Where Art and Music Meet: The Work of Jean-Patrick Guilbert

musica marinFrench-born Jean-Patrick Guilbert has been involved in the arts since childhood. Today, his work — paintings, sculptures, and metalsmithing — is part of the permanent collection at the New-York Historical Society in New York City and has appeared in a number of collections and exhibits around the world.

We talked to Guilbert about his work and his collaboration with Music Marin.

MUSIC MARIN: How did you get involved with Musica Marin?
JEAN-PATRICK GUILBERT: I was introduced to Musica Marin by Christophe Landon, who has known the quartet’s violist, Ruth Kahn, for many years. By complete coincidence, Christophe’s cello, which I had patina’d closely resembled Musica Marin’s logo. Christophe and Ruth realized how wonderful it would be if Musica Marin actually had a quartet of patina’d instruments for performances. The first such performance took place on May 22, 2016, at a sold-out concert in Marin County.

MM: You create paintings, sculptures, and metalsmithing works – do you have a favorite medium and why?
JPG: Every medium possesses its laws and constraints, which one must adapt to. For me, all mediums are interesting, and I try to do my best with a sensitivity to each art form. For example, I see sculptures as a three-dimensional force with the power to occupy space – a mixture of engineering, the feeling of balance, and harmony; painting combines observation, composition, and harmony of color, which communicates a certain poetry.

MM: When did you first realized you had an inclination for art and which discipline did you start with?
JPG: For as long as I can remember, I have been enlivened by art. I expressed myself through drawing well before knowing how to write or count. It was my first language — an innate practice – perhaps not precise, but I was determined.

My father was an aesthete, having a high sensitivity to beauty, and I think this was instilled in me naturally through my father.

Then, at the age of 11, I had a revelation. I was at school trying to find the nurses office when I entered into a drawing class by mistake. No one was in the room, but on the students’ easels were drawings of The Winged Victory of Samothrace. When I looked up, there in front of me, in the center of the room, was the plaster sculpture model. I was captivated by the grace and purity of the lines; the shadows and the light; and by the Greek aesthetic. In that moment, I saw all of the canons of art united. I felt like the veil of innocence had been lifted, and I had found my path.

MM: Do you have a favorite piece?
JPG: I’ve reached a level of satisfaction with many of my works of art, however, one that stands out is Christophe Landon’s cello. This was a huge challenge for me, with enormous constraints and frustration. The end result, however, has been enormously gratifying, including a close partnership with Christophe, and a new perspective on classic violin making.

MM: Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration with Christophe London to decorate musical instruments?
JPG: My collaboration with Christophe Landon began in the late 90s when I arrived in New York City and had the privilege of joining his team as a general assistant. In Christophe’s shop, I had the opportunity to learn about violin making and see many of the highest quality instruments from all over the world. This was extremely stimulating, but since my education was in decorative arts, jewelry, and metalsmithing — and not in violin making — one day Christophe handed me a cello he had made years before, and he suggested that I create a patina on top of the traditional wood finish. Over the next three years, I developed a technique that would force a true patina on the cello.

The end result was so exquisite that Christophe entrusted me with two violins and a viola to create a quartet. I named this quartet ‘Calypso’ in memory of my father, Pierre Guilbert, who sailed the seas as a diver and chef for Jacques Cousteau; and the name of the quartet is also in honor of Commander Cousteau.

I had the privilege of being at my father’s side on the Calypso during an excursion at sea. The colors of the quartet bring back memories of the clear waters of the Mediterranean and of the lagoons of the South Pacific where I was raised.

In addition, in Greek mythology, which greatly inspires my work, there is Calypso, the sea nymph (an oceanid). In love with Odysseus, she enchanted him with her singing, detaining him on the island of Ogygia for seven years (according to Homer). That is the same amount of time I needed to complete the quartet.