Jérôme Zonder — Fatum
Past: February 19 → May 10, 2015
For more than ten years, Jérôme Zonder (b. 1974 in Paris) has been developing a body of work of great virtuosity, centered on drawings. Primarily executed in lead pencil and charcoal, often in large formats, his works elicit admiration yet contain elements of fright.
References to Albrecht Dürer, Robert Crumb, Rembrandt, Charles Burns, Otto Dix and Walt Disney appear cheek by jowl in narrative compositions that are often cruel:
«Narrative draws us into a drawing — the only thing holding us back is our physicality. When I draw, I am poised between distance and proximity, figuration and abstraction, attraction and repulsion.»
Jérôme Zonder has conceived his exhibition at la maison rouge as a perambulation, inviting visitors to step inside a world of drawings. They cover the floors and walls, creating a spatial and mental pathway that reflects the artist’s preoccupations.
«In 2009, I thought I’d detected a palpable increase in violence. I began a series featuring invented millennial nine-year-olds. I explored the theme of the birthday party and had my children play out recent news events marked by violence, childhood, cruelty and love.»
Today, his millennials are teens. After childhood, with its terrors and nightmares, comes adolescence, an age of internal upheaval, metamorphosis, realizations and uncertainties. Poetic and dark, the scenes in this series highlight the violence and tragedy erupting in individual lives and on the grand scale of history. They also have the stylistic immediacy of a child’s drawing and demonstrate the prowess of his technique. Many questions arise: How should we interpret these images? What is our relationship with the everyday violence around us and what kind of witnesses do we make?
Conversation between Antoine de Galbert and Jérôme Zonder
Interview by Yamina Benaï1 Yamina Benaï : Jérôme Zonder’s work is powerful and complex. At first glance, it is difficult to apprehend. Then the viewer becomes fascinated with the form (his obsession with detail) and substance (the inscription of archaic themes in universal history). Antoine de Galbert, how did you come to discover his work?
Antoine De Galbert : I first saw his work in a group show at the Galerie Eva Hober about ten years ago.
A decade seems short to a collector like me, engaged in a slow process of learning about an artist’s work, but must seem long to a young artist! Since 2004, I have acquired five of Zonder’s works for my collection.
YB : Zonder took up his art seriously in 2001 after graduating from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. When you first met him, early in his career, you saw some of his early large-format works.
What about them got your attention?
AG : I really liked his tone, conveyed in a comic book mode, at once funny and somber, in the manner of Crumb. I used to love that particular medium, so that was a big factor. It paved the way for me to appreciate the rest of his work.
YB : Jérôme Zonder, your art covers a broad stylistic spectrum. What’s your take on how your practices have changed?
Jérôme Zonder: I first set out to convey the world’s complexity and heterogeneous nature, and conceived of a polygraphic approach with cellular drawings a personal narrative line and a more conventional style of representation, recalling my self-portraits of 2003. I concentrated on these three aspects and on a key underlying issue in my work — that of pushing the limits — that evolves, goes dormant and reappears at intervals, each time in a different way.
YB : While retaining your original focus, you gave it different forms and added signs over time.
You invented a new world that is dense and terrifying, a never-ending source of questions for viewers.
JZ : My approach traces the development of thought in connection with what’s happening at a given instant T. It’s a back-and-forth kind of process: my personal intuitions interact with my topic of reflection as well as the end result on paper, which sends my thoughts in another direction.My working principle operates by capillarity. I start with an initial postulate, then pursue the ramifications to explore new territories.
AG to Zonder : This converges with my initial impression of your work. I’ve already mentioned your comic-book approach. But the organic, abstract quality of your drawings also gave me the impression of being inside a brain packed with characters and figures and of gradually seeing a path open up to a representation of something unspeakable. I didn’t understand it right away.
AG to YB : Jérôme Zonder has addressed the issue of violence first as it relates to children, then via the Shoah theme, explicitly represented in his drawings of 2014, especially Chair grise #7, a large-format work measuring 150 × 200 cm.
Over time, his work has developed and leaves no room for others. When I bought the first abstract drawings by Zonder, I could imagine whatever I liked. I thought they expressed deep anxieties, exorcised through drawing, like recovering from a nightmare by talking about it. Subsequently, Zonder engaged in art that viewers love or hate, because he leaves no room for the observer.
How can art reviewers or intellectuals write about concentration camps or about a child that kills another child? There’s nothing more to be said.
1 L’Officiel Art, Sept. — Oct. — Nov. 2014 (extract)
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T. 01 40 01 08 81 — F. 01 40 01 08 83
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