Francois Boué

Galerie Crouselhussenot

Francois Boué is a young French artist who has lived and worked mostly abroad. His interest in cultural variance has brought him to a peculiar type of work independent of national characteristics as they prevail for most of his contemporaries. It does not take place in a specific artistic medium (painting, sculpture, etc.) but attempts a personal synthesis of various artistic, stylistic, and cultural elements, arranging confrontations between their differences and making apparent the discontinuities in their physical and mental space. This systematic, coherent approach to cultural discontinuity easily finds its place in the project of Modern art.

Formally the works are presented as pieces of canvas cut in figurative shapes (car, mountain, baby, etc.), sewn on iron grids, and painted on both sides. The fronts are flat, painterly elements which comment on the shapes of the pieces, transforming their thematic content. The backs are conceived as monochromatic, fluorescent surfaces which reflect their aura onto the wall and so bring the back to the front, not as an illusionistic effect but as a pragmatic experience of transparency, luminosity,, and reflection. The canvas pieces are hung on wires which describe shapes on the wall, interfering poetically in the given space of the architecture and adding a figurative element which functions as a significant cultural, historical, and thematic reference.

Boué questions the autonomy of the esthetic object, going beyond any formalist simplification or asceticism and denying the viewer any general answer. The proliferation of stylistic, esthetic, and formal references keeps the work functioning as evidence of matters external to it; similarly, its historical, political, and social content function as an iconic challenge that poses knowing and feeling against each other at the same time that it points to their complicity. The esthetic appearance of the work is conjoined with personal experience of time and space; its historical content is seen in the perspective of actual experience. Its ideological transparency is rooted not in a didactic or declarative critical stance but, mostly, in an awareness of the discontinuity of any discourse as a liberating expression.

Boué inscribes his work in the historical context of our time with extreme care, demonstrating the period’s fragmentation of cultural and ideological coherence yet avoiding any programmatic request of post-Modernism. For him, the reconsideration of the historical ground of art (from Nicolas Poussin to Daniel Buren, mannerism to Philip Guston, Etienne-Louis Boullée to Dan Graham, etc.) means a complementary approach to ordinary space, as determined by both architectural structure and cultural memory, and thus an awareness of what can only constitute a political act. From this point of view, Boué’s Tintin’s Funeral, 1983, does not engage a superficial cartoonist theme, but achieves a rigorous approach to a contemporary myth—its iconographic aspect, its cultural typology, its political and historical function. Boué conducts this investigation without the radical’s doubts but also without any trace of nostalgia, establishing a distinct position on the myth as it fails.

The absence of program in Boué’s work intensifies its historical awareness and its effectiveness. The decorative element of painting and the monumentalist one of architecture are not only physical issues here but also mental structures. Boué uses the clashes within a bourgeois culture as demystified historical matter; the work is nothing but its references to space and time as perceived physically and mentally, not by a culture, but through it.

Denys Zacharopoulos