centre d’art contemporain de Quimper, France.
3 July-3 October 2004.
This exhibition brings together
a brief survey of Figarella’s work since1995 alongside a series of six
works made during this year. The survey is effective in staking out
Figarella’s preoccupations; an acute sense of pictorial rhetoric
in relation to painting, the mechanism of the tableau and
abstraction. Categorically the earlier works are
‘assemblages’ comprised of objects and ‘painterly’ events that are
invariably sandwiched between plywood and Perspex. Objects such
as plumber’s plungers and boxing gloves make allusions to the
‘push-pull’ dynamics of painting. The plungers and gloves stick
to the surface of the Perspex and are usually mediated by a painterly
trace of the contact between the object and the surface. The
force, violence and immediacy implied by such events, within a field of
representation, are accentuated by the bowing of the Perspex as it
strains to contain the objects that comprise each tableau. These
are not immaculate vitrines monumentalising pristine, frozen objects.
The immediate sense here is rather one of parody and satire, which
perhaps sometimes belies the more serious implications of the work.
Perhaps the most recent cycle of his work has addressed this question
more specifically. The earlier slapstick has been replaced by a
more restrained cut and paste and the relief like space of the
assemblages has been exchanged for a ‘thinner’ pictorial surface.
These large works are essentially diptychs. Figarella first
creates a puddle of paint in each section of the diptych. He then
photographs the reflections made in these reservoirs in which are
reflected different events and objects; a wheel chair, some
numbers most probably pertaining to a date and, most unexpectedly, a
person reading a newspaper that is on fire. The photographs are
taken at an acute angle to the picture plane thus generating an
anamorphic image. The photo print outs are then cut out and glued onto
the painting’s surface and upon the marks from which the photo images
were derived. The complexity of the resulting works brings to
mind a diverse set of references. More obviously cubist collage
but more interestingly and surprisingly Las Meninas in terms of the
compression into one pictorial space of the event of the painting’s
making, the reflection of the ceiling and mezzanine of the studio as
well as the objects and events reflected in the drying paint. As
in Velasquez’s painting, the spectator is obliged to question where
they are in relation to the works, spatially, temporally and
historically. The interesting aspect of these latest works is
that Figarella has succeeded in radicalising them as tableaux, giving
them an internal logic and their own context. This contrasts
interestingly with the formal development of works within an expanded
field of painting that is more ubiquitous in France today.