The Artist As Muse

Thanks to a Saint Laurent modelling stint, fledgling painter Alexander Muret’s crayon scrawls are set to become one of Fall’s most prized works. Noelle Loh gets the exclusive on his rebel ways.

Muret’s kinetic crayon scrawls like Slate (2013) make him a rebel, Gen-Y Franz Kline.

Alexander Muret would prefer that this exclusive e-mail interview runs as a Q&A to honour his artistic integrity. It’s the kind of statement that would warrant the 23-year-old painter a black mark among more traditional press, especially considering how some of his answers are esoteric to the point of illogical. (On what distinguishes his work, he says: “It’s said that ‘interesting’ is a border category between beauty and ethics. I wonder if poetic stances are out of style. My favorite medium is melted crayons – they’re really great. Alphabetics is my sub-category. I happen to be a painter and that’s all. Everything else is a falling away.” Um, okay.)

But Muret isn’t your average painter. Beanpole lean with mangy hair, pale skin and the feckless cool of an indie rock star, he was plucked off the streets of New York, where he lives, to walk in Saint Laurent’s Men’s S/S ’16 show. A dropout from the influential alternative art school, the Art Students League, his main works – abstract, frenetic scrawls reminiscent of a raw, hyper Franz Kline, created with melted wax crayons on paper – have generally remained under the radar. That is, until Hedi Slimane emblazoned his painting, Lessons in Dance School II, across a moto jacket for Saint Laurent’s F/W ’16 women’s collection. (During casting, Muret had gifted the designer one of his self-published books that come scribbled repeatedly with seemingly random words like “cya”, turning him on to his work.)  

To be available in stores here (launch date TBC), the jacket is destined for collectible status. After all, it’s a special edition of one of the brand’s most signature products from a very special collection: Slimane’s last for the label. It also makes Muret the art world alternative to the quintessential Slimane muse: young, carefree, inadvertently overturning the establishment of high fashion with his lo-fi ways. In other words, he stands for everything that Slimane brought to Saint Laurent during his game-changing four-year tenure. As an ode to that, here’s a (mostly unedited) excerpt of our Q&A on his art and illustration:

Lessons in Dance School II (2013) is reproduced on Saint Laurent’s classic moto jacket in Fall.

“I force myself to ask ‘what am I doing’ every second of my life – except when I’m making art.”

“Highly skilled persons are influential. It’s like, ‘How’d you get so good?’ They do (what they do) a lot and solve problems, as well as make new problems. My favorite song is (The Doors’) Break On Through (To The Other Side) – the band breaks through; Jim Morrison is my spiritual master. Iron weaponry inherently accomplishes the thing I’m working with when I paint. It’s about shapes implying weight, mass, and volume. And Drake’s weight in the game and mass of number ones keep the volume up on my laptop. The secret is you must have a very strong feeling for life.”

“There’s nothing more fashionable than a black line. From Gutenberg (inventor of the movable type printing press) on, black has been synonymous with a graphic or print procedure. Fashion needs the density.” 

“Illustration is a frightful mess of marks upon close examination. Some artists ask, ‘How can I make this image immediately real?’ Well, I think that is a universal question. They just have different definitions of immediately real.”

“Jeffrey Williams illustrates the defining spirit of our particular period in history. My other favorite illustrators are Martin Scorsese for illustrating New York City, E.E. Cummings for illustrating poetry, the comic book artist Sycko, and The Tale of Peter Rabbit turns up in my head, so there must be some value in that. Ditto Charles Schulz, who’s behind Peanuts Last year, I was talking about art with (the Tokyo-based artist) Himaa, and he told me about his architecture background, so now I look at architectural drawings too. I guess that’s drawing, though. That should be (the focus of your) next issue.”

Your rating: SPH