Modern Animals Gallery

Paris Sud by Brieuc Bouwens

Paris Sud is Brieuc Bouwens' first solo show. The exhibition runs from 21 October until 7 December 2023.

In a letter from Paris dated July 27, 1925, the novelist Giuseppe Tommasi Lampedusa enumerates what he has "still seen" in the city. This experience is a familiar one: it is possible to enumerate almost endlessly what one has "still seen" in Rome, Oslo or New York. What is missing from these lists is usually what we have certainly perceived, but not stored in memory. Taken in by habit, we usually only see what we already intended to see. The French artist Brieuc Bouwens is interested in this other, this unperceived city. He grew up in Paris and studied at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts. Paris, as he puts it, is his city. And Bouwens takes it up with his art. On excursions, he collects things, images and scenes that he uses as the basis for his practice. He is removed from the big city, an artist, in a certain sense an outsider, who guesses the functional formula of urban society, its signs - and betrays them in his works. For Bouwens, street and studio interpenetrate. The big city becomes the matrix of his art. A city, after all, is not only a place for people to live and work, but itself a kind of "psychic being" [Sigmund Freud, "The Discomfort in Culture"] that ceaselessly ejects all sorts of things. One could locate Bouwens' work somewhere between pop art (when he places a carved bag painted with the logo of the U.S. chicken slaughter company KFC at altars of French high culture) and conceptual art. What Bouwens does, however, is neither pop nor conceptual. There is an art to simply living in Paris, and that is what Bouwens does. He takes what the city has to offer as his material with which to create his works. Many works are paintings - but paintings without painting. When, for example, he tears scraps of posters from the walls, superimposes them and thus creates a sculptural image of astonishing beauty (All Falls Down, 2023) Or – a joint work with the artist Juliette Barthe – uses insignia of consumer culture as components of an image that confidently bundles what is known as the universal city feeling (StarLight, 2023). Sometimes unbearable is life in the late capitalist big city – but also full of aesthetic poetry. The beautiful is always also the beginning of the terrible, as Rilke, himself a Paris walker, put it in one of his elegies. Brieuc Bouwens is a contemporary dadaist who first takes everything he gathers at face value, even the obviously banal and inauthentic. Then, in his practice, he reassembles what he has picked up in an aesthetically convincing way, giving it a kind of dignity. For Paris is, in a sense, the pornographic version of an over-romanticized, polished city. Paris loves nothing more than to play Paris. Brieuc Bouwens interrupts this self-dramatization with his works.

October 2023