Art Criticism

Gérard Garouste: La Bourgogne, la famille et l’eau tiède

Gérard Garouste: Chartres (2007), in La Bourgogne, la famille et l’eau tiède (Daniel Templon, 2008).
Exhibition review published in Flash Art (Milan), no. 259, March-April 2008, pp. 138-139; republished in 50 Years – Galerie Daniel Templon, Daniel Templon (Paris), 2016, p. 740.

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La Bourgogne, la famille et l’eau tiède (‘Burgundy, family and lukewarm water’) – respectively Paradise Lost, Hell and somehow the ironic ideal ‘tepidity’ for anyone who experiences the ups and downs of mental excesses – is the title of French painter Gérard Garouste’s latest show at Daniel Templon gallery, a collection of personal and intense memories from his childhood and later life. Madness is the referent of all Gérard Garouste’s new paintings, and his memories are pictured through the nightmarish filter of the grostesque. The perspectives are skewed, and the most frequent subject is the artist himself, always in extravagant yet autobiographical self-portraits. Then it is all about adjustments in the composition: ungraceful arabesques are counterbalanced with monstrous anatomies, which are thrown in elementary but colourful landscapes or architectures. Paradoxically, clumsiness has never seemed that straightforward. All this carnivalesque display of personal experiences and traumas has the detachment of a cold-blooded therapy. “Delirium always comes wrapped in certitude, order and perfection,” the artist likes to say.

From the quest for facts and truth that was supposed to define the painter in his most intimate sphere (the family lies and the hypocrisy of religion in which he was raised), only amusing anecdotes remain, which are reported with care in the exhibition catalogue. Thus Gérard Garouste reaffirms his interest in the topics and premises rather than in the form of his paintings. Or is this all a pretext that allows him to uncritically bask in his own style? The wounds that constitute a driving force in his career seem to clear up in his dreamlike visions and sufficient brush strokes. The burlesque dimension wipes out all the seriousness of the situational content. Family crisis and temporary insanity become as harmless as so many jokes. In this sense, self-introspection seems to work. Gérard Garouste pictured himself as a water diviner in one of his recent works: we believe the water diviner has found what he wanted, tepidity.

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