Ludovic Paquelier, 2013
The artistic approach that I have developed for years consists of telling stories using images drawn from an available stock (magazines, advertisements, cinema, etc.). These chosen items can be the driving force for drawings or paintings (in black acrylic on canvas or on a wall) and, sometimes for volume work. I build universes close to science-ﬁction, threatened by various dangers and peopled with ghost towns. The forms, scenes or landscapes represented generally combine, displaying a fragmented appearance and a proliferation dimension. The ﬁgures are set in an enigmatic and cinematographic atmosphere. Made mainly in situ, my paintings adapt to the place in which they are made.
BICYCLE SEATS AND BLACK IMPALAS : THE BUSY WORLD OF LUDOVIC PAQUELIER
Madeleine Aktypi, in Édition ADERA, 2010
Like a chance meeting of an umbrella.
And a sewing machine in a black Impala.
Mixin' metalflake with a jet propeller.
This monotonous flywheel is the junk of life.
This desire magneto... this is not a pipe.
Prob'bly Picasso painted this pinstripes.
The Cramps, "I'm Customized", Flamejob LP, 1994
I'm Customized might not be the best song The Cramps came up with during their tumultuous career, but the words could find a ready fit with Ludovic Paquelier's two-tone wall paintings. And the pull the American garage punk group has for the artist isn't the main reason, either. It's more to do with the idea that when he paints, he's effecting the same kind of displacements the Cramps did, notably in their psychobilly reprise of the famous line by Isidore Ducasse, Count Lautrémont, (1) that fascinated André Breton, inspired the avant-garde and changed the artistic profile of the twentieth century.
Long the embodiment and representation of modernist beauty, the shockingly unlikely encounter symbolised by that umbrella and that sewing machine together on a dissection table has now become something self-evident – a commonplace. Even so, and fortunately, the impact of the unexpected in collage has not merely been reduced to an advertising monopoly or a postmodernist catchcry. And so a part of the new generation of artists that Contemporary Art sometimes has trouble classifying – even as it manages, more or less, to fit them into its ever more tentacular and extensible circuit – is still heading off down the obscure paths of Maldoror.
Paquelier's pictorial constructions are the outcome of a series of playful inventions and intuitive adaptations fluctuating between black and white, whole and part, model and exhibition venue; the outcome of transformations which, to use a favourite term of Lautréamont's time, could be described as "electrifying". Most of Paquelier's works begin with a process of selection and cutting-out aimed at the preliminary – flexible, adjustable – collage that will progressively lead to the wall painting. The artist works with cut and paste layers and cut and paste tracings – but uses his computer mainly for listening to music. Generally speaking Photoshop remains a peripheral concern, being used only to obtain the initial sample that precedes cutting out by hand. Nonetheless Paquelier is very much an artist of the age of the computer and of the culture of the interface. (2) Much more than just a striking evocation, Ducasse's phrase can be seen as urging an anthropological practice of which computers, too, are the heirs: take a disparate sample/put every element together on the same plane/stitch together.
Like the Cramps song, Paquelier's black and white compositions mingle terrestrial metals with celestial propellers: not in some black, swift beast of the African plains or our highways, (3) but on the vivid whiteness of a wall. His mixed-bag frescoes not only pull in fans of American underground culture and readers of Deleuze and Guattari, who might ultimately project the "white wall/black hole process" (4) onto them ; they also signal in the direction of our daily lives. We spend a good part of our days and nights both wearing ourselves out and relaxing in front of our computers, which are nothing other than the distant grandsons of the sewing machine and the weaving loom, the latter being the first machine to identify difference: positive and negative, black and white. (5)
Armed with scissors and a camera, Paquelier sorts through the vast stock of miscellaneous images making up his databank, lifting out the ones that suit the work in hand and then taking up his brushes and other painting tools. Designed with their specific venues in mind and effected in situ, his collages first come to light – or rather to darkness – in his studio. We can imagine his dissection table covered with photocopied shots from horror and sci-fi films, weird B-movie stills, photos of the friends he uses as models, pages clipped from magazines, pictures of human limbs, comics, art reproductions, rock portraits, newspaper cuttings and a stack of freshly made Indian ink and pencil drawings – some dashed off, others absolutely meticulous. Put together with historical, political, architectural or purely anecdotal data relating to the planned venue, these personal references allow him to establish a metonymic process and work up an initial visual sequence. These scrupulously prepared collages are then put in place on a detailed maquette before being projected, reworked and painted in black acrylic on the pristine white of the gallery walls. So the maquette is a kind of three-dimensional notebook later subordinated to the experience of the full-scale work. The precision of Paquelier's figurative line is counterpointed by the vigorously polluting abstract marks of the bits and pieces he throws at and drags along the walls: bicycle seats, mops, sticks, etc., all totally ordinary and all soaked in black ink. Out of the tension between figuration and abstraction emerges a kind of automatic writing, a spatial or ontological montage (6) unleashing outrageous narratives: the cannibal zombies of Subsistanz (2006); the lightning and the electricity pylon under the living-dead gaze of Sharkaman in an outdoors seething with strange insects, in Last Summer (2007); the 1958 Blob openly threatening the Institute of Applied Science campus in Lyon in 2009; Cary Grant replaying that famous scene from North by Northwest in the shadow of a French fort as the couple from The War of the Worlds (1953) look on, in The Killer Storm (2006); and the perspectivist vortex of works of art and explosive imprints around Damien Hirst's pricey, baneful skull in Poltergeist (2009).
Ludovic Paquelier's work could be likened to that of Gérard Gaziorowski, Raymond Petitbon, Henry Darger, Öyvind Fahlström and Jim Shaw. Or of Moebius, Alberto Braccia and Charles Burns. Then again, there are influences to be found in David Lynch, Gerhard Richter and Hasil Adkins. Lines cross, data cross-contaminate, visual fields intermingle. In the world that is ours Paquelier uses montage and the opposite poles of the spectrum of the visible (7) for creative making-do – and laughter, when possible – amid the incurable indistinction of the new modern times. What he puts together out of his ongoing arrangements is maybe a personal code for making do with the incurable ; (8) and what could be more incurable than these zombies "re-created" from magazine figures through the use of black ink on glossy paper, in a work which, touch by touch, plays with the already processed and the interchangeable ?
(1) "The chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!" Cf. Isidore Ducasse, Comte de Lautréamont, Maldoror and Poems, trans. Paul Knight, Penguin Classics, 1988. In the late nineteenth century Maldoror was considered the iconic example of wild, audaciously sexual prose poetry, as outrageous as the Cramps' live performances a hundred years later.
(2) Cf. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, MIT Press, 2001, p. 64.
(3) The black impala is both an extremely rare animal and a much-prized model from the Chevrolet range. A premeditated encounter between flesh and metal in speed.
(4) Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Thousand Plateaus, The Athlone Press, 200, pp. 168, 173, etc.
(5) Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752–1834) of Lyon, France, invented the semi-automatic loom, which used the very same punch cards that made computers possible.
(6) According to Manovich (ibid.), "spatial montage" emphasises space at the expense of time and "ontological montage" enables the coexistence of a number of ontologically incompatible elements in the same space-time: the sewing machine and the umbrella on the dissection table, the anonymous scientist Paquelier has drawn on using the archives of the National Institute of Applied Science in Lyon, Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock's The Birds and the strange substance making up the Blob in the work of the same name.
(7) "The world's in colour, yet black and white is more realistic: when you think in black and white you see the shapes of things" – Samuel Fuller in Wim Wenders' The State of Things (1982).
(8) "Being modern is making do with the Incurable" – E. M. Cioran, Syllogismes de l'amertume, Gallimard, Folio Essais, 1997, p. 27.
Patrice Joly, 2007
In Galeries Nomades de l'Institut d'art contemporain, Villeurbanne / Rhône-Alpes, Supplément Semaine n°10, Analogues, maison d'édition pour l'art contemporain, Arles, 2007
We remember the success in the United States of artists like Raymond Pettibon and Daniel Johnston whose work, without being entirely devoted to or inspired by comic books or minor genres like science ﬁction, seems to have come straight out of magazines or comics without any touching up or adjustment of format to be able to be set inside the white cube. For example, Raymond Pettibon's drawings have practically all been in the A4 format that he has always liked and has always imposed on the galleries that show his work, without them objecting. Artists on this scene in France have not always had the same privilege and it seems that in order to gain full status the trend had to obtain authorisations from 'great art'. In other words, a practice drawn from the 'minor' genres comic books and magazine strip cartoons can only be exhibited under the auspices of its belonging to another, supposedly more noble genre-painting. In addition, this necessary label is not harmless as we know what an artist under constraint can produce. The latter can be a source of different work and can also react in return on the deﬁnition of a constantly changing pictorial paradigm that undergoes perpetual re-evaluation. The work of Stephane Calais obviously comes to mind ; his many borrowings from favourite comic book authors - Moebius and others - in the form of the extraction of certain passages and the exaggerated enlargement of certain fragments tend to make the latter abstract and this also removes any narrative dimension inherent in the idea of comics. For whatever its degree of complexity or intellectualism, a comic contains a narrative that is generally read from left to right, just as the cinema removes all critical or reﬂective potential to the beneﬁt of a sensorial loading of the spectator - at least as regards the type of ﬁlm and comic concerned here - comic books and ﬁlms with linear ; narrative or 'heroic' scenarios. Allusion is clearly made to this type of cinema or comic book in Ludovic Paquelier's paintings or wall paintings. Without in any way wishing to establish the slightest hierarchy between comic books, cinema and painting, it is clear that any kind of 'transfer' from the ﬁrst two universes to the third erases the story when there is a story and erases the psychology when there is psychology. This vampire effect tends to make painting an absorbent element in the manner that zero is an absorbent element for multiplication. This obviously works with difﬁculty when experimental cinema or comic books are concerned as their own features tend to converge on those of pictorial work. In addition, apart from these questions of medium, Paquelier's borrowing is not limited to these two sources. The young artist displays gluttony, dipping almost everywhere into the iconography around him-newspapers, magazines, etc. However ; this iconography is marked iconography with a minor 'end of the world' aspect ; this theme, a favouritein science ﬁction, is generally accompanied by its corollary, reconstruction. One might therefore detect in Paquelier's work, in his abundant and unbridled manner of creating worlds from the debris of the one that is dying, using images of its abandoned objects and tired heroes, a metaphor of painting, whose ever-predicted death ceaselessly ﬂowers again and starts again with fresh conquering energy. And even if the question of the pictorial medium that was the subject of debate in the second half of the twentieth century became totally diluted in the explosion of practices in all directions that shook the shackles of the last inheritors of Greenberg, the old questions of illusion, support, ground, ﬁgure, etc. ﬁght burial and respond with young work that addresses them without any complexes. Thus proliferation on the wall of the space breaks the boundary of the frame and also shatters the notions of theatricality and illusion that condition our relation with representation ; the recombining of the multiform, polysemous sources from which the big mural compositions are made bring the notions of subject, source, motif etc. crashing down. Finally, behind these heroic/trash trompe-l'œil scenes, is not the issue in Paquelier's work the question of the regeneration of painting, the eternal return to a practice that has not said its last word ?