After strolling an entire afternoon throughout the Parisian art gallery scene I finally manage to find a compelling and rather obscure proposal: Davide Balula’s “Buried Works” @ the very central Frank Elbaz gallery.
I always love when artists play with the gallery exhibition space & transform their little white cubes. This time F.E. was turned into an outdoor terrace, dirt included. A 45cm-high wood flooring had been installed on top of what seemed to be a mixture of dirt and mud covering big part of the space. I obviously didn’t understand what it was about and getting on the wooden platform didn’t help much neither. Very little to see here… except some traps opening to more dirt.
But rather than considering “The buried works” as an exhibition you should think of it as a work in progress, or even a performance. While the wood flooring is actually visually pleasant and could –almost- be considered a piece of art itself, the real deal is what’s going on underneath. Buried under all that dirt are canvases getting impregnated by the soil, and once the exhibition is over all of them will be stretched, framed and dispersed into the world, becoming “nature-made paintings”.
As in a performance, the process is here as important as the traces left from the performance. You may not realise at first but you are witnessing (and allow me to insist) a “work in progress”. The ideas of perception, time and randomness are recurrent in Balula’s works; whether he uses mould (Mold paintings) or the deposits from different rivers (Peintures de rivières) to create his paintings, Balula only acts as a matchmaker between nature and canvas. Where everyone else tries real hard to control every minuscule aspect of their works Davide Balula isn’t afraid to lose it. In one of his previous exhibitions at the same gallery he had installed a cyclo covered in blue pigment, the one that fades away under bright light within seconds. He left it under the gallery spotlights, slowly degrading, capturing the effects of time on his piece. However, while he questions materialism and time, his works are never an annoying ecological manifesto nor a complaint about how things “aren’t what they used to be”. He’s not particularly critical about our contemporaneity, he actually embraces it, and finds clever ways to make fun of it.
You may be disappointed by the lack of works on display, in fact, only one « buried painting » can be seen hanging on one of the gallery office walls. But isn’t it way more fun to see a gallery turned upside down by an artist? Especially when such messy result happens to be the expression of such coherent vision.