Guillaume Bresson comes back to the Nathalie Obadia gallery just next door to the imposing Pompidou Centre in the 4th arrondissement, Paris, for the second time in his young and brilliant career. Billed as “one of the most promising member of the new generation”, Bresson had set himself a high bar to reach after the success of his first solo show in 2010, where his work explored contemporary urban violence and scenes from the social periphery.
Described as “urban and vegetal no-man’s-lands” by the gallery’s introductory pamphlet, Bresson shows his exceptional artistic talent and eye for the perfect juxtaposition: a modern conglomerate of 17th Century French art and Absurdist isolation, of which Kierkegaard would have been proud. Think Adidas meets Poussin.
Whilst Bresson’s sense of the comic is unavoidable in a large majority of this exhibition (you won’t help but smile in places), there is nevertheless a quasi-nihilistic hangover of discomfort and tension in each piece. His love of the running motif; a concrete water tower, a white car, a pair of trainers, follows the spectator around the gallery from tableau to tableau, a calculating, discrete narrative.
From a purely aesthetic perspective, Bresson’s paintings are beautifully done. One gets the sense that he enjoys showing off a little: the photo-realist finish on each face shows hours and hours of portrait painting and computer-imaging, while the deliberate brushstroke left sliding down a branch insists that the artist got his hands dirty.
The staging in each piece shows the artist’s obsession with meticulousness. The isolation of individual objects would not be out of place in a performance of Waiting for Godot. And Performance is the word that comes to mind after a circuit of the gallery: the connection between each piece is astute, entertaining but not over-intimidating. Bresson seems to have grown out of depicting rough urban arenas, and is now approaching his canvas from a more epistemological direction: the staged scene becomes a tableau vivant.
A particular piece which stood out for me was the helpfully-labelled “Sans titre” (they’re all untitled btw). The narrative leaps from face to face, only to land in an abstract time-space void. From a surprising set of keys and motorcycle helmet carefully placed in the midst of a concrete demolition scene that brings to mind the Fall of Troy, to hysterical women in their underwear and a Zeus-like figure wearing a snazzy pair of white trainers, Bresson has us in control from the start.
The question on leaving the exhibition is simple: where will this young artist from Toulouse go now? His ideas are getting bigger, his confidence is growing. Having been exhibited internationally, his career has already reached great heights. It will be interesting to see the next collection, to see where Bresson decides to take us next… While we’re waiting, this current exhibition is a must.