The paintings of Gaétan Vaguelsy, a graduate of the Fine Arts School of Montpellier, have this something that grabs the eye. Portraits of classical appearances (Les princes de la ville, 2017-2018), in which Gaétan Vaguelsy plays with the representation codes and reverses them. It gives us to see a work where urban art meets easel painting. Where the oil paint mixes with the spray can, where the precise gesture comes alongside the lively and vandal gesture of the graffiti artist he was as a teenager.
Would it be a well-orchestrated clash of cultures? A clash of cultures in which the model question is approached rather classically. Often central or in profile, represented slightly in a low-angle, under artificial light coming from the top. An almost sacralising light. The subjects show themselves in familiar postures both complicit and mocking, they stare at us.
His models are his friends, his band, his crew. Unlike classical painting, no formal costume, sumptuous fabrics, or signs of power. Just people, like you and me, in jackets, jeans or sweatpants’, half-masked faces, holding in their hands an object chosen by the artist. Objects that create a harmonious duality between their symbolism and the hands into which they are introduced. From Mister Freeze to Red Bull vodka in a bottle of Cristaline. From the package of multicoloured sweets to the lys flower including the famous Capri-Sun, this multivitamin drink in its silver and blue plastic bag, so popular in the summer. Just as many objects of popular consumption, vanities of our contemporary world, which refer us here to in-between stage in life, in which friendship and brotherhood play a powerful role. The passage of the life time. From the transition of the childhood carefree world to the adulthood, more intransigent.
"In Gaétan Vaguelsy’s paintings, only Man is represented."
In Gaétan Vaguelsy’s paintings, only Man is represented. The surrounding context is erased, replaced by a bright, flat color, sort of monochrome 2.0. Should this be seen as an echo of the individuality that we must face as adults or a playing field conducive to the alliance of collective forces? A monochrome, therefore, which is reminiscent of the modern painting History and which questions both the image, the meaning of what we are looking at, but above all the influence of the presentation context in the perception of a subject. A context that he prefers to discard in order to stage a real one-on-one between the painting’s subject and us, spectator.
A painter of his entourage and of his condition as a young artist (as his self-portraits testify), Gaétan Vaguelsy gives us to see the importance of human relations, friendly and solid, but also their evanescence and their transience. As a sort of manifesto, emphasizing the desire to move forward, his paintings seem to address us directly by telling us: « On est jeunes et ambitieux, parfois vicieux, faut qu’tu te dises que, tu peux être le prince de la ville si tu veux.»*
Elodie Bernard, Commissaire d’exposition
*Lyrics of song “Les princes de la ville”, Rap group 113, album Les princes de la ville, 1999.