Past: January 11 → February 22, 2014
Since his first Supports/Surfaces works, Patrick Saytour has been basing his work on a deconstructivist approach to painting, to its codes, to its modes of production and promotion. With jubilant irony, his work attacks the essentialist pretensions of the great metaphysics of art and the mythology of male genius inherited from modernism; they rest entirely on a rhetoric of ornaments and surfaces. This is expressed through the development of “replacement” painting-sign techniques, drawing his gestures and materials from the periphery of working-class homes, handicrafts, and the vocabulary of theatre. Reduced to their parergons — to accessories, frames, colours, materials, patterns and walls — the painting-signs dislocate and pervert themselves, raising fundamental questions about the “objective”, contingent status of a work of art.
Since his first works in the 1960s, decorative patterns and flowered fabric cuttings have regularly played on painting-equivalency, such as in Untitled (1967); the artist operates on the surface of this “clothing” through repeated burns on each motif in a game of obliteration and discovery, of repetition and alternation, in which accidents and systems are made to coincide. The ligature and burning processes that Saytour explored during the Supports/Surfaces period was developed on small “archaic” object-paintings created by casting oxidised terracotta, tied inside a jersey that would be burned during cooking. Arranged by size and shape on a table, these pictorial ersatzes explore the notion of models and multiples.
Summoned as pictorial anti-models, the decorative tapestries, synthetic furs, flags, cutouts of Balatum imitation-marble, lights, cheap paintings and children’s costumes openly play the illusion game. Chosen and assembled according to formal, objective properties like colour, motif, material or size, these objects are then subjected to a series of marking operations, such as cutting, folding, framing, stitching, patching, or covering. The artist sometimes applies paint, as he did on Gloires: partially shaven and framed fur cutouts, on which motifs have been painted “in the manner of” (great abstract painting).
This pictorial process used in the 1980s has recently been “reprised” in a set of Studies whose “barbaric” style could have drawn its inspiration from cave paintings, such as in the neo-primitive vocabulary of the Blaue Reiter paintings. In Enlèvement, a piece exhibited for the first time, the composition obeys the law of syncretism and the art of maximal disparity. This impossible grafting of fragments and scraps of tapestries, fabrics and collected objects from various periods, achieves its unity through the always visible gestural inscription of folds, stitching and covering. An interweaving of actions, temporalities and contingent quotations that prevent every shape and gesture from presenting itself as a source. As Supports/Surfaces celebrates its twentieth anniversary, Saytour plays on self-parody by creating a series of “tribute” pieces, such as the Noubas, made out of folded children’s costumes, placed in American boxes partially obstructed by pieces of felt, then triumphantly hung on the wall. Mocking art history’s solemn sacramental process, reduced here to a box-filling operation, the artist continues the founding gesture of his work from a perspective of carnivalesque dialogism: always folding, cutting, and covering, processes he reduces to “children’s games”, as they are inexhaustibly repeated and quoted in a production that proliferates re-stagings.
Since the early 1990s, Saytour has been applying the principle of reprising, restarting, changing, copying, “correcting” old pieces, some which are subjected to the device of being developed into new series of works. This game of folding and repetition, applied at the scale of a work, a career, is intended to challenge every progressive principle, every linearity that is assumed to obey the rule of progress and novelty. For Saytour, folding time, pulling the edges into the centre, drawing the edge of our current time over the “untimely” past and vice versa, means giving his work the status of something that didn’t happen; it means imposing a process of becoming on something that has already happened and yet has never stopped coming back. This is especially the case for those paintings on fur that imitate drawings by the artist’s daughter, in a hypothetical, stammering attempt to recapture childhood, one that reverses the filiation game and upsets the hierarchy between copy and model.
Saytour applies this endless restarting process to the Celebrations of the 1960s. Their recent reinterpretations are a return to working with clothing, such as those compositions of jeans ornamented with painted crosses, then “classified” and hung on hooks screwed to the wall. It is still that same process of marking and deconstructing frameworks, paintings and models by means of systems that always contain their own collapse, only to end up presenting themselves as poetically “plausible”. Despite this methodical and heretical effort to vitiate work-signs, Patrick Saytour’s work releases a load of affects that are immediate, sensual and “close to the body”, even when they never stop proclaiming their lack of body. In its poetry of folds and surfaces it says that the gesture of “reprising” is not only the artist’s fatum, but also the manifestation of an imponderable point of heterogeneity.