james pinson/Dominque Figarella

Courtesy le Quartier –  Quimper
 © photo Dieter KIK



Le Quartier
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  The earlier slapstick has been replaced by a more restrained cut and paste and the relief like space of the assemblages has been exchanged for a ‘thinner’ pictorial surface.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.


James Pinson