Philippe Mayaux — Dessins aminés


Drawing, painting

Philippe Mayaux
Dessins aminés

Past: May 13 → July 2, 2022

If Mayaux’s choice of figurative painting at the beginning of the 1980s might have seemed “retrograde” in the eyes of his art school teachers in Nice, his recent interest in “native” forms and his taste for randomness and chance make him suspect of a regression that is even more serious, even more fraught with consequences.

On several occasions, he has already flirted with the “spirit of the cave.” He has been fascinated by “grotesques,” by the archaeological vertigo of an associative delirium. It was by a most “objective” coincidence that the discovery of antique grotesques was the result of archaeological research carried out in Nero’s Domus Aureau, buried several metres underground. What was thought to be a cave gave its name to this Roman décor.

Surrendering his images to the caprices of a fickle ink, Mayaux ventures into older caves. The regression linked to this exploration was denounced in its time by a Marxism that summed up the faith of an era in the progress promised by science and technology. Referring to the stage of a culture under the sway of nature, Friedrich Engels evoked a “relic […] of what we would today call stupidity. At the base of these various false representations of nature, of the constitution of man himself, are spirits, magical powers, etc.” (1) Mayaux has always espoused this “stupidity.” Faced with the futuristic insouciance of modern heroes, Sigmund Freud had portrayed a more complex humanity. “But have we a right to assume the survival of something that was originally there, alongside of what was later derived from it? […] and yet we find the simple forms still in existence to-day. The race of the great saurians is extinct and has made way for the mammals; but a true representative of it, the crocodile, still lives among us.” (2)

Mayaux is one of these “great saurians”. The irony with which he treats science, the laws of evolution, the rules of a perspective that signals a mastery of the world is part of a project that could not be more coherent, a project that, beyond the anecdote of a fantastic iconography, clarifies his links with Surrealism.

Didier Ottinger

1 Quoted in Jean-Claude Lebensztejn, L’Art de la tache, Paris: Éditions du Limon, 1990, p. 106.
fn2. Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and Its Discontents, tr. James Strachey, Norton, 2010, p. 16.

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