SoloshowOctober 26 - December 09, 2023
SoloshowOctober 26 - December 09, 2023
THE ANARCHY OF IMAGINATION
I’ve been enchanted by the creative force and universe of Jean-Luc Verna since the early 90s. Confronted with work inspired by the musical movements in punk and new wave, but also film, pop culture, theater, mythology, and mysticism, one cannot be indifferent to the parade of characters and metaphorical images that appear. His meta-mystical imagery evokes the sense of being perceived as an image extracted from film. And observing his drawings is like playing a game of decoding the secret double meanings inscribed therein—sometimes very simple ones at first sight, but always containing a touch of something deeper, hidden, and special. The viewer’s imagination is guided to engage in these works and render evolving narratives anew each time.
Beside the incredible mastery of his drawing technique, Jean Luc Verna is an accomplished multidisciplinary artist known for his performances pieces—various collaborations, choreographies, and installations. All reasons he likes to define himself “polydisciplinary”.
By adopting in his drawing’s imagery sourced from a goth style as well as popular culture, anthropological studies, and cultural artifacts, he offers a multifaceted exploration into primal urges with elements from both high and low culture. Drawing allows Verna greater freedom to experiment and to take creative risks, and oftentimes his approach also uses techniques from tattooing as an outlet for the constant transfiguration and mediation of his ideas.
Verna considers his body a canvas and site of artistic exploration. He’s often used his own body as a medium for his artwork, blurring the boundaries between literal life-itself (as opposed to life as it is experienced) and art. By virtue of this approach, his body has become a living sculpture, adorned with intricate and symbolic tattoos that hold personal as well as artistic significance. He’s incorporated the visual language of tattoos into his larger artistic vocabulary, creating a thematic continuity across his diverse works. And he’s challenged norms of beauty and gender through his self-presentation, using tattoos as a means of embodying and expressing his identity on his own terms. In his own words: “I, just an old queen wearing make-up, who had paved the way, felt clearly before saying that I was homosexual, that I was a man, and before being a man, I was an artist. And that I was not proud of being homosexual: I didn't choose to be that way, just as I had no choice in being white.”
So, it seemed fitting to title this text “The Anarchy of Imagination”, an idea that came from the book of the same name—the collected interviews, notes, and essays from the bad boy of the New German Cinema movement, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The common themes apparent between these two spheres of New German Cinema and Jean Luc Verna’s art practice are moreover sourced from punk culture, Verna’s work specifically being situated within the broader context of contemporary art, queer culture, and underground scenes. He was associated with the French queer art movement and influenced by punk and DIY aesthetics, thereby embracing the marginalized. As Fassbinder does, so too does Verna express rebellion against authority and societal norms, often through critique of the oppressive structures and systems of the moment, utilizing delicate humor to expose realities about class struggle, gender, and power dynamics.
Verna’s imagery often administers an initial shock, which then dissipates as we spend time with it and uncover its nuances. This imagery, sometimes humorous, is often nevertheless disconcerting on a private and personal level. Images are a meditation between the world and human beings. Thus, in his drawings, he creates imagery that help us to meditate about this ephemeral world and our lives as human beings in its context.
Sometime ago during the television premiere of the talk show Berlin Alexanderplatz, in the context of the prevailing hysteria about terrorism, one caller asked Fassbinder, “Are you an anarchist?”
Fassbinder responding by asserting, “I am for the anarchy of the imagination.”
This first NYC solo exhibition by Jean Luc Verna at the Ceysson & Bénétière has been a greatly anticipated event. The parade of images involving characters, animals, ghosts, skeletons, and bodies is like a cascade of phantoms embodying and giving life to the spirit of anarchy within the realm of artistic imagination.
Moreover, by embracing anarchy in his approach to creativity, Verna demonstrates how the imagination can thrive when free from constraints. As an artist who by his very concept of art is challenging norms, his work plays a key role in a more liberated and diverse understanding of imagination and expression.
Lara Pan, August 2023.
Artist : Jean-Luc Verna
Ceysson & Bénétière
956 Madison Avenue
10021 New York
T: +1 646 678 3717