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Etienne Pressager

From Saturday 26 February to Sunday 17 April 1994

Art is what makes life more interesting than art. This famous dictum, borrowed from the artist Robert Filliou, seems to fit perfectly with the direction taken by Etienne Pressager's works--in so much as they always prompt the interplay and involvement of the spectator in their own existence, with the same mischief. Discovering Etienne Pressager's works becomes synonymous with a playful exercise, which is as mental as it is visual. In dealing with words, and their writing and moulding, Etienne Pressager shows a preference for paper, by dint of its very nature, and as an ideal meeting place. This medium, which by all accounts is a fragile one, conjures up for us, turn by turn, the leafing through of pages in a schoolboy's exercise book and the illustrations of a botanist's notebook, where, page after page, his attempts to draw up an inventory of obvious items are set forth.

In the Turbulent Alphabet, a series of 26 gouaches on small-format paper, the not easily identifiable letters become involved in a mischievous form of gymnastics, rolling and bending in all directions, and trying to avoid being recognized by us. The spatial arrangement of this work, singled out by the artist for the show at the Delme Synagogue, further bolsters this notion of blurring and scrambling, and dictates a back-and-forth movement of the eye between two walls, prior to successfully solving the enigma.

Another work, What My Closed Eyes Can See [Ce que peuvent voir mes yeux fermés], made up of 72 works in oils on small sheets of paper in all, is evenly distributed over the four walls of a booth--a small private cell (voting-booth-like, in effect) built in the middle of the exhibition venue. This idea, offered for view to a limited number of visitors, is nothing other than the drawn description of an experience undergone by one and all--involving the constellation of points of light occurring in the wake of a slight bedazzlement, as obtained on the screen of our closed eyelids.

Etienne Pressager's compositions, which are often smallish and associated in quite large sets, are not easily grasped at first glance. If the works cannot exist on their own, this is because they combine together, as they are discovered, rather like a jigsaw puzzle which gradually takes shape and is revealed to our perspicacious eyes.

Playing on the sensitive chord of our childhood memories, and reminding us of our similar experiences, "Etienne Pressager does not so much play with us as invite us to play with him." The attempts to make statements and handwritten comments at the edges of the drawings and paintings are like so many crucial hints for our understanding of the works, and for our grasping of the artist's spontaneous method. It behooves us, like Alice in Wonderland, to step forward and pass through the looking-glass in order to explore, together, the gap and the interstice which the artist probes with so much wit.

However, behind this apparent irony of "great painting", and behind the modesty of his work, Etienne Pressager "keeps hoping to be able, even if illusorily, to instil some order in the world's disorder". Through the poetry of the imagery and the painting of the words, he invites us to keep our eyes open on the world around us.


Born in 1958 in Epinal, France

Lives and works in Malzéville, France