Bernard Rancillac

Was ‘pop art’ a term used by yourself or colleagues or was there a different terminology that referred to a new figurative movement in the 1960s and early 1970s?

Artists do not choose the terminologies to define their work. They adopt, if needed, the ones that they are offered. I, with a few friends, created a movement (an exhibition in 1964 titled Mythologies quotidiennes) and then Mr Gassiot-Talabot coined the term figuration narrative.

Did you ever consider yourself (now or in the past) a pop artist?

I never ‘considered’ myself – I contented myself with painting.

Did your work engage with current events in the 1960s and early 1970s?

Of course. On 1 January 1966, I decided to devote the entire year to current events. I realised that political events had an impact on me (the Vietnam War, Palestinians, Mao Zedong etc.).

Where did you get your imagery from (what, if any, sources did you use)?

Principally from pictures from the media covering these events. [Hence the] importance of the episcope [as a process for blowing up images].

Were you aware of pop art in other parts of the world?

I have been seduced and influenced by the works of Peter Saul, which I discovered from the early 1960s when he lived in Europe. I visited the exhibition of British painters at the Whitechapel Gallery (Derek Boshier, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield). They were also, by the way, all exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Then Mrs Sonnabend opened her gallery on Quai de Seine. We were almost the only ones at her openings. She rapidly made us understand that she was here to ‘launch’ American pop artists in Europe. This is called landing in military terms: a successful operation. I bought a serigraphy (original and signed) of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn.

Was commercial art an influence on your work or the way it was made?

I’m not very passionate about the art business. In the twenty-first century it entirely replaced art.

Was there a feeling at the time that you were doing something important and new, making a change…?

What I do always seemed to me (rightly or wrongly) important and often new, even unexpected.

Was there an audience for the work at that time and if so what was their reaction to it?

My first exhibition described as pop at Mathias Fels gallery in 1965 (I think) only caused me to receive sarcasm and insults.

Looking back at these works, what do you think about them now?

I’m glad I did them at that time. Everything else has followed one year after the other. I have not calmed down, as Ian Voss said.

September 2015