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Testimonial of Mr Deparpe
Assistant Curator at the Matisse Museum

Testimonial of Mr Deparpe

Photo left: Patrice Deparpe and Alain Godon in the stockrooms of the 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.


This 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.


I have 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 years and 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….


I could 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.


Patrice Deparpe

Assistant Curator at the Matisse Museum