Philippe Pasqua | Re:Life
Curator: Leore Yahel Ohad

Through his extraordinary journey, Philippe Pasqua has emerged as one of the major artists of his generation. From the beginning, his art made a great impression and challenged the certainties of those who rubbed shoulders with him, like the great critic Pierre Restany. With Pasqua, the taste for the monumental goes hand in hand with an attraction towards what is most vulnerable – bodies and faces, sometimes with stigmatizing differences that the artist adopts and magnifies through his painting: for example, portraits of transsexuals, people with Down’s syndrome, or people who are blind.

Pasqua’s painting strikes the visitor like an almost physical impact, but also like a vision that is at the same time explosive and incisive. The monumental format of the artist’s canvases is dictated by the breadth of his gestures – a dance where brutality and finesse, trance and lucidity alternate. He begins by painting the sort of fetishes or enigmatic silhouettes that evoke voodoo. Then, gradually, his gaze turns to those who are standing around him. He interferes with the twists and turns of people’s intimate depths, going right into the innermost areas of their being.

As a counterpoint to this physical work, there are his grand drawings. The face or the body becomes a halo, mist, smoke, stroke, vibration. It is no longer so much a case of flesh as of sketched contours and delicate textures. There are also the “palimpsests” – works on paper mixing silk-painting techniques, printing and painting, where the painter goes back over his own work and adds patches of color to them or redesigns them.

Another major aspect of Pasqua’s work lies in his series of “vanities”. The technique employed evokes that of the silver and goldsmiths of the Middle Ages working on a reliquary, and also some kind of shamanic ritual. He covers human skulls with gold or silver leaf. Sometimes, he covers them in skins and then tattoos them. Then there is the delicate stage where the skulls are decorated with preserved butterflies, with their outstretched wings and their iridescent colors: the light is refracted on their colored, powdery surface, or falls into the deep shadows in the eye sockets. He also sometimes pours liquid paint in a thick stream that covers everything and submerges it. For several years, the artist has also been going to Carrara frequently, where he sculpts skulls weighing several tons that are like massive stars radiating telluric energy. At the foundry, he produces large bronze casts that are then plunged into baths of chrome. The skulls that emerge — human or animal, like that of the hippopotamus — become like mirrors: sometimes you only see their blinding reflection, sometimes they disappear,so that what they are reflecting emerges. And on approaching them, inevitably it is our own image that we see height.

“When Philippe Pasqua’s work is examined retrospectively, one cannot help being struck by the inescapable and coherent nature of the path that brought him to his most recent works”, explains the art critic, David Rosenberg. MEA CULPA resonates both as a bitter vow and a profession of faith. It is an expression of the passion felt by the artist for the human figure and for the substance of paint, the lines of drawings, and the density of sculpture. Beyond the exhibition of images, MEA CULPA is also an interrogation, a visceral question about the means and challenges involved in representing the face and body today. Handicaps, differences, the obscene or the sacred – this is the fruit of a struggle, a tension between what can be shown and ‘tolerated’ and what is socially repressed or concealed. Portraits of the blind, violent bodies, vanities: a recent set of nearly fifty paintings, works on paper, and monumental sculptures will be shown on this occasion.

Philippe Pasqua was born in 1965, in Grasse. He lives and works in Paris. Pasqua devoted himself to painting and sculpture in the 1990s. At present he is reputed one of the most significant artists of his generation. Many famed authors wrote about him, including Pierre Restany and Michel Valdberg. Philippe Pasqua’s artworks are in many celebrated collections of France and other countries. They are often exhibited in the state and private centers of contemporary art. Pasqua’s two colossal sculptures have been recently displayed in the avenue des Champs-Élysées, in Paris, and have partaken in the 53rd Modern Art Biennale of Venice. In the beginning of 2010, a retrospective show of the artist was of great success in the Ahlers Foundation (Hanover, Germany). The “Painting and Drawing” exhibition occurred in the Moscow Museum of Modern Art as part of the France-Russia Year (June 2010). It displayed to the viewers token canvases, produced by the artist during the recent 10 years.