Guillaume Montier

man is nothing other than what he makes of himself.



Born in Rouen (1973), Guillaume Montier paints and exhibits since 1994.

Loving series, he alternates improvisation and questioning to wonder about existence, its void or fullness. About his series “Les Tragédies”, based on the chair as object of life and death, he declares: “Any tragedy is defined by the perseverance of the subjects to inevitably dissolve themselves in the hell they’ve been calling for. in such a way, the chairs most of the time are only inhabited by the contingency of the event: to get up or to sit down. Only these two moments can pretend containing life. The rest is just the gaping void.”

Under his brushes, the chair, austere, emerging in a cold environment, loses its hospitality to slide from a rest object to a pernicious and tempting source of abandonment, renunciation or even perdition, the metaphor of a gallows we erect for ourselves. A philosophical painting built on the contradictions between action and thought, movement and passivity.

. . . man is nothing other than what he makes of himself.

Atheistic existentialism, which I represent, is more consistent. It states that if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence - a being whose existence comes before its essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept of it. That being is man, or, as Heidegger put it, the human reality. What do we mean here by “existence precedes essence”? We mean that man first exists: he materializes in the world, encounters himself, and only afterward defines himself. If man as existentialists conceive of him cannot be defined, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature since there is no God to conceive of it. Man is not only that which he conceives himself to be, but that which he wills himself to be, and since he conceives of himself only after he exists, just as he wills himself to be after being thrown into existence, man is nothing other than what he makes of himself. This is the first principle of existentialism.

It is also what is referred to as “subjectivity,” the very word used as a reproach against us. But what do we mean by that, if not that man has more digníty than a stone or a table? What we mean to say is that man first exists; that is, that man primaríly exists - that man is, before all else, something that projects itself into a future, and is conscious of doing so. Man is indeed a project that has a subjective existence, rather unlike that of a patch of moss, a spreading fungus, or a cauliflower. Prior to that projection of the self, nothing exists, not even in divine intelligence, and man shall attain existence only when he is what he projects himself to be - not what he would like to be. What we usually understand by "will" is a conscious decision that most of us take after we have made ourselves what we are. I may want to join a party, write a book, or get married - but all of that is only a manifestation of an earlier and more spontaneons choice than what is known as “will.” If, however, existence truly does precede essence, man is responsible for what he is. Thus, the first effect of existentialism is to make every man conscious of what he is, and to make him solely responsible for his own existence. And when we say that man is responsible for himself, we do not mean that he is responsible only for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men [...]

The fundamental meaning of existentialism resides in the latter. When we say that man chooses himself, not only do we mean that each of us must choose himself, but also that in choosing himself, he is choosing for all men. In fact, in creating the man each of us wills ourselves to be, there is not a single one of our actions that does not at the same time create an image of man as we think he ought to be. Choosing to be this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose, because we can never choose evil. We always choose the good, and nothing can be good for any of us unless it is good for all. If, moreover, existence precedes essence and we will to exist at the same time as we fashion our image, that image is valid for all and for our whole era. Our responsibility is thus much greater than we might have supposed, because it concerns all mankind. If I am a worker and I choose to join a Christian trade union rather than to become a Communist, and if, by that membership, I choose to signify that resignation is, after all, the most suitable solution for man, and that the kingdom of man is not on this earth, I am not committing myself alone - I am choosing to be resigned on behalf of all - consequently my action commits all mankind. Or, to use a more personal example, if I decide to marry and have children - granted such a marriage proceeds solely from my own circumstances, my passion, or my desire - I am none-theless committing not only myself, but all of humanity, to the practice of monogamy. I am therefore responsible for myself and for everyone else, and I am fashioning a certain image of man as I choose him to be. In choosíng myself, I choose man [...]