From the ancient trompe-l’oeil to the trap paintings of Daniel Spoerri, artists have always been determined to give the illusion of reality or to reproduce pieces of the real with meticulousness. After all the realisms – antique and neo-antique, naturalist, verist… – there was, throughout the twentieth century (the century of abstraction), the New Objectivity (in the 1920s), the New Realism (in the 1950s), the New Figuration or Narrative Figuration (in the 60s-70s)… After the great tabula rasa of minimalism and conceptual art, it would seem that we have been witnessing for some years the birth of a “New New Realism,” concomitantly with the rebirth of painting and drawing: in the fairs and the galleries, one does no longer count the artists painting or drawing according to photo, even, on photographic projection (on canvas), even on photographic impression. If the most virtuoso – the “real” artists? – still paint from models (whether it is a tree, a nude, a landscape or a still life), they are rare, and it is not easy to distinguish them from the lot of the neo-copists… And it would not occur to us to throw the stone at them when we know that Vermeer himself, and many other great masters, used similar optical devices, such as the camera obscura, to “transfer” reality.
Many of these new paintings seduce and have an effect (the eye is attracted by them for their similarity with the banality of our daily life, often confused with modernity; we like them for their truth, their simplicity and their apparent instantaneousness), but how many go beyond the simple reproduction and rise to the rank of work, that is to say of composition? Although using the image projected by the camera obscura, the old masters made a selection, reframed, and blurred the background in order to break the fixity of the image and to produce, by the profusion and the minuteness of the details deployed in the foreground, a foreground effect.
Far from sticking to the reproduction of a photographic image or a piece of reality, it is indeed this work of recomposition that Tim Eitel (born in 1971 in Germany) carries out, using the double faculty of realism and abstraction of painting to “create analogies with reality, by constructing fictitious parallel worlds” from encounters and lived situations, from spaces seen or surveyed and from photographed objects. Far from any narration, the fixity of the characters frozen in their poses, the suspicious softness of the light and the colors annihilating the space and the temporality, and some other anomalies, say a lot about the interiority of these melancholic figurants.
It is also in temporality and fictional spaces that Léopold Rabus (born in 1977 in Switzerland) wants to immerse us in his paintings filled with animals, plants, objects, and details, often trivial and repulsive (slugs, organic residues…), painted with the precision of an entomologist. Attached to the trashy hyperrealism of Under Realism – a figurative movement born in 2012 in favor of a rejection of the All-conceptual, advocating the quest for “visual impact” – Rabus, under a polished finish, chisels the line to provoke strong emotions, even if it means outraging realism to the point of the grotesque, while taking a malicious pleasure in confusing the two.
It is also through an antinomy – between the quasi-photographic realism of the drawing and the theatricality of the framing – that Guillaume Bresson (a 2007 graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Paris), distances reality in his paintings, which look like closed-door scenes depicting contemporary urban and social violence. In his portraits of friends, François Bard, for his part, thwarts hyperrealism by making paint drips and other splashes appear on the surface of the canvas, betraying the art of pretense…
Grid, grass, bark, pieces of sky, sea or stony ground… it is by the tight framing, often accentuated by the monumentality of the format, that Youcef Korichi (born in 1974 in Algeria), in his virtuoso trompe-l’oeil, operates this distancing with the real, between the image and its double. Prodigious simulacra resulting from long and meticulous work, his paintings with a photorealistic aspect catch our glance, trap us, before arousing suspicions and forcing us to vacillate between the vertigo of the infinite spaces (painted all over) and the disproportion.
Dhewadi Hadjab (born in 1992 in Algeria and just graduated from the Beaux-Arts in Paris) pushes even further this distortion of reality by breaking the hyperrealism of his photographic captures through the intrusion of strangeness and the proliferation of the decorative. In his interior scenes, his carpets and large sections of torn wallpaper constitute real “pieces of paint,” while the incongruity of the staging of bodies overturned, collapsed, bent, arched – among other unnatural postures – evokes more the convulsive choreography of urban dances than living room poses.
Using the photographic medium to “steal” a narrative framework and a few snapshots of reality, Hadjab leads us to the margins of reality and brings out a fictional reality. In the right line of the “magic realism” (defined in 1925, by the German art critic Franz Roh, as the irruption of the irrational in realistic environments) a new realism, that we could qualify as “disruptive realism,” seems to be well and truly born.
Tim Eitel is represented by Jousse entreprise in Paris, Eigen+Art in Berlin and Leipzig and Pace Gallery (London) – www.jousseentreprise.com
Léopold Rabus and Youcef Korichi, by the Suzanne Tarasiève gallery – www.suzannetarasiève.com
Guillaume Bresson, by the Obadia gallery – www.galerieobadia.com
Dhewadi Hadjab, by the Kamel Mennour gallery – www.kamelmennour.com
François Bard and Anaïs Prouzet, by Olivier Waltman Gallery – www.galerieolivierwaltman
Nina Mae Fowler by Suzanne Tarasiève Gallery in Paris and Cob Gallery in London – www.cobgallery
Exhibition Contre temps – Anaïs Prouzet in duet with Yann Bagot until July 9 at the Olivier Waltman Gallery 74, rue Mazarine, Paris VI
Solo Show Guillaume Bresson presented by Galerie Obadia at the Armory Show from September 9 to 11 in New York
Solo Show Arnaud Adami at the Espace Richaud in Versailles – 78, bd de la Reine, 78000 Versailles – from September 30 to November 20.