter because there a lot of other painters. But I decided to leave because of the weather. Six months of the year, you have no light, so it is difficult to paint there if you want colour. So I went to the opposite side of the world.
What inspiration do you draw from Cambodia?
Now that’s a difficult question to answer. I like the light and the colour. It’s very important. When I first came to Cambodia, I painted the temples. I came to Siem Reap, and I stayed there to take a lot of pictures and to paint, and I decided after six months to move to Phnom Penh. My first exhibition was three years ago at the National Museum.
But of course, I am painting Western subjects now. I would like for this exhibition to be the opposite to my [Cambodian subjects]. When I painted Angkor, I tried to do something different [from other Angkor paintings]. For this, I use the same ideas. Of course, it’s modern and contemporary. Especially the American architecture of the 1950s, like you have in California.
I like to work here. It’s not easy for the painter to sell paintings here, but it’s great to propose different ideas.