Perrotin is pleased to present Portrait Mode, a solo exhibition by Xavier Veilhan in Paris. The portrait mode seems like the renewal of a historical genre through its digital transformation: the portrait (and the self-portrait) has proliferated endlessly. In the exhibition, the portrait is presented in two dimensions (by combining the techniques of marquetry and painting) and in three dimensions (using digital sculptures of solid wood, among others). The subjects are friends of the artist, members of the studio staff, and everyday animals (birds). Here, the self-celebration of each individual through the image is replaced by the celebration of all through the object.
There is a term that Xavier Veilhan often uses when talking about his work: presence. The presence in the space of the sculptures and of the images that are freed from the two-dimensionality of the wall by materializing as bas-reliefs or illusionistic volumes. The presence of spectators’ bodies walking around perfectly designed exhibitions in the form of gardens or synthetic landscapes. The presence of passersby who share the urban space with his statues of animals, anonymous people, monsters, and architects. The presence of the moving bodies of the performers and dancers who often appear in his films or shows.
More recently, the physical presence of Xavier Veilhan the artist has emerged as a new component in his work. He was very physically engaged during the entire Studio Venezia exhibition, the participative recording studio that he created for the French Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale. And he was on stage in Compulsory Figures (2019), a performance created with figure skater Stephen Thompson and designed with scenographer Alexis Bertrand (with whom he has been working since the early 2000s).
This primacy of presence could seem strange in a body of work that has often been identified with digital production processes and the interplay of scale they make possible, or which has been reduced to pixelated colored surfaces. But the pandemic that we have all experienced over the past few years—and the in-person/remote dichotomy it established as a daily reality in our lives—patently revealed that thinking about presence cannot be dissociated from reflections on information technologies.
In his blurred sculptures, Xavier Veilhan reduces body and form down to their most essential vocabularies, making them barely legible. By digitally modifying the surfaces of the statues, details are removed, leaving more space for the posture of the model. Here, the sculptures themselves are blurred, rather than being the result of a distorted perception: thus, the silhouettes are re-constructed by the viewer’s vision, from their 'out-of-focus' nature.
These pieces are restitutions of photographs of faceted sculptures that I created several years ago. The elements that make the overall image are triangular shapes, each painted in one of the original color shades, assembled together like a puzzle. These pieces are both images intended to restore something and pure objects with a technical and aesthetic quality. I’m really interested in this tension between the perception devise and the object as such.
I try to make works that are visible in a quarter of a second, a bit like a "visual big bang". The most interesting thing is the echo that comes from it. More specifically, the objects and sculptures intended to be in a public space are designed to interact with a world around them, but that world sometimes doesn't recognize them. That's also what interests me, to appear like the bus shelter or the lamp- post and let the object be welcomed and interpreted in a way that I don't control.
The seats by Vico Magistretti and Rick Owens that furnish the studio were used during the sittings. They are reproduced in a smaller size in the statues but are also physically present in the space of the exhibition: they serve as a living room suite so that the artist can comfortably receive and interact with the visitors.
The recent shift in his work, from the series of faceted sculptures to the series of blurred, more organic sculptures, thus holds a demonstrative value. It reveals the passage between two historic moments (from modernity to another period yet to be named) and our general awareness—as we go through an unprecedented crisis of living things and increasingly take into account the interactions that link us to non-human species—that we share the space of this world with other bodies that have their own agency and make us think and act.
- Jill Gasparina
Born in 1963 in Lyon, France
Lives and works in Paris, France
Xavier Veilhan has since the late 1980s created an acclaimed body of work inspired by both formal classicism and high technology, including a range of mediums (sculpture, painting, installation, performance, video, and photography). His exhibitions question our perception and often generate an evolving ambulatory space in which the audience becomes an actor. For example, in Veilhan Versailles (2009), his series Architectones (2012-2014) or his proposition for the French Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia, titled Studio Venezia (2017).
Xavier Veilhan’s work is often showcased in the public space, with sculptures occupying numerous cities across France and abroad, including Paris, Stockholm, New York, Shanghai and Seoul, among others.
His work has been shown in various acclaimed institutions across the world, such as the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Mamco (Geneva), the Phillips Collection (Washington), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), and MAAT (Lisbon).