In line with the claim from my previous post, I do believe that when it comes to Europe most Art World eyes are currently directed toward Berlin, London, Amsterdam and Brussels. In the meantime, Paris has been busy developing its own art scene. It is an art scene that comes with flaws, it still relies more on imported than local artists since gallery owners shy away from taking risks. But over the last years new promising venues have opened their doors and even some of the older galleries display an increasing number of artists who will make it worth your while.
Several weeks ago I went to Eric Mircher Gallery on the rue Saint Claude in the 3rd arrondissement. The painter who was showing at that time was Sylvie Fajfrowska (who is also represented by the same gallery).
Sylvie Fajfrowska, Les rencontres no. 5, 2m x 2m, 2010
Upon entering the gallery, a big painting to the right was the first to get my attention. Well, first of all it is large and size alone has its ways of drawing you into an image. I wasn’t crazy about the overall flatness, the robotic stagnation and positioning of the individual figures. The fact that the two characters to the right do not intersect while their arms almost touch makes the painting lopsided. It seems like Mrs. Fajfrowska was aware of the “heavier” right side which might explain the stretched yellow stripe that she inserted in the upper left corner for reasons of counter-balance. Also, let’s not underestimate the role of Balthus for contemporary French painters.
Balthus, The Street, 1933
Fajfrowska’s figure on the left did remind me of the people we encounter in a Balthus painting and particularly of the little round-faced man in his painting “The Street.” Balthus orchestrates and times the movements of his figures so that each of them looks like they are caught in the middle of acting out their role in the painting. The characters in Fajfrowska’s set-up on the other hand could be three people returning from a Halloween party and now waiting at a bus stop. There is not much going on here otherwise. But I have to say that I fell in love with the red rubber boots. The way Fajfrowska depicts how the legs enter the boots and how their red glow continues upward into the legging-clad legs - that alone is a painting in its own right.
The actual pleasant surprise of this show was in the back of the gallery. There several small-scale abstractions by the same artist were hung with plenty of room in-between each other.
Sylvie Fajfrowska, 2, 20cm x 20cm, 2008
Sylvie Fajfrowska, (No title available), 20cm x 20cm, 2008
The most positive aspect about these paintings is there wound form and implied movement, something that I found missing in her larger and figurative work. In addition, Fajfrowska has a great sense of color that many French painters have lost at some point after the 60’s (take Denis Castellas from the same gallery as example; he can learn a lot from Sylvie Fajfrowska). In a way it reminded me of a color scheme you would more likely find in a New York painting show than in Paris. I think this is a reliable indication that something is cooking up in contemporary Paris.
My absolute favorite was a work on paper that threw in a pinch of humor at the end of the show.
Sylvie Fajfrowska, Les brochettes, 35cm x 35cm, 2011
The painting-“brochettes” or “little skewers” sum up the show quite well:
Treats made of color and paint without much depth of flavor but still delicious and enjoyable. Bon appétit!