Jeremy Demester, XXI, Perrotin (February 28 — April 8, 2023)

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Perrotin is pleased to present XXI, the first solo exhibition in Dubai
of French-Beninese artist Jeremy Demester, gathering unveiled
Jeremy Demester approaches his canvases with an eye for natural
processes of imitation and representation. Through philosophical inquiry
and an intuitive aesthetic, the artist seeks to reveal the subtle traces of
forgotten myths in modern everyday perceptions. His art is influenced by
protohistoric archaeology, mythologies from all societies, and global popular culture – a wide-ranging knowledge he inherited from his
nomadic Gypsy origins.
Since the beginning of his career, Jeremy Demester has been painting
skies and trees, two simple subjects drawn from nature, demonstrating
its infinite powers of metamorphosis. His study of the sky’s manifold
colors and nuances at different times of the day and the seasons led the
painter to a profound colorist exploration. In The 21 Graces Altarpiece, a
triptych containing the beautiful depiction of a blue hardwood, trees
become a source for an infinity of forms: perpetually branching, continually creating themselves, firmly rooted in the earth, they bend and quiver in the wind, expressing all the nuances of stability and movement.
A story of movement and life also unfolds in the artist’s latest series Stela.
Refusing the distinction between landscape and abstraction, the nine
compositions synthesize several of the artist’s past works. Animated by
vibrant colors, skies, trees, rain, and flames overlap and intermingle, rising
from the earth to the sky. While our own eyes struggle through these
clouds of shapes and colors, pairs of painted eyes staring straight ahead
are the resting point in most of the paintings – reminiscent of the
rudimentary signs placed at the rear of trucks warning drivers to be
vigilant. In a mimetic process, these eyes speak to our own eyes,
becoming our interlocutors amidst the uncanny presence emanating from
the paintings. Their titles are nicknames that exist in every country, in all
epochs – but their monolithic frontality signals that we are facing
witnesses of ancestral ages.

The series Assembled Figures, a body of large-scale composite portraits
created by augmenting the canvases with sculpted bas-reliefs, reinforces
the feeling of an encounter with almost human hybrids. They connect
Jeremy Demester’s practice to the first decades of panel painting and the
centrality of frames during the Early Italian Renaissance. Affixed to the
painted compositions, objects from ancient times or contemporary life are
deformed or set in bronze, blending and converging to form the strangest
pareidolia. Shells, fossils, ex-votos, rims, harpoons, an Olmec helmet,
boxing gloves, and sneakers are gathered in a procession of wild figures,
immobile like raised stones. Similar to totems, these works serve as
receptacles for elements of our material culture – rich in meaning –
deposited to create a network of basic references – what the
anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss called mythemes. By reproducing
these objects, giving them a common harmony, and transforming them
into expressive faces, the artist breeds new life into ancient, sometimes
forgotten myths. Freed from historical chronology, the masks become
mirrors of the world: they reveal that we ourselves are constituted by
archetypal myths and trivial fragments of reality.
Like a feverish and dazzled vision after too many sleepless nights, the
paintings lay bare the architecture of our actions – for in every gesture lies
an intuition, and intuition is a state of mind that we cannot control. It
comes from our ancestors, from the most distant humanity, from the
buried knowledge of the forces of nature and the elements.

Marguerite Hennebelle

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