Multi-faceted artist and surfer Rémi Bertoche speaks to us about art, the ocean and the importance of new experiences

To walk into a room where Rémi Bertoche has been in for more than a few hours is to walk into a room filled with paintings. When we met him at the Durbar Hall of Taj Falaknuma Palace last week, he had just begun to paint a scene he had chanced upon at the palace during his stay there. Between brushstrokes, he took some time to talk to us about his stay in Hyderabad and his India tour, albeit with the urgency of a man waiting to get back to his unfinished canvas.

“My manager pointed to the map and told me I was going to a place that was in the heart of India and I said alright,” says the Frenchman, a first time visitor to the city. From the watercolours of depicting the roads of Old City lining one wall of the room, it is evident that Rémi has done a bit of exploring. Like most serious artists, he believes that a painting is more than colours on canvas: “It’s about capturing the story, when the story is interesting, so is the painting,” he explains. Ask him about what he thought could capture the essence of the city and the first word to escape his lips is ‘crazy’, referring first to the rule of the road, or rather the lack of it. “But it is not about good or bad for us artists,” he points out, “it’s about capturing the ambience of a place as it is.”

If there was one shortcoming the artist could point out with Hyderabad is that it provides no access to the ocean. “The ocean is my base, I was born in water” says the painter who is also a professional surfer.

Growing up with a sportsman for a father and a mother who studied art assured that he got the best of both worlds. “I grew up in a very artistic culture and there was a sense of harmony in the house,” he explains. But when he turned 18 Rémi left home in search of his own harmony, which he soon discovered in surfing and art. As a successful professional surfer, Rémi got to travel the world, all the while depicting his experiences on canvas. If you take a look at his extensive body of work, you will find many paintings inspired by the ocean and the sport. The surfer/artist persona worked well for Rémi. “People found it intriguing to see a surfer who is also a painter and that helped me to meet a lot of people who were interested in my work,” he says. “But surfing is my solace,” he reiterates. However, the lack of a beach nearby was more than compensated by the “powerful spirit” of the city and the palace. “As an artist, it is essential to experience different worlds,” he says.Rémi has been painting ever since he got to the city and has enough work to show for it. “On an average I spend about 15 hours a day painting,” he says. Preliminary sketches of the Charminar and Mecca Masjid stand on easels, waiting to be completed. A selection of paintings depicting the palace will be left behind by the artist to be auctioned for charity. More about the artists work and stay can be found on his Facebook page www.facebook/Rémibertoche and www.bertoche.com.