Interview: Fire Artist Jean Boghossian

Monaco Life speaks to fire artist Jean Boghossian, whose latest exhibition ‘JB’, featuring a central artwork crafted from reworked Ferrari auto parts, promises to ignite the senses and redefine the boundaries of contemporary art.

Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) will unveil a new site-specific exhibition entitled JB by artist Jean Boghossian on 12th April at their La Belle Epoque building, 17 Avenue d’Ostende, in the heart of Monte-Carlo. The exhibition will feature a central artwork representing reworked Ferrari auto parts. 

Jean Boghossian (JB) is a talented Belgian artist of Armenian-Lebanese origin, born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1949. He is better known as a fire artist, as his unique approach involves the use of fire to create his art pieces. From a young age, JB took private drawing lessons at the initiative of his father, Robert Boghossian, a 4th generation jeweller. His affinity for utilising fire in his artworks was perhaps inevitable, influenced by the customary use of torches in jewellery crafting to weld, modify, and fuse silver and gold.

Monaco Life: We have your bio, but please tell us about yourself in your own words.

Jean Boghossian: You are asking me to tread through a vast landscape within a tight frame. Yet, if I were to capture the spirit of my essence briefly, it revolves around four fundamental pillars: standards, which guide my artistic integrity; creativity, the fuel for my imaginative pursuits; urgency, a compelling force that drives my creations; and passion, the very heartbeat of my life’s work in art.

Detail Red Phoenix, 2021 - 2024 © Studio Boghossian
Detail Red Phoenix, 2021 – 2024 © Studio Boghossian

How did you transition from working for the family jewellery business to becoming an artist? 

My path from gemstones to brushstrokes is both unique and unexpected. I founded our family business in Lebanon before moving to Belgium in 1975 amid the tumult of civil war. Despite the upheaval, the essence of my work is not tied to a single location. My ventures took me across the globe, from Colombia and Brazil’s lush landscapes to Burma and Thailand’s rich terrains, in pursuit of rare gemstones. It was a time when international travel was a rarity, allowing me to carve a niche as an expert in coloured stones, particularly for jewellers from the Middle East, the Gulf, and Iran.

Art has always coursed through my veins. My artistic journey began in Aleppo, where I attended drawing classes as a child, often outshining my peers. This passion lay dormant as I navigated the business and family life world. My artistic flame was rekindled in 1987 when my son was nine. Intending to gift him painting supplies for Christmas—canvases, brushes, easels, and paints—I found myself irresistibly drawn to them.

“The spectre of war’s inherent destruction and despair has been an unlikely muse for my work.”

How does art help you in other areas of your life? 

Art, for me, is not just a part of life; it is life itself. It permeates every moment, every minute of my existence. Even during the most significant meetings, my mind dances between the present and my studio, wandering through thoughts of unfinished projects and future creations. This constant immersion in art doesn’t distract from my other responsibilities but enriches them. It’s like a lens through which I view the world, bringing creativity, depth, and sensitivity into every aspect of my existence. 

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.

The spectre of war’s inherent destruction and despair has been an unlikely muse for my work. Witnessing the ravages of conflict firsthand ignited a realisation within me: fire, so often wielded as a tool of destruction, possesses the potential for creation. This epiphany has deeply influenced my artistic journey, guiding me to explore and harness fire’s transformative power. 

Detail Ferrari Front Bumper, 2024 © Studio Jean Boghossian
Detail Ferrari Front Bumper, 2024 © Studio Jean Boghossian

What motivates you to create?

At my core, there’s an unceasing dynamo, a voice that whispers incessantly about the uncharted, the undone. It propels me towards endless experimentation, towards the unexplored corners of my craft. I embody the spirit of a perpetual seeker, always on a quest, never quite declaring, ‘I have arrived’. 

This restlessness and insatiable appetite for discovery defines my art and very existence. The concept of a final summit is foreign to me; life is an infinite series of peaks, each leading to the next. The journey of creation is ceaseless, and I’m convinced it will only conclude with my last breath. Keep ascending; once you’ve arrived at the peak, the only path left is downward.

What is the purpose of your artwork work, and how does it affect societal issues?

At the heart of my artistic endeavour is a deeply personal journey—my work is first an act of self-fulfilment, a means to satiate my creative yearnings. It also serves as my mirror to the world.

My approach to art and its societal impact is one of humble reflection rather than grandiose ambition. I create because it is my innate calling, and while the ripples my work sends into the world follow their course, my primary intent is not to enact change but to express my truth. This expression, akin to that of many artists, traverses its path, somewhat detached from the ambition to alter the course of societal tides. The world, with its relentless wars, enduring diseases, and pervasive dishonesty, marches on. In our pursuit of honesty and beauty, artists navigate this complex landscape, attempting to steer clear of corruption and maintain integrity. My work is a part of this more significant artistic endeavor—to offer perspectives, illuminate truths, and enrich the cultural dialogue, all while acknowledging the modest scale of our influence on the vast continuum of societal evolution.

Can you explain your creative process?

Describing my creative process is like trying to capture the essence of a dream upon waking—it’s elusive and profoundly personal. It unfolds in its mysterious way; with each piece I complete laying the groundwork for the next. Inspiration surrounds me in the verdant embrace of nature, the spark of a conversation, the quiet halls of a museum, or the groundbreaking work of a fellow artist. These experiences, seemingly disparate, converge within my mind, igniting a chain reaction of creativity. This process is not something I can command or predict; it’s a journey led by intuition. 

“My work speaks of transformation and innovation, mainly through the fire motif, which symbolises destruction and rebirth.”

Please describe your studio.

My studio is proof of the scale and ambition of my artistic endeavours—a vast expanse designed to accommodate the monumental nature of my creations. For a long time, this space mirrored the chaos of the creative process, strewn with the remnants of ongoing and past projects. Yet, amidst this creative tumult, there was a palpable sense of potential and energy. Recently, however, a transformation has taken place. With the invaluable assistance of my studio team, my studio has found its order. They organise my workspace and bring clarity and structure to my creative thoughts.

What is the message in your artwork? What themes do you pursue?

At the heart of my artistic expression lies the pursuit of uniqueness—an endeavour to stand distinct in the vast continuum of art history. This quest for individuality is a personal challenge and a cornerstone of my philosophy. I draw from the rich tapestry of art’s past yet strive to carve a path that’s entirely my own. My work speaks of transformation and innovation, mainly through the fire motif, which symbolises destruction and rebirth. Through this element, I explore the theme of peace, juxtaposing the potential for creation against the backdrop of devastation. 

My journey is one of continuous experimentation, a relentless search to contribute something novel to the world of art. I aim to introduce concepts and creations previously unseen, adding a new layer to the ongoing narrative of artistic evolution. It’s this contribution to art’s history, the introduction of a perspective that challenges the status quo, that encapsulates the message of my work.

Ferrari Rear Bumper, 2024 © Studio Boghossian
Ferrari Rear Bumper, 2024 © Studio Boghossian

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

Visionaries who have redefined the boundaries of art have profoundly influenced my artistic journey. At the forefront is William Turner, whose mastery of light, colour, and atmosphere in landscapes and marine scenes has profoundly shaped my exploration of elemental forces in art. Turner’s ability to imbue his works with emotional depth and physical phenomena, as seen in pieces like ‘Slave Ship’ and ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed,’ resonates with my thematic pursuit of peace through fire and a quest for continuous innovation.


Similarly, the groundbreaking approaches of Gerhard Richter and Jackson Pollock inspire my diverse explorations. Richter’s versatility across abstract and photorealistic styles and Pollock’s pioneering action paintings mirrors my ethos of pushing artistic boundaries. Their commitment to experimentation reflects my ethos of pushing artistic boundaries.

Moreover, Paul Cézanne, often hailed as the bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new line of artistic inquiry, influences my work. His pivotal role in the transition to modernism echoes my desire to contribute novel perspectives to the art historical narrative.

The unconventional techniques of Alberto Burri and Cai Guo-Qiang, who employ non-traditional materials to explore new expressions, also align with my use of fire as a medium. This shared innovation underscores a collective endeavor to explore beyond the conventional, offering unique insights into our art’s medium and message.

You work with different mediums; what does each medium communicate? Do you have a favourite? 

In my artistic exploration, mediums are tools and companions on a journey toward more profound expression. They speak a distinct language, contributing to a symphony of perspectives embodying my creative vision. My approach is inherently experimental—I am perpetually searching for new avenues of expression, making it impossible to confine my creativity to a single medium. 

Whether it’s the boldness of acrylics, the fluidity of ink, or the ephemeral quality of smoke, each medium adds a unique texture and depth to my different artworks. Integrating different materials, sometimes merging them into a single piece, allows me to discover novel expressions and nuances in my work. This process of experimentation and discovery is crucial for me to articulate the complexities of what I aim to convey. While the question of a favorite medium is intriguing, it’s akin to asking a parent to choose a favorite child. Each medium I engage with opens new dialogues and possibilities, making each invaluable. The diversity of these mediums and the endless potential they offer captivates me, pushing me to evolve my practice continually.

Race Helmet, 2024 © Studio Boghossian
Race Helmet, 2024 © Studio Boghossian

Could you describe the artwork in the exhibition opening 12th April at UBP’s in Monte-Carlo?

This part of the exhibition, titled JB, is a thrilling fusion of automotive legacy and artistic innovation, featuring three Ferrari pieces: a hood and a front and rear bumper, and five race helmets bathed in Ferrari’s iconic red and yellow. These elements transform a collage, scraping, and burning process, culminating in a material that adorns the hood. A final touch of epoxy varnish seals the artwork, rendering it a contemporary masterpiece under the banner of Jean Boghossian’s Ferrari artwork.

The genesis of this project was serendipitous, stemming from my previous engagements with automobile-themed art. Mehri Ghaleghovand introduced me to Nicola D’Aniello, a Ferrari enthusiast and president of the Ferrari club in Belgium. His generosity in providing Ferrari parts sparked the idea for this series, blending the ethos of Ferrari with my artistic vision.

How has your artistic style evolved?

My artistic journey defies the notion of a singular style. This fluidity mirrors the trajectories of even the most celebrated artists throughout history, who navigated through various styles and modes of expression. Each phase of evolution, exploration, and experimentation contributed to the rich tapestry of their legacies. What history, critics, museums, and the art elite often embrace is not the entirety of an artist’s work but specific moments or approaches that resonated most profoundly at a given time.

These highlighted moments become beacons of significance, not because the rest of the artist’s work lacks importance but because they mark a pinnacle of public and critical acclaim. However, an artist’s significance is in the journey—the myriad paths trodden, the risks taken, and the relentless pursuit of growth and expression. This journey, with its trials, transformations, and triumphs, molds an artist’s comprehensive legacy.

The materials profoundly influence the creative process at my disposal. Whether it’s a box, Atomium Plates, or even larger objects like cars, I’m inspired to repurpose them into something extraordinary. This approach often involves acquiring items on a whim, their purpose in my art revealing itself over time. 

Please give us a hint about your next dream project.

Dreams are a constant in my life; I am not fixed on just one. My mind is perpetually awash with visions, each centred around potential projects. The vision appears most within reach among this ever-present stream of dreams, aligning closest with reality and ultimately coming to fruition.

Join theMonaco Lifecommunity – sign up for theMonaco Lifenewsletter, and follow us on Threads,Facebook,Instagram,LinkedInandTik Tok

Main photo: Jean Boghossian working on the Ferrari Pieces, 2024 © Lisa De Boeck