Nick Devereux — As it is and not as it should be


Drawing, painting, sculpture

Nick Devereux
As it is and not as it should be

Past: May 27 → July 23, 2011

Main grid Nick Devereux — As it is and not as it should be L’œuvre de Nick Devereux, présentée par la galerie Bugada & Cargnel, est un manifeste. Un manifeste de la forme, un manifeste du re... 2 - Bien Critique

In his drawings and paintings, Nick Devereux uses an old technique that was employed by many artists such as Diego Velasquez in his work Las Meninas. That particular technique does not intend to convey a photographic reality, but would rather focus on the visual elements caught by the eye, mainly volumes and light, and thus raises the conceptual issue of visual representation. Nick Devereux does not apply that technique to figures or objects, but to small sculptures he makes himself by exploiting broken pieces of glass and diverse scraps of fabric. Those abstract sculptures, drawn or painted with the use of the technique described earlier on, suddenly appear full of a life we would have never expected. Endowed with great plastic intensity, Nick Devereux’s drawings are on the edge between figurative and abstract art.

For his first solo show, Nick Devereux presents works that are notably based on old masterpieces that are now destroyed. He thus produced a series of images that are reconstructed as sculptures, and readdressed through painting and drawing. The intention of the original subject matter is obscured, in order to explore the integral nature of the image. Nick Devereux’s aim has been to ’liberate’ the eye (and the subject) from the constraints of recognition, as he sees recognition as an obstacle that, in some respects, curbs the potential of an image.

Clockwise (all works, 2011) :

Unknown unknown is an anonymous portrait, originally intended to immortalize someone’s identity, which is revived and simultaneously destroyed through Nick Devereux’s reconstruction of the figure’s face based on a sculpture made of glass, sculpture that was also doomed to be short-lived.

The diptych Version (Raoul Walsh 1914) uses two reproductions of images from a sequence of photos shot during the film The Life of General Villa, which was produced by the American Mutual Film Company in 1914. General Villa was the protagonist of a (now destroyed) film propagating his own life. Directed by the actor Raoul Walsh, who played the younger Pancho Villa in the film, the film can be characterized as half-documentary and half-fiction work, as it combines real battle scenes and fictional ones; the limits between reality and fiction are consequently blurred. On both photographs used by Nick Devereux, Pancho Villa is shown riding a horse, but his figure is replaced by a drawing of a sculpture that recreates the notion of movement, emphasizing the idea of someone re-enacting oneself.

For his series Untitled (Bragolins), Nick Devereux used reproductions of a group of mass-produced and highly popular paintings that were known as Crying Boys. The paintings feature a variety of tearful children looking morosely straight ahead; they were made by Bruno Amadio (commonly known as Bragolin) during the post Second World War period in Venice, Italy. On September 4, 1985, the British tabloid newspaper The Sun reported that a firefighter from Yorkshire was claiming that undamaged copies of the painting were frequently found amidst the ruins of burned houses. He stated that no firefighter would allow a copy of the painting into his own house. Over the next few months, The Sun and other tabloids ran several articles on house fires suffered by people who had owned the painting. By the end of November, belief in the painting’s curse was widespread enough that The Sun was organizing mass bonfires of the paintings, sent in by readers. To lift the curse it is said you must give the painting to another or reunite the boy and the girl and hang them together. It was later found out that the prints were treated with some varnish containing fire repellant, and that the string holding the painting to the wall would be the first to perish, resulting in the painting landing face down on the floor and thus being protected. Meanwhile, the normal effect of mass-producing an image had been distorted by the weight of superstition inflicted on it by a tabloid newspaper. After sandpapering away the original heads, Nick Devereux replaced them with drawings of sculptures he had made out of paper. Thus, the subject matter is obscured and the remaining qualities of the original image are accentuated.

In Hubris, two destroyed baroque paintings, one mythological and one religious, both with themes of martyrdom, are fused together in a reconstruction that gives prominence to their shared compositional dynamics. Both Apollo and Marsyas by Giovanni Battista Langetti and The Martyrdom of St Erasmus by Nicolas Poussin were destroyed in Dresden during the war. The first image depicts the story of the flaying of the satyr Marsyas after he loses a musical contest against Apollo. The legend is a metaphor of the triumph of intellect (symbolized by Apollo’s stringed instrument) over sensuality (Marsyas’ flute). Poussin transposes the religious scene of Erasmus’ martyrdom (by the same means of flaying) into the same composition : a figure upside down that acts as a visual balance to the movement of the other. By working up preliminary collage studies created by cutting and pasting photocopies of the two images over each other, Nick Devereux arrived at the design for the final work in oil on canvas which fused together the dynamics of the two original works, while freeing it of the original subject matter.

Presented flat wise on a pedestal, Tiepolo takes inspiration from one of Giambattista Tiepolo’s fresco that used to be in the Chiesa degli Scalzi church in Venice, Italy. The fresco was bombed during the First World War and the only visual image that remains is the original photograph taken by Carlo Naya around 1890. Nick Devereux calculated the positions of the figures in the painting in relation to each other in a small model reproduction of the scene. He then used white lengths of wood to simulate the painting’s composition in 3 dimensions by using the heads of the figures as guide lines. The subject matter of the work is masked while the dynamics of the composition are highlighted.

Ivo is a reconstruction of Gordon Matta Clark’s Conical Intersect, famous yet short-lived creation produced in 1975 near the Centre Pompidou (still under construction at the time). Nick Devereux’s composition is based on photo montages of the destroyed work, one for the interior and one for the exterior, that are composed by lots of photos stuck together to create a space that a camera lens cannot capture. The sculpture from which the painting was based on, transform the spatial distortions of the photo montage back into three dimensions and evoke a baroque dome.

Finally, for the three drawings All Nowhere Gone I, II & III, elements of the reconstruction for Hubris were extracted, reconstructed and repeated. The works play on the sense of recognition found through the comparisons with Hubris. Exaggerated gestures accentuated by dramatic lighting direct the viewers’ eye around the forms suggesting that after the frozen moment, the sense of action will continue.

19 Paris 19 Zoom in 19 Paris 19 Zoom out

7-9, rue de l’Équerre

75019 Paris

T. 01 42 71 72 73 — F. 01 42 71 72 00


Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 2 PM – 7 PM
Other times by appointment

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The artist

  • Nick Devereux