Roberto Polo Gallery

The Gallery will close for Easter on Sunday, April 16th, 2017;

Press Release - Xavier Noiret-Thomé | The Quiet Struggle

Alternate Text

Press Release

Xavier Noiret-Thomé | The Quiet Struggle 

17.11.2017 - 13.01.2018

For Xavier Noiret-Thomé’s second solo exhibition in Roberto Polo Gallery, The Quiet Struggle, the artist, who was born in Charleville-Mézières, France, in 1971, lives and works in Brussels, shows a recent series of fifteen paintings on canvas and paper. These paintings are the result of simultaneous research on genres and styles. They clearly reveal a thirst for renewal of his practice, which, although inspired by the history of art, neither recycles its images, nor directly quotes them. Thus, fleeing cliché Postmodernism. As such, Xavier Noiret-Thomé’s work defies any sort of aesthetic synopsis. It is more about clearing the air than about historical re-visitation. Painting can be this extendable geography, the concrete expression of unmarked, surprising, and sinuous paths.

There is a Belgian word for ‘curl’ that is more expressive than boucle in French, which is crolle. No hair is said to be bouclé in Belgium. It is crollé, which does not mean ‘frizzy’. It is freer, a bit heavier and tousled. By nature, it resists combing. Between painting and a strand of hair, between Mondrian and l’Oréal, there is just a short leap: it is the missing link of a story that has already been set, the closing of the loop of Postmodernity. Straightened by the dictates of fashion, ‘conditional’ painting, as described by the art sociologist Nathalie Heinich1, has been released from the confines of bourgeois domesticity in favour of institutional spaces. It espouses necessarily gigantic formats. It also inevitably operates in the field of irony or childish imagery, as if to exonerate itself from any pretension of expressing interiority. Nathalie Heinich sums up this short and simple description with an apparently definitive phrase: “It is painting for contemporary art specialists, rather than for amateurs of modern art.”

Except that is not true. The history of painting only provides examples to the contrary. Anyone who has come into contact with it, however briefly, will know that like hair, it curls up, kinks, stands out, and resists. The tufts are not merely epiphenomena, but more the daily life of studios, or even museums. We only have to compare Ingres and Delacroix, or Barnett Newman and Sam Francis. We might also focus the same precise attention on Ad Reinhardt’s monochromes and caricatures, Guston’s two lives, and Richter’s ten… and even judo in Klein’s work. In short, from the wondrous incongruities of the Déjeuner sur l’herbe to Buren the Elder’s architectures, Twombly’s Peony Blossoms and Alÿs’ falsely naive miniatures, painting requires a subtler sociology and more detailed historical analysis, for its protagonists are neither straight, nor well-behaved, and in the complicated game they play, they are too free to avoid contradicting one another.

This is literally the case with Xavier Noiret-Thomé’s paintings, which are particularly hirsute and unruly, bringing together Malevich’s false vacuums and Leroy’s density, Mondrian’s grids and Ensor’s jocular insolence… The artist knows how to weave together a painting, suturing at every possible opportunity, cannibalising or conscientiously dishevelling a story in which he sees himself as a happy, orphan monster. For the references captured here are not direct quotations; they are in no way the authenticated deeds of an inheritance. If it were the case, Xavier Noiret-Thomé would be a commentator (of Postmodernity) rather than a painter. We have to forget the motifs and the images—which we believe we see—in favour of the method, which is more essential to painting. For the letter is never the envelope.

Anyone who substitutes gesture with image has understood nothing, seeing a mark as a mountain, or a flat tint as a pipe: the problem remains as relevant as it is misunderstood. For the dice are indeed loaded. What mattered in the Chauvet cave paintings, and what still matters today, is to strive to use the right hand, select the right brush, the right filbert, to make the line, the space, and the colour relevant… Also, and just as importantly, you have to find a good title, in other words the right nail, the semantic catapult. The thing that makes a painting hang on the wall is never the narrative literality, and even less the little aesthetic housing in which we believe we can preserve it. The history of painting in Xavier Noiret-Thomé’s work is never strictly conceptual and typological. Instead, it fits into an ample, highly extendable space and time. It is entirely performative and seems to promote a syncretic, hybrid regeneration of even the most well worn motifs: a mouth, an eye, a tree… All of these would be dead images if the artist had not turbulently, and radiantly, reconfigured their authenticity.

This, I believe, is the secret of a good painting, a wild strand in the thick mane of ideas that can be seen in it: pure dis-abstraction. It makes life difficult for symbols. This is what resists all scenarios. Benoît Dusart

1 Nathalie Heinich, Le paradigme de l’art contemporain. Structure d’une révolution artistique, Bibliothèque des sciences humaines, Gallimard, 2014.