Stéphane Ducret, Swiss artist
The multifaceted nature of Stéphane Ducret’s practice encompasses oil and spray paintings, oilstick drawings, collages, photography and installations. Working in an extended range of media, from the traditional oil paint to the unconventional cardboard collages, Ducret has created an oeuvre that, while very diverse, is firmly rooted within a complex and coherent artistic strategy.
Often drawing upon autobiographical, art historical or sociological sources, Ducret's work is frequently referred to as ‘post-structuralist’ – a movement originated by Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, among others. The seemingly ‘incomprehensible’ visual range of Ducret’s practice thus embodies a schizophrenic, ‘post-everything’ state of perpetual fragmentation and synthesis. His practice involves a combination of philosophical enquiry and material investigation, with focus on the various theories on the elapse of time, the Beat Generation and psychedelic rock, which involves the seemingly endless repurposing, combining and recombining of different techniques and media.
Of the disparate forms in Ducret’s practice, the abstract paintings are the most recurrent. His most recent and large color-field canvases (made entirely with oil paint and the use of pieces of cloth as brushes), invite an active, physical and intellectual engagement with the viewer and yet they remain open to interpretation. The paintings included in the Time & Space Transcendence series (images/text) carry French physician Etienne Klein’s philosophical considerations on the multifaceted definitions of time. Their titles refer directly to the lyrics of Ducret’s preferred songs by psychedelic rock heroes David Bowie, The Doors, Janis Joplin, The Velvet Underground, The Animals, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Black Keys, etc.
As Ducret has long been influenced by the sociological implications of the Beat Generation, counterculture and the hippies, his aesthetic addresses numerous topics, including garage music, the process of achieving eudaimonia (Greek word for “happiness”), masculinity, violence, existentialism and liberty. Ducret’s Howl series (images/text) textually capture the eponym poem by poet Allen Ginsberg (1926 - 1997). This text is considered to be one of the greatest works of the Beat Generation, which principal themes are : rejection of received standards, innovations in style, use of illegal drugs, alternative sexualities, interest in spirituality, rejection of materialism and explicit portrayals of the human condition. The drawings and paintings suggest that layers of writing and acts of defacing eventually turn abstract. Words cease to have a clear order but in the end they never lose their original meaning and authority.
The paintings, collages and wall installations included in the Open Windows on the Possible series (images/text) contain hallucinogenic and elusive visions, hinting at images, which never quite come into focus. Those paintings translate the construction of a picture, its physical attributes, the visual experience of looking at it and the possibilities of playing with and pushing open the origins of its meanings into a kind of architectural and painterly transcendence. The trajectory of this work is at once historically reflexive, very much of its own moment, and keenly self-critical. It is subject to the intertextual meeting of various discourses where Ducret conceives the experience of life and art as a whole, multiple, deliberate, absolute, and energetic.
Ducret’s Doodles paintings (images/text) call up a psychic territory of the brain and the absently scribbled marks when coupled with familiar tasks, being nervous or bored. After a nine year period of digital painting, this work marked his return to the raw material of the paint, the canvas and colors in their maximum purity, reinforcing the question of how to paint, rather than what. How is the unconscious affected by our consciousness? is a question that Ducret asked himself in this series, observing how a simple napkin, the margins of a newspaper or a piece of paper, transform themselves as the material witnesses of this mental and emotional process. At the source of this series was the intellectual projection that allowed the artist to yield to the essential character of the child and his intuitions.
Through process, technique, scale, composition, and imagery, Ducret’s work accentuates the tensions and contradictions between the act of painting, the construction of a picture, its physical attributes, the visual experience of looking at it and the possibilities of playing with and pushing open the origins of its meanings.