Olivier Kosta-Théfaine — En flânant...
Past: October 19 → November 23, 2013
“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world.”
Charles Baudelaire associates strolling with an independent, passionate and impartial mind. He uses the term to describe the attentive observer, one who aids understanding, a natural investigator capable of seizing things in motion. When Olivier Kosta-Théfaine walks through a city, he is on the lookout for those things we never notice, those which remain ever invisible to our eyes. He chooses to present those very things which, on the contrary, catch his eye: objects he considers as individual and unique, whereas the passers-by that we are only see a surrounding décor. These urban elements unify his work and are the foundations of a desire to rehabilitate what is considered by many to be trivial and unworthy of attention. Through his work, Olivier Kosta-Théfaine adds a touch of poetry to the complex battle of wills between Man and the town. Paintings, reliefs, sculptures: the artist’s chosen pieces are like samples taken from the urban environment, once discredited objects that are reconsidered and reinstated. His interest in detail, in all that has been forgotten and abandoned, guides his steps as he wanders, capturing a data bank of virtual images, street scenes, moments frozen, extracts of urban life… Olivier Kosta-Théfaine is a product of the town and as such manages to avoid those clichés usually associated with the suburbs and inner cities. His work transforms our common reference framework and questions this identity that we rather uncomfortably define as “working class”.
En flânant… is made up of details captured by the artist in a subjective translation of what he sees. Each item, each piece taken from the town and placed in the gallery combines to build up a landscape. The way in which his large format canvasses and photographic prints reframe what he has observed bears witness to the importance of the notion of displacement in Olivier Kosta-Théfaine’s artistic approach. It represents the justification of the different and potential signifiers contained in everything and validates the idea that an objet is not just an object, but the sum of what we project onto it. The artist appropriates elements from our urban environment, moves them into the exhibition space and thereby distances them from their original meaning. In so doing, he cancels out those references usually associated with certain images and reveals the ‘alternate’ potential contained within each form, as when the metal bars that comprise a security grill become abstract, geometric or floral motifs. Form takes precedence over function and the artist convokes the world of imagination.
Man’s typical fascination and idealisation of large cities inspires a certain kind of humour in Olivier Kosta-Théfaine’s work which transports these pieces of urban life to another, more romantic world. The bricks sculpted with floral motifs are transformed into stones brought back from some distant and mysterious country; and the planks of wood that have been reworked and burnt, with their horizontal and vertical lines are reminiscent of the aesthetic appeal of a painting by Mondrian. The modus operandi is one of shifts and associations. Reusing and reinterpreting shapes, and the effect of distance created, leads to a sort of temporal and spatial distortion that displaces each object from its initial framework. The starting point is the cancelation of any prior knowledge. When Olivier Kosta-Théfaine presents a series of stones entitled Souvenirs des Indes (Memories of India) in a display cabinet, he is calling upon our familiarity with similar exhibits seen in natural history museums and the assumptions that will guide our analysis based on these references. In fact, these stones come from an inner city housing estate that shares the same name as the exotic country that first springs to mind.
This distance that Olivier Kosta-Théfaine includes in his work is in fact the consequence of his artistic activity. This distance allows humour, or even a kind of self-derision, whose objective is to move away from the prosaic and brutal side of reality towards a gentle, poetic and even harmonious view of the world. The artist’s works could therefore be considered as utopian mirrors providing an upside-down and contrary view of the world. The reframed visions, images, and excerpts of everyday reality become, once placed in the white cube, predictions whose destiny is not to come true one day, but rather to mark the spectator’s imagination. They challenge our ingrained reference models and offer in their place an idealised theoretical model. What the artist is trying to do in his work is to play with potentials, rather than undergo the tyranny of shape and form. His realm knows no bounds for it is timeless and situated in the world of dreams and fantasy. Olivier Kosta-Théfaine’s entire body of work is an invitation to wander: walking, strolling, capturing elements, instilling new references, illusory or not, and inviting the spectator to set off on a long and leisurely journey.
Event Thursday, October 24, 2013 5 PM → 10 PM
FIAC gallery night and presentation of Olivier Kosta-Théfaine’s book, Flore de Compagnie