The artwork currently in the lobby, by artist Jean Baptiste Hugo are from two collections, still life photographs printed on aluminum, as well as images from Hautville house, the residence where his great great grandfather, the revered Victor Hugo spent his exile from France. We had the pleasure of getting to know more about Jean Baptiste interests and experiences during our Q&A.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Take a deep breath and stretch.
How did you discover that you had an interest and talent for photography?
As a child I loved collecting and assembling eclectic objects. The desire to transform and make came very early . Later, at art school, I developed new skills and discovered photography , which I found particularly appealing as a way of transforming the perceived reality and expressing a personal vision.
You have travelled all over the world, what on your adventures has had the most significant impact on you?
It must be India, a country where, so often, the base of trees is painted in bright orange and is turned into a sacred space with offerings to the indwelling spirits.
How did you come to make Still Life’s your subject matter?
I was living, with my wife and children, in a converted coach house, in London. There were yoga classes every week and lots of of us would gather for vegetarian meals in the large open plan kitchen. So many of our friends kept asking about vegetarian cooking that we decided to make a video to explain the basics of it. Stills images were needed for the title pages and I knew instantly that many of the objects and odds and ends I had accumulated, over the last 15 years, all around the house and in the garden sheds would make great accessories for that series of pictures.
It was an unusual shoot – I had to work very fast around a film crew’s hustle, bustle and obstructions. A cameraman was waiting for me to finish each composition and would then film it. Each shot took barely thirty minutes from start to finish. The unusual circumstances on that day: the speed imposed by the film crew ; my particular fondness for the subject matter and the accessories at hand helped to create images borne more out of intuition than reasoning or technical planning. And for that I am still grateful.”
The photographs of ingredients is titled “Les Natures Vives”, and inspired by the Dutch still life’s’ of the 16th & 17th Century.
Can you tell us about Hauteville House and what your connection to it is?
In 1851, escaping Napoleon’s police after the coup d’état he actively opposed, Victor Hugo , my great-great-grandfather, fled Paris under the fake identity of a typographer named Lanvin and took refuge first in Brussels, then Jersey in the Channel Islands, finally arriving in Guernsey in 1855. Soon the success of The Contemplations allowed him to buy a house and, as a landlord and a taxpayer, to be protected from yet another expulsion.
Being a poet with tremendous creative energy, he set about decorating this large house and roamed the island buying cartloads of chests, furniture, carpets, ceramics, statues and trinkets which he assembled with a prodigious imagination. He had shown his talent as a novelist, poet, dramatist, draftsman, politician before turning himself into an architect, sculptor, cabinet-maker and upholsterer to realize this ”poem in several rooms.”
What about Hauteville inspires you and gets your creative juices flowing?
What struck me most in the decoration and architectural arrangement of Hauteville House is that it is a three-dimensional representation of a philosophical idea, a theme present in “Les Miserables” and many of my great-great- grandfather’s works – that of the progression of human consciousness from darkness to light.” • Hauteville House is also a visual poem displaying extraordinary rich and bold combinations of visuals elements, which I find very inspiring.
The photographs of Hautville House in Guernsey, Channel Islands was designed and decorated by Victor Hugo himself and remains almost exactly how he left it.
How do you see your work in the context of the Roger Smith?
I hope travellers and journeyers walking into the lobby are arrested in their steps by the images and inspired to move on at a gentler and more contemplative pace.
What do you look for in a photograph (your own)?
Can you tell us a little about your parents and how they influenced you?
They provided environments with high levels of refinement and visual harmony . Works of art from four generations of artists were on the walls of the family home and my father painted every day in his studio in the garden until a few weeks before passing away, aged 90.
What is the last thing you do at night before you go to bed?
I often write down ideas to explore the next day.
More information on Jean Baptiste Hugo