Dominique De Beir
Dominique De Beir
Past: September 8 → October 15, 2016
For this first solo exhibition by Dominique De Beir at Galerie Jean Fournier will be presented a selection from the recent series Altération and from other, earlier series titled Zone, Dés(altérer), Macule and Il fait grand Bleu.
Since 1997 the artist has been degrading materials including paper, cardboard and polystyrene, through mechanical, repeated use either of standard tools such as punches, styluses, scalpels, and spiked ladders and boots, or others made to her specifications. Perforating, striking, abrading, peeling, burning, reversing: these are De Beir’s experimental methods for “attacking” her chosen surfaces. This association of “cheap” materials and repetitive actions is reminiscent of some aspects of the work of Pierre Buraglio and Pierrette Bloch, artists with whom she has always felt a real affinity. De Beir considers herself first and foremost a painter, a seeker after a form of sensuality and a tactile relationship with her materials currently marked by an increasing emphasis on colour.
Indeed, it was the Altération series, begun in the summer of 2014, that allowed the introduction of colour into her work: after coating large sheets of tinted polystyrene — salmon pink, violet, green — with a thin layer of paint, or sometimes wax, she then “maltreated” them with her tools. The final stage consists in heating the surface and thus giving rise to excrescences, hollows and bumps — and so to a new vision of the material. This stage leaves considerable scope for chance and randomness, with colour emerging in the form of deep cracks and the work fluctuating between the overt harshness of the material and the softness of its pale tones.
These ordinary, “raw” materials are somehow transcended, making us think of Janis Kounellis, Mario Merz and more generally to the Arte Povera that has made its comeback in the 2010s. This confrontation with matter is also to be found in the blocks of the Altérations_, set like stelae along the gallery wall. Il fait grand Bleu (2007) is a “simple” piece of cardboard on which colour migrations are effected by damaging and perforation. Its elusively poetic, climate-inflected title — _Cloudless Blue Sky is one possible translation — echoes the shifts of a volatile, unpredictable substance tampered with at the artist’s pleasure. Also at stake is the question of life, of movement and of the sensory, addressed by the artist in a way whose change of scale reveals her chosen substance in both its wholeness and its tiniest details: “The tangible reality of the materials used by Dominique De Beir — paper, cardboard, polystyrene — is laid bare in the process of transformation into narratives that involve the viewer in experiences of physical and conceptual perception.”1
This focus on what is living, and by extension on the body, recurs in the series on paper titled Macule, begun in 2013. In French the term has a number of meanings, among them a surface stain, a skin complaint and a smudge on a printed page. Its partial equivalent in English — the printer’s word "mackle" — refers to this third meaning. In these works paraffin poured onto paper creates a translucent aureole around a printed motif, in a minimalist suggesting of a second plane. This play on light and its multiple coloured variations offers an experience of depth peeping through the opacity of things.
“As a rule we speak of beauty regarding natural materials like stone and wood. Wear on wood can be ’beautiful”. And nowadays we can say the same of mass-produced synthetics. I believe that every material has its own kind of presence — a lump of polystyrene as much as a piece of oak bark."2
The exhibition will be accompanied by a bilingual French/English monograph including an interview with Diane Watteau and texts by Dominique De Beir, Jean-Michel Le Lannou and Louis Doucet.
1 “Dominique De Beir: All the World’s Matter”, interview with Diane Watteau, in Dominique De Beir (Paris: Editions Hermann, 2016).
Opening Thursday, September 8, 2016 6 PM → 8:30 PM