He’s now the first French artist to have joined the much sought-after Galerie Eva Presenhuber (founded 2003), where he finds himself in the company of Joe Bradley, Ugo Rondinone, Trisha Donnelly and Franz West. The first Presenhuber show by this 30-something Breton opened at the beginning of November, while the month previous, in Brussels, he showed at the Clearing gallery (whose New York branch also showed him in 2017), in what was a perfect demonstration of his singularity and knowhow and the very oneiric register of his preoccupations. With his sweetcorn cobs, beekeepers and bestiary of chameleons, snakes and cats, Jean-Marie Appriou offers a fascinating counterpoint to the art of our times.
He was born in Brest in 1986, studied at the school of fine arts in Rennes, and makes no secret of the decisive influence of Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel – for whom he worked as an assistant – on his art. For a long time his workshop was in Plouguerneau, right at the far tip of Brittany, and it seems to me that understanding his work requires that one not lose sight of this country of myths and legends, of Lancelot brought up by the fairy Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, in the Forest of Brocéliande... It’s an indispensable key to unlocking the complex tales orchestrated by the characters and animals that make up his sculptural world. At a time when young artists often try to master all the disciplines – painting, sculpture, installation, video, etc. – he’s chosen to concentrate on just one – sculpture – but to explore all its techniques. In Zürich he’s showing a new ensemble of aluminium sculptures, one of which is aptly named Crossing the Parallel Worlds. This large piece, entirely in the dull grey of cast aluminium, shows an ensemble of perfectly ripe, life-size, elongated sweetcorn cobs (it’s curiously reminiscent of the large stone crucifixion at the church in Plouguerneau); the exhibition is entitled November and the works on display (maize and sunflowers, among others) seem to be trying to connect us with the time of year and the cycle of the seasons. In the crevices of these maize plants, arranged in volutes, a face appears, with eyes covered with Charon’s obols (in Greek mythology, the mythic ferry- man of the Styx would only transport the souls of the dead once they’d paid him a coin). The ensemble clearly lends itself to narrative inter- pretation, and tells a strange tale supported by a composite iconogra- phy. “The cosmonaut, the beekeeper and the bather are characters with whom I began sculpture. They are bodies to whom, as in theatre, I gave a role to play, and costumes. These characters have been given a script. The child astronaut evokes an uncertain future; he is alone in space. In an early incarnation, the beekeeper who wears the hat of the alchemist from Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain is holding a bouquet inhishandasifheweregoingona date, except it’s a date with the last bees who are alive on our planet,”(1) he explained with respect to an earlier series of work.
(1) “Jean-Marie Appriou in conversation with Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel,” Cura Magazine no. 29 (2018).
November, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich, till 22 December.