From March 27th to April 18th, 2021 @ Galerie Michel Guimont
The Empire painting series comes from a desire to question the role of power and money in culture, and its impact on people’s lives, on the work of artists. It seems obvious that recent art history can be interpreted as the result of great empires justifying their importance through culture. The artist here explores the historical relationship between art and power, he creates paintings that offer more than a vehicle for the dominant values and which, in the end, speak of freedom.
The figurative paintings being an exploration of his own relationship to art and culture, the artist creates a series of paintings that evoke the notion of Empire, with its effects on populations, but also on art history and current cultural creation. Working in a realistic style from photographic sources, he confronts the realities evoked in the paintings by juxtaposing them, by making them strange, by constructing a poetic arrangement. The subjects are varied, inspired by images taken in spectacular settings that highlight the relationship between art and money (a fashion show or a performance in a large hall).
For the moment, no specific empire in history is targeted by this project, it is theoretically inspired by the book Empire (2000) by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. These propose a historic paradigm shift between ‘modern’ imperialism based on nation-states and an emerging post-modernism created by capitalist ruling classes and basing its authority on military force and international legal creations ( UN, NATO, IMF, etc). Inspired by the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, the authors theorize an Empire thought of as an “arrangement”, a totalizing mechanism against which the only possible resistance of the “multitude” is negation.
Arrived in Canada at a very young age and raised in a highly politicized family, the artist has always been aware of the effects of power and its relationship to industry and international trade. Coming from Chile, a country that was caught in the tensions of the Cold War in the 60s and 70s, with a violent dictatorship and multinationals fighting for control of natural resources (mainly mining), the story of its family was caught up in this cycle and migrated to Canada.
The Mutation paintings are one way of evoking the phenomenon of mutation described by Hardt and Negri that occurs in post-modern times. The imperialist nation-states become an Empire based on new premises: capitalist nomadism without borders, which opposes the multitude to the People, desire to power and biopolitical reproduction to economic production.
The Alarum series is inspired by the disorderly battle scenes from comics, specifically Asterix, by Goscinny and Uderzo. In these images are staged classic elements of the imagery of painting: brushstrokes, abstract shapes, stars, various objects. These elements recreate a “battle” in a landscape setting. The landscapes mtifs are taken from classic war paintings: a battle of Napoleon, the battle of Gettysburgh in the American Civil War, a battle between Moors and Crusaders from an orientalist painting. The title is a Shakespeare didascaly from King Lear and evokes the excitement of combat, the dynamism of war. These drawings are a way of evoking the seductive aspect of war, which since the Gulf War has been a televisual spectacle without victims, where surgical strikes destroy only buildings, where weaponry is displayed as a luxury items.
The Guide is an interpretation of Velazquez’s painting Portrait of Innocent X, and it interprets the pope’s gaze as a dynamic tension full of contained violence.
The Last Moderns, Test By Fire and other paintings of architectural staging are encounters between art, power and commerce. The work of art and the artist are in a strange relationship with its public and with craft. They are poetic paintings that question the different relationships present in the art trade.
The paintings of objects (The Sphere of Ideas, Planet no. 1, The Tower, Babel) are a way of evoking the desire for accumulation, the need to make the diverse visible and comprehensible. These are accumulations which only make sense by their title, but which are also essential concepts of culture : between the desire to accumulate and the need to understand the world.
The Art of Disappearance
This painting is a spontaneous reaction to the reality of the artisans of the performing arts. After years of claiming that we live in the Society of the Spectacle, the spectacle has become a screen. The halls are closed, the tours canceled. But the public is waiting.