Renaud RegneryWhat Power Art Thou?
One can never emphasize enough how the studio is not a secluded place where the artist experiences solitude. On the contrary, it is an echo chamber, filled with the noises of the world, where all the fears, desires, and hopes of the artist are exacerbated, in tune with current times.
By using wallpaper as the starting point of his process, as he has been doing for the past fifteen years, Renaud Regnery introduces a very concrete element from the world – and let’s be honest, a very trivial one. Designating wallpaper as a standardized and average aesthetic imposed on the masses, the artist pushes the bad taste of tapestry manufacturers to its limits. Using a situationist strategy, he disrupts decorative purposes and, by extension, also disrupts a certain order of the world. Subverting the image from the inside, he creates a sense of airiness, fantasy and, consequently, freedom.
The origin of the wallpapers is always of high importance for Renaud Regnery. Everything makes sense, everything is significant: the time and place of production expresses a precise economic, social, and even technical context that resonates in his work. In the past Regnery has worked with trompe-l’oeil wallcoverings, exuberant neo-geo decors, falsely exotic patterns and sometimes even coarse wallpapers. For this new endeavour he selected photo-realistic motifs: the source of this new series are the plentiful e-commerce sites that provide their customers with customized images to choose from in a database – the advanced stage of capitalism that claims to provide a unique and personalized product, where there is only a series of variations in production.
The act of selling any sort of image – including artworks – always involves a kind of pact between the seller and the client. One must “believe” in the image, one must adhere to it. However, in undermining these source images, Renaud Regnery precisely rebukes this belief and instead intensifies the deceptive aspect: the falseness of the image is evident, what one believes to see is not what one actually does see. This is also the vantage point for the so-called “riddles of Épinal”, popular images of the nineteenth century in which a motif is hidden in another, carrying and perverting clichés. These images originated from the town of Épinal, the artist’s birthplace, and this is certainly not a coincidence…
As we know, one never paints ex nihilo. This becomes even more evident when one draws on the seemingly endless resources of found images as Renaud Regnery does. In his working process, each technical operation – selecting, extracting, patching, gluing, covering, dissolving, sanding, lacquering, painting, etc. – takes on a political dimension. Each of these gestures refer to a (hi)story, are executed with tools and according to rules, responding to a symbolism, sometimes psychoanalytical. Adding or removing, for example, are two operations with diametrically opposed philosophies. Inverting or obliterating an image are also intellectually charged processes filled with meaning.
In the exhibition “What Power Art Thou?”, the artist performs in his new paintings a seemingly unnatural graft of one image onto another. First comes the founding gesture of the painting, always the same one, which consists of applying wallpaper – here a rather sophisticated photographic decor, often reversed or haphazardly glued – onto the blank canvas. In a second step, the painting of an archetype is superimposed, taken from the artist’s collections of motifs: a pig’s head, clown shoes, a small dog, etc. Thus, two images are associated in the paintings of this series, following an extremely polarized dialectic, a dramatized mise-en-scène, voluntarily overplayed. The association among them is more free than narrative, seeking stridency, chaos, even destructiveness. And if this collection and juxtaposition of images bear violence, than it is because this violence can be found out in the world.