Toi Seulement; a solo show of Vincent Michéa20/03/2020 - 08/05/2020
Dedicated to his practice of photomontage, Toi seulement is a visual wander through the plastic research that has marked Vincent Michéa‘s career over the last decade. Known for his pop and colourful paintings that borrow their themes from a popular film and music culture as well as from the daily life of West African cities, Vincent Michéa has also developed a serial approach that is more confidential but just as ambitious which this exhibition intends to make people discover and rediscover. The chronological display takes us from Paris to Dakar via Abidjan, three cities that occupy an important place in the artist’s life, three geographies but also three cultural influences that respond and echo each other from work to work.
At the beginning is a collection of sensitive materials, images, textures, shapes, colours that have for Vincent Michéa the dual power of symbols. First, sensitive materials that appeal to the senses: the crumpled, matte gold of Kubor’s wrapping paper that squeaks in your ear when you open it; the immaculate, shiny surface of photographic prints that invites you to grasp it with your hand full at the risk of leaving a few fingerprints; the infinitely varied pointillist weave that twists the viewer’s eye. From painting to photomontage, Vincent Michéa has always worked hand-to-hand with materials, in an intimate relationship with the plastic objects that the artist always chooses for what they evoke for him. Thus, these sensitive materials also appeal to memory. The photos that are at the origin of the works are as much those taken by Vincent Michéa as those he borrows from others, but all have in common the fact that they form a pantheon of memories that can be accessed between the lines.
The artist’s passions thus constitute his primary sources of inspiration: in the early 1980s, a decisive encounter with Senegal and its capital, which we find in the series 100% Dakar (2014); his affection for a black art scene from the late 1970s to the committed creativity he evokes in Or série (2015); and Fatou, the artist’s wife and muse, the main character in the series Fatou Pompidou (2017) and Fatou New Look – Pompidou Remix (2020).
Working within these meaningful materials, Vincent Michéa becomes an image sculptor. “I cut, I slice, I carve, I incise, I shear, I lacerate, I amputate, I decapitate, I dismember…” he explains about his first photomontages. In his works, the artist maintains a multiple-voice dialogue with the history of the genre and its emblematic figures that have marked the history of art from the second half of the 20th century to the present day.
From the extravagant derision of Dada Raoul Hausman, John Hartfield and Hanna Höche, Vincent Michéa keeps and perpetuates, in a joyfully irreverent spirit, a posture of rejection of aesthetic conventions. Thus, cultures mix, materials mix, the low and the noble are reversed, evoking in a more contemporary way the works of Romare Bearden or Mickalene Thomas, for example. The graphic construction of the images is in line with the work of a Roman Cieslewicz and often remains subversive in its connection to the code of representation. From these aesthetic interactions is born a visual poetry that is characterized by its forms and which translates Michea’s committed vision of the world.
Untangling the knots of the image to untangle the detours of history; recomposing the image to recompose memory, keeping the significant elements to signify other imaginaries, such is the aesthetic project that has guided the artist in his relationship to photomontage for the past ten years. Vincent Michéa thus transposes spaces and plural temporalities onto a contemporary territory and invites us to immerse ourselves in the multiple dimensions of his creations. From then on, for those who want to follow the main graphic lines of the artist’s narrative, stand the proponents of a personal story whose scope remains undeniably universal.
A table, scissors, glue and pictures in profusion, that’s the photo editor’s arsenal. Using photomontage as an artistic practice to design images allows you to “back-pedal”. It also means being aware that photography is an art and doubting oneself to produce it through this technique alone. Photomontage suddenly appears as an evidence, as an act of utmost significance, perfectly contemporary, adapted to the current context of an incessant flow of all forms of visual and plastic information. Photomontage requires a certain mastery of memory. Far from being an iconoclastic activity, it is rather an “animism of images”, a “polytheism of vision”. Conceiving and making photomontages manually with simple and common tools is one of the most meaningful acts for a creator who would like to realize sensitive images loaded with extreme tensions.