Inside David Lynch's Paris art-studio hideaway

Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:05pm EST
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By Lionel Laurent

PARIS (Reuters) - Behind the doors of a 19th-century printworks in south-central Paris, filmmaker and painter-by-training David Lynch takes a cigarette break after hours of etching abstract shapes and twisted limbs onto stone and wood.

Although best known for dark, surreal movies such as "Eraserhead", "Blue Velvet" and "Mulholland Drive", Lynch was an artist before he began filmmaking and since 2007 has been using the Idem workshop as his studio in Paris, creating some 170 lithographs and engravings.

As three workshop staff clamber onto one of the six giant mechanical presses to print up a fresh design, Lynch - dressed in a blue apron and sporting his trademark white, bouffant hairdo - explains that there is something uniquely inspiring about the Parisian printworks.

"This is totally Parisian. In people's dream of Paris, this place would fit in that dream perfectly," the 66-year-old tells Reuters, speaking above the noise of the whirling cogs and hand-operated cranks that he says remind him of the twisted, industrial world of his debut feature film "Eraserhead".

"Everybody that comes to this place, they feel it...I can feel the past. I can feel the whole art of life going on here."

Artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Miro all had their prints produced at the site, a two-floor workshop built in 1880 that is still in use today by artists including Lynch. Encircled by piles of engraving-stones and the odd stuffed toy panther, the presses can also print from digital files.

Lynch's prints - which he says he etches from scratch after "catching" an idea in his mind - vary from Keith Haring-esque red-and-white squiggles and doodles to ghostly Edvard Munch-like humans stranded in desolate landscapes, with titles like "Things In Air Over City" or "Oh, A Bad Dream Comes".

They seem to combine the black-and-white, nightmarish imagery of "Eraserhead" and "The Elephant Man" with the abstract, surreal narratives of Lynch's last two movies, 2001's "Mulholland Drive" and 2006's "Inland Empire".   Continued...