Jorge Simes likes to change his mind. This is something he is proud of. “I change my mind a million times – and not explain. I change constantly until I am satisfied.” And that may be the essence of what makes Jorge an artist. And it may be an important part of why there is some much to admire in the sensual paintings, glass and tile that he creates.
Jorge and Cindy Simes and Simes Studios are responsible for spectacular decorative painting, mesmerizing works of art and surfaces and tiles with a quality that draw you in and leave themselves imprinted on your memory.
We started by talking about his Eglomisé tiles and panels, a rare technique that involves painting and gilding on the back of glass. Although it can be found on artifacts dating back several thousand years, Eglomisé in its current form was developed by Jean-Baptiste Glomy, a Parisian picture framer who wanted an edge in a competitive market.
Jorge tells me that he really noticed Eglomisé in Paris in the late 1980’s . “I noticed how much I saw, that was the first time I was intrigued, I thought it would be nice to solve it. So I started to get my feet wet. I then I started to get commissions.”
Jorge studied print making at art school and says that this was good preparation “Print making forces your brain to work backwards because of the reversed image. When you do back painting with Eglomisé you have to think in that fashion – the last brush stroke in paining has to be your first – the right becomes the left, I find it fun
It is a difficult, complex and unpredictable technique, and that appeals to Jorge. “I am proud of my mistakes. It was seven years ago that I really discovered the benefits of mistakes. Maybe you start at A and try to go to B, but you find yourself at C and C is a good place. That doesn’t mean you don’t go back to A and start to find B again. And maybe you never get there but you get to more good places. You may never stop searching for B.”
We talk about the inspiration for one of his first Eglomisé tiles. “I once had an Italian jacket I rather liked’ he says, “I saw a piece of glass and brought it back to my studio, I painted it, varnished it, repainted, re-varnished, I changed my mind many times but at some point I had my jacket.”
Conversation with Jorge is rich, multi-faceted and frenetic. You can sense the artists mind joyfully exploring ideas, twisting and turning before returning to any one of a number of subjects that interest him.
Jorge tells me that his pleasure with his first tile lies in the contradiction between the hard glass and its representation, and that isn’t quite the right word, of the soft fabric of his jacket. In his words “Something that is in front of you – without betraying the nature of one material-makes you think of something else. I find it to be novel and interesting.”
Trompe-l’œil, literally ‘trick to the eye’ is one of the techniques practiced, and mastered by Jorge. As he says “showing you something that is something else. I like that, for example what brings to your mind fabric is glass.”
So what does Jorge hope to achieve through his art? “Maybe what relates to the visual but affects the memory, that impacts on how you think about things, how you challenge things, that opens a door to new perceptions. I love gemstones because they shine, they are art in liquid form, it becomes a mirror of sorts and affects the memory in a different way – this adds another a little spin. And I like that. If anything can layer a piece of artwork I would go for that”.
And then we are back to glass. It may be an obsession. Jorge says “A good half of my brain thinks the whole time about glass.”
We touch upon the difference between what an artist like Jorge does in contrast to so much of what is made today, instant, consumable and disposable.
“Yes, it is against the prevailing culture”, says Jorge, “A work can have a quality to impress after the maker has gone, someone can be having a relationship with you through the artwork after you have gone – it is incredible. But keep in mind that most people don’t produce art. You need to detach yourself from much of day to day life, to stand back to do that.”
I ask him if he has a favorite piece of work. Not for the first time there is an affectionate laugh. “My favorite project is whatever I am working on. I can not detach myself from it.” And for the old pieces? “They become beings of their own.” I can’t be certain, but I think I sense a little sadness when he says “They are finished and they are new for someone else but they don’t offer the challenge of what could go wrong.” Clearly the joy for Jorge lies in the opportunity to learn and develop from ‘mistakes’, and to change his mind. He adds, cheerfully, “There is a special relationship with what is not finished”.
So is Jorge ever bored? I wasn’t expecting him to say yes. “Being bored would be the end of my life”, he says, with what sounds like genuine alarm, and then he reflects. “Maybe boredom is an engine, maybe it is what forces you to think of things. There is a concept of creative idealness but being bored is a different story. Once you look around you could not be bored, there are so many interesting things. When you think as a sort of alchemist about how light changes things, how sound changes. There is always something tapping you on the shoulder, asking, have you looked here?”
A lot of Jorge’s work is very large scale and like masters before him he works with craftspeople and artists to execute his work. He tells me that he has five different artists working on his current projects. But the creativity is always Jorge’s. “I don’t mind sharing the execution. In matters of scale it is better to handle a large piece of artwork without exertion but I do not relinquish the creative process. I always develop the prototype and make sure the path is clear. And I will change my mind a million times – and not explain. I do change constantly until I am satisfied.
So how does Jorge know when a piece is finished? “I am patient with what occupies my mind”, he says,” if it is something with a promise of beauty it occupies my mind. The piece orders you to stop. It is that clear, you know that this is worthy of keeping. I have been working on something for four years – I haven’t got there yet. But I have got to other places – and those were keepers. You never know what is going to be a keeper until it tells you. I think it is important to be humble enough to know when something tells you it is right.
So what’s it like to commission Jorge? “I am very open’, he says, “I try to let the person talk, as an artist you should always listen. But I have been lucky to have clients who have been willing to see what am I coming up with. Sometimes the engine is two or three words without a shape – I don’t see the restraints. And everything is different. I have a lot of creative freedom.”
It is a delight to talk to Jorge, as it is to witness the complex beauty in his work. He delights in challenge and difficulty, he is stimulated by everything and relishes the challenge of creating beauty. It is not simply that he relishes the unexpected; it is his own response to the unexpected and how he progresses from that response that drives his creativity. He adds, “It is interesting when you have something in front of you that defies prediction.
The moment you know what is cooking, hmmm.”
You may get in touch with Jorge through his website or you can see a small sampling of his work at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New New York from March 22-25 via the “Curated by MODENUS” booth. (#105).