To coincide with the presentation of "Mon corps répond-t-il à son nom?" (Does my body live up to its name?), the pal project spaces have been made available to Hugo Guérin, a young artist who is presenting his first solo exhibition. It marks the end of a period in his artistic training, during which he worked in the studios of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, and presents the work that emerged from this first page in his career. This group of seven large-format works and a series of smaller ones, the result of choices made by the artist, takes up residence in the elegant, uncluttered spaces of pal project, revealing the coherence of the themes that have guided Hugo Guérin's creative work in recent years. His lively, organic forms resonate intimately with our contemporary psyche, lyrically evoking our anxieties.
Hugo Guérin's sculptures force us to examine our relationship with the world. The dialogue with the viewer underlines the importance of his or her gaze in bringing these works to life. The underlying themes of Hugo Guérin's creations are just as essential to a true understanding of his work as their reception.
The artist's sculptures introduce a relationship with the world based on a paradox. They are born of a sense of anguish, the source of inaction, itself the vector of a feeling of powerlessness and frustration, and ultimately of buried, latent violence. In these forms, which are both intriguing and disturbing, calm coexists with brutality. Certain sculptural groups, such as Etapes de domestication (2021), encapsulate this ambiguity between apathy and violence, power and weakness, nobility and pathos. The catalyst for this anxiety is the relationship we all have with our own bodies and those of others, and in particular the fear of losing control over ourselves and our environment. The hybrid, deformed bodies with their outrageous and uncomfortable postures materialise the anxieties born of an unequal relationship with society. These fears awaken the anxiety of domestication, which defines the body as a malleable form whose metamorphoses express the pressures of the outside world, the whims of men and their desire for domination. La rage des sédentaires (2022), a creature with horse-like forms, with its ambiguity between the recognition of a horse and the evidence of its deformation, is a clear illustration of this control over the body, which has been extracted from nature in the name of the needs of a sovereign third party. In Mon corps répond-t-il à son nom? (2023), by associating her own body with animal forms, the artist addresses contemporary masculine fears that are also linked to domestication.
The works speak directly to anyone who allows themselves to be caught up in their forms. Their singularity makes indifference impossible. Hugo Guérin's choice to use the body as the basis for his work is not innocent. Human or animal forms are motifs that are recognisable to all, catching the eye and appealing to passers-by. The body has the dual advantage of being easily distracted and easily recognised. These creatures appear to us to be endowed with a mysterious eloquence, the bearers of speech that is both silent and noisy, an enigma that we need to decipher, as the work that gives the exhibition its title, Mon corps répond-t-il à son nom? states. Awakening our curiosity reveals the power of attraction of these objects, further enhanced by their very paradoxical appearance, at once seductive and repulsive, hybrid and coherent. This interplay between attraction and repulsion adds to the mystery of these sculptures, which don't reveal themselves and resist the gaze. In this way, the work engages in an intimate discussion with its visitor, in a gradation ranging from seduction to injunction, from curiosity to surprise. The concern they arouse in the viewer, despite their pathetic immobility, introduces a new ambiguity between threat and powerlessness. The motif of the carcass, on which Hugo Guérin works in series, is the very expression of this paradox, while the wings, symbols of unbridled freedom, hang inert, offering an image that is both repulsive and fascinating, born of man's goldsmith's work on flesh.
The strength of the subjects addressed by these sculptures, and the intimacy of the dialogue with their recipients, are made possible by the technique used by Hugo Guérin. Although he didn't start out as a sculptor, Hugo gradually moved into the medium through a growing interest in the figure and a taste for the technical rigour required. Working mainly in ceramics, wax and metal, Hugo Guérin's diverse range of media is designed to evoke emotion. The clay left exposed in La rage des sédentaires (2022) gives it a raw appearance and a realism that makes the form even more alive and organic. The wax, likened to a silky, diaphanous skin, is often deliberately dirtied to breathe more life into it. Using all the levers of the art of sculpture, Hugo Guérin creates three-dimensional works in a variety of sizes and arrangements. In doing so, he works on the gaze and the point of view, but also on the mobility of the viewer around the work. He establishes the key moments in the physical approach to the object that mark the progression of a gradual attraction.
The presentation of Hugo Guérin's works in the pal project spaces, by tackling the difficult subjects of anxieties linked to our relationship with the body and the world, invites us to stop for a moment and enjoy a privileged experience of introspection. This is all the more beneficial in an age of extroversion, when opinions are shared without limit or dissonance. Yet this confrontation with artworks can seem difficult when they confront us with an enigma like Oedipus confronting the Sphinx. By confronting us with the same challenge as Oedipus, these creatures remind us of the benefits of the virtues that the hero had neglected, modesty and prudence in our illusory belief in control. Faced with these hybrid monsters, we find ourselves confronted with our own buried enigmas, often unfathomable and indecipherable.