Romain Bernini & Youcef Korichi



Romain Bernini & Youcef Korichi

Past: September 9 → October 29, 2011

For their first solo shows at Galerie Suzanne Tarasiève, Romain Bernini and Youcef Korichi are each exhibiting a set of new paintings in which the human figure appears to be exiled, lost in an almost psychedelic maelstrom.

At first look, the paintings made, respectively, by Romain Bernini and Youcef Korichi seem to come out of two very distinct pictorial traditions. Still, these two artists do share an interest in representing the isolated human figure.

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Romain Bernini, Lonely Riot, 2010 Huile sur toile — 250 × 200 cm Courtesy Suzanne Tarasieve

Berniniʼs characters are characterised by their ambiguity: the faces are often masked. Bodies float on the water. We cannot say for certain that they are dead, but we inevitably think of those fragile vessels boarded by emigrants desperate to reach the Sicilian coast, and that sink in the attempt. Elsewhere, a man is lobbing a projectile in our direction, while around him we see the shocking pink of smoke bombs used to disperse demonstrators. A man displays a snake like the snake charmers of India or North Africa: the animalʼs body and the manʼs arm together form a strange kind of gibbet. In another work there is a group of several people with their backs turned, looking as if they are praying to the setting sun, perhaps performing the secret ceremony of some millenarianist sect. Finally, a cabaret dancer turns towards us in her splendid swan-feather costume. This, however, is starting to come apart, liquefied by the drips of paint. All these images, in fact, are undermined by their representation in paint, which gives them the feel of fragments of memories, or of dreams. The liquid, watercolour grounds of these paintings, with their unreal colours, evoke the vapours from which Pythia in Delphi summoned up her visions. These images seem to be telling us that we live in murky times, that we interpret their events as best we can but are no longer able to grasp reality objectively.

In the paintings of Youcef Korichi the relation between figure and ground is less oneiric, even if some of his images, like the one of the body cut in two, could be considered nightmarish. The forms here are more tangible. The representation is heterogeneous: hyper-realistic areas cohabit with other, more painterly ones, and the contrasts between the two engender spatial ruptures, too. A man leans against a red and gold throne that brings to mind the Diego Velázquez portrait of Pope Innocent X and, by extension, the reinterpretations of that work by Francis Bacon. The background is quickly sketched in.

The light falls on hands that are joined in a kind of prayer, but their twisting movement betrays tension and anxiety. In another picture, a few blankets hang simply from trestles standing on gravel painted in a hyper-realistic manner. In these new works, indeed, the ground (or floor) seems to be a metaphor for the inner life of the models. In a number of them, the artist shows his figures on geometrical floors that bring to mind both the Italian Renaissance (Brunelleschi, Perugino) and Op Art (Vasarely, Bridget Riley). The perspective induced by the two-colour geometry acts as a reassuring counterpoint to the freer zones of the painting. It forms a rational base, yet we sense that its equilibrium is fragile. Indeed, it is easy to imagine these floors suddenly opening up and swallowing these doubt-stricken figures who are trying to withstand the violence of the times by drawing on their own, salvific inner strength.

Suzanne Tarasieve, Loft 19 Gallery
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75019 Paris

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The artists

  • Youcef Korichi
  • Romain Bernini