Richard Leray

Calligram painter, Concrete Poetry

Born in 1961 in Angers, in the Loire Valley in France, I have been drawing and inventing letters since adolescence.
In 1978, during a trip to Istanbul, I discovered a more spectacular calligraphy which would influence my artistic research. I am continuing my trip to Israel where I am taking Hebrew lessons and learning about the symbolism of the letter.

For 13 years, curious about people and their culture, I stayed and worked in around ten countries: Middle East, Europe, North America.

Calligram painter or “concrete poeter” since 1980, it is the letters, tools and supports of creativity and emotion, which lead me towards the art of illumination, the art of honoring the word.
I then discovered “stencil art illumination”, a 14th century coloring and multiplication technique.

I fell in love with this dying technique, demanding and meticulous, and have since devoted most of my working time to it.

Photo : Frédéric Petry

I created the Festina Lente workshop in 1994. The rarity and technicality of my activity aroused the interest of the press and television media, as well as that of amateurs, collectors, historians of the book trade, many of whom believed this art profession disappeared.

Through my conferences, exhibitions and events, both in France and abroad, by welcoming the public to the workshop, it is important to me to actively participate in the preservation and new development of this technical heritage.


1961Born in 1961 in Angers, France
1978 Stay in Istanbul (Türkiye). Discovery of the art of Calligram.
1979-1989Stays in Israel (Hebrew school), Netherlands, Greece, Morocco, Berlin, United States, Canada, guide in Sinai (Egypt).
1990Training in Paris as a press layout designer.
1991 Graphic art course, Israel.
1991-1993 Training at the French School of Illumination, Angers.
First prize 91-92.
Grand Prix 92-93
1993-1994 Teacher at the French School of Illumination.
1994 Creation of the Festina Lente Workshop in Fontevraud-L’Abbaye.
Quelques mots - Jérôme Paressant
Photo :
Jérôme Paressant

Main personal exhibitions

2022Aubazine Abbey, Corrèze, with the support of the Maison Chanel.
Maison du Chapitre, Pornic, Loire Atlantique, “Falling in Words”.
L’Archipel Media Library, Fouesnant, Finistère (Joint exhibition)
2021Tourist Office, Orée-D’Anjou, Champtoceaux, Maine et Loire
2019Armel de Wismes Media Library, Pornic, Loire Atlantique “The Art of Stencil-Illumination, from the 14th century to the revival”.
Maison du Chapitre, Pornic, Loire Atlantique, “Words and Travels”
2018Church of Puiset Doré, Maine et Loire
2017Presbytery of Fontevraud L’Abbaye, Maine et Loire.
Retrospective Concrete Poetries 1987-2017
2016Dôme de Saumur, Maine et Loire, guest of honor.
Church of Saint Martin du Cellier, Loire Atlantique, on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the birth of St Martin.
2015International Heritage Fair.
Louvre Carousel, Paris.
Representing the Pays de la Loire.
2014Loire-Forez Media Library, St Just St Rambert, Loire
2013House of Associations, Courbevoie La Défense-Paris
2012Reopening of the Festina Lente workshop in Fontevraud l’abbaye
2010-2011Lives, works and exhibits in Tel Aviv, Israel
2009François Mitterrand Media Library, Montreuil-Bellay, Maine et Loire
2008Châteauroux Media Library, Indre
2007Headquarters of the World Trade Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.
Paris 13 University, Villetaneuse
2006Museum of Roman Art, Issoire, Puy-de-Dôme.
Sacred Art Festival, Saumur, Maine et Loire
2005Library of the Natural History Museum, La Rochelle, Charente Maritime
2004Provo-Utah Municipal Gallery, USA
2003Palais des Arts, Vannes (Joint exhibition)
2002Municipal Library, Salt Lake City, USA.
Hope Gallery, Provo, Utah, USA
2001Representing France on the occasion of the World French Talking Days:
French Cultural Center of Haifa, Israel.
French Cultural Center of Beersheba, Israel
2000Center Malraux, Neuville-en-Ferrain, Nord (with the Arab World Institute)
1999Chapelle Sainte-Croix, Loudun, Vienne, for Amnesty International
1998Rive-de-Giers Media Library (Loire)
1997Regional Fair of Arts and Crafts of La Haye-Fouassière, Loire Atlantique, representing Maine-et-Loire.
Main Library of Firminy, Loire
1996The Studio Gallery, Raanana, Israel (with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Arts and Sciences).
École de la Perrine Museum, Laval, Mayenne
1995Salon des Métiers d’Art, Beauvais, Oise.
International Festival of Arts and Traditions, Saint-Jean-la-Potherie, Bretagne
1993Municipal Library of Joué-lès-Tours, Indre et Loire
1992Municipal Library of St Barthélemy d’Anjou, Maine et Loire
1989Municipal Library of Angers, Maine et Loire
1988Galerie St Jean, Quebec, Canada (on the occasion of the second World Summit of the french talking countries)

Some of these exhibitions, both in France and abroad, are accompanied by conferences and/or activities and awareness of illumination or the art of Concrete Poetry.
The workshop benefited from several television reports, notably on TF1 and France 3 in France.

Peace reigned.

One day, because of a disproportionate project, men argued, languages flared, incomprehension set in.

Years of traveling in different countries, in different languages and cultures made me aware of communication and in particular of the Word, its setbacks, its joys, its powers, its errors. I have never experienced greater incomprehension than when we believe we are getting along, using the same codes but not opening the same doors.

Speech turns out to be insufficient, tedious, evanescent.

Attaching myself to a word means delving into its image, exploring it, telling its story, its emotion, its mystery. It’s also manhandling him, making him throat. To express the word, to expose it, is first of all to give thanks to it. It is also facing it, confronting it and loving it, considering it. It is transforming, questioning what seems certain, obvious, banal, while the wound of disunity is still not healed.

It was never a question for me of drawing the letters other than by hand. How could I allow myself to be inhabited by the Word and its members, the letters, if I did not engage in a delirious body-to-hand combat with them, if we did not breathe from the same space, if I exploited them mechanically, without loving consideration.

An opinion…

“We will never stop making words give way to their literal, figurative and hidden meanings. In general, we use other words to achieve this. And by dint of maneuvers in order and disorder, of marching at the guns of grammar or of raids with the sole law of the opportunities of war, we obtain insights into the great mystery of language.

Richard Leray has chosen a completely different approach, dry and absolute: he only takes a word and works on his literary skills to make it express, in the dazzlingness of a line, all its weight of meaning and emotion. () Richard Leray puts into these words his emotions which touch and his ideas which make them intelligible, () working head-on on each of the letters serving his idea. He is neither a designer nor a painter, simply the servant of these words which become flesh through the incisive, clear and dry emotion which results from the shock of the sudden vision. »

Gérard ROYER for “Le Courrier de l’Ouest”, November 3, 1989