Slumbering Freaks, C14-Paris,
by Frederic Bodet translated by Jonathan Bass
JP Racca Vammerisse is a sculptor with passion for ceramics to which he often adds other materials such as textiles, plastic, glass or card board. He stages these works masterfully, injecting them with a keen sense of drama. Each piece displays exquisite technical craftsmanship and although individual elements are small-sized, once assembled they become spectularly large-scale installations. JPRV plucks his references from popular and erudite culture. Source range from Gothic Fantasy to Tex Avery, from gleeful reinterpretations of ornamental styles of Late Baroque architecture tp artefacts dating back to the 19thcentury, a period in itself already rich in remixes of revived styles. His art juxtaposes sophisticated elegance and exaggerated excessiveness, fearlessly embracing expressive overload and outrageous colour. JPRV's taste for grotesque and polished ugliness is generally expressed in a non-naturalistic figurative mode that pushes decadence to the edge of fantasy cosplay.
In 2019, this will be JPRV's thurd appearance at C14-Paris. His project this year consists of a set of mural sculptures (…) with both pop and pastel colours, pieces he has chistened Monstres Sacrés, (literally « Sacred Monsters » but in the sense of « Sacred Cows »). He describes them as a « mixed bag of sleeping demons (Court of the Night) who are suffering from being exposed to dreams ». According to one dictionary definition, *« A demon is a symbol of a higher than normal lucidity that brings with it greater foresight and unshakable certainty. The demon's blinding conviction allows him to bend even the rules of logic not just grounds of his superior knowledge but also because pf his naturally superior status ».
*(Jean Chevalier et Alain Gheerbrant, Dictionnaire des symboles (Dictionary of Symbols), pub. Bouquins, 1969).
nuits fauves ‘wild nights’
JP Racca-Vammerisse [JPRV] graduated with honours from the ESAP / Pavillon Bosio, École Supérieure d’ Arts Plastiques de la Ville de Monaco, in 2012. After his first solo exhibition in the Principality, Nyctophilia*, at the Eleven Columbia gallery (Nov. - Dec. 2013), he moved to live and work in Paris. In 2016 he was selected by the Biennale Internationale de Vallauris and mounted his second solo show, Soirs de bataille, nuits de captivité (Sept. - Oct. 2016) at Madoura-Vallauris/Golfe Juan. That year, he joined Le Logoscope, a laboratory for mixed-media artistic research based in Monaco. At the end of 2017, the artist put on a new solo exhibition, Dans la région nocturne de mon oubli (Dec. 2017 - Feb. 2018), at “Le Fil Rouge”, a gallery in Roubaix in the north of France. This coincided with the publication of a catalogue presenting his visual universe. During this show, also in Roubaix, he presented two sculptural installations, Self Control and ...n’aura pas lieu at La Piscine - Musée d’art et d’industrie André Diligent.
JPRV works in a range of media from sculpture and painting to installation, but his main focus is on ceramics, producing sophisticated, sometimes monumental works showing a high degree of finish, craftsmanship and technicity. His work combines historical and contemporary influences, from the high baroque to modern Gothic fantasy and cartoons, reinventing classical forms with deceptively decorative results, sometimes sombre, sometimes in vivid colours. It is representative but not naturalistic: what it represents is more imagined than real, and more often than not ambiguous. He deals with the eternal themes of life, death and the human condition, typically with dark, wry humour.
The nuits fauves or “wild nights”, from pastel-blue twilight to the first yellow rays of dawn, are a time when a marginal underworld makes its appearance and shady characters, shunned by the normal, daylight world, meet. The title recalls the film of the same name by Cyril Collard and the exhibition is conceived as in immersive experience combining sight, smells and sound: the original sound installation was specially created for the exhibition by the visual artist Nicolas Delliac, whose work recycles audio and visual elements found on internet, while the scent of pine-needles, scattered on the floor faintly recalls the forest at night.
At the entrance we are challenged by Cathédrale précaire, an installation of 21 Fleurs du mal perched on and around a stepladder: gnarled claws masquerading as cut flowers, their stems like paintbrushes left to rot in assorted bottles of murky solvent. This is a nod to the pictorial tradition of the still life or, more appropriately, its French equivalent, nature morte. The forest is evoked again by a ceramic tree-stump, called Bouche-Tronc, (une souche avec un vide émotionnel à remplir : stump with an emotional void to fill) inviting us to reflect on nature, human nature, civilised or savage, nature we have denatured. And, like the trophies of shady creatures from some intermediary, shamanistic world hunted down in the woods, the heads of sleeping demons emerge from the walls on monumental totems (or gravestones), outlined subtly in pastel colours, positioning the viewer as a voyeur, a witness to the fact that monsters too may dream.
Offered up on the altar of the night, Cornucopia (ou la poubelle des désirs) rises before a faded yellow curtain. A horn of plenty filled with cartoon-character fruit, Cornucopia, a cast-iron Medici vase transformed into a dustbin of aborted plans and ideas, plays on a variety of references, from high art to low humour, morbid to comic. On the borderline between dreams and waking, out of the tortured depths of our sleepless nights, the installation sketches the contours of a reality viewed through troubled waters.
'cornucopia (ou la poubelle des désirs)'
The baroque pictorial tradition of “vanities”, Victorian funeral art, 19th-century death photography and other forms of decorous but macabre memento mori, have... no pun intended.. died out. Suburban crematoria, in their banal, redbrick efficiency, have taken the pompes out of funèbre. Death and the fear of it have become de-fused into cute, perky Halloween characters. And celebrity and biotechnologies now combine to promise eternal youth.
But these good-as-dead traditions have been resuscitated and reinvented through the recent work of JP Racca-Vammerisse [JPRV], in small and large-scale ceramic installations.
Cornucopia (ou la poubelle des désirs) - literally, Cornucopia (or the dustbin of desires) - is the latest of these, drawing together in a single, monumental trophy many of the themes he has developed, with grim irony, over the past two or three years, openly teasing us, in its title, with the vanity of our endeavours. In it, a tall, black Medici vase stands on a drum of bubble-gum pink, placed on a cobalt disc. The urn is piled high with glossy, multi-coloured “fruit”: ceramic heads embedded in coral or vegetation, culminating in a jaunty but dubious red spur emerging from a crooked blue mouth. The circular base is strewn with more of the same, on satellite beds of bubble-gum.
JPRV, currently researching Monaco ceramic production as part of the “Moines Kaolin” research and creation’s programme at Logosocope in princedom is an artist conscious of the history of his craft. A number of his recent works have recalled, in their size, forms and finish, the monumental columns, cache-pots, vases and jardinières produced around the turn of the last century by the Massiers in Vallauris as chefs-d’œuvre for France’s world fairs. Works such as his Crépuscules Molotov (2013-2014), the Speos series (2015), Les Triomphantes (2015), … n’aura pas lieu (2015-2016), La vie secrète des Tavan-mardoux (2016-2018), the magnificent but scary Self Control (2017) and now Cornucopia (ou la poubelle des désirs), pursue this tradition of highly-finished, large-scale, ceremonial ceramic pieces in various unsettling ways. All of them, while seductive, hint at rot, mould, decay, sometimes violence, and death.
In parallel, he has made superficially playful objects and ensembles recalling childhood and cartoons, using glowing colours, glossy glazes and found objects such as beetles, beads, games and plush toys (disembowelled, of course). These have recently included multiple, multicoloured small pieces, called Natures Mortes, in which disembodied, cartoon-character “bunny” or frogs’ heads turn out, on closer inspection, to be less cute, grinning impishly or snarling. They are displayed on shields as hunting trophies or on trays like food. There have also been grisly, gnarled, dismembered hands or claws, in …n’aura pas lieu. that, while horrific and ghoulish, may yet remind us of The Addams Family. And JPRV’s tree-trunk vases such as Bouche-Tronc, (une souche avec un vide émotionnel à remplir), simultaneously recall the Massier style, any number of Hollywood talking trees in films (e.g. the pained and indignant apple trees in The Wizard of Oz), or a butchers’ - or executioner’s - block.
All of these ambiguous features of JPRV’s work - should we smile or scream? - are united in Cornucopia (ou la poubelle des désirs). Its central idea is a dustbin - not an ordinary, domestic dustbin (although the piece is hollow and can be used as a receptacle) but the one to which fate consigns us all. It’s the dustbin of fruitless endeavours, unfinished projects, broken dreams, unfulfilled desires and wasted lives, in the lugubrious form of a funeral urn, monument or altar, perched on a bubble-gum stand that might actually be a chopping-block. The shiny, alluring sweets or apples brimming copiously over the border turn out to be those same disembodied, bunny-imp heads with their grimacing faces: animals we eat. And just as Aschenbach’s strawberries in cholera-struck Venice, instead of providing refreshment, prove overripe and soft, these decorative but disconcerting objects lie in a bed of suspicious, sickly-coloured, lichen-like webbing, hinting at imminent rot, and probably house the same invisible worm as Blake’s sick rose.
The underlying message is stark, but the candy colours are bright, childlike and playful, and those heads might well snap at us - or then again, they might not. Trick or treat? The ceremony of innocence may not actually be drowned - just dampened and a bit mouldy at the edges. Cornucopia says “Remember, you must die.” But it says it with a smile.
'Nuit obscure de l'âme' / 'Dark Night of the Soul'
Laurent de verneuil, freelance curator / Translated by Julian Rees
‘When one plumbs the depths of one’s heart in the silence of the night, one is ashamed at the poverty of the images of joy which we make for ourselves. I was not there the night I was conceived. An image is missing in the soul. We are products of bodily positions that must necessarily have been adopted but will never be revealed to our eyes. We call this missing image “the origin” ’ (1). This passage from The Sexual Night by Pascal Quignard, which Jean-Philippe Racca Vammerisse likes to quote, is composed of a web of the complex tangle of his fantasies and his fears. He hurls us, with himself, into a visceral chasm of crazy love, of incest and of violation, of anger, jealousy and of frustration. A work at once symbolic and intimate inhabited by death and rebirth, mother and infancy. The artist presents to us his demons in the darkest experimentations, in response to the most voiceless interrogations, to the most deeply buried secrets.
The night which so fascinates the artist is that of his nocturnal urban wanderings. It is the image of those in the course of which the sad hero of Hunger ceaselessly roams the streets of the Christiana of Knut Hamsun (2). Fascinated by the decay into which he sinks, the narrator complacently maintains his state of dereliction, the better to pierce us with the metaphor of this hunger which gnaws away at him – an insatiable thirst to give sense and a limitless greed for knowledge. The nights into which the artist abandons himself to such waking dreams plunge him into what the christian mystics call the “dark night of the soul”. A path of purification of the soul which leads to the mystical marriage, as putrefaction leads to the Black Art of the alchemist which he prepares in the agate mortar. René Guénon throws light in a particular way on this nocturnal fascination : ‘the “highest point” of the visible sun taking place at midday, that of the “spiritual sun” may be symbolically envisaged as taking place at midnight ; which is why it is said that initiates for the “great mysteries” of antiquity “contemplated the sun at midnight” ’ (3). Night does not represent the absence or the deprivation of light. The true light is that of the Night, that of the starry firmament, the pure and intelligible spiritual light, which only profane eyes perceive as night. This darkness is even necessary, according to Guénon, for every metamorphosis, and this rebirth takes place at the interior of the world, in the Athanor furnace.
In 2016 Racca Vammerise completed “The secret life of the Tavan-mardoux”, a series of sculptures which present recurring elements and symbols other than indispensable to the understanding of his work, at the forefront of which we find the scarab beetle. After the manner of Ptah, Master of Eternity in Egyptian mythology, the coprophagous coleoptera fathers himself and is reborn from his own decomposition. One finds it in "L'ouvrier", 2016, not only to roll along a ball of faeces or a drop of water, but under the weight of a glass sphere. This kind of crystal ball will not predict the future but will assure him of eternity if one trusts its green colour, symbol of rebirth and of resurrection. One perceives, in the reflection of the enamels and in the sparkling stones, in the radiance of the gold and of the pearls of a thousand colours, the look of wonder of the child, which was the artist, of decorator and haberdasher parents. One imagines the brocades and trinkets, the furniture and curios with which he was surrounded, but one cannot refrain from the desire to penetrate other mysteries. The glass cloches which cover most of his sculptures are like that alambic of Paracelsus, which is supposed to be able to give life to the homunculus (4), the alchemical allegory of the Creation, outside of any maternal womb of a human being, born of the putrified “spermal fluid of man”. It is from this same alambic, described by Pierre Mabille in his ‘Preface in praise of Popular Prejudices’ in the journal Minotaure (5), which ‘show the impetus, the desires, the needs, the conditions of sadness or of joy, the sicknesses or the euphoria’. In an inspiring analogy between geology and psychology, the surrealist author continues : ‘Nothing on the surface of the world which would not have been subterranean (water, earth, fire). Nothing in the intelligence which would not have made digestion and circulation in the depths.’ The series of the artist from Nice in Speos evolves in the same confusion, and returns us as much to the suppurating abdomen of the earth as to the faecal stalagmites bathed in the sperm of putrefaction. After the fashion of the Tavan-mardoux, this entirety symbolises the same return to the body, that of the womb, of the cave, of the viscera and secretions which remind us of the maternal body and its terrifying bloody floods.
On another level, but with the same force, Racca Vammerisse calls no longer to the mother but to his child, in the series Plushs and the video Playtime released in 2015, as in his most recent examples of Mementos Mori. The latter are composed of trophies of animals straight out of fairy tales while the former issue from a scene of a crime or from a dreadful film. True allegories of a childhood destroyed and sacrificed, Plushs portray disembowelled toys. From their entrails various parasites spill out which would not be so monstrous if they did not reach this undisputed symbol of childhood frailty, whose sweetness has no equal other than the maternal breast. The violence of this monster which feeds on the plunder of childhood, reminds us of the myth of Marsyas, that presumptuous satyr punished by Apollo for his hubris. The poor Phrygian Silenus is skinned alive and his head is severed. The various myth narratives of disembowelling, of decapitation and of cutting the body in pieces, which are drawn from Greek mythology, are very evident in the work of the artist. The fragmented body invites of necessity the theory of the 'Mirror Stage', introduced in 1936 into psychoanalysis, where Jacques Lacan foreshadows all the drama of the dialectic of alienation and subjectivisation. At his first contact with the mirror, the child has not yet a unified image of his body, which he experiences as a 'fragmented body', of which only the eye of another allows unification. It is once more to the myth narrative of fragmentation that the installation … it will not take place returns us. Of the Lernean Hydra only separated fragments remain of its mauled members which are so many cigarette butts crushed on the Emerald Table, where ‘life and death, the real and the imaginary, the past and the future, that which can be communicated and that which cannot, the high and the low cease to be perceived as contradictory’ (6). It is by the sword and the fire that the monster perishes. The saving and purifying flames emancipate the inner child from his deathly captivity and free the artist from his destructive addictions, those which condemn him to gamble his destiny in the casino or on the Ouija Board of the spirit, to return to his origins along Ariane’s thread, of which the haberdasher alone has the secret.
(1) cf. Pascal Quignard, The Sexual Night, Paris, Seagull Books, 2015 (2) cf. Knut Hamsun, Hunger, New York, Alfed A. Knopf, 1921 (3) cf. René Guénon, Fundamental Symbols: The Universal Language of Sacred Science, Louisville, Fons Vitae Publishing, 1995 (4) cf. Theophrasti von Hohenheim, De Natura Rerum, Strasbourg, Jobin, 1584 (5) cf. Pierre Mabille, "Préface à l’Éloge des Préjugés Populaires" in Minotaure, n°6, 1935 (6) cf. André Breton, Manifestoes of Surrealism, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1969
'Natures mortes' / 'still lives'
Louis Doucet, vice-président of the macparis association / Translated by Charline Florival
JP Racca-Vammerisse, also known as JPRV, is a young artist whose production is polymorphous. He speaks in these terms: 'My artistic practice connects real objects that are diverted from their initial function and context, with invented shapes that are figurative or abstract. The processes I trigger make these objects become the elements of a new story I am creating. I thus associate instinctive gestures, thoughts and reflections that compose my imaginary and dreamlike universe. I explore an intermediary space with a rich potential, like another dimension.'
Ceramic is his preferred medium. He mixes it with multiple elements that are more or less close to material reality, creating singular objects that question the real. He thereby prompts the viewers to complete or modify the images that are proposed to them with their mind, relying on their own experience, sensitivity and convictions to construct a personal narrative. Among the themes evoked, those of trash recycling and of the planned obsolescence of mass-diffused objects play an important part.
His 'Natures mortes' are lively coloured small ceramic pieces that are vaguely biomorphic but that could not be taken for an animal form or an external or internal organ. They are presented on food packaging trays, like groceries in supermarkets. They then become meat cuts, 'bidoche', left to the viewers’ stare and carnality.
For 'macparis automne 2017', we have suggested to the artist filling in the boxes that surround the main staircase of the Bastille Design Center with multicolour ceramic pieces. The displays originally made for factory parts hence find their initial function again, yet it is significantly altered, as this new presentation resembles more a butcher’s stall than a drugstore display. A fertile shift in meaning in this self-dehumanizing world... A bright manifesto of exhilarating pessimism, which the artist claims proudly and loudly.
by yves peltier director of madoura / Translated by Charline Florival
Artwork produced as a cross residence at Madoura, a place of art, history and creation - Vallauris, with the participation of Pierre Bruzzi & the Logoscope, Laboratory of multiple media artistic research - Monaco. 2016-2017
La Côte (the Coast), so deliciously named 'd’Azur' by Stephen Liégard, has always been the privileged location of a touristic industry that developed very early on, from the 19th century.
The interiors of hotels, of palaces, and in particular their foyers, have always been a reflection of contemporary decorative arts. Small pieces of furniture, tables, side tables and console tables were embellished with numerous decorative objects, such as trinkets, sculptures or vases.
The industry, adapting itself to the needs of its epoch, produced masses of those. It suffices citing Établissements Massier, famous art ceramists from Vallauris, to imagine a whole heterogeneous collection of artworks, formal and iconographic, inspired in turn by classical Antiquity, by the Orient or by the great Styles of the French 18th century. Without forgetting indeed a daring wink to the avant-gardist style breakthroughs of the epoch. The best known example is their 'complets', pillars overloaded with a rich 'répertoire' which became too quickly outdated. Adorned with large flower bouquets or with plants that had a strange and luxuriant exoticism, they were there to please an international microcosm that was opened to the world, stung by curiosity, hungry for art and culture and always ready to argue. Historical memory leaps and pictures that world as an enlightened one, a mixture of elegance and chic, forgetting a little too fast its murky behaviour.
From the second half of the 19th century, continuing during 'Belle Époque' and up to pre-war years, the foyer remained a fashionable gathering spot where the aristocrats, the grand bourgeois, the artists but also the adventurers, crooks, 'cocottes' and other half-worldly women got together in a musical, festive and carefree atmosphere. SELF CONTROL, a sculpture that uses the ceramic medium, reactivates an end of century Côte d’Azur memory, playing with post-modern aesthetics in an offbeat manner.
On a partly bared stump, rests a soliflore vase whose shape is monstrously organic. This 'organ' hosts most peculiar flowers... Weird red claws emerge and make devil-like moves, seeming ill-bred and hysterical. Hence reunited, they remind of concert halls where raised hands show the frenzy of the crowd, exulting in a trance, to the experience of sound. On the ground, around this quasi-totem, lay laughing blue beaks, as a reference to a famous cartoon character known for his laugh, as unique as improbable and inimitable. The laugh of Woody Wood Pecker, a character created in Walter Lanz’s animation studios, which appears for the first time in 1940 and announces the post-war years. Those notorious 'Yéyé' years which will see Côte d’Azur hotels fill up again with a joyful clientele, dancing and laughing to life. American stars, music charts, music hall and television celebrities, cinema starlets could be seen, together with anonymous tourists, the very same 'cocottes' and adventurers of all kinds.
This spectacular sculpture - a real challenge to the idea one may have of good taste - borrows its title to Sarah Branigan’s eponymous song Self Control (1984) and sets the mood. Its verticality betrays the classical ideal of a spiritual elevation of man arising from the utopias of the end of the 19th century and of the first half of the 20th century. The idea of never-ending progress, guaranteeing a better future, wrenching mankind of its heavy and brutal animalism, has nevertheless been rapidly swept away by the horrors of this last century. This idea remains, however, a symbol of man’s strength and dignity. It was not only 'collabos', Gestapo and Wehrmacht members who patronized hotel halls and fornicated in their rooms!
SELF CONTROL summons shadowy night creatures that, solitary or accompanied, following history’s vicissitudes, came to crowd the crossing points these hotels are.
by yves peltier director of madoura / Translated by Charline Florival
Artwork produced as a cross residence at Madoura, a place of art, history and creation - Vallauris, with the participation of Pierre Bruzzi & J.-S. Marchessou 2017
With this artwork, JP Racca-Vammerisse invites us to a strange and fascinating experience. Structuring it as an isolated world, as though suspended, he evokes on purpose the silhouette of the 'Isle of the Dead' by Arnold Bocklin. As viewers facing this artwork, we feel the need to immerse ourselves by checking what it contains: a reverse painted mirror [translator’s note: 'Églomisé' mirror in French], relic from the past, makes us take the posture of Narcissus staring at himself on the water’s surface. Our reflection loses itself. The mirror’s surface makes us live the poetic experience of aquatic and underground worlds. A night like water, dark yet starlit and chimeric. We lose ourselves in endless dreaming, becoming dizzy with the vertigo of our own being, within mysterious inner worlds.
'topographie, seconde peau', 'topography second skin'
by yves peltier director of madoura / Translated by Charline Florival
The set of Second skin photographs from the Topography series presents a collection of underwear garments found in urban locations. These images sustain a reflection on intimacy and 'extimacy' (translator’s note: from the French 'extimité' i.e. exteriorized intimacy). According to psychiastrist Serge Tisseron, extimacy is the desire to unveil some sides of oneself that are considered private. These pictures set the confrontation between the intimate, the absence of mediation with others and the public space that we share daily.
Covered with the nocturnal cloak, the public space becomes the space of all frontiers, a place to exchange and meet all individuals, some of them shady. These underclothes are a physical obstacle, a frontier, an 'infrathin'... Abandoned there, they question the relationship to the other. In a surprising manner, they also are fantasy objects. Shot in a frontal manner, these pictures evoke a fetishist desire that is obsessional at times. The feelings of indecency and of guilt that arise say a lot about the relationship we have with others, with society...
A relationship that is organized and in which we build and protect our share of intimacy, even though barriers may fall for the time of an encounter... Our intimacy is formulated collectively.
It translates itself into laws, standards, or simply into tacit agreements, which we abide by. Social customs and moral judgement never are far away, relating to questions of order and disorder.
A fragile variable, the frontier between the intimate and what is shared with the group is more tenuous. This garment, akin to snake moult, becomes the artefact of a past action and of passed temporality. Witnessing these 'second skins', which lay on some pavements, scenarios become more complex... On the street, the presence of this piece of cloth will be deemed accidental, the result of an exceptional event. Depending on the location, it becomes something dirty, a piece of trash to be withdrawn from our sight. When meanwhile, in very noticeable window displays not far away, the same underwear will have a price and be wanted.
by yves peltier director of madoura / Translated by Kathie Berger
In his Plushs series, JP Racca-Vammerisses starts with objects from real life which he hijacks and incorporates. This intrusion of the real expels any risk of a truly fictional dimension from the narrative system that has been put into place. It allows readers to adhere to the reality of the narrative proposed by the artist, which they, through their own life experience and perception of events, construct a non-negligible share of when confronted with it as viewers. The other share being literally conceived, modeled and assembled by JP Racca-Vammerisse by taking those objects as the base – in the initial sense of the term – both of the object/sculpture as well as of his discourse, allowing him to convoke its emotional, or even poetic and symbolic weight.
Here, an organic-seeming, misshapen double, fashioned through a primitive modeling technique, has something awful about it, because it really is a double being ripped from the remains of these plush toys / fragments of the real, intimate doubles.
“The monstrous double now takes the place of those objects (…) replacing those things that each has sought to assimilate and destroy, to incarnate and to expel.” 1
Those words of the French philosopher and anthropologist René Girard, taken from his most famous book, Violence and the Sacred, are, in my opinion, a possible key for approaching and interpreting these three works by this artist, because the polychrome entrails are perhaps naught but the incarnation of the other. The monstrosity that is extracted from the group by destroying it, by sacrificing it, as in primitive societies, in order to maintain social cohesion. Unless it is the more disturbing monstrosity that is present within each of us, that we try to expel from ourselves in order to retrieve a coherence that will protect us from the other, that unknown figure who frightens us and who lives within us, in spite of ourselves.
Joseph de Maistre, in his Eclaircissement sur les sacrifices (“Shedding Light on Sacrifices”) observes that animal victims of sacrifice always have something human about them. Here, the plush toy, a hybrid being that is a cross between the animal and the human, evokes innocence. The innocence of childhood, obviously, but also the innocence that is spontaneously attributed to any victim of sacrifice.
And yet, we all know that humans have an incredible capacity for being both predator and victim. Despite everything, that implacable judgment is ringed with a concern that soon turns gloomy, horrific. We are brushing up against the incomprehensible, the unspeakable, the mysterious and the sacred. The innocent human child, forgetting its chimera and its dreams, becomes an adult, and a predator, demon, ogre or even bogeyman. Through what odious metamorphosis do we wind up there? What part of ourselves have we truly destroyed?
1 Girard R., Violence and the Sacred, (translated by Patrick Gregory, Continuum, London/New York; 2005 English edition; p/ 175; Original French Edition, Paris, Grasset, 1972, p. 230)
'soirs de bataille, nuits de captivité', 'battle evenings, captivity nights'
by yves peltier director of madoura / Translated by Charline Florival & eliza langland
J.P. Racca-Vammerisse, this year’s youngest artist selected for the competition organised as part of the Biennale de Vallauris, is invited to exhibit exclusively at MADOURA, home of art, history and creation. This invitation reflects the desire to give visibility to this most promising work of astonishing maturity and to highlight the artist’s quality of approach and research.
J.P. Racca-Vammerisse (born in 1987 in Nice) lives and works in Paris, yet it is at Pavillon Bosio de Monaco (Art School) that he studied and graduated in 2012, under the attentive supervision of Daphné Corregan.
This exhibition ‘Soirs de bataille, nuits de captivité’ is the opportunity to discover artworks which were partly produced in Isère, during his artist residence at Moly Sabata – Fondation Albert Gleizes, at Sablons.
J.P. Racca-Vammerisse has chosen pieces that evoke, for some, the troubling or the tragic realities of today but also, for him, the permanent fight that is artistic creation, its inner turmoil and the energy of commitment it demands on these ‘nights of clarity, when time unfolds, no longer holding oneself back’.
The artist that he is calls on the imaginary, an irreality which, according to Max Weber, permits an understanding of the real – a reality he knows how to transcend to reach the essence of the poetry of things, the symbolic, thereby granting us entry to a truth at times so difficult to reach by ourselves.
Each of his artworks is an image drawn from his daydreams and it is his use of this vocabulary, belonging to himself alone, its orderliness making of it such a singular language, the poetry, he “recounts”, that “tells” of the ineffable.
Let us linger a while at this table, a place of sociability ‘par excellence’ where the very idea of exchange and sharing has been slain by the fire of our fears, our rejection and hatred of the other. These fears are monsters that devour us, catching us in their sharp claws, whose gaping carnivorous jaws which destroy everything, and howl out their hatred of light, that hydra with a swan head and gut-like neck, contorting itself, expressing the pain of the artist before the rotted, horrifying show; reality, that swallows us up, and filthily stains with piss the immaculate faience white. These sharp fangs try to take us off into night’s nothingness, into the endless sleep of our conscience.
There are also pieces in which the imaginary nourishes a wonderful fertility, polarised and redemptive, made of pearls, of stones or of precious beads, worthless tacky things, absolute weapons against the banality of our black, corrosive moods, of our aggressive, bellicose spleen, of our existences colliding with the incredible Empedoclean stability of chaos.
In the Speos installation, it is the underground world of caves and crevices he is summoning. A frightening world, somber and mysterious provoker of wonder, of hallucinations which, through magic, create the supernatural.
With the Noeuds votifs suite, he replays this first act where the imaginary feeds a collective sociology, founder of rites. Here, each knot evokes the manner in which some trends (tattooing) or currents of thought (Goth movement) in our society reinterpret these practices by feeding on their primitive, tribal aesthetics.
Facing his work, J.P. Racca-Vammerisse likes to cite Emile Michel Cioran (1911-1995): ‘During insomnia, I tell myself, by way of consolation, that these hours in which I am aware, I rip from nothingness, and that if I slept them, they would never belong to me, they would never have existed.’ Let us follow him, the artist, at this time, in this exhibition and let us battle, at his invitation, let us uproot ourselves out of this frightening captivity engendered by our fears. This apparently golden captivity is our own. He has managed, by the alchemy of his thought, to show us how burdened it is, through this Lilliputian terrestrial sphere imprisoned in its glass globe.
The imaginary takes shape in his daydreaming, in his nocturnal and saturnine insomnia, in these swirls of absinthe green, lascivious and psychotropic, which we find in some of his canvases. One has to have seen his gaze cross then survey the lights and spectres of the town, diving into nights studded with summer stars, to understand. J.P. Racca-Vammerisse puts himself there, at the frontier between the real and the imaginary. Interceder that he is between our fears, our anxieties and this absolute space of fertile freedom, of light, which our nights, our dreams, can be if we are willing to stay awake.
experience of an underground world, in the wolf's jaws
by ÉRic berthon, gallerry accroterre / Translated by sandra Reis
JP Racca - Vammerisse works from elements of reality that carry a story, convey an experience, which he subverts to incorporate them into his artistic world. The latter explores, without hierarchy, a nocturnal, underground pr dreamlike world in installations consisting of diverse materials and techniques. For this visual artist, ceramics that intimately meld artefacts and personnal creations become the medium for all possibilities.
Dans la gueule du loup (In the Wolf’s Jaws) belongs to a set of ceramic sculptures, Expérience d’un monde souterrain (Experience of an Underground World), which is loosely inspired by the underworld of the ancients. These pieces interact with each other in the space and evoke, in a symbolic and humourous way, the passage from an austere world to another marginal one, from reality to imagination, from the concrete to the abstract. Dans la gueule du loup is a work consisting of three mocking wolves’muzzles in the form of a hunting trophy, evoking the famous three-headed dog Cerberus, whose head would have exploded into separate parts. These laughing muzzles, with the Duchampian titles Loufoque (Zany), Loubard (Hooligan) and Loupé (Flawed), hence represent the schizophrenic aspect of our modern society, which no one escapes, even less so artificially.
Excerpt from the preface written by Éric Berthon, gallery accroterre, in the interview with Nathalie Ouamrane, Artistic director of the Festival des Imaginaires / Translated by Charline Florival
“JPRV is attracted, not to say fascinated by night. To him, it is the moment of the day when he sees a strange world appear, in which shady characters get along, outside of society, as though institutions and normality have cast them away. As new genealogies form, the senses - hearing and smell - seem sharpened and inversions of values come into place. For example, using what is thrown away by the daily world and that night shall embellish, those objects which darkness will give a new appeal to. A different reading which the artist will use to illustrate his dreams, his critiques and the diurnal erroneousness of his fellows, which he resembles indeed. ”
'Envisager le monde ', 'considering the world'
by Ondine bréaud, arts and art science PHD / Translated by charline florival
First of all I should like to talk about JP Racca-Vammerisse’s taste in materials, some collected during nocturnal wanderings, others crafted during workshops and residencies in France or abroad. Raw, simple and modest materials. If the artist takes hold of them, it is to put them through adventures called 'sculptures' and 'installations'. Sometimes he only integrates this scum into an organized plastic ensemble, such as these little wooden frames accommodating oil paint portraits, or these colourful vases that proudly contain, instead of banal flower bouquets, some sort of exhausted torches. Materials that are susceptible to be moved 'from bin to eternity', as Tadeusz Kantor said it, but also, when it comes to clay for example, to receive the impact of a hand, an arm or a body, that of the artist, who most of the time is agitated and obstinate: JP Racca-Vammerisse, artist who is in direct hold of the world he has indeed chosen to surround himself with. A certain chaos, more sonorous than visual in fact - he works with full blast music on - characterizes his studio, where he sometimes stays for several days in a row. Should we see a link between his nightmares and the ceramic monsters and other decadent shapes that fill up his creative space?
I do not believe that the artist would reject the idea that he may be tormented and my personal viewpoint would be to share this idea, noticing however that he knows, using effects of organization, stylization and spatial arrangement, how to keep his universe at a distance.
Hence, over sleep, reason most often triumphs and the hallucination is only temporary. Nevertheless, one should not be mistaken about his relationship to the world. If he says that he was a slacker in his youth, preferring to the power of words that of drawing tools and of other ways of representing the world, today he would like to throw Molotov cocktails at its surface. Why? For the simple reason that the world is absurd or tragic in his eyes. Yet with this belief he avoids the traps of dogmatism. Because, to the temptation of wanting to change things, the visual artist prefers the idea of embracing them as they are. A 'jubilant pessimism', we could say, which gives him a considerable energy to create visual tales with more or less obsessive themes, springing from his hands and from his wandering psyche. There, as many 'signifieds' as enigmas interlace for the reader.
I would also like to evoke something that could seem like a leitmotiv in his production: these portraits that cannot really be identified as being individual or collective. They are scattered on the walls of the gallery as homage to the art of miniature portraits, such as the very scenographic displays of aristocratic portraits. With a difference though, as we are dealing with real or false anonymous characters here. Is it out of respect for the protagonists of these hypothetical families, or for wanting to get involved in the police inquiry, that JP Racca-Vammerisse grants serial numbers to these individual portraits? Whatever it may be, it is his epoch the artist is talking about, with these visages, sometimes farcical, sometimes revolutionary, these two-headed or atrophied faces, and other disturbing characters. He speaks of our time and of all the questioning it carries about the subject’s identity and the place of the “I” within communities that are indeed based on secular structures, but that are above all 'virtual' and growing. He also is contemporary in his way, not of asking what would help increase the incommunicability of individuals, but of drawing from various iconographic repertoires going from cartoons to blogs and from fanzines to online magazines, with their share of obscenities and clichés of all sorts. The question of good and bad taste, as Baudrillard already said a few years ago, no longer matters. In its place comes the question that psychoanalysts point to: extimacy or rather this strange way of no longer hiding much of one’s intimacy. A society fact which the artist reflects in his artworks, elegantly withdrawing himself while his self still is in
question: in the multiplicity of faces that he paints and probes unceasingly, his own, always discreet, seems to be hiding more than exposing itself.
Finally, I would like to meditate on JP Racca-Vammerisse’s latest creations. Using colours that remind those, almost supernatural, of his small formats, they display five faces of men with closed eyes. A new 'Voile de Véronique', or a simple evocation of a desired moment when a man prefers not to see anymore, so he may access extraordinary worlds? An appeal towards a sacred, which is 'trivialized' by supports made of furnishing fabric, or a metaphor of night, as the title he chose for this exhibition could make us think? I do not know. But what I think I can affirm is that there is a step, a resolute step, towards painting.
'non-résistance à la nuit', 'non-resistance to the night'
emil cioran, précis de décomposition, 1949 / Translated by charline florival
Translator's note: This is a free translation of an excerpt of the book 'Précis de décomposition', which was translated into English in 1998, under the title 'A short history of decay' (by Richard Howard).
In the beginning, we believe we are advancing towards the light; then, tired by an aimless walk, we let ourselves slide down: the earth, less and less hard, no longer supports us: it opens. In vain we would seek to pursue a path towards a sunlit destination, the shadows expand within and below us. No glow can illuminate our shift: the abyss is calling us, and we listen to it. Above remains all that we wanted to be, all that could not lift us higher. And, once in love with heights then disappointed by them we end up cherishing our fall, we make haste to accomplish it, instruments of a strange execution, fascinated by the illusion of touching the confines of darkness, at the frontiers of our nocturnal destiny. The fear of void transformed into voluptuousness, how lucky to be evolving at the opposite of the sun! Reversing infinite, God that begins underneath our heels, ecstasy in front of the being's cracks and thirst for a black halo, the Void is a flipped dream we engulf ourselves in. If vertigo becomes our law, let us carry an underlying nimbus, a crown in our descent. Dethroned from this world, let us take its spectre with us to honour the night with new splendour.