Exhibition from Friday 11 March 2022 to Saturday 9 April 2022
Sacred fire and demon hunting at Paul Paillet
Fantasy: large aluminum letters on the wall. The tone is given, it is a question of leaving for somewhere else, of leaving the garments of reality in the checkroom. Under rather sober outward appearance, pastel colors, a certain aesthetic purity, Paul Paillet takes us to parallel worlds, to the borders of the dreamlike and the tale, where we hunt dragons, chimeras and vampires.
To do this, the artist uses artisanal techniques – casting, enamel, cutting, drawing – and composes a universe full of symbols and references. These symbols appear on the surface of the works like ghosts, elusive in their semi-disappearance. In collage and drawing, the figure of Spike, the ambiguous vampire from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, emerges. This popular television series of the 1990s channels various adolescent concerns while proposing a relationship to the fantastic that had not been exploited until then. On a more intimate level, it marks for the artist a moment in his life still lulled by the candid sweetness of a late childhood, before the arrival of the dark years marked by addiction, a theme that transpires in different places in the exhibition.
At the ends of the Fantasy letters, spoon-like shapes recall the instruments of addiction, while the melted aluminum of a tablet, like the notebook accompanying the exhibition, ginned up into sheets and printed in silver, recalls the material necessary for heroin use. Color, materials, motifs: in a subtle way, almost imperceptible for those who are not familiar with it, it is the lexical field of drug use that connotes the works presented.
The vampire is one of the occurrences. Having become a leitmotif in the artist’s work, this polysemous figure runs through the entire exhibition. The vampire is also the drug user, often considered as an undead, the one who wanders between two worlds. He frees himself from reality to inhabit a psychic beyond that is as desired as it is overwhelming. This permanent oscillation between one reality and another is at the heart of the exhibition. Each work seems to be situated in this fragile balance of the in-between world, at the foot of the illusion and already in its disappearance.
Fantasy is also a term taken from Cédric Durand’s book, Technofeodalism: Critique of the Digital Economy, which notes a form of societal and cultural regression paradoxically brought about by the rise of digital technologies, even though they had promised us progress and general fulfillment. The book elaborates a detailed critique of the promises of post-capitalism, this myth of prosperity that has only failed since the 1960s. Despite the omnipresence of algorithms in the 2010-2020s, capitalism is precipitating a decline in societal progress. Growth in inequality, productivity that does not take off, instability of systems: the new economy has not arrived and the mirages of Silicon Valley are now unmasked. What interests Paillet here is this powerful relationship of dependence that Durand brings to light, the dependence on the capitalist system and the fascination of the digital, a fascination that resembles a magical type of belief, rooted in mythological thinking.
In Paul Paillet’s work, the motif of the lava lamp, or lava lamp, which he translates into enamelled and colored copper flat surfaces, embodies this impossible duality between the advent of psychedelism and the production of mass consumer goods. Invented in the 1960s, this oblong glass lamp contains a translucent liquid in which multicolored molten wax bubbles dance. A design object reminiscent of the aesthetics born of the use of hallucinogenic drugs and a symbol of a hippie culture enamored of freedom and transgression, this lamp is nevertheless mass-produced to gradually become an object of great banality, whose production and distribution follows the main principles of neo-liberalism.
By assembling these different objects in the space of the Crosnier room, Paul Paillet creates an immense metaphorical bubble where he intertwines his intimate story with universal themes and political thoughts. His aesthetic language of Arts & Crafts obedience, the sinuosity of the motifs, the insertion of decorative elements, colored stones with organic curves, the personal facture made of anfractuosities and irregularities, all this is consciously placed in opposition to the serial and cold language of a mass production. In fine, under these seductive and hedonistic appearances, the artist speaks to us about pleasure and its downfall, about the commodification and recuperation of everything, playing on the fragile ambiguity that separates one notion from the other.