The End­less Task of Fra­ming the Es­sen­tial


Pantheo-Vor­tex is a set of pain­tings be­gun in 2011, a se­ries like Mo­net’s views of Rouen Ca­the­dral or count­less concep­tual pro­po­sals by con­tem­po­ra­ry ar­tists. These pic­tures are at once pho­to­graphs and pain­tings. The image is ob­tai­ned using a di­gi­tal gra­phics pa­lette in or­der to in­ject the false in­to the true and vice ver­sa, but not in or­der to di­so­rient the gaze so much as to ins­pire it to go beyond ap­pea­rances. Ri­chard Texier’s use of the word “vor­tex” in the title is pret­ty ex­pli­cit in this res­pect: as one dic­tio­na­ry tells us, a vor­tex is pic­to­rial evo­ca­tion of in­fi­ni­ty and its mys­te­ry, via the com­pu­ter.” The Pantheo

Vor­tex se­ries cur­rent­ly runs to about fif­ty pain­tings, but Texier has set no li­mits to its fu­ture extent.


Pre­sen­ted on a stele-like mount, au­to­no­mous­ly lit, each pain­ting is fra­med by a thick bor­der in white syn­the­tic ma­te­rial. Each one mea­sures 120 x 180 cm, and the ground is in­va­ria­bly white. The image is set off, high­ligh­ted—pla­ced “in sus­pen­sion,’ says the ar­tist—by this im­ma­te­rial ground. The images come from a re­per­toire de­fi­ned by the ar­tist, co­ve­ring five re­gis­ters: the ani­mal, mi­ne­ral and ve­ge­table king­doms, my­thi­cal ani­mals, bio­lo­gy. The “pan­theon” of the se­ries title re­fers to the cu­mu­la­tive ad­di­tion of fi­gures of mat­ter, rea­li­ty and the ima­gi­na­ry, free of hie­rar­chy. The work is like an ar­tis­tic en­cy­clo­pe­dia in which visual en­tries re­place ver­bal ones. The in­ven­to­ry of images for­ming the mar­row of the Pantheo-Vor­tex is ins­truc­tive. Fos­sils, me­teo­rites, pla­nets, mons­ters, tri­lo­bites, eggs, shells—all iso­la­ted against that white ground—map out the long ti­mes­cale of geo­lo­gy and the na­tu­ral and my­tho­lo­gi­cal ela­bo­ra­tion of spe­cies and bo­dies. This is the visual mise-en-scène both of a phy­sics and a me­ta­phy­sics. The two­fold as­pect of each image, at once ana­to­mi­cal plate and ho­ly image, al­lows Texier to play it two ways. Eve­ry as­pect of the image that adheres to the al­rea­dy seen, to the real, at the same time tears it­self away from it, rea­ching to­wards ano­ther men­tal ter­ri­to­ry, the ter­ri­to­ry of the un­real and the sur­real, of se­man­tic ex­pan­sion. Ano­ther im­por­tant as­pect is the size of the images in the Pantheo- Vor­tex se­ries: Texier pre­sents us with pic­tures on a hu­man scale, bet­ween mo­nu­men­ta­li­ty and re­duc­tion. These are pic­tures that we must phy­si­cal­ly confront, ra­ther than bliss­ful­ly contem­plate or strict­ly stu­dy. This ef­fect of proxi­mi­ty gives the image an in­car­nate qua­li­ty. Whe­ther pre­sen­ting us with his take on the Mi­no­taur, pla­nets that might exist but don’t, or ani­mals and plants mor­pho­lo­gi­cal­ly close to jel­ly­fish, cab­bages or co­rals, Texier places be­fore us an icon on a hu­man scale. Our gaze, in res­ponse, is pen­sive; it can­not en­joy the vi­sible wi­thout me­di­ta­ting it, nor can it me­di­tate it wi­thout plea­sure. Af­fect and ana­ly­sis play tag and neu­tra­lize each other. The image com­pels us; our gaze is ho­ned by thought, and vice ver­sa. Being and ap­pea­ring. Pre­sence and sur-pre­sence. Ac­cor­ding to Texier, Pantheo-Vor­tex “is a crea­tive stra­te­gy for dea­ling with the mys­te­ry and ma­gic of exis­tence.” Crea­ti­vi­ty is the point, for this is not a simple mat­ter of co­pying or bor­ro­wing. Each image, wha­te­ver the field that ins­pires it, is an in­ter­pre­ta­tion, or ra­ther, a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion. Ma­te­ria­li­ty alone is not enough, be­cause man is a me­ta­phy­si­cal ani­mal who looks beyond the ma­te­rial di­men­sion of life. Not that Texier wants to make art an off­shoot of religion—that pro­cess whe­re­by, as in ear­ly Pla­to, we touch on the ideal—but, more sim­ply, to use art as a tool for get­ting beyond the hard and frus­tra­ting ter­ri­to­ry of mat­ter.


The mat­ter of the world and of our lives must not on­ly be felt, but al­so drea­med, trans­for­med by the ima­gi­na­ry. Be­lon­ging to the world, we must al­so add to it our own world. For Texier, whose in­ter­est in non-Wes­tern ci­vi­li­za­tions does not go as far as ac­tual imi­ta­tion, the role of art is to re­cons­ti­tute and re­for­mu­late our stock of “ma­gic,” the ma­gic that we lost when ra­tio­na­li­ty came to do­mi­nate ci­vi­li­za­tion. But ma­gic is not so­me­thing that works out­side the world, in a uni­verse to­tal­ly apart from us: ra­ther, it is a power that holds the « Pantheo-Vor­tex in si­tu I ». Bi­ros­tris. 2013. Im­pres­sion pigmentaire, nacre et por­ce­laine or­ga­nique. 214 x 154 x 7 cm.

Pig­ment print, mo­ther-of-pearl, or­ga­nic por­ce­lain

contra­ries in re­la­tion—the ir­ra­tio­nal and the ra­tio­nal, low and high, sa­cred and pro­fane, beyond any kind of lo­gic. It does not prevent ra­tio­na­li­ty from exis­ting or do­mi­na­ting, but it does put it in its true place, where it must serve and im­prove the prac­ti­cal world. The idea of ma­gic es­pou­sed by this ar­tist, which each Pan

theo-Vor­tex ce­le­brates, re­sides in this call to or­der, bet­ween consen­ting to live ra­tio­nal­ly and, wi­thin the same ten­sion, beyond or be­fore Rea­son.


In the Pantheo-Vor­texes Texier does not so much re­create the form of our world— he makes no such claims—as place us be­fore his own world. Na­vi­ga­ting bet­ween fa­mi­liar fi­gures that turn in­to in­ven­ted or re­played fi­gures, his ex­pe­rience is a mat­ter of men­tal, sym­bo­lic and visual syn­the­sis. This ex­pe­rience is both per­so­nal and drawn to the uni­ver­sal. This makes Pantheo-Vor­tex so­me­thing of a ma­ni­fes­to. Here, the ar­tist mo­de­rates the so­me­times un­che­cked flow of his over­flo­wing ima­gi­na­tion, of the ex­pres­sive ge­ne­ro­si­ty that drives his work (the pain­tings and sculp­tures rich in po­ly­cul­tu­ral re­fe­rences and mix­tures of all kinds). The con­cern seems more taut, and more aus­tere, the point being to present us with a dic­tio­na­ry of vi­sua­li­zed ob­ses­sions, and to make this dic­tio­na­ry a va­de­me­cum for a sin­gu­lar re­la­tion to the world—the con­tem­po­ra­ry world and the eter­nal world, the two mixed to­ge­ther, both on an equal foo­ting. Each image in the Pantheo-Vor

tex se­ries sug­gests this: ra­tio­na­li­ty is not enough, the real is enig­ma­tic, our un­ders­tan­ding of things is im­po­ve­ri­shed. We must each, the ar­tist sug­gests, consti­tute our own world, not sim­ply ac­cept ac­qui­red and ge­ne­ral­ly for­mat­ted re­pre­sen­ta­tions that arise from our condi­tio- ning. In this sense, the Pantheo-Vor­tex is a mat­ter of crea­tive hy­giene. The ar­tist gets rid of the ex­ces­sive and li­mits him­self to the ne­ces­sa­ry. And that means conver­sing with ma­te­rials but al­so with es­sences. His am­bi­tion is not to be a “just” ar­tist who has un­ders­tood all the world’s mys­te­ries. His po­si­tion is hum­bler than that: he wants to re­call that some things are un­re­pre­sen­table and that this makes us all free to en­ter the breach of the free­dom to conceive and ima­gine. Whe­rein lies “truth in art”? How can an ar­tist’s “vi­sion” be true? To ask this ques­tions is to fo­re­go an as­su­med equi­va­lence, on the ba­sis of which art and science might ope­rate in the same field of know­ledge. Art and science are two ma­the­sis, two forms of hu­man know­ledge. The first de­ve­lops af­fec­tive and sym­bo­lic know­ledge, the se­cond, ra­tio­nal know­ledge. There is no­thing to say that these two forms of hu­man know­ledge have any­thing in com­mon, contra­ry to the pre­ju­dices or hopes fos­te­red by cer­tain ar­tis­tic ten­den­cies of the twen­tieth cen­tu­ry. A few mo­dern ar­tists, such as Georges Van­ton­ger­loo and Max Bill, conscious­ly pla­ced art on the side of science, ma­king it a geo­me­try, a ra­tio­na­li­zed for­ma­li­za­tion of the real world. A uto­pia? No doubt. Art, for sure, owns no “truth.” It ac­com­pa­nies the world in kee­ping with the be­liefs for­med by men there, no­nu­ni­fied be­liefs for­ged by va­rious cul­tures, de­grees of ci­vi­li­za­tion and geo­gra­phi­cal cir­cum­stances, and that can­not al­ways be sha­red. Art ex­presses the re­la­ti­vi­ty of be­liefs, a mul­ti­tude of “truths”: that of the sa­cred in sa­cra­li­zed so­cie­ties, that of the col­lec­ti­vi­ty in col­lec­ti­vist so­cie­ties, that of the in­di­vi­dual in in­di­vi­dua­list so­cie­ties, and all these things to­ge­ther in mixed so­cie­ties. Art sim­ply re­flects convic­tions, clothes them. It is their li­ving flesh.


With the Pantheo-Vor­tex, Texier once again ali­gns art on its pri­mor­dial, ge­ne­ric axis, that of ac­cul­tu­ra­ted representation. Art is a mat­ter of signs and of the mea­ning put in­to signs, a kind of equa­tion that seeks nei­ther exac­ti­tude nor ju­ri­di­cal va­lue. What the ar­tist at work pos­tu­lates is a representation of the world that is more than the classic Wel­tan­schauung: it is not just a mat­ter of sho­wing, and not on­ly as Paul Klee ar­gued ( Theo­ry of Mo

dern Art, 1928), beyond the simple re­pro­duc­tion of the vi­sible, “ma­king vi­sible” (es­sences, the ideal, trans­cen­dence). One must, more cou­ra­geous­ly, bo­dy forth the spi­rit of one’s own times, a mix­ture of re­pre­sen­ta­tions, sym­bo­li­za­tions and be­liefs. To­day we may pre­fer to be nos­tal­gic and go in for neo-re­tro art, re­playing clas­si­cal pain­ting or mo­dern art, go back to being a pain­ter of mo­dern life or a mul­ti-angle post­mo­der­nist. There’s no­thing to stop that. But would that real­ly be to talk about our own times? Or about its fan­ta­sies, its re­grets, its fai­lures? It is much more dif­fi­cult to ge­ne­rate visual crea­tions that tra­verse the present and the sum of its rea­li­ties, in­clu­ding the fee­ling of not being able to grasp it. That, no doubt, is the on­ly tan­gible way of ma­na­ging that “sym­bo­lic mi­se­ry,” to bor­row a for­mu­la from Ber­nard Stie­gler, that af­flicts our being in the world. Not all art is equal. The art that mat­ters condenses the zeit­geist, hol­ding the whole world in the scal­lop shell of Saint James, like James Joyce in Ulysses. That is the rai­son d’être of Pantheo-Vor­tex, a ti­ta­nic cycle that Ri­chard Texier could concei­va­bly fi­nish on­ly if he had a hun­dred lives. Ne­ver mind if he on­ly has one, for what is done and said al­rea­dy saves.

Trans­la­tion, C. Pen­war­den

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