Manuel Ocampo: Notes from the Ste Anne Asylum

12 April - 31 May 2014 Cloître Saint-Merri I & II - Paris

Galerie Nathalie Obadia is pleased to present Notes from the St Anne Asylum as its fifth collaboration with the artist Manuel Ocampo.

Notes from the St Anne Asylum presents a selection of paintings executed during the Filipino artist’s stay in Montpellier in 2013. Invited by the Carré Sainte-Anne to occupy this deconsecrated Neo-Gothic Catholic church, Manuel Ocampo organized an exhibition of 35 works, of which 23 paintings date from 2009, together with 12 works inspired by the place itself that he produced during the three months prior to the exhibition.

Manuel Ocampo’s paintings have the remarkable ability to communicate the artist’s subtle observation through a profusion of semiotic signs abounding in meanings and references. On a single plane, he harmonizes signs from the Judaeo-Christian religion, vernacular imagery, the conquistadors and the iconography of Spanish Catholicism, the underground culture of Manila, trash comics, Robert Crumb’s cartoon imagery and science fiction, art naïf and the violence of Mexican ex votos plaques, the glorification of the burlesque and aesthetic of gore films, heavy metal culture, the craftsmanship of South American retablos, a satirical view of history and morality allied with political cynicism, Neo-Dadaism after Duchamp and the surrealism of Picabia, and above all the popular ideal of the figure of the rebellious artist who denounces the hypocrisy of the attainments of our contemptible civilizations.

Since the 1980s, Ocampo has developed a personal pictorial vocabulary whose motifs have never ceased to demonstrate virulency and provocativeness: teeth (molars), crosses, embryonic forms (foetuses), skulls, phallic and scatological signs, birds, internal organs and sausages, excrement, ampoules, cartoon characters, crucifixes and chalices, swords, eyes and bones, vultures and food scraps. Prolific and unusually generous, he employs a sombre palette and powerful gestural practice inspired by the painting of Francis Bacon and the brutality of Paul McCarthy’s sculpture.

A creator of subversive, degenerate images, Ocampo takes pleasure in raising the chaos in his compositions to an extreme degree. By placing religious fetishes and symbols of our values alongside icons of popular culture, Manuel Ocampo questions our attachment to these values transposed to our unstable and uncertain consumer society.

The title of the exhibition, Notes from the St Anne Asylum, directly referring to the Carré Sainte Anne in Montpellier - the place the paintings were created for, also references a place where one is protected from persecution, pursuit and justice, in short a sanctuary: “It’s generally thought that artists place a distance between themselves and the conventions of daily life, and that they cultivate a certain craziness, whether real or imaginary, which is how they are expected to behave – a cliché that is broadly exploited by artists”, he comments.

Despite the excessive nature of Manuel Ocampo’s work, it offers viewers a degree of conviction: it is precisely because he so rudely displays his anarchic images before us that we may take some comfort that established values might be called into question, and we can hope that it is through decadence and destruction that resurrection will be achieved.