Portrait of Benjamin Ottoz
For La Peau de l’Ours, the best discoveries are generally related to art or gastronomy. And our meeting with the artist Benjamin Ottoz is no exception to this rule.
We found the artist in his studio a few days before the inauguration of his latest personal exhibition in Brussels and discovered a common passion for… Burgundy wines.
In Vino Veritas
Each year, Benjamin Ottoz takes part in the harvest at the prestigious Domaine Coche Dury winery in Meursault, a key event in his calendar.
One evening amongst the vines, Benjamin lifted his head towards a deep black sky dotted with stars; this city dweller then felt a buried feeling that resonated with his reading and painting.
I felt this feeling of the cosmos by looking at the sky, amongst the vines...
Like a return to Earth for the artist that inspired him the work “Cosmos 2. 1/2”, a starry sky made up of several layers of dark colours, tinted with violet and blue, sprayed onto a large sheet of Arches paper.
This sky is resting on the earth, on a low base evoking a grave or a tomb. Evoking the loss of a certain relationship with the world. This sky we look down on, one of the numerous trompe-l’oeils that we find in Benjamin Ottoz’s approach.
In his creative development, Benjamin is at the crossroads of several media. There are indeed photographic and sculptural aspects in this painting. When Benjamin crumples, warps or folds the paper, he finds himself in the position of a sculptor giving the drawing a relief and structuring its volume.
Applying paint with a spray gun raises photographer issues. The artist indeed talks about the projection angle and the projection focal length; the quality and the quantity of paint sprayed refer to concepts of contrast, grain or dynamics… As many variables influenced by photographic language and techniques.
The artist starts by sculpting a sheet of paper, his medium, which he works with until a shape is created. He then sprays the paint onto the relief obtained before stretching the sheet by moistening it with water. He finishes the process by passing the sheet through a press in order to return it to its initial shape. The result obtained is disconcerting; it acts like a trompe-l’oeil and offers the spectator a perspective that is troubling to say the least.
Drape, landscape, trompe-l’oeil, Benjamin Ottoz’s work refers to art history. He provides us with a contemporary interpretation of the history of painting. The allusion extends to the titles where the artist uses a code, just like the Renaissance painters.
Serendipity can be defined as making a discovery or an invention unexpectedly, often while researching another subject.
Benjamin therefore entered this research by accident while he was working on an altogether different subject.
I was painting a sculpture with aerosol paint; sprayed paint was accidentally deposited on the surface of a crumpled-up sheet of paper which was lying in a corner of the workshop...
Later, while tidying up his work space, Benjamin found this piece of paper, smoothed it out, then affixed it onto the wall to observe it. Something had appeared.
Benjamin broadened his research with in situ work; his technique allowed him to use the environment surrounding him as a medium. By painting directly on the walls, he highlighted the site’s infra-thin bumps.
A variant of this in situ work consists in affixing his paintings directly onto the outside walls in a confrontation with the landscape surrounding him, as he did recently as part of an exhibition at UGC Art Box in the centre of Brussels.
In his work, Benjamin Ottoz explores space, the one situated “between”, and prompts us to ask questions about the nature of what we perceive.
When we ask him about the artists that inspire him, Benjamin Ottoz mentions the German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, the artist Simon Hantai or even the Baroque painter, Johannes Vermeer.
The series of books written by the art historian and philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman, one of whose titles “Ninfa fluida” will also be that of Benjamin‘s latest exhibition.
The “Intuition” exhibition organised by the Axel and May Vervoord Foundation during the Venice Art Biennale.
But also Water Lilies by Claude Monet, at the Orangerie Museum.
Photos : Miles Fischler