= The Crawford Arts Review: Until Saturday 28 May

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Until Saturday 28 May

Moulène 1  at Thomas Dane Gallery, 11 Duke Street St James's

Here is someone who can draw and sculpt so well, whose fluidity of line is so assured, that I would urge artists to go and see his work.

Jean-Luc Moulène studied aesthetics and sciences of art at the Sorbonne. And before you say a word, take a look at his work - and you may decide to hie off to France and apply to join this course yourself.

Moulène's practice references both art and science and it shows . . ..

(And let me just slip this in painlessly and leave you to ponder at your leisure: "just as it shows in the Old Masters".)

But Moulène is a new master, he's 61. Working in Paris and about to have a show of new work at the Pompidou (autumn), followed by another at the Secession Building Vienna (spring 2017).

His London dealers are the perspicacious Mr Thomas Dane and his partners, who have skilfully curated a Moul
ène show for both London galleries that shows the multifaceted sides of the artist.

The first, the upper gallery at No. 11 Duke Street St James', shows the artist's mastery of line, colour and, if you look closely, geology.

Voyelles, Paris 2015 © the artist
and Thomas Dane Gallery
You can't really expect a French artist to reference anything other than his native culture (and in Voyelles Paris he references Baudelaire - I beg your pardon, Rimbaud) so here we have tricoloré colours, mixed media, and, well, gallic wit.

And the works have profundity. Who else can take a trumpet, breasts, a penis-like plastic object and a large black fly and make art out of it - and all in the French colours.
Houellebecq, yes, you're right, Houellebecq can, in print. It is a 'very' French wit. It will have you thinking philosophical thoughts at least until tea time.

Below we have Mix - an ant/dog hybrid, in fabulously difficult ink and watercolour on paper, that had me weak at the knees with admiration at the skill with which it is executed

Mix 2016 © the artist
and Thomas Dane Gallery
"It is a matter of celebration, I think, that in mainland Europe, this calibre of art is commonplace."
And, as a temporary sign off, for I still have the works at No. 3 to cover, let me pay tribute by showing you a work that is so full of metaphor, allegory and 'humour presque noir' that I hardly know where to start . . .

the scythe below with congealed red drips - aarghhh.

(Left) (detail) La Faucheuse, Paris 2015 © the artist 
and Thomas Dane Gallery

Moulène 2 at Thomas Dane Gallery, 3 Duke Street St James's

After reviewing the work of Jean-Luc Moulène at the Thomas Dane Gallery at No. 11 Duke Street St James's (above) I visited the gallery further down the street at No. 3. Here you will see another facet of this Paris-based artist, works in concrete.

Think deadlines. Let's suppose you are faced with a tight deadline for your next scheduled exhibition. What to do? You live and work in Paris. Now London wants to see your work! You dream up an idea and the following day you cycle off to the best-known garden statuary suppliers in Paris. You order the lot. Here are some examples of the genre (albeit from English suppliers).

Some short time later they arrive at your studio yard. You hire a concrete cutting tool, you power it up, you walk round each nymph, each bucolic group of figures. All the while you appreciate what the original artists sought to achieve, for the figures are all concrete and hopefully weatherproof copies of statuary made at some earlier time in stone, often marble, or bronze. You pick up your cutting tool. You intervene.

Here is an example - Moulène's lovely Bending, consisting of 3 graceful maidens bent about some household task, milking perhaps or buttermaking. You intervene. Purposefully. Brrrzzzzzzzzzzz. And suddenly the middle figure has lost half her back, a vertical slice from shoulder blade to pelvis (see pic below).
Bending 2016 concrete, gallery 
view, posterior © the artist
and Thomas Dane Gallery


And here they are from the front. 
Bending 2016 concrete,  
anterior © the artist 
and Thomas Dane Gallery

The extraordinary thing is this intervention works. I've seen many worse attempts to fill a gallery. And Moulène is, I think, partly sending up the world he inhabits, with wit and skill. And with a gallery rather than a garden setting, and with no moss, grass or ivy to distract you, it makes you look at the originals with a closeness that is almost meditative. 

In some works (Piggy here and Donkey at No. 11) pieces of animal bone are set into the concrete, more metaphor at work. But most works consist of the mock-stone concrete as it comes from the statuary suppliers.

One is Antonio Canova's The Three Graces, the first veined marble version of which is in the Hermitage Museum. The original, of course, is the subject of what must be 1000s of copies. The group have come to represent peacefulness, grace, harmony and balance. In Moulène's hands, they are subject to a brutal intervention, cut into then covered in epoxy resin and paint. In their new form they appear for your interpretation. For there are many, as in all art worthy of the name.

I will leave you with a link to some images from the Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris.

It would be nice to see more of this artist's work in London.

Thomas Dane Gallery
3 & 11 Duke Street St James's
London SW1


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