CharlElie’s drawing in honor of the famous retired French tennis player, Yannick Noah, was Roland Garros‘ special edition cover page. So far, Yannick Noah is the only French man who won the French Open 30 years ago, in 1983.
- 1) We know you design tattoos and have some yourself. Is there anything different about coming up with a design that will be printed on somebody forever?
The tattoos that I draw are quite symbolic. They are more suggestions… The question is not to know whether the design is ephemeral or forever, but if it has enough content to stand the test of time. I make it, but the drawing is not for me, I respond to a request, same thing when you’re composing a movie soundtrack: I’m adapting myself to the constraints. My drawing is a unique thought for the one who asked me for it.
For more on tattoos designed by CharlElie: CharlElie & Tattoos
- Can you share an anecdote about any of your tattoos?
Last winter, I went to San Diego to visit my daughter. In the street leading to the beach, there were a lot of lit and colorful tattoo shops, pretty far from the greasy dark side of the evil bikers mythology. It seemed as natural to get a tattoo there as to go to the hairdresser. And, by the way, they have an extensive experience on the thing. I had a design in mind that I wanted on the shoulder. One day, when I had some time to waste, I decided to take my chances. The guy was free right away, so I did it. No premonition, no presumption or divination, it happened like that: you want it, you have it! A tattoo is like a scar, it tells a story. A tattoo is a solid link with one’s own origin. Every time I look at this tattoo, I think of my daughter in San Diego…
- 2) Roland Garros, the tennis French Open, is approaching, and we often see you there. Which player will you root for this year?
Well, it is a sensitive issue, a tricky question. There is a great clay court specialist called Nadal, but this guy is as fragile as a precision engineering. He was very disoriented in Madrid because the organizers decided to change the color of the surface, turned to blue this year. Djokovic also was not happy about it, but then, Federer took the opportunity to win the 74th title of his career.
He just got up to the second place of the world ranking, and he is on the track to becoming first. Maybe, it could also create (again) a big surprise in Roland Garros …
- Compared to other big tournaments, what do you think is so special about Roland Garros?
First, the clay of Roland Garros is the slowest of all surfaces that count for the Grand Slam. Players have more time to organize their play. Exchanges last long. It’s a matter of physical strength; it takes a lot of endurance. Plus, it happens in Paris, a magical city that fascinates those who haven’t been there. Winning in Paris is like stepping up in the history of tennis.
- 3) The Fort Reveur Tour ended a month ago; can you share one of your favorite memories?
The tour ended with a somewhat abrupt ending, like a film that breaks in the middle of projection, except that it was on purpose. We got along very well together, and for the latest dates there was as much excitement as for the first ones. The theaters were full and hot. Sure, we could have done a couple more dates, but they would have been stretched out from mid-May to mid-August and I didn’t want to feel like a wave that, despite all momentum, slowly goes on to die on the beach. That is why, I decided to stop at the high point of the Tour.
I remember a lot of dates. Every night was special. Let’s say… The second night at the Casino de Paris was extra-special as Yannick Noah, Louis Bertignac and Benjamin Biolay came to perform on one or another song with me on stage. I also remember Brest, in front of 15 000 people, and Nancy, which was filmed for a DVD that might come out this winter…
There was also a concert this year in March for a music festival in Gaillac/Albi. That night, I was sharing the stage with Sansévérino. I guess he knew my music, but I’m pretty sure that he had never seen us on stage. When the musicians started the sound-check, he was on the side of the stage, tuning his guitars. He didn’t really pay attention to them. Then, I arrived and things were put in place. Suddenly, Stephane (Sansévérino) stopped what he was doing, and went down to the empty hall. I could see him standing in front of the soundboard, and saying: Damn, whaa! That sounds heavy…!
In the evening, the hall was crowded, completely sold out. Sansévérino was playing for the opening. I went on backstage to see him during his performance, and I felt that he had really put all in. Then, we played a magical concert for a white-hot room. We also had a raging set. When I came down, it was late but Stéphane waited for the concert to end to give me a hug before hitting the road with his big bus … Next day, facing the medias, the producer of the festival found graceful words to celebrate that night. Moments like that warm the heart. These are some dates, but we have tones of other memories. This tour was one of the best ones.
CharlElie, May 18th, 2012 – from New York, NY.
- We know you worked and became friends with Coluche. Can you tell us how you met him and what this relationship brought you?
One night, after my first show in Paris, a journalist took me to Coluche’s house. There were parties every night at his house. I arrived around 1.30 AM, and many people were there already, famous people, actors, musicians, celebrities. A few hours later, Coluche came to me, asking me who I was. We talked a little. I knew nothing about show business and he gave me some tips and precious advice.
Sometime later, Veronica, Coluche’s spouse came to see me backstage of one of my concerts in the suburbs of Paris to tell me that she loved the show. I was about to hit the road back to Nancy when she suggested that I could eventually sleep at their house. On this occasion, I met Coluche once again, and shortly after he asked me to share the scene of a theater where he would be playing in the early evening. I agreed.
That evening, after he left the stage, it was my turn. The room emptied in part, nevertheless, someone named Jean Henri Meunier stayed. Jean Henri Meunier would later introduce me to Chris Blackwell.
Indirectly, Coluche changed my life. For a few years after that, I continued to visit Coluche’s family every time I was in Paris, and I often slept at their home.
- Once you said: « Things have a meaning, things have a shape. Design is the meaning of the shape. » You have designed watches, shoes, and other objects, and you now expose at Dunes with the work of Richard Shemtov. What is your relation with the design industry?
I believe that Art is a proposal. Art is a raw expression of the sentimental power; Art is an unsolved riddle. The work of craftsmen is a know-how: a work of mastery under control. A designer has a map in his head, he knows where he goes. A designer redoes his draft until he reaches the image of his dream.
Expressing his uncontrolled emotions, an artist is motivated by a flow of contrary ideas. Most of the time, his message is not clear. The artist does not exactly know what he wants; he relieves himself of his feelings.
Designers have a certain sense of organization. They drive their aesthetic with a specific purpose in mind, they ‘re like the communicators who vehicles special meanings, with a pre-concerted idea of their goal.
When I draw objects, (watches, shoes or whatever) which must be executed by others, by machines or in series, then I have to condense my thoughts. A design must be both obvious and labeled.
- The New Yorker lifestyle can be very stressful and challenging. You work a lot and do not sleep much. You travel, you perform with full energy, you write, you always have a bunch of projects going on. This lifestyle is very demanding and tiring, so what do you do when you need to relax?
As you say this New-York stress has a strong hold on me. I love it as much as I hate it. Like a drug, you’re addicted to it. Not easy to say, take it or leave it! When I’m not in this effervescence, I feel guilty. I fear of missing something. I spent too much time dreaming of it. In France, sometimes, it takes months to come to a final decision, and I suffered from these delays. Now I’m under pressure, but I chose it. I’m on a wire; I have no security belt. I climb on my bare feet but I don’t look back.
I’m just too scared to stop, paralyzed on the steep face. When I slow down, I feel that all I do might be useless. When you act, you’re in a train that you must feed constantly. When I ask myself: why do I make all this ?…then I can become upset.
My job is as heavy and deep as it is light and trivial. Art is a speculation of love and hate. It’s a gambling. I’m excited like any gamblers.
When I do nothing, my mind gets tangled. Knots appear in the threads, and it freezes the trigger. I lose my clairvoyance and my objectivity.
To relax outdoor, I might play tennis, (nothing’s better for me to clear up my brain), exercise my body in many ways, walk in the streets at night, (visit the Apple store after midnight), go to a museum, go fishing on a boat, take a plane to somewhere “beachy”, have a BBQ party with some lazy cool local friends.
To relax indoor, nothing better than: make love, play cards with some friends, read magazines, surf on the net, cross your hands or go to the synagogue, watch silly programs on TV. But sometimes it’s not enough. I fall asleep rarely before 2.30 AM.
If sleep does not come when I’m spiritually flooded, sometimes my last chance to relax is to complete crosswords, and loose myself in a well of silence.
CharlElie, February 12th, 2012 – from New York, NY.
- What is the craziest thing you ever read about you?
In the 80′s, I produced 4 of Tom November’s albums. Him and I have different artist names, but we are brothers by blood. One day, a gay magazine badly informed, suggested that I helped my dear “boyfriend” Tom November to record his new album…
- When did you start to play tennis?
I started to play tennis exactly on November the 9th, 1989. I was on tour in Normandy, watching a report about the demolition of the Berlin Wall, when one of my musicians called to invite me to join them on the hotel’s court. Before, I had played a lot of table tennis, but had never played real tennis before; so I watched them through the window, and considering their freestyle technique, I decided to give it a try. When the manager came to pick us up to leave the hotel, I felt as he was withdrawing me something. Since then, beside some injuries, I’ve never quit. I love tennis.
- What does the RE-Gallery represent to you at this point of your career?
The RE -Gallery NYC is a snorkel. It allows me to swim underwater with my new creations. It’s also a gateway to America. People who enter in my workshop gallery know nothing about who I am, what I’ve done before.They’re just attracted to what they see. I got off the 19th floor where I used to work as an ascetic recluse for seven years, and I now find myself in the street, facing the movements of real life. My work is not anymore only mental, it’s a conjunction, an addition between the street reality and the music is in my head: it looks like what I see behind my windows.
CharlElie, September 1rst, 2011 – from New York, NY
Did you know CharlElie’s tennis book, “Beautiful Gestures” (“Beaux Gestes”), won the Lacoste Award for best sports book of 1999? CharlElie drew most of his book during a period where he had to stop playing due to a tennis elbow injury. He took this time to observe numerous videos of professional tennis players and study precisely their technique. He figured that since he was unable to practice, he might as well learn more about the theory. His drawings, at first for the purpose of his own understanding of the game, were put together to form this spectacular award-winning book.
Later, in 2001, CharlElie participated in the book “Roland Garros 2001, Seen by the Biggest Tennis Photographers” which also won another Lacoste Award.
Did you know CharlElie’s favourite sport is tennis? In fact, he is as big as a tennis fan as you will ever find. Not only he plays at least 3 times a week, but he is also a great student of the game. He even published a book on tennis filled with drawings and lessons titled Beaux Gestes (Beautiful Gestures, 1999).
Every year he is invited to sit on the presidential seats of the French Open (Roland Garros) in Paris. You can easily notice him on the background of your TV screen when Roger Federer is serving. During the 2011 French Open, he finished in first place of the Celebrity Fast Serve contest with a 92 mph serve. Not bad for a 55 year old tennis amateur.