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.
A VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA
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.
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE
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.
FOR PERSONAL SALVATION
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