Philippe Huart

The Anaesthsia of Violence Working on a variety of perceptual levels, Philippe Huart lets one visit his intimate diary entries or take a tour of his fantasies. His canvases suggest several different readings – aesthetic, message-laden, lyrical, or realistic in a fictional take on the everyday – so as to account for both the uniformity and the disorder of the visual information that is bombarding us. Whether he is depicting a gun, bonbons, flowers, or pharmaceutical tablets, Huart's concern is not to reveal, through his iconography, what grounds the established metaphorical relations between objects, and that just makes them more fascinating. The painter favors reflective surfaces on which the surrounding spectacle, out of frame, comes to fit like a film on the screen. Starting with Pop Art-related imagery, he creates a universe populated with gleaming capsules, tired flowers, and tangy candy treats. His sumptuous sweets are piled up, packed in, juxtaposed, enlarged, and fragmented. From the initial photographic document he removes those anecdotal features that might risk diverting one's attention from the main subject matter of the composition. It is the treatment of the image, with all the attendant ambiguities of representation, that interests him. His work clings to the high-definition zones of images. But his canvases have little to do with their appearance or the objects being represented. They constitute, instead, a set of motivations and propositions. Thus, beneath their tempting colors, these capsules the painter prescribe do not conceal their pernicious side-effects, which, on account of their attractiveness, might otherwise be forgotten. Dependence on these new Gidean "Fruits of the Earth" reveals the critical import of his work as well as its genuinely disturbing power. While the highly strict symmetry of his paintings – which divides the canvas in half lengthwise, thereby offering two realities that answer each other like a reflected image – affords one an idea of the sometimes extreme rigorousness of this approach, it no less remains the case that there is also room for humor, as the titles chosen for these pictures demonstrate. Through the reflections they give off (and as reinforced by the titles they are given, often in homage to 1970s Pop music), his works show display great complexity in his arrangement of graphic elements. It seems that the artist is less interested in a faithful reproduction of the image than in the optical illusion it represents. In this fake naturalism, the glossy perfection of what is being depicted borrows from the craftsmanship of this former advertising professional. His approach to the subjects of his paintings is conceptual, and he introduces words that put writing in a representational role as he combines text and images in a variety of ways that are always executed with a certain amount of finesse. He still loves the reflections of the outside world on the chrome-plated surfaces of revolvers, sugar-coated pills, or translucent candy wrappers... His taste for physical effects, his brush strokes, and his glazes are masterfully and knowingly expressed in a way that is reminiscent of the painters of Dutch still lifes. The miraculous meeting of panache and finish found in these harmonious volumes and colors gives his compositions a rhythmic perfection that is fascinatingly unique. The perfect finishing strokes on his works remove from them any purely philosophical, social, or protest message, though they also allow one to see through their insidious violence. Huart concentrates his efforts on a near-anaesthetizing, almost stupefying level of pictorial investigation where the meaning contained in the image spawns comparisons to conceptual artists. Paradoxically, his vibrantly polychromatic work reflects a quite somber, emotionally moving tonality that seems deeply marked by death. His painting is invigorated by intentions, or rather provocations, that do not represent, but instead create, another reality, one to which each viewer, depending on her experiences, emotions, and cultural background, can bring her own sensitive or cognitive response. Renaud Faroux, Paris