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French Artist Henri Lamy: “We Want To Share Art With As Many People As Possible”


It was a Wednesday evening, and the ground floor of Alliance Française de Manille was brimming with energy. People gathered to see a remarkable exhibit that puts together works by artists correlated in spreading positivity through art.

The exhibition is called “Ugnayan,” the final group show of the #UgnayanSaPoblacion program. “Ugnayan” showcases artworks created by international artists Henri Lamy from France, Chufy from Switzerland, Alexandre Beretta from France-Ireland, and Abdoul K. Seck from Senegal during their two-month art residency program in the Philippines. Also part of the exhibition are a collaboration piece done with Filipino artists Agnes Arellano and Billy Bonnevie and photographs by French photographer Lionel Rault.

Henri Lamy, Abdoul Khadre Seck, Simon Dubreucq, Lionel Rault, Maiia d'Aboville, Chufy, and Alexandre Beretta / Photo by Terence Angsioco

The program, as Project Director Maiia d’Aboville puts it, is “about the power of art in community development.” By sharing their passion for art, they hope to inspire and empower other artists to do the same and work towards the same goal of using art to affect “transformative change” for the betterment of the community.

The two-month art residency program included free art workshops for street children from the foundations they are supporting (Project Pearls, Virlanie Foundation Philippines, Stairway Foundation, Inc., and ACAY Philippines), exhibitions, collaborative murals, and meet-and-greet with artists.

This is an initiative that was started by Taverne Gutenberg, an association with a three-storey art center in Lyon, France that provides “a place for artistic exchanges.” Founded by Henri and Maiia in 2015, Taverne Gutenberg serves as an artistic residence, a café-gallery, and a creative hub that is open to public.

Taverne Gutenberg founders - couple Maiia d'Aboville and Henri Lamy

In February, they will release a documentary done by French film director Simon Dubreucq and video production team Sine de Oro, which shows what went on behind the scenes at the making of the #UgnayanSaPoblacion project.

“We hope to inspire others to do the same, which means sharing art to people as many as possible. Don’t let it be like a white wall gallery, very inaccessible. That’s not what we want,” Henri, the project initiator, says.

French visual artist Henri Lamy

Henri is a French visual artist with a particularly interesting and incredibly inspiring art career that started in 2010. Born in 1985 in Lyon, France, Henri grew up surrounded by art. His father and grandfather are both artists, so he learned to express himself through drawing and painting at a young age.

"iPhone lady" by Henri Lamy

About 10 years ago, he left Lyon and pursued a career in the field of art. The art residency 59 Rivoli in Paris kick-started a very exciting and adventure-filled career that would take him to different places in the world, like Brazil, US, Russia, and of course, Philippines.

Capoeira painting with Maiia d'Aboville and Henri Lamy

What makes Henri more notable as an artist is that he uses his other passion, Brazilian martial art Capoeira, with painting. Doing so adds a layer of entertaining element to the craft of painting. Here, Henri talks about his art and the art scene in the Philippines, which he considers as his second home.

Henri Lamy with his nephew at the live painting during the opening of the "Ugnayan" exhibition in Alliance Française de Manille

On his creative process: “My creative process is making every accident possible. I like it when I don’t plan something, that’s why I had my nephew painting on the canvas earlier. What’s beautiful will remain, and there’s going to be a natural selection process.”

On the key element for his artworks: “Being open to suggestions but still managing to keep my own path. Right now, I’ve been doing lots of bodies and people in different situations. Then after, I switch to another one. Now, I’m starting to work on these oppositions between geometric shapes and organic lines.”

On his style over the years: “I’ve always been inspired by Impressionism—interpreting an image through different tones that are painted on it. I like to play with shades. I like it messy with lots of different techniques. Some parts of the painting are really accurate, almost like hyperrealistic, but there are parts that are super messy.”

On choosing the artists to collaborate with for “Ugnayan:” “The selection process was quite spontaneous as with everything. Abdoul is part of our art residence for a year now. He’s one of our bestsellers, although he just started in selling artworks. He’s just the kindest person I know, very genuine. He’s been through a lot of things in Senegal, where his father used to be a national artist. Then we have Alex who is the youngest. He’s very ambitious, and that’s what I like about him. He wants to be part of so many things. Chefy is the one who already has a style, although it’s good for him to make this kind of trip for all of us, because we can have access to other openings in our minds and our inspirations. It turns out that being here altogether was the perfect match. I think all of us somehow are a bit hyperactive. We never really stopped working.”

On the Philippine art scene: “I like it. Very lively. Very young. Lots of different references. So many different influences. It’s fun because we’ve had a little bit of this and little bit of that. Gus Albor was one of the artists we collaborated with. He visited in the studio and we saw how pure his works are. I’d say that most Filipino artists’ styles have so many influences from the culture and so many intricate events.”

On the message he wishes to convey with his artwork: “Be positive to everything that happens to you, every opportunity. Don’t take it for granted, the opportunity to experience something that you haven’t.”

On his next projects: “I’ve just signed a partnership with a manager in France, and she’s putting my artworks in a big, global gallery that has several locations, so my artworks will probably travel from places to places. Also, I’m planning to have the Taverne Gutenberg settled in the Philippines. I don’t know when. I’m still working to that direction. I have to find a way to get everybody who’s interested in that statement and concept, and find the right people willing to get involved in social issues.”


“Ugnayan” runs until February 1, 2018. Alliance Française de Manille is located at 209 Nicanor Garcia St., Bel-Air II, Makati


Photos by Lionel Rault courtesy of Taverne Gutenberg