Jean-Marie Pirot-Arcabas was born in 1926 in Lorraine (France). Graduated from the Fine Arts School (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts) in Paris, he has had numerous exhibitions in France (Paris, Lyons, Grenoble, Marseille, Strasbourg, …) as well as abroad (Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels, Bruges, Ostend, Luxembourg, Bergamo, Ottawa, Panama, …). His works are to be found in Europe as well as in Canada, Japan, USA, Mexico, … in various public galleries (the Grenoble Museum; the Paris National Library; the International Pinacotheca of Waterloo; the University of Ottawa; in Cuernavaca, Mexico) and in private collections.
He has also undertaken various commissions for the French government and local authorities (mosaics, frescoes, stained-glass windows) but his major achievement is the Ensemble d’art sacré contemporain in the church of Saint Hugues de Chartreuse, begun in 1953 and completed in 1986, which has been donated to the Département de l’Isère as part of our cultural heritage.
In the field of theatre, and from 1961 to 1972, he created the scenery and the costumes for the stage performances of Strindberg’s The Dance of Death, Bernanos’ The Diary of a country priest, and Camus’ The Just with the Comédie des Alpes company, and for Ramuz and Stravinsky’s The Story of the soldier at the National Arts Centre of Canada opera house. From 1950 to 1969, he held a chair of painting and directed a plastic art studio at the Grenoble Fine Arts School (Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Grenoble). From 1969 to 1972, as a guest artist of the National Arts Council of Canada and professor at the University of Ottawa, he founded and directed the “Experimental Collective Workshop”. On his return to France, he founded and directed the plastic art workshop “In praise of the Hand” at the Grenoble University of Social Sciences.
Since 1986, Arcabas lives and works in Saint Pierre de Chartreuse (Isère).
I took the risk of calling myself a painter and it is a fact that I paint ten hours a day, two hundred and fifty days a year. The hundred or so remaining days are given over to wanderings, distress and the obstinate search for a “consciousness of being”, suddenly lost and without which nothing is possible, especially not the passionate and often hazardous creation of those sorts of mirrors that we call works of art.
Let’s say that any clear-sighted person is revealed in their thoughts and actions which, like a mirror, reflect back their own image, revealing their true selves. In this regard, a work of art provides a good example: as a mirror for its creator, it has the further faculty of revealing in a discreet but sure way, the whole creation.
Days without inspiration are dark ones. They remind us constantly, as the author of Ecclesiastes does, that all is dust and returns to dust. This very fact kills all forms of joy and hope. But on a closer look, this reality hides another axiomatic one: this cosmic dust, more or less coagulated and assembled in diverse forms, holds in its inmost being the Spirit of the Universe. Docile and friendly, this divine medium can be led astray, separated and made diabolical. But, captured in its innate unity, it bears the phosphorescent clarity of meaning and flows, thus enriched, like an incandescent river towards a greater destiny, a new form in the Creation.
This is, par excellence, the raw material, made of Earth and Heaven, that is used by artists, these frank and open imitators, to whom, for sure, God grants His smile and His tenderness.”