Nicolas Guiet — otrtreotrpoto
Past: September 2 → October 9, 2010
The first element of uncertainty regarding Nicolas Guiet’s paintings is their fit with the “picture” category. His works aren’t flat, their format isn’t quadrangular, they harbour neither figures nor technical accomplishment, and they hang in cavities and corners rather than in the middle of walls.
Each of these characteristics tends to draw his work towards a far side (or maybe a near side) or an outside of the picture. And yet he can’t be readily assigned to that constellation of artists — increasingly numerous over the last fifteen years — who push their paint beyond the frame, obeying the modalities of the painterly installation or engaging in close dialogue with the ambient space. Guiet remains rigorously faithful to the basic constituents of the picture: paint applied to stretched canvas. In the context of his oeuvre this fidelity might reflect two different stances: it could be either a rhetorical affectation, a kind of puerile challenge — how to make pictures without seeming to — or the mark of a nostalgic attachment to the picture as a historical relic. In both cases the resultant picture would be no more than a survival, a winsome, outmoded puppet being sent on an extra run around the circuit by adroit, crafty string-pullers.
This temptation to handle the works hinges not only on the pictures’ attributes of volume and surface; it also has to do with their formal vocabulary. The design of the stretcher and the colours on the canvas, explains the artist, are “reformulations of things around us: bright colours borrowed from widely available objects.” The shapes and colours can conjure up the world of toys, cartoons, candy and, in general, things to do with childhood and things children like to play with. What we have here are little pictures making use of shapes commonly found both in objects intended to get children’s attention and in the bodies of children themselves: chubbiness and the colourfully smooth.
A kind of visual typewriting also governs the spatial layout of some pieces. To stress an architectural line of flight — along the left side of the Jean Fournier gallery, for example — Guiet will sometimes insert a line of “dots”, squat little pictures set at regular intervals along the meeting of the wall with the floor. In the manner of an ellipsis, this ploy leads the eye to the back wall, whose upper angle is accentuated by a kind of visual exclamation mark: three pointed triangular pictures. The space thus becomes a synoptic environment, to be covered in time with various accelerations, suspendings, punctuations and visual alliterations. In the course of a syntactic synthesis, occupation of the space takes place less via mass than via number, like an example of Mies van der Rohe’s “less is more” popping up out of nowhere. Nicolas Guiet absorbs architecture by seeding it: the proliferation of his pictures in a single space triggers a burgeoning of polyptychs, like polychrome polyps metastasising.
Nicolas Guiet works in acrylics. Linen canvas would not stand up to the strain imposed by the stretchers, so he uses a Lycra-style jersey fabric, 80% polyamide and 20% elastane. In addition to its strength and elasticity, this polymer canvas offers high stability, and despite their fragile appearance, his pictures are extremely long-lasting. So this is synthetic painting in several respects: its artificial materials; its combining of sculpture and drawing in the stretcher; its synthesis of area, volume and space; its arbitrary, RAL-based chromatic composition. And on 21 May 2010 geneticists Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith announced their creation of the first cell derived from a totally synthetic genome.