Pierre Seinturier, "They left in a hurry", 2015. Oil pastels on paper mounted on cardboard, 265 x 200 x 150 cm. Courtesy Galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris. © ADAGP, Paris 2015.
Pierre Seinturier, "Wanna take a bath ?", 2015. Oil pastels on paper, 111,5 x 143 cm. Private collection. Courtesy Galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris. Photo: Aurélien Mole. © ADAGP, Paris 2015.
Pierre Seinturier, ""O’ Lord... this is really... exciting", he thought as he stood there, watchin’em", 2015. Oil pastels on paper, 130 x 195 cm. Private collection. Courtesy Galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris. Photo: Aurélien Mole.
Pierre Seinturier, "Hell (6,66km)", 2014. Japanese ink on Thai paper, 140 x 100 cm. Private collection. Courtesy Galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris. Photo: Aurélien Mole. © ADAGP, Paris 2015.
Pierre Seinturier, "In the twilight zone of his own secret thoughts (détail), 2015. Coloured pencil and black chalk on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm. Courtesy Galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris. © ADAGP, Paris 2015.
Created in 2009, the Prix des Partenaires(1) du Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole is awarded by a jury composed of directors of cultural institutions, journalists, sponsors and exhibition curators. The prize rewards the work of a young artist working in the graphic arts and living in France. For his first museum exhibition, the prize winner of the 6th edition, Pierre Seinturier, has created the project I want to believe.(2)
We are invited to follow a kind of puzzle trail: from room to room, the artist plunges us into something like the plot of a film. The credits, an imaginary map, a collection of images, a diorama(3) featuring two ramblers, some study notebooks, and a series of drawings. All these items together produce an open narrative dotted with clues; they form a comprehensive work which turns us into actors in the story.
THE CREATION OF AN IMAGE
There is no doubt that the genesis of this mysterious universe is to be found in Pierre Seinturier’s study notebooks. He makes notes in them almost every day, along with quick sketches and drawings from life. They provide an inexhaustible fund of ideas for research and images in progress. The drawings are suggested in a few lines and often accompanied by words or sentence fragments. They are the raw material for large format paintings.
Pierre Seinturier also makes much use of his own picture library. He loves, collects and likes to appropriate images from film noir, colour photos from the "New topographics"(4), the biting humour and macabre spirit of certain illustrations from the "New Yorker"(5), as well as comic strips from the 1950s and 1960s. He creates a mental image from this corpus. His modus operandi involves samples, fragments, and flashes of memory. Without ever going in for explicit quotation, reprise, or imitation of these sources of inspiration, Pierre Seinturier nevertheless makes use of them in order to "create an image that is as plausible as those we have become accustomed to in films"(6).
A STRANGE YET FAMILIAR ELSEWHERE
As a result of its use of such references, the artist’s universe is one of indeterminate landscapes which, nonetheless, seem familiar. We have already seen these places, "but where exactly?" Gaël Charbau asks. "Somewhere in America, probably […] and also wherever it is that our memory has stored the imaginary worlds of westerns and film noir."(7) A countryside of wide open spaces, dark, exotic forests, the Great Lakes or the Rocky Mountains, but sometimes anonymous suburban spaces, are often the setting for his mysterious little scenes. Here be little people, likely serial killers and the mythical figure of the cowboy.
THE PREGNANT INSTANT
Like Edward Hopper(8), Pierre Seinturier bases his description of the world on those moments when the insignificant or the trivial are endowed with a powerful enigmatic force: a hunter with his rifle pressed against his cheek, a lumberjack with his axe raised, a man standing on the threshold of a door, a cowboy taking aim. In Seinturier’s pictures, the action is frozen a moment before its conclusion.
This narrative process recalls the theory developed by Lessing(9) in his essay "Laocoon: or, the limits of Poetry and Painting". Lessing maintains that, in order to involve the viewer the "organ" of the imagination has to be stimulated. For this to happen, the painter or sculptor should not show the climactic moment of the scene but, rather, should select that "pregnant" moment just before, and stop the action there. In Pierre Seinturier’s pictures there are various clues that point towards a drama or an activity about to happen.
SEEING WITHOUT BEING SEEN
This atmosphere of suspense in his art, and the strangeness that goes with it, are reinforced by the position Pierre Seinturier reserves for the spectator. We are given a glimpse of what is going on through a series of screens (tree trunks, bushes, forests, architectural structures). These are often dark and somehow analogous to a "camera obscura"(10) or a keyhole. The spectator’s involvement in the scene thus becomes that of a voyeur; we see without being seen.
"I WANT TO BELIEVE"
By a clever process of self-reflexive embedding, the viewer In Pierre Seinturier’s exhibition "I want to believe" becomes the fictional double of his two ramblers. These two figures can be seen in the diorama "They left in Hurry", and in the pen and ink drawings "The Kloset (Bar, sluts, Food)" and "Hell (6,66 km)". Throughout the journey, they are our travelling companions in what takes on the form of an investigation with no clear aim; everything remains opaque and mysterious in Pierre Seinturier’s universe. Here, burlesque verges on the absurd; one is reminded of the Coen brothers’ film "Fargo"(11).
The English titles that act as captions to the drawings seem at first to give us some sort of a lead. They are lines from songs by Frank Zappa(12) or extracts from Doo-Wop songs(13). But they are so short and fragmentary that they leave us even more baffled than we were before. Their humour and irony are often out of kilter with what we see in the pictures.
When we get to the end of the trail, are we supposed to have solved the mystery? Can we actually believe that it is THE END when the credits roll?
(1) "Le Club des Partenaires" du Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole was founded in June 2006 and currently consists of 7 sponsoring companies.
(2) The title of the exhibition is a reference to the title of an episode in the American series "The X-Files".
(3) A diorama is a partially three-dimensional replica or scale model used in museums, particularly in history museums. It is a way of representing a historical, geological or natural scene in such a way that the subject (a character from fiction or history, or an animal, etc.) is shown in its natural setting.
(4) The exhibition "The New Topographics" was held in 1975 at George Eastman House, Rochester, USA. It marked the emergence of a new approach to landscape photography. The photographers involved, who included Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, dissociated themselves from the mythmaking approach to American landscape. Their approach to the genre was an objective one that rejected effects of style.
(5) Illustrations by James Thurber and Chas Adams.
(6) Gaël Charbau, "Silence, Action", Catalogue Pierre Seinturier, MAMC de Saint-Étienne Métropole, 2015.
(7) Gaël Charbau, "Silence, Action", Catalogue Pierre Seinturier, MAMC de Saint-Étienne Métropole, 2015.
(8) Edward Hopper (1882-1967) American painter who depicted everyday middle-class life. His urban landscapes imbued with melancholy have inspired a number of filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Wim Wenders, Tim Burton, David Lynch, the Coen brothers.
(9) Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), German writer, philosopher, dramatist and art critic. "Laocoon: or, The limits of Poetry and Painting" was published in 1766. As its name indicates, this essay discusses the limits of the visual arts and poetry. It is part of a return to antiquity characteristic of Neo-Classicism. Lessing’s aesthetic principles are inherent in such works of Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) as "Oath of the Horatii" (1785), "The Death Of Socrates" (1787), "The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons" (1789).
(10) "The camera obscura" (Latin for "dark room") is an optical device that led to photography and the photographic camera.
(11) "Fargo" is a British American film produced in 1995 by Joel and Ethan Coen. It is a mixture of detective story and black comedy.
(12) Franck Zappa (1940-1993), was an American musician, songwriter, composer, record producer, and filmmaker. The lyrics of his song are a satire of the established social order and structures. Many of Pierre Seinturier’s titles are taken from the 1979 album "Joe’s Garage."
(13) Built upon vocal harmony, "Doo-Wop" was one of the most mainstream, pop-oriented R&B styles of the 1950s and 60s. The songs were in close four-part harmony influenced by gospel and reminiscent of the "barbershop quartet". "Doo-Wop" lyrics were usually sentimental but were sometimes also humorous.