In Liquid Metal Dream, the artist’s first solo exhibition with Perrotin, Jean-Marie Appriou shows a body of new sculptures, transforming the exhibition into a dream of temporal disorder.
For Jean-Marie Appriou, who grew up modelling clay next to his father’s ceramic kiln, sculpturing is not an artist’s professional decision, but rather the calling for a contemporary alchemist. It all started when the surreal and sublime landscape of Brittany inspired his teenage reveries. Under the guidance of online tutorials as well as books gifted by his parents, he took matters into his own hands and constructed a foundry from the ground up. There, he mastered metal casting through tireless practices on molding and melting, laying the groundwork for his oeuvre today. Always forthcoming about his obsession with alchemy and foundry work, the artist has decidedly taken an experimental approach when it comes to mediums and materials.
In Liquid Metal Dream, Appriou creates a dream of temporal disorder. Much like The Sleeping Beauty, the narrative unfolds with a series of mirrors that represent life in a castle, a forest of thorns, and a woman in an enchanted slumber. The artist reinterprets The Briar Rose Series by the British painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, rendering the exhibition hall as a tranquil world with different times existing simultaneously. Fractured reliefs of the thorny ruin symbolize the past, while the blooming roses represent the future. In a garden where plants once survive and perish, time begins to circulate, and the changing seasons become irrelevant.
Levitation is another theme that Appriou returns to in his works. A dream-like, anti-gravitational pull levitates the woman’s body above the aquatic plants, revealing the world underneath the water. And a liquid materiality is evident when one observes the mirror surface. Reflection remains clear in the polished center, but warps and fades as it expands to the edges as if eroded by the surrounding vegetation. As in Alice Through the Looking Glass, a novel dear to Appriou’s heart, the mirror serves not only as a counterpart and reimagination of reality, but also as a portal to another world, a pathway to dreams. Between solid and liquid, virtuality and reality, lucidity and dreamscape, the artist grapples with the uncanny by means of extraordinary alchemical transformations.
Appriou’s work also centers around the treatment of sculptural surfaces. In Sleeping Beauty, he captures the movement of pleats without imitating the texture of fabric, and takes great care to communicate a sense of softness and a specific skin tone of the heroine. He has never produced any work that is mirror-polished, as he insists that “the sensuality of the material must be visible.” For the same reason, every single rose that decorates the heroine’s dress is modeled and made by hand, leaving upon the petals faint traces of the fingers.
This is what's complicated about sculpturing. If you continue to modeling, where is the right place to stop? Michelangelo’s notion of non-finito is very important. Because it is about capturing the dynamics of an arm, rather than defining the arm as an idealized form from one end to the other, as Bernini or Canova would have done.
Appriou’s understanding on the sculpture’s volume also follows the teachings of Michelangelo. For him, the space occupied by sculptures is at once void and full, and the undelineated presence is a basis upon which the intertextuality of different works is built. Like a rabbit hole, a beckoning kaleidoscope, or the opening line of a story previously untold, this exhibition leads us toward a new world and an uncharted tributary of time. Instead of perfecting imitations of the physical world, the artist hypothesizes and animates a subject of beauty.
Born in 1986 in Brest, France
Lives and works in Paris, France
It is with remarkable technical skill that Jean-Marie Appriou takes control of sculptural materials—aluminum, bronze, glass, clay, wax—to envisage fantastical worlds inhabited by human, animal and vegetal figures. Through their skillfully constructed scale, his often imposing works nevertheless maintain an intimate relationship with the viewer, as if to better communicate their disturbing strangeness. From archaic ages to futuristic civilizations, between dinosaurs and child astronauts, Appriou produces visions on the edge of psychedelia, mixing pop culture and mythologies from Greek and Egyptian antiquity to science fiction. His sculpture combines the allegorical and the sensual, leaving his fingerprints visible on the material. He weaves a paradoxical narrative that unites the past and the future, the ideal and the perceptible, in a series of hallucinatory ecstasies.
Appriou’s work has been exhibited at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the Fondation Lafayette Anticipations, Paris; the Fondation Vincent van Gogh, Arles; the Abattoirs museum, Toulouse; the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Consortium Museum, Dijon; and the Biennale de Lyon. He was invited by the Public Art Fund to present a group of sculptures at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast entrance to Central Park in New York, at the Château de Versailles and at the Vienna Biennale. His works have been the subject of solo gallery exhibitions at Jan Kaps, Cologne; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich and New York; Kaikai Kiki, Tokyo; and C L E A R I N G, New York and Brussels.