6 october - 5 november 2022
Associating painting with the object of sculpture is not an easy task. It is necessary to establish a relationship of spatial trust, colourist connivance and formal resonances so that the flattened universe of the painter - Maxime Testu - is married to the small masses shaped by the hand of the artist and designer - Hélène Labadie. But these two understand each other so well that the intelligence of signs becomes a secret conversation. Their creative narratives are akin to true "elective affinities", of the kind that have the ease of ageless intuitions, to be classified as obvious. This last term, let us emphasize, can designate those moments of life so penetrating that they have the magical power to make two artistic or amorous destinies meet.
Hélène and Maxime create, write, dream and share: the same passion for Nick Cave and melancholic pop, for Franz West and his sculptural exuberance, for Thomas Schütte and his physiological metamorphoses or for cartoons and their visual adventures.
In Maxime Testu's work, it is in his painting that these discreet references infuse, although they are supplanted by an unconditional love for expressionism. The painter does not hesitate to pay tribute to Kirchner and the Blaue Reiter group in compositions similar to wise musical rearrangements. This is coupled with a genial decomplexion in style. The colours burst out, full of matter and a tawny tenebrism. His unctuous touch leads him along the paths of the pictorial history of a part of the avant-garde, already steeped, like him, in comic books and solar narration. But where the young artist stands out is in the irreducible presence of reverie and fiction in the depths of seemingly naive motifs and in his astonishing ease of sliding towards a tender and delightful grotesque. We can see his admiration for Philip Guston, of whom he says: "I always come back to him, he is a milestone that constantly allows me to question myself". Can we see in this an authorization to deconstruct? Because Maxime Testu, beyond his obsessive inspirations, also invents, which makes his creation all the more interesting. Far from being content with the painted canvas, he experiments with metal plates as a support for his oils, a material whose shine and rough character he likes and which allows him to create what could be called "object paintings". He likes to assemble these plates with rivets that are left visible and whose tiny heads are integrated into the composition of the works. Echoing, in a machinist dimension, the black traces of the ink that seem to scratch the metal and operate like underlying, indelible torments. The artist skilfully mixes the technique of engraved monotype with painting, the latter stretching into deformed portraits or heaped vases with generous and maliciously anthropomorphic stature.
This way of fantasising her medium and fictionalising images - leaving a crucial role to the support - is found in Hélène Labadie. Attentive to the domestic object, which remains the essential framework of her studio work, she tends however to transcend its function towards the object-sculpture, endowed with a soul and an inexhaustible source of imagination. Her works, in this case lamps, lampshades, stools and ashtrays - in which she works the ceramics to obtain a more or less polished, more or less "crafty" aspect - show a similar interest in pop-culture and formal delicacies conducive to constructing a self-fictionalized universe, as Jacques Monory did so well. In his microarchitectures and drawings on paper, the codes of the Hollywood thriller and the design of Gaetano Pesce are happily mixed. The light from his lampshades reveals, for example, the silhouette of sets inspired by scenes from films or novels, such as the lamp "Un mort à Paris", a reference to the novel Mémoire courte by Nicolas Rey. The artist wants us to perceive his personal travel diary, that of his daily inspirations.
It is then clear that Maxime's universe joins Hélène's in a common intuition: to construct imaginary visual canvases that are also threads to be pulled to detect the story of a more confidential history of art, seen through the prism of artists' friendships and the intimate references shared within a group of awakened alter egos. Their works, set up in resonance, like micro-cinema sets, can also evoke the aspirations of the Bauhaus, when the boundaries between the arts were no longer valid.
Here, in this exhibition, Maxime's expressionist inspiration and Hélène's nostalgic penchant together take the path of a new poetic, clinging to icons on the beat of a blues that is not without humorous digressions. A "New Melancholy" - an expression that could well be used to describe a new artistic movement yet to be invented.