Focus Taiwan App
Download

INTERVIEW/French illustrator hopes to capture Taiwan's overlooked beauty

02/28/2024 05:22 PM
To activate the text-to-speech service, please first agree to the privacy policy below.
French illustrator Florent Chavouet signs a copy of his L'ile Louvre at the Taipei International Book Exhibition on Feb. 23. CNA file photo
French illustrator Florent Chavouet signs a copy of his L'ile Louvre at the Taipei International Book Exhibition on Feb. 23. CNA file photo

By Sean Lin, CNA Staff reporter

French illustrator Florent Chavouet had already been to Taiwan twice, but when he received an invitation to spend another six weeks in Taiwan as a resident artist, he still jumped at the opportunity.

The invitation, passed on to him by his publisher in France, was from the French Office in Taipei for him to serve as a resident artist for this year's Francophonie à Taïwan, a campaign to promote the French language and culture.

Within less than a week after arriving in Taipei on Feb. 20 for the Taipei International Book Exhibition, Chavouet already had a small collection of still life paintings in his folder, and he was ready to find inspiration for more.

As with his previous trips, one of the first things Chavouet did after arriving in Taiwan was to buy a used bicycle, a necessity for his work rather than just a mode of transportation.

"For me, it's freedom; it's like riding on an ox," he said in an interview with CNA.

"Most of the time I'm not looking for something special. That's why I bought the bicycle, so I can just go and stop when I want," he said.

When exploring new places, Chavouet does not always follow people's recommendations.

"If I stopped to visit this shrine or this place people told me to visit, there'd be no end to that. My purpose is not to see everything," he said.

In fact, he draws less inspiration from acknowledged "attractions" than from "typical" subjects -- windows, for example -- a theme that permeates his illustrations.

"In Taipei, at night I like to look at windows. There's light. You start to picture images in your head. Is it the kitchen? Is someone watching TV? We don't know. But it's beautiful," he said.

To Chavouet, windows are like "metaphors" -- bridges between inside and outside worlds, he said.

Florent Chavouet gestures during an interview on Feb. 23, 2024. CNA photo Feb. 23, 2024
Florent Chavouet gestures during an interview on Feb. 23, 2024. CNA photo Feb. 23, 2024

That same instinct can be seen in Chavouet's previous works that have mostly been about or inspired by Japan, including the 2009 illustrated book "Tokyo Sanpo," which has since spawned English, Spanish, and Chinese versions.

Chavouet said it was the bustling streets lined with small shops and food stalls, which are "very different from Europe," that drew him to Japan.

"Every street is alive. There's something to see, to taste, and to sketch," Chavouet said, noting that Taiwan was similar.

Before this visit, the French illustrator had gotten a taste of Taiwan on two previous trips, recalling cycling from Taipei to the country's east coast and taking in the Pacific in its full glory, visiting the offshore Penghu County, and tackling head-on a powerful typhoon that left him camping and showering in a public bathroom.

Alcohol was one of the highlights of his second trip to Taiwan, he said, as the people he and his friends met offered them free drinks throughout their journey.

Chavouet said he had a special affinity toward islands because as someone who lived in Clermont-Ferrand in the heartland of France, he rarely had any opportunities to see the ocean back home, making Japan, and now Taiwan, natural attractive destinations.

For the first three weeks of his residency, the artist will stay at the Taiwan Literature Base in Taipei before heading south to Tainan.

Although he finds his Japanese-style room with its zen atmosphere very nice, Chavouet said he planned to spend all of his waking hours outdoors exploring the streets and parks of Taipei, whose "very gray and very green" mix of city and nature fascinated him.

He already has done several still life paintings with water color inks and color pencils, some of which he has shared on Instagram, reflecting his passion for sketching on the go.

Florent Chavouet shares some of the paintings he has done on his trip to Taiwan on Feb. 23. CNA photo Feb. 28, 2024
Florent Chavouet shares some of the paintings he has done on his trip to Taiwan on Feb. 23. CNA photo Feb. 28, 2024

Duing his six weeks in Taiwan, Chavouet said he hoped to do at least one small painting a day, complete with a haiku, and take on larger paintings when he comes across something big and memorable.

The artist also would love to release a "Taipei Sanpo" one day but felt he would probably have to visit Taiwan again to complete a project of that magnitude.

"Six weeks is long but [still] too short...I'm sure I'll be back," he said.

Enditem/ls

View All
0:00
/
0:00
We value your privacy.
Focus Taiwan (CNA) uses tracking technologies to provide better reading experiences, but it also respects readers' privacy. Click here to find out more about Focus Taiwan's privacy policy. When you close this window, it means you agree with this policy.
172.30.142.45