Walking in a Franz West exhibition is flying through a field of asteroids coming from different galaxies. The size and color of each one of them tell the story of a journey that the viewer must decipher.
Franz West passed through many galaxies, since he acknowledged his debt to Viennese actionism, was inspired by Arte Povera, was considered as one of the pioneer of the relational aesthetic, and has indisputably moved closer to abstract expressionism. Born in 1947, Franz West has created his sculptures from pieces of papier-mâché, an affordable and easy-to-use material, often collected in the streets. Intended to be manipulated by the spectator, his first sculptures were always white. For him, this absence of color means that the user only is able to breathe life into the works.
When he decided to paint, the sculptures acquired a new dimension. Thrown with energy, paint put these objects into motion. To seize this movement, viewers are invited to turn around these rocks made of papier-mâché and are compelled to go into orbit. Immersed amid Thu Van Tran's mural paintings, Franz West objects are rolling within a sky composed by rubber and pigments. Through the prism of this blazing light, sculptures and men appear to float in weightlessness. This sensation of freedom encloses however a history of oppression which takes us back to the roughest reality.
The frescoes of this French artist from Vietnamese origin are pure moments of stolen beauty. But they also carry the memory of the colonial violence. Smeared on the wall, the rubber is extracted from Hevea tree by successive bleedings, imposed by the expert hands of farm workers themselves submitted to the plantation director?s yoke.
Franz West would have not denied this story of violence, as he developed his work on the backdrop of the destruction of Europe. His sculptures are equally the rubbles of a vanished civilization, which may not have survived to the world war. JS