Yann Le Gal


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French, born in 1973; lives and works in Kyoto (Japan).


Born to a middle class family, he was eight years old when his father suddenly died. His mother raised him with his sister, and played a formative role in his upbringing. The close bond formed between the two continues to influence his life and art.


His interest in drawing started during his childhood with the discovery of Tintin comic books and the art of Hergé. At the same time he discovered the Marvel's heroes pantheon in the french magazine "Strange" in which were displayed bests series such as X-men from John Byrne, Spiderman by Chris Claremont or the Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby. These were the first masters he learned from in copying their art.


As a teenage, he met Jean-David Morvan, with whose he became a close friend. JD Morvan made him discover different artists such as Loisel, Jean Giraud-Moebius, Katsuhiro Otomo and Akira Toriyama among others. At this time Le Gal wrote and draw a short fairy-tale, the story of a king who fight with the Death came to catch him. Determined not to die, the king presents a magic mirror to the Death, whose reflection catch it, then holds it captive inside. From this legend, Morvan and Le Gal imagine together an incredible story which became the foundation of what will be later the comic books series " Zorn et Dirna" published in France by "Soleil editions". In 1994, Le Gal joined JD Morvan and other comic books artists such as Jab Jab Whamo, Sylvain Savoia, Philippe Buchet and Florent Sacré, to be one of the founder of the "Atelier 510 TTC" in Reims, France.


During his apprenticeship, he witnessed the transformation of the école des beaux arts of Reims into a design art school, "ESAD", the transformation creating tensions and divisions between the old and new generations of teachers. To preserve independence as he worked towards achieving a level of artistic competence parallel with the great historic artists, Le Gal distanced himself from the noxious atmosphere of the school and the formulaic career promoted in this environment. This experience caused an overall rejection of the art-school curriculum, and his primary influences entail both classic and modern, from Rembrandt, to Rodin, Manet, Giacometti, and Picasso. Rather than the school taught rule, he incorporated elements that fall between classicism and expressionism, light and shadow, much of this acquired through his own research, into a uniquely introspective and fragile artistic language.


He was first recognised artistically in 1999 when he was awarded the Renoir Foundation prize. For one year, he resided and worked in the art residency at Essoyes (France, Aube), this residency being the former studio of the impressionist master. In 2007, Le Gal entered a new stage of development with the opening of his studio, a large store in the Reims suburbs. There, he faced the challenge of creating gigantic compositions. To acquire an understanding of vineyard culture, the symbol of the Champagne area, he pursued the theme of a bacchanal by drawing upon the original Greek myth of Dionysus. His studio transformed into a pagan temple decorated with two gigantic paintings, Oréibasie, a large canvas of 4 x 3.6 metres, which is an allegory of the birth of Dionysus, and The drunkenness of Silenus, a canvas of 8 x 3.6 metres, which represents a gigantic and sculptural orgy.


This commitment to an artistic career moved him away from the "Atelier 510 TTC", but at the end of the 2000s, his old friend JD Morvan invited Le Gal for new collaborations as story teller and story boarder. They travelled to China to meet artists they worked with for new comic books series such as "Le dieu singe" and "Au bord de l'eau", adaptations of chinese best sellers like "Journey to the west" and "Shui Hu Zhuan", both published by "Delcourt". At this time, Le Gal introduced JD Morvan to Hubert Bieser, a former director of a school for psychiatric nurses who was working on an academic thesis relative French crazy soldiers of the Great War. From psychiatric archives discovered and studied by Bieser, the three together wrote an original story which takes place into an intense collective comic book, "Vies tranchées" published in France by Delcourt in 2010.


In 2012, Le Gal jumped into a new step of his life then moved to Japan with his wife Mayphy Miho Higashi, an artist musician. The two opened their atelier in Kyoto "Kyo to E to Oto" (Today Art and Music). With the discovery of a new country, culture and people, Le Gal decided to involve himself into a new personal art project. Then with the collaboration of his wife, he built a collection of hundred human size paintings portraits of Kyoto's citizen, "Kyoto portraits 100". During one year, they travelled into Kyoto's Prefecture to meet living people and listen their story. The completion of this huge project ended by a memorable exhibition at the museum of Kyoto "Bunka Hakubutsukan" in 2014, followed by another presentation at the city hall of Kizugawa for the Kizugawa contemporary art festival the same year.


After "Kyoto Portraits" project, Le Gal decided to imerge himself into the japanese culture by different ways, then worked for an archeology company "Ibisoku" as graphic designer. Also, he still works at a small Soba restaurant, then has become a specialist for the manufacture of traditional japanese noodles.


Each step in Le Gal’s life and work can be understood as a rebirth that has allowed him to be increasingly open to the world, questioning the place he occupies, these experiences something he tries to express in his creations. Kyoto portraits 100 is another turning point that is the fruition of portrait studies completed over many years, opens the next cycle of development.


After many years devoted to express an art following the tradition of modernity through autobiographical subjects, Le Gal questioned one more time his own practice, which in turn opened new ways of engaging in the dialectic between the myths of art history and contemporary society. In the wake of Gerard Gasiorowski, he wonders what does it mean to be a painter in the twenty-first century, which is concretized into the creation of “Miam-manufacturing” project.