January 9 to February 13, 2016
A genuine magnetism radiates from the works of Pierre Julien. Once we begin to look carefully, it becomes hard to turn away. This visual attraction is the optical product of color radiations that give a sense of animated movement to the pictorial space. Abstract and economical, and sometimes installation-based and monumental, his painting explores the broad potentiality of our perception of color. Oscillating between evanescence and tangibility, the works deriving from this artistic proposition essentially dwell on the effects of gradation, repetition and derivation.
Pastel and clear in hue, these colors mix and merge one into another. The smooth, unblemished surfaces are covered with lyrical forms that hypnotize the spectator’s attention, while the subtlety and pallor of the color variations confer a luminosity that adds to our perception of three-dimensional relief in the surface. This visual density creates dynamic relationships within which ambiguous forms vibrate strongly off of one another. The illusory, pulsating movement we see may in fact be perceived differently from person to person as a result of the numerous ways that different people’s brains will interpret the signals each eye sees. Oscillating movement achieved by simultaneous color contrast turns figure into ground and vice versa as we look.
These vertiginous impressions are even stronger in the large paintings. The viewer becomes immersed in the representation and will tend to feel a strong desire to move around the gallery space in order to fully experience the effects of the work. Even though what we perceive is in fact two-dimensional, these pictorial spaces seem to move, to grow and then narrow, twist and then retreat.
This tendency towards playing with optical effects has long interested Julien and can be found in work from previous series. His practice grows out of and attempts to contemporize Op Art, incorporating cosmopolitan influences from the worlds of design, advertising, fashion and pop culture in general. The exhibition title, Purple Haze, is borrowed from a song by Jimi Hendrix and immediately brings to mind the surreal psychedelic language of the exhibited works. The ambiance that the spectator is plunged into approaches a hallucinatory, oneiric state where the paintings’ imagery transforms into camouflage motifs, pastoral landscapes, even recalling the Aurora Borealis. Pierre Julien’s work invites us to enter this world of mutating visual and physical experience, which exists in a different realm to that of everyday life. He offers us another kind of perception of the real, a space where the eye can lose itself in the contemplation of an impalpable materiality.
Text : Anne Philippon
Translation : Benjamin Klein