Opera Gallery has announced the worldwide and exclusive representation of Jean Charles Blais, a renowned and versatile artist. To celebrate this collaboration, the gallery is hosting the Spring/Summer monographic exhibition from May 26 to June 15, 2023, in its Parisian space. Showcasing the latest creations by the artist, the exhibition will feature paintings on the reverse side of posters that glued together resemble to enormous notebooks depicting silhouettes torn between embrace and escape, surrounded by an environment tamed by plants, leaves, and tree roots. Blais’ works are known for their agitated figures that transform and merge, often conveying the recurring theme of race. When describing the immersive qualities of his paintings, the artist says: ‘‘The vegetal mode, the intertwining of the figures creates a more complex, intangible combinatory. A new density is invented, which, in my eyes, gives the painting immersive faculties.” This show allows the public to appreciate the approach of an artist that has been on a continuous creative quest from his studio in Vence for the past thirty-five years.
In the early 1980s, Jean Charles Blais achieved remarkable success with his paintings created from discarded materials such as torn posters, newspapers, and other unconventional items found on the streets. In this practice, which is essential to him, he highlights the slightest defects or asperities of the supports with which he skillfully plays in his compositions. In his paintings, the attachment to the representation of the figure prevails. Blais treats the studio as a laboratory where he conducts pictorial research and allows himself to be guided by mediums, leaving room for improvisation. His works may be captivating in their apparent simplicity, but by taking a closer look we notice a more complex construction. ‘‘I paint figures that are no longer characters but objects...The body has become a piece of paint,’’ he says.
The diversity of practices that Jean Charles Blais employs allows him to question the body and its representation, fragmentation, reversal, or absence. ‘‘Each of my paintings begins with a flexible architecture taken from a previous painting, with a slightly evanescent drawing. As the painting builds up, contradictory information accumulates’’, he explains. His multiple sources of inspiration are represented in the work of Henri Matisse (notably The Bather, which was later interpreted by Kazimir Malevich) and Philip Guston. These influences lead him to forge his own artistic repertoire and depictions of the human body. Thus, Jean Charles Blais gives birth to forms both modern and audacious, unique and elusive.
His work is also inspired by a diverse array of mediums including sewing, drawing and painting. Additionally, Blais references his memories of the Sarcophagus of the Spouses (520-510 BC) from the Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities at the Louvre Museum. ‘‘I liked these Etruscan sarcophagi because I have always had an affinity for paintings with recumbent figures. These recumbent figures have relaxed bodies that offer the painter greater freedom, paradoxical bodies that have always interested me’’, says Blais. Born in Nantes on October 22, 1956, Jean Charles Blais studied at the Beaux-Arts de Rennes between 1974 and 1979. He arrived on the artistic scene in 1981 by participating in the exhibition Finir en beauté organized by the critic Bernard Lamarche-Vadel. This event became the birth certificate of a new generation of artists, who, through their work, freely represent all forms of art, without borders of cultural genres or hierarchy of values between different cultures. The first solo exhibition of Jean Charles Blais was organized in 1982 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bordeaux. Five years later, the Centre Pompidou in Paris also devoted a solo exhibition to him.
Jean Charles Blais’ wide range of projects and experimentations include the design of Parisian subway station Assemblée nationale, scenography for the dance company Régine Chopinot, graphic design for the Grand Théâtre de Genève, and a collaborative installation with acclaimed architect Jean Nouvel for the Armory Show in New York in 2010. In the early 2000s, Blais began creating digital paintings that built upon his ongoing thematic exploration of materiality and the appearance of forms. ‘‘I like the idea of producing images with no material consistency... and this new way of introducing a kind of suspense in which the image can be seen.’’
Jean Charles Blais’ works have been exhibited in Paris at the Yvon Lambert Gallery and Castelli Gallery in New York in addition to exhibitions in Rome, Amsterdam, London, Basel, The Hague, Vienna, and Munich. His work appears in the collections of many museums and institutions worldwide, including Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Musée National d’Art Moderne - Centre Pompidou, MAMAC in Nice, and Picasso Museum in Antibes.
62 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, Francia