Patrice Deparpe

  • Assis­tant Cura­tor at the Matisse Museum

Godon, famil­iar artist

Alain Godon gives the curi­ous impres­sion, when you meet him, that he has been a part of your life for a very long time. Like a long-​lost cousin, a friend who has returned from a long trip and who regales us with incred­i­ble sto­ries of his adven­tures. Like a vis­i­ta­tion from one of his paint­ings, a char­ac­ter escaped from his can­vas, who elo­quently recounts the anec­dotes of our daily lives.

T his famil­iar­ity, this prox­im­ity that we share with Godon gives him the oppor­tu­nity to set about peer­ing into our daily lives. He then grabs hold of this, sets the scene with it, and sub­se­quently dis­closes it in his paint­ings which he uses like mir­rors.
In the full knowl­edge that these are but ephemeral moments of hap­pi­ness, he seizes hold of them in the attempt to pre­serve them, to fix them in eter­nity on his can­vases.
In the man­ner of the gen­tle­manly bur­glar who sent flow­ers to his vic­tim as a token of con­so­la­tion, he duly presents us with a token memento when later con­tem­plat­ing his paint­ings.
Read­ing between the lines, these paint­ings give us the key to a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the artist, one beyond the exter­nal appear­ance of a dap­per dilet­tante, and they help us, on the con­trary, to dis­cover an artist who is hard work­ing and who is both metic­u­lous and exact­ing.
Since we gen­er­ally only get to see one facet of Alain Godon, this descrip­tion here may be open to ques­tion. Per­haps, over the years, his clos­est friends have dis­cov­ered more, but it is impos­si­ble to pre­cisely pin down this chameleon per­son­al­ity who pro­tects him­self by com­part­men­tal­is­ing the dif­fer­ent worlds he inhab­its.
What we pre­dom­i­nantly know about the artist is that he is cheer­ful, extro­vert and genial. This is the side I saw when, as direc­tor of the Museum of Le Tou­quet, I first met him. At that point, noth­ing out of the ordi­nary in this well-​heeled sea­side resort where appear­ances mat­ter. How­ever, on see­ing his paint­ings, I realised straight away that here was no chimera but a true artist.
And so I came to dis­cover his uni­verse, his small flat, over which his self-​portrait as a satyr presided, and which he shared with Nanou and his dogs; his can­vases sym­bols of his dreams.
The orig­i­nal­ity of the nar­ra­tive, a nar­ra­tive that plays with the rules of com­po­si­tion, the inten­sity of the colours and the inven­tive­ness of his pic­to­r­ial lan­guage were the augur of greater things to come.
Fairly soon after that we organ­ised an exhi­bi­tion at the museum. With the year 2000 approach­ing and in cel­e­bra­tion of this event, he jumped at the oppor­tu­nity to reassem­ble his child­hood idols and heroes of the human race.
Unfor­tu­nately, the lib­er­tar­ian Godon had made a few ene­mies by putting his acer­bic pen­cil at the dis­posal of a local news­pa­per which delighted in pub­lish­ing cruel but appo­site car­toons. All stops were pulled to under­mine this exhi­bi­tion but we were pre­pared for com­bat and, like mus­ke­teers, we united forces. A won­der­ful friend­ship has grown out of this odd com­bi­na­tion of a d’Artagnan and a Don Quixote.
Spurred on by this vic­tory, I led him on another ven­ture; to present his exhi­bi­tion in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent area and to gauge pub­lic opin­ion in a small working-​class town near Lens. He took to the idea whole heart­edly and, by know­ing through his own expe­ri­ence that life can be dif­fi­cult and thank­less, he gave gen­er­ously of his time on a per­sonal level to chil­dren who were eager to meet an artist who was a fan of Gren­dizer, the manga char­ac­ter.
Ihave sub­se­quently fol­lowed his evo­lu­tion as an artist, his dilem­mas, his tri­als, his quests, until he has found what he has been seek­ing.
At which point he meets with some of his close friends and announces with utter con­vic­tion that he had found some­thing, and then… off he goes!
This unswerv­ing deter­mi­na­tion to pur­sue this thing, to har­ness it, to nur­ture it, spelled the arrival of a true painter. He works relent­lessly, leav­ing noth­ing to chance.
This home bird has been trans­formed into a glo­be­trot­ter look­ing to feed his imag­i­na­tion. On accom­pa­ny­ing him on a trip to New York to pick out places to paint,
I was able to wit­ness how he was exhil­a­rated; by its size, fre­netic pace, its cos­mopoli­tanism, and its culi­nary and cul­tural rich­ness (I remem­ber our vis­its to the MOMA and the Met).
He threw him­self body and soul into this chal­lenge, the out­come of which would be known a few months later, when he was to exhibit the fruits of his labour in a pres­ti­gious gallery near Cen­tral Park.
A sig­nif­i­cant part of his future as an artist was at stake here and it was impor­tant for him to con­quer Amer­ica.
Self-​possessed, he came through to carry the day and, in the midst of all this, he has cre­ated the Bil­doRe­liefo, an inno­v­a­tive pho­to­graphic tech­nique which repro­duces and re-​interprets his paint­ings, now plac­ing them within the reach of every­one.
Fans of his art fight to obtain them and, the artist has effec­tively become a busi­ness man. Above all, these suc­cesses serve to ensure and main­tain his free­dom; money, for him, rep­re­sents only a means and not the end.
More­over, his (leg­endary) gen­eros­ity is some­times extreme; in any event the young artists who ben­e­fit each year from his patron­age are grate­ful to him. Per­se­ver­ance is another of Godon’s char­ac­ter traits.
The con­cept of a totally free fes­ti­val to help young artists goes back more than ten yearsand we thought long and hard about this.
The event, which to a large extent he finances, was an endeav­our that encoun­tered many obsta­cles before finally see­ing the light of day! A curi­ous fusion of squir­rel (Cen­tral Park) and Mother Theresa….
Icould almost cer­tainly point out other para­doxes, seek out new facets, pon­der hid­den virtues, but to what pur­pose? Each of the con­trib­u­tors assem­bled in this book will give you “his” Godon and, if these con­tri­bu­tions help you to dis­cover and under­stand the artist, then so much the bet­ter.
I would how­ever sug­gest that you start by look­ing at his paint­ings; they are his con­fi­dants, his ambas­sadors and will surely teach you much.
Matisse said, in essence, that a good painter ought to cut out his tongue, not talk about his art and should be happy just to do it. On the other hand he said noth­ing about the friends who speak from the heart …. Godon would under­stand this, as he believes that we don’t tell our loved ones often enough that we love them.