Xavier Noiret-Thomé

Xavier Noiret-Thomé paints without a system: Having begun exhibiting in the early 1990s, he is of a generation that has felt capable of foregoing determinate frameworks so as to tackle the field of painting freely, as if it has once again been cleared of mines. Nevertheless, his practice is not devoid of an agenda, and it is pursued with full consciousness of his means, his history, and his process of formation. Playing on the architecture of the gallery in his recent exhibition “The Parade of Cannibals,” the artist offered a two-step trajectory. On the ground floor, five paintings showed the extent of his spectrum, from chromatic and formal unity (the metallic gray and perspective schema of Toile V [Canvas V], 2003) to the most motley of mixtures (as in Oiseau de paradigme [Bird of Paradigm], 2008–2009, where we see the image of a toucan—painted without a model, the artist points out—alongside fragments of stripes, both executed with spray paint and a brush, the relative rigidity of the stripes competing with assorted drips, squiggles, stains, and scrubbing gestures). One can only feel off-balance before Toile V, with its network of lines carving through space while at the same time outlining a spiderweb, allowing two visions of the world to coexist: conceptual tautology on the one hand and the classic rules of perspective on the other. La Débâcle II (Debacle II), 2008–2009, uses a similar double register: The title evokes both a natural phenomenon, the sudden breakup of river ice, and the art-historical precedent of Claude Monet, who famously painted such a scene in 1880. In fact, Noiret-Thomé’s painting might equally recall an abstract painting by Gerhard Richter or a Chinese landscape, the dialogue perturbed by a certain impression of disarray attributable to flashy, colorful, kitschy plastic trinkets embedded in the work’s surface. The sculpture Rhizome Sweet Home, 2009—feather dusters in rainbow hues placed in a black plastic bucket—invites us to seek out the order in a joyful jumble, the seriousness in a pun, the image in a pattern, and vice versa. This movement of endless ramification and return plays openly on every possible limitation and distinction.

Upstairs, in the main room, all the paintings were identical in format (about 67 x 55") so as to more effectively articulate the paradoxical nature of painting in contemporary terms. It’s as if the pictorial surface, an initially virgin receptacle, had been immediately charged with all the forms and energies that have been manifested on it in other places, other times, other ways, while the act of painting is conveyed in both its irreducible immediacy and its long history. Noiret-Thomé seems to take up a canvas and some colors as if for the first time, and the diversity of styles displayed by his paintings testifies to this perpetual rediscovery—and the energy and pleasure such an adventure brings with it. But one is always only the last in a long list of artists to do so, preceded by others (Mondrian, Guston, Crumb) whose spirits weave through the artist’s decidedly rhizomatic universe, showing from work to work that the image does indeed have a memory.

Guitemie Maldonado

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.