Bruno Perramant

With an exhibition title, “Si je t’oublie Paris” (If I Forget Thee, Paris), that evokes the Old Testament, and Faulkner as well, through a simple change of scene—Paris replacing Jerusalem—Bruno Perramant brings to the fore something salient to his work: a system of elliptical references that shuttles between history (artistic, intellectual, religious) and contemporary reality, between memory and the present—a constant circulation, real and metaphorical. Painting is interrogated both in its constant features and in its increasingly complex relationships with the image, particularly the moving image. In Si je t’oublie Paris, 2003, and in the series “Feux d’artifice” (Fireworks), 2003–2004, he explores the pictorial translation of light—an artificial and prosaic light that nevertheless suggests a beyond. Emerging from darkness, this light is at once magnified by contrast and threatened with disappearance. Glimmers fragment and punctuate the space, outlining balls of fire and sketching silhouettes of famous Parisian buildings seen at night: the Arc de Triomphe, the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d’Orsay. As snapshot images for tourists of the “city of light” but also as catalysts of emotional moments, these images hesitate, as always in Perramant’s work, between the intimate and the collective.

All these painted things were first seen from a window, photographed, and recorded by projection onto a canvas before being displaced once again by the act of painting: The process widens the gap between reality and representation. But Perramant is not concerned only with light, with the limits of visual perception and its interplay with mental images. He also engages language—a language that is without function, occurring as it were offscreen and with no apparent link to the image; yet like a movie subtitle or a thought bubble, some word is inscribed there, accentuating the work’s indeterminate quality. Four canvases catch a man and a woman off guard, embracing in the park: “Sun,” one of them announces, and the couple seems haloed by a star-shaped structure, a graphic sign of splendor and radiance, while the rest of the series displays a wordless romance, a silent exchange by way of enigmatic and out-of-sequence gestures. There is no narration here to give an illusion of reality, despite the relative realism of the technique. If there is a story, it is only that of the emergence of a scene (real or not, banal or symbolic—impossible to say), of an apparition in the visual field.

With his taste for the elliptical, his exploration of the quotidian and of popular imagery, his work on the distance between image and painting, between sight and speech, and through the effects of dislocation that he cultivates, Perramant enters into a rich, complex dialogue between painting and the mediated image. Detaching his visions from their sources by means of color, erasure, fragmentation, and distortion, juxtaposing them with a disembodied voice, and organizing the circulation between these two heterogeneous spaces, Perramant manages to establish painting in a real place, well beyond the surface, obeying his own rules and offering the viewer a real experience—something physical as well as spiritual.

Guitemie Maldonado

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.