Galerie Nathalie Obadia is pleased to present Guillaume Bresson's new series of eight paintings. This is his fifth exhibition at the gallery since 2010.
Considered one of the leading figures in figurative painting, the artist who now lives in New York, is known for his resolutely contemporary scenes, reinvesting a mode of representation derived from classical painting, which had been cast aside until the beginning of the 21st century. The artist thus paints a contemporary history painting leveraging a mode of reconstruction of reality through the prism of his own time. An architect of choreographed mises en scènes, Guillaume Bresson uses body language and movement as keys to reading his paintings.
Guillaume Bresson's system for making his works remains unchanged: he begins with preparatory photography sessions with models in his studio. Staging their own bodies, the models offer -for this series- poses on the theme of falling, dramatized movements that recall the final judgment in religious painting. The rest of the process consists in isolating the bodies, which the artist detaches then re-positions into groups, composing works in which the same characters can appear several times.
However, unlike his paintings with their marked social character, this new series frees itself from the architectural elements and linear perspectives that served as reference points. Here, the untethered figures evolve in environments in motion - waves, clouds-, or stand out against an indeterminate black background, focusing attention on their fall. The meticulous treatment of skin and anatomy is underlined by a play of chiaroscuro, which continues in the folds of half-removed clothing. More than ever in the artist's work, the models' physique is scrutinized from every angle, with an attention to detail that leaves no muscle, fold of skin, joint or limb contortion untouched. While the jeans and other clothes worn by the figures are contemporary, the way he paints these folds evokes the draperies of old master pictures, oscillating between present and timeless through the polysemic play that painting allows.
By taking up the archetypal painting of the Last Judgment, a motif used by artists from Giotto to Tintoretto, Michelangelo and Rubens, Guillaume Bresson questions the function of this trope of representation that spans the ages, from religious scenes of the Renaissance to the great dystopic representations created today.
The artist thus draws a parallel between this theatricalization and cinematic references from apocalyptic films like 2012, Don't Look Up, The Day After Tomorrow, The Impossible... where fears and anxieties linked to the end of the world and to climate catastrophes get the spectacular Hollywood treatment. The lyricism of Guillaume Bresson's actors' poses weaves a link between the scripting of these films and scenes from old master works of art. Here again, the artist interrogates these narrative figures, these common places that seem to transcend time, from classical painting to Hollywood blockbusters.
While these disoriented bodies mark a new direction in Guillaume Bresson's oeuvre, he is no less detached from the societal issues that punctuate his paintings. The artist thus lends his brush and his understanding of the tools of the great masters to depicting the problems of the zeitgeist¹: the spirit of our time.
¹ Term borrowed from German philosophy, designating the intellectual and cultural climate of an era.