The Water Diviner and the Kangaroo
In 1997 I invited a friend to play a game of chess with me on canvas. I painted the pieces in their starting position on the chessboard with acrylic paint. Then, as the game went on, I moved them by repainting the squares. Each new layer covered the previous one, with the paint getting thicker in places like a palimpsest. When my opponent withdrew, I submitted this unfinished game, Chess, for the Diplôme National d’Arts Plastiques. This piece put in place a modus operandi which can be found in all my work. It is at the meeting point between painting and chess.
I try to build bridges between disciplines and acting as a go-between suits me well. Venturing into entomology, literature or the new technologies enables me to find new forms but this cross-disciplinary approach also allows me to take advantage of art’s porous nature, of its ability to move between different fields. For an exhibition on boxing, I make KangaroO : I fought against a jigsaw puzzle, a solitary and autocratic game with only one solution, whose pieces I coerced into fitting together to construct an image. I feel an affinity with artists which offer another take on reality, with the strange worlds of Julio Cortázar, Witold Gombrowicz, Henry James (The Figure in the Carpet) or David Lynch.
With each painting, drawing, collage, installation or photograph I attempt to find the most accurate answer to a question. When is a piece of art finished? At what point do we start to see an image? How to rekindle an artwork’s aura? In the beginning is inquisitiveness: attracted by a material, an object, I set up a challenge, I put in place a system which will guide me through a process of hypotheses and experimentation, without knowing in advance whether it will bear fruit or not. I relate to Jonathan Monk or Gérard Gasiorowski’s conceptual yet playful approaches: the strategy comes before the art-making process.
I cannot imagine working without introducing some form of constraint, without game rules, hence my liking for pataphysics’ bizarre and nonsensical connections. The rules are my art’s DNA. I subject every artwork in the making to a series of controlled experiments. For example: painting the same image on both sides of a transparent surface and getting a third one where the two cross; connecting 6331 dots without any of the lines going over a number; drawing an image on erasers, then rubbing it off, re-drawing it and erasing it again until it looks worn; shuffling the six tiles making up a painting so that none ends up next to its rightful neighbour. I invite the viewer to play with me through enigmas, word and image games. How can s/he walk on the Moon? By painting the Moon’s surface as a trompe l’oeil on the soles of Chaussures. My work is a playing field.
Surprising myself is the cornerstone of my system. To be surprised is to show a kind of innocence. I wipe the slate clean and enjoy the unexpected. In the Zahorí paintings for example, I go in search of images like a water diviner and let one stop me without knowing what the next one will be. I try to lose control over the artwork I produce. With modular pieces like #361 or MAGA, it is impossible to see everything at the same time. I am not able to grasp them in their entirety, something escapes me. What is at stake in my work is to achieve a vital, life-affirming tension.