Sabine Morandini : How come your characters all have children faces?
Ray Caesar :
Dolls! I grew up constantly playing with my sister's dolls! I removed heads and arms and placed them on other bodies.
I posed dolls in constructed dioramas and took great pleasure at looking at the final result. I started drawing and sculpting early in life and as I look at the many stages of art that I have created over the years I can see dolls and dioramas in everything.
Strange thing is, none of my friends ever made fun of me about it! maybe they knew I would beat the crap out of them. Art aside the biggest influence would have to be working in The Hospital for Sick Children. Its the sole reason I am making art because without those kids I wouldn’t need any artists to influence me.
SM : John Willis work inspired you? and Lewis Carroll's ?
RC : I am inspired by anything but for the most part its historical painters like Jean Honoré Fragonard or Wattau and Boucher, John Singer Sargent or E.C Tarbell, Mary Cassat, Diane Arbus, Joseph Cornell, Christian Dior, Cecil Beaton…I could go on forever !
I look everywhere for inspiration, in the past and in my own life and jumble of dusty memories, in the things we are losing and the things that come as each day of the future unfolds for us.
We live in very inspirational times and it is a wonderful time to be an artist. I take a bit of the past and I mix it with a bit of the present and the future ...a bit of the waking world and a bit of the dream world and I like to think I mix in a bit of the next world. I think each of us makes a heaven or hell on this Earth and the material we use is the stuff our lives are made of…I am working on creating a vast Elysian Field of dreams…a Heaven…an Eden…a simple and tiny paradise of a single room for a single soul to have a place of eternal peace and joy. I am just guiding myself by my heart and by the stars.
SM : Is surrealism the escape from the daily grind? (in opposition to a dream life)
RC : It all began at age 7 when I got a book by Dali, I had never seen anything like it but his work reminded me of something…even at 7 I knew there was this other place…a distant familiar place but strange. I used to sleep with that book under my pillow…in retrospect that may not have been a good idea.
SM : How do you do your research ?
RC : I have thousands of drawings going back over 30 or 40 years and with the publishing of my book the publisher wanted to put in my studies and drawings to show the manner in which I work. I never really thought to put this work in a show but since some small part of it was in the book I decided to show a small slice of that. I am not sure when I did head over heels but I am pretty sure it was more than 10 years ago. I was surprised at the interest in something I just use as a working progress but the studies were popular.
People thought I was working in a different way but its all just part of how I progress. The earlier work is naturally more vague and soft and has it progresses it becomes more detailed and in focus. Many of the study pieces I put in the show may never become finished works and I have so many many of them just sitting around. It was nice to find a home for this work and it has a way of helping let go of a piece once it feels it has finished itself. Sometimes as I head toward the future I feel like I am turning head over heels looking at the past and rolling dizzily into days yet to come ...I think its a common feeling.
SM : Is music very important to you?
RC : I listen to anything that stirs my emotions as that gets me going and slaps me in the face and says to me .."get up ..get up and keep fighting! keep going ...still time ..still time". Sometimes its something gentle like Eric Satie or sometimes its Duffy or right now at this moment I am listening to a local Paris group called "The Konki Duet" ..its the song on my mypsace page for the moment.
SM : There's a lot of staging, can you tell us about it?
RC : Backgrounds are as important as the figure and I spend a lot of time hunting my own memories for a fleeting feeling of something I only occasionally can grasp. It’s not just what you can see; it’s more about what’s hidden in there ..in that closed drawer or in that locket or tin box. I love the idea of treasures within treasures and it’s not important for everyone to know what’s in there ... just that something very special "is" in there....truly is in there. I am the same way in life ..it’s not enough to know a room is tidy ...I have to know the closet is tidy too or I just can’t relax.
SM : Is there a form of nostalgia in your work?
RC : I see my figures as calm ... I see them without fear, with a secret knowing and even humor. I think they are happy and they are challenging us to see them as they are! without flinching... to see them without our own fear. Where some see loneliness I see calm serenity........ where some see suffering or pain I see unique knowledge tried by fire and the call to all to overcome and share that suffering.
The ability to embrace difference and not be afraid of it. like a small heaven of my own making for some wizened spirit residing in the hidden rooms of my memory......... perhaps in this heaven its not what we see ... but how we choose to see it.
SM : What fascinates you?
RC : Kindness …To see regular everyday people moved by great injustice and empathy …to see them take action and make a stand for the right reasons…to see those people create hope from nothing but their own choice, their own effort, and their own will.....to see those people stand together. I would like to impress upon those people who struggle quietly everyday to create what they love. To let them know that their creativity is important and will one day make this world an Eden.
SM : It seems to me that the use of digital technics leaves a feeling of too much cleaness, any words to change my mind?
RC : Whether on a computer or on a cave wall, the making of images is a form of communication that allows the artist to express their love, their sense of beauty, passion or rage. I am proud of the long tradition I come from of image makers.