Alain Séchas

Ghislaine Hussenot

Alain Séchas’ mocking phantasmic imagery may simply be too perverse for our current state of somnolence. One should not look for an ironic critique of post-Modern academicism in his funny, slightly schizophrenic black and white drawings. Neither should the viewer expect a derisive commentary on the absurdity and vulgarity of our times, like those in newspaper comic strips by the likes of Reiser and Claire Bretécher, from which this show borrows its incisive style and black humor. Séchas’ art does not plumb psychological or social depths; rather it skips across the surface, addressing the indecent voyeurism of our imaginary schemas and of our obsessions.

Drawing is the primary element and catalyst of Séchas’ work. He sketches his strange visions: a hysterical smoker, an alcoholic at a table, a suicide, electrical wires transformed into a musical score, or a specter of a woman driving a wagon pulled by rabbits. The drawings are then enlarged and transferred onto large panels that are presented on the wall or displayed as two-dimensional cutouts dispersed around the gallery.

What moves Séchas’ images is our own vision, by revealing their voyeuristic nature. His work is an investigation filled with humor—a fantasy that relies on the latent perverseness of our gaze, and on the cruelty of a society sick with the need to see without being seen. In his hastily executed sketches, Séchas’ art acts as a transforming “parasite” (Michel Serres). His representations heat up and become gases, like the little sneering clouds that gleefully sprinkle water over a town in this show. The issue for Séchas—as for other French artists, such as Bazile, or more recently Absalon and Xavier Veilhan—is the rejection of Duchamp and the tradition of the readymade. For Séchas, drawing is the means of delivery from the terror of objects and of language; it alleviates and negates the world’s weight, transforming reality into an airy fantasy. It maliciously perverts our vision, a bit like the beguiling grin of a Cheshire cat. With Séchas, signs float on the surface of consciousness between words and things—the place where everything becomes possible and thus, definitively uncontrollable.

“Only little girls can understand sense as the double sense of the surface,” says Gilles Deleuze, speaking of Lewis Caroll’s Alice. Likewise we must transform ourselves into little girls in order to comprehend these strange works. Silhouettes, 1990, shows fantastic siren-women, each bedecked with a tail in the shape of a tube that feeds an aquarium balanced on her back; behind this retinue, a hairy black satyr reposes in a hammock. The apparent incongruity, insolence, and humor of Séchas’ images immediately undermine the possibility of critical discourse (phallocracy, the vulgarity of stereotypes). The work’s effect is in its dual character: as with stage sets, the backs of these panels have been left blank, while the fronts reveal an unclassifiable, spectral imagery. This duality returns the viewer to the duplicitous nature of the imagination, which is simultaneously light and obsessive, fantastical and fatal. “Would reality be, in its essence, obsessional?” asks Witold Gombrowicz at the beginning of Cosmos, 1967. Certainly it would, respond Séchas’ laughing clouds.

Olivier Zahm

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll.