With his Rayons series, Thomas Devaux completes his critical vision of the universe of consumption by appropriating the codes of abstract painting, following his extended study of classical portraiture. The works consist of photographs of supermarket shelves, blurred into broad bands of colour with uncertain contours that together form luminous gradients. The minimalism of Devaux’s series is reflected in its title, which stands as a dual reference to his original subjects (les rayons du supermarché = supermarket shelves) and simultaneously to the optical effect produced by the process of abstraction (les rayons de lumière = beams of light). Presented here in dialogue with The Shoppers – featuring supermarket customers at the cash register, and the installation Cet obscur objet du désir, a minimalist conveyer belt with incisive and menacing forms – the Rayons series redeploys the chromatic register of big-box retailers (blue, purple, pink, red, orange) to critique their marketing strategies.
In contrast to the black and white portraits of The Shoppers, these colorful, non-figurative compositions, with their evanescent finish invites a double contemplation. This something that can ironically give rise to the conditions of a hypnotic process similar to the visual manipulations exerted over supermarket customers (the use of gold on the frame reinforces this appeal). However at the same time, it makes possible a patient and improductive meditation through which the viewer can exit from the temporalities of consumption.
The fleeting horizon lines of the series ultimately promote a spiritual reading that echoes the discourses of Kandinsky, Rothko, Newman and other painters for whom abstraction offered access to the metaphysical. Thomas Devaux extends here the deconstruction of religious iconography – Pietàs, Madonnas, relics – that he began in previous series in order to interrogate the possibilities of transcendence in the contemporary world. Commerce is considered as an external, ordering power that organizes mass consumption through a system of symbols. Drawing on the formal vocabulary of representations of the divine to engage with the industrial furniture of the supermarket, Thomas Devaux underscores the subversive power of an industry that is able to fetishize commodities as a religion consecrates its icons.
Florian Gaité, Art Critic (Artpress, France Culture...)