Mind Over Matter Exhibition: Conversations with Lionel Sabatté

Originally founded by a French family, Mazel Galerie is an international contemporary art gallery that is also its only franchise in Asia. Just a stone’s throw away from Singapore’s Orchard MRT station, the gallery is home to works of both established and emerging artists.

Mazel Galerie is hosting multi-disciplinary French artist Lionel Sabatté’s first solo exhibition in Singapore and Asia, Mind Over Matter. Known for his extraordinary ability to reshape and reuse matter to unprecedented levels, Lionel Sabatté is one of the most reputable French experimental artists today. Most recently, he has won the Laureat Patio Maison Rouge in Paris in 2018 for his concrete sculptures.

Mind Over Matter: Ours Du 8 Janvier
Ours Du 8 Janvier: solution based on oxidized iron and bronze on Arches paper

Mind Over Matter showcases his latest paintings, drawings, and sculptures through his use of unconventional materials that are often regarded as society’s leftovers. Tea leaves, collected dust, and even human remains such as clipped nails and shed skin gain a new life in various animal forms, in both the physical and the abstract. The results are fascinating: a unicorn made of Chinese tea leaves, a rat made from metallic structure and dust, an imaginary animal Karl created from cement, vegetal fibres and pigments, to name just a few.

Mind Over Matter: Karl
Karl: made of cement, vegetal fibers and pigments

How does Lionel Sabatté come up with these bizarre ideas, and what does he hope visitors can take away from this exhibition? DANAMIC reveals all in an exclusive interview with the artist himself.

1. You work in two dynamic cities, Paris and Los Angeles, where the art scene is thriving. Do they help you to gain inspiration for new works?

Lionel Sabatté: Yes, they are both very dynamic cities, but at the same time very different. My perspectives change in each location, which helps enrich my work. Also, because I am constantly shifting between both locations, I have the time to reflect more on my work. For example, I might start a painting in LA, travel back to Paris, and one month later, finish it back in LA – which helps me better understand the painting before finishing it.

2. For Mind over Matter, you will be introducing audiences to your animal sculptures. Are there reasons to which certain animals are chosen for your art? Are they symbolic?

Lionel Sabatté: I reproduce animals because I have an interest in representing the living. You’ll also be able to find other living organisms in my work, such as the ones in my paintings! When I choose an animal, I relate it to the material I am using. For example, my unicorn sculpture made of Pu’er tea combines the ceremonial aspect of tea with the symbolism behind the unicorn. Pu’er tea, has for many generations, brought together people.

Mind Over Matter: Licorne
Licorne, tea unicorn: dried tea leaves on metal structure

It’s a social practice, which in a way, helps to form bonds and purify the self. In my first trip to Beijing in 2011, during my residency at Yshu8, I was fascinated by the history of this tea.  The unicorn is a mystical animal which symbolizes strength, and purity, and these are elements that I strongly associate to the Chinese Pu’er tea.

3. Do you encounter a creative block in your experimentation with art? How do you deal with it?

Mind Over Matter: Rat St
Rat St: made of dust on metallic structure

Lionel Sabatté: Not really, because I am constantly changing from one medium to the other. Hence, if I ever feel bored working with a certain medium, I will change to another one.  

4. The highlight of the show is a unicorn sculpture fully made from Pu’er tea leaves from China. How did you get the tea leaves, and is it based on your own interest in tea culture?

Lionel Sabatté: I bought them directly from the Yunnan province in China. As mentioned earlier, my interest in the tea culture first arise in 2011, during my residency program at Yshu8. In 2015, they invited me again, this time to show more than 10 tea sculptures. The show was a great success, and one of the pieces was offered to Li Keqiang, China’s prime minister at the time, by Laurent Fabus, the French foreign minister.

This happened during a visit of the Chinese prime minister in Marseille.  The present wanted to symbolize the good relationships between China and France. During the press conference, the French foreign minister had mentioned: Tea lasts a hundred years, and this sculpture is to mark our friendship for the next 100 years.

5. How would you explain the significance of the name you have given your exhibition?

Mind Over Matter: Sur les bords du Drac
Sur les bords du Drac: pebbles, nails, dead skin, and glass globe

Lionel Sabatté: Often, I am known for being a multi-disciplinary artist, (who is) able to work and explore a multitude of materials. It’s true, but my real focus is to represent the living; and for me, it can be found everywhere. My work philosophically questions what we perceive as living, and I achieve this through a constant dialogue with the matter.

6. What do you hope the audience would take away from Mind over Matter?

Lionel Sabatté: I want this show to inspire the audience to continuously use their imagination in the day-to-day of their lives.  

Mind Over Matter is created with the belief that all matter is malleable, challenging preconceived notions of what things are and how they should be. With all that being said, nothing beats seeing and experiencing them for yourself.

Catch the visually and conceptually stunning exhibition at Mazel Galerie, Pacific Plaza, open till 30 December 2018 from 11am to 7pm daily. For more information, visit the official website at

Huang Yimin

Aiming to live passionately and not settle for a mundane life. Firm believer in the Oscar Wilde quote "You can never be overdressed or overeducated". I wish to publish a novel someday in the unknown future.

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