ATTRITION I & II
Thomas Devaux’s work can be described as ruderal plasticity, meaning that it is rubble based. From his first collages until his more recent Reliquary, including the Attrition series – a title referring to the loss of substance through wearing and friction – the plastic artist creates pictures using primary images’ scrap. Devaux’s technique is one of restructuring and reorganizing the whole body or its parts, by gathering its traces. Gathering organic or visual substance from art exhibitions, he aims to reinstall the social theatre’s codes to a controlled visibility, borrowing the features of religious art. While firmly atheistic, Devaux’s work nevertheless, treats his iconography as a repertoire of the “vestigial” – to use Jean Luc Nancy’s word – an ultimate survival of the world’s lost transcendence. Taking place in what one may call: the economy of the trivial, this iconography materializes figures as charnel as they are vaporous, and fetish characteristics cast a new look upon desire’s plasticity and its relation to art.
Chimeras. From the very onset of his first collages, which portrayed both a Christ-like and dionysiac dismemberment, Devaux has worked at dislocating figures, to better blur his representations. Adopting a certain cynicism towards photography, he modifies and sculpts light with a painting like finish, where the paper’s opacity and figures’ dissolution antagonize each other. The contour’s erasure, the hair’s evanescence and texture’s disintegration bring a spectral feeling, when adding ghost limbs (a baby’s leg, an intruding hand), or dissonant elements (a red flower bouquet with a fleshy quality) fully compromising the character’s integrity. The translucent bodys’ appearing inconsistency, their liquefied traits, circled with auratic light, create uncertain identities to surviving bodies. Plunged in a refined décor, these monsters of elegance are fixed in a sort of expectation, their gazes neutralized, revealing a naked and still presence, rather indifferent than melancholic, through which reality completes its undoing.
Profanation(s). Thomas Devaux acts as an iconoclast by confronting the “sacred” – literally, that which can’t be touched without profaning it – with the trivial. Through certain aspects, his compositions respect the classical conventions of religious representation: the sfumato and the diffused background aesthetic, seem directly borrowed from Renaissance paintings, allowing a divine elevation to take place. The highlighted feminisation of Christ, the Madonna’s stigmas, a white virgin with a lascivious hand touching her thigh, place these archetypes in flesh’s realm and instil an undeniable sexual tension. Such as this young girl on the edge of the window, whom we’re unable to discern whether she’s preparing to jump or enticing someone, these saints often adopt the likes of surreal and disabused prostitutes, enhancing confusion between phantom and fantasy.
Fetishism. From distorted religious iconography to supermarket photography, Thomas Devaux’s work is haunted by the fetishist question (such as body, body image seen as a masterpiece or merchandise). As he operates a historical transfer by conveying religious feelings into our consumer’s society, his portraits equate the metaphysical with the vulgar, the transcendent with the immanent. In so doing, characters and situations normally viewed as spiritual are made corporeal.
Florian Gaité, Art Critic (Artpress, France Culture...