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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 17:27 GMT
David Lynch's dark arts laid bare
By Caroline Wyatt
BBC News, Paris

Film director David Lynch has appeared in Paris to launch the first major exhibition of his paintings and photographs.

David Lynch
David Lynch started his career as a fine artist
Lynch sits in front of a darkened cinema screen, telling us how much he likes the sound of fire and electricity, as his fingers flutter gently, rhythmically up and down beside his face.

It is a moment that can only be described as pure Lynch, thanks to the disconnect between his kindly James Stewart face and some of what he says.

For the most part, though, he seems surprisingly normal - for the director who gave the world the weirdness of Eraserhead, the dark vision of Blue Velvet and the compelling but unsettling Twin Peaks.

Few realise he started out as a fine artist. And if you thought Lynch's films were weird or impenetrable - just wait until you see the art.

Hidden fears

Walking into the exhibition is like walking into the mind of David Lynch - and you know it will not be a comfortable place.

In fact, much of it resembles your blackest nightmares or darkest hidden fears splattered onto canvas.

Photography by David Lynch, courtesy of the Fondation Cartier in Paris
The exhibition runs at the Cartier Foundation in Paris until 27 May
On the ground floor, mounted on brightly-coloured curtains, are huge paintings of people - men and women with their body parts splayed or dissected.

One couple is shown in the middle of a violent act of murder, while another a man is being shot, with shocking red blood spurting from his torso.

A mixed oil collage features a nude woman with half her torso torn off and leaking with what looks like yellow viscous blood.

So how does Lynch himself explain his art? The fingers flutter again as he responds.

"What I can say is what you see... what you see is what I can say. And the works - they're there and they speak for themselves," he says.

"Each thing - painting, watercolour, photography - so much of it is a wordless thing."

Dark fairytale

Downstairs in the darkened basement, the small cinema is showing some early Lynch films.

The first is Six Men Being Sick. Which is what it shows, literally, with six Monty Python-esque cartoon heads vomiting.

Next, the reassuringly-titled The Grandma, is actually a rather dark fairytale about a small boy who is abused by his parents.

So he grows his own grandmother from a seed he plants and waters in his bed - with a large, looming monstrous pod giving birth to the kindly old lady.

That darker side of humanity is something that interests David Lynch so, so much
Ilana Shamoon
Exhibition curator
Everywhere, a soundtrack of industrial noise plays, adding to the unsettling atmosphere.

"There is a lot of disturbing imagery," admits the exhibition's curator Ilana Shamoon.

"Especially in the paintings and the distorted nude photograph series, because that darker side of humanity is something that interests David Lynch so, so much and comes through in both his artwork and his films."

Yet she insists there is also a brighter side, gesturing towards the brightly-painted room we're standing in.

'Humorous sculptures'

It has a child-sized zebra-striped sofa and cactuses around the edges.

"There is also a lot of hope and joy in his artwork - like in his humorous sculptures," Ms Shamoon says.

A man visits US film director David Lynch exhibition The Air is on Fire
Lynch insists he is "a very happy man"
Hope and joy are not things one might associate with Lynch, though he himself insists he is a "very happy man" who has enjoyed transcendental meditation at least twice a day for 30 years.

Yet his art clearly comes from a deep, dark place. Lynch's photographs, the nude series, are extremely disturbing.

They display naked female bodies, many with odd protrusions or vital parts missing.

They look like a cross between Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and the Chapman brothers.

"Francis Bacon is someone who's the obvious comparison," Ms Shamoon says. "He is someone who influenced David Lynch from the beginning, when he went to a fine arts school in Philadelphia."

It's all done with such confidence - this is not amateur work
Jonathan Romney
Independent on Sunday
The Independent on Sunday's film critic Jonathan Romney is impressed by the work.

"David Lynch is prolific," he says. "It's amazing that he's kept all this stuff down the years. And it's all done with such confidence. This is not amateur work."

So what inspires this dark art? Lynch says it can be anything.

"What fascinates me is ideas," he says. "Sometimes we get ideas for paintings, sometimes ideas for music, sometimes for cinema, but everything starts with an idea." And he smiles beatifically.

"Painting is the most beautiful act in solitude - it's you and the paint, and the ideas flowing."

Downstairs in the gloom of the basement, there are some black-and-white paintings that sum up the exhibition, featuring scribbled hands and body parts.

On one is a man whose head is floating away from him as he gropes desperately to get it back, with the slogan: "My head is disconnected."

Walking out of the exhibition and back into the spring sunshine, I knew exactly how he felt.

See some of the David Lynch artworks on show in Paris

'Disturbing' Lynch art show opens
02 Mar 07 |  Entertainment
David Lynch given lifetime award
06 Sep 06 |  Entertainment
Lynch to receive Venice honour
08 Jul 06 |  Entertainment
Director aims to boost meditation
21 Jul 05 |  Entertainment

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