Excerpt from the notice for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes, April 2014
Translated by Simon Pleasance, 2015
After attending the Paris School of Fine Arts, Marc Desgrandschamps has become one of the major painters on the French art scene. His oeuvre has constantly sought to renew the vocabulary of figurative painting and test its limits both through his plastic inventiveness and through his unusual way of injecting and mingling art history, photography and film in it. He has had numerous exhibitions, such as those at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Strasbourg (2004), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon (2004), the Centre Georges Pompidou (2006), the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art (2011), etc.
Quoting Althusser he describes his works as “a process with neither subject nor end”, as if, for him, nothing was ever fixed or definitively acquired. His early works, marked by the influence of some of the great painters of the 20th century (from Giorgio de Chirico's Pittura Metafisica to Max Beckmann, by way of Kasimir Malevich), were organized around classical themes of paintings such as the portrait and the historical scene. [...] His painting subsequently evolved by making room for more somber themes in scenes of war in which a new anxiety wells up, attesting to an awareness of the precariousness of existence. [...]
The visual culture of the period, photography and film, occupies an ever more predominant place in his oeuvre. He borrows from the vocabulary of film an aesthetics of editing (false connections, sequenced dissolves, tracking shots) which he sometimes reintroduces within one and the same picture, or in the manner of a sequence in diptychs and triptychs. Working from photographic sources he seems just as much to challenge the issue of realism in painting as to play with it in certain fantastic, not to say surrealistically inspired compositions.
A constant also appears in his oeuvre and gradually occupies a central place in it, that of a female figure, often magnified and monumental, whose calm and ordinary look fills these beach scenes, with bathing women and towels blowing in the wind, which have become immediately identifiable motifs of his painting. His technique consists of interplays of drips and transparencies which, in addition to their striking visual effects, remind us how much his painting is developed through reminiscences of images and sensations. [...]