Étienne Chambaud, Julian Charrière, Ayan Farah
31/01/2014 > 07/03/2014

Opening on 31/01/2014, from 7 pm to 9 pm

In Henry JAMES' 1896 short story The Figure in the Carpet, an art critic desperately searches for the hidden meaning of fictional writer Hugh VEREKER's work. Comparing his writing to the complex surface of an old Persian rug, VEREKER tells the young critic about the key to understanding his work, a "little secret", that no one has ever been able to detect in it – a hidden figure that emerges from his oeuvre but that only the most careful observer can percieve. The writer dies shortly after this revelation, leaving the art critic wounded in his pride and devoured by curiosity. His search for that hidden pattern turns into an obsession that engages his entire life, compromises his marriage but does not allow him to unveil the mystery. A metaphor of the meaning of art, this short story highlights its mysterious, sublime, but also incommunicable nature – the characters never manage to pass on what they believe is the secret.

The works in this exhibition offer strange and mysterious surfaces, in which the eye gets lost while looking for a pattern. The complex shapes that emerge on the surface result from experimental procedures that involve natural processes like sun exposure, decomposition, or oxidation, placing his works in direct relation with the raw forces of nature. Their appearance remains that of works of art - they display the most traditional elements of fine arts (canvas, frame, pigments, plaster). But they explore the limits of what a work of art can be by introducing a living part in their production process: the materials they are made of bear traces of a direct contact with organic and animal substances. They may show a colored surface that inscribes them in the legacy of abstract painting, but the artists, on his part, knows what kinds of alchemists' practices they are the result of.

The Nameless Series by ÉTIENNE CHAMBAUD (born in 1980, lives and works in Paris) refers directly to the provocative gesture Andy WARHOL urinating on his canvas (Oxidation Paintings, 1978). Although CHAMBAUD's works assume the traditional form of a painting, the animal urines they have been impregnated with relate to the history of animal presence in preservation institutions such as museums and zoos. The artist has poured animal urines (wolf, zebra, bear, lama, squirrel, coyote, deer, cougar, lynx, etc.) that oxidize a monochromatic background made of a mixture of varnish and bronze or copper dust applied on stretched linen canvas. To us, they may appear as an anamorphic image, similar to the inkblots of the Rorschach test, but their ability to attract or repel members of the animal world is a form of language that the museum cannot understand, but which is spoken beyond its walls.

AYAN FARAH's (born in 1978, lives and works in London) large fabrics stretched on frames result from a long process of transformation and decaying, which deeply marked their material. Buried in the ground, exposed to the sun, wind and rain, their colors have faded or appeared. The artist plays with the slight transparency of fabrics from her daily environment (mostly bedding or clothing) that reveals the stretchers that support them. Their resulting subtle shades of black and white are sometimes brightened with acrylic or less traditional staining techniques like vinegar, ash, sea salt... Designed by natural hazards, AYAN FARAH's work evokes the stones collected in China for their marbling that sometimes take the shape of a landscape.

With the three works from the series Somehow they never stop doing what they always did, JULIAN CHARRIÈRE (born in 1987, lives and works in Berlin) creates architectural structures whose surface is gradually covered by patterns of decomposing matter. Inside a steel and glass showcase, the artist displays small bricks made of plaster, fructose and lactose. The artist then moistens the plaster with water from major international rivers (the Saone, the Nile, the YangTse, the Euphrates, etc.). Bacteria progressively grow under the protection of the glass case. These constructions, made out of elements from around the world, thus constantly evolve and evoke mythological towers or architectural archetypes like the Tower of Babel. Through their rapid degradation they seem to actually belong to history. Digesting Geometry, ensemble of 10 photographs, documents an ongoing project by JULIAN CHARRIÈRE that takes place in different cities around the world. The principle of the performance is to make pigeons perform without their knowing: using bird food, the artist designs geometric shapes on the ground. For a fleeting moment, he imposes a rational pattern into the chaos of life.