In titling his second exhibition at the gallery 7 Hz, Benoit Platéus immediately sets us in a logic of ambiguous perception. Hz is a unit for measuring wavelengths, which makes you think of radio frequencies, yet this is an exhibition of paintings only. No sign of acoustic devices and no sound works here. In fact, the 7 Hz measurement is an extremely low frequency of brain activity that corresponds to a state of consciousness in deep relaxation. When our brain is in this «suspended» state (meditation, paradoxical sleep), it emits theta waves in the range of 4 to 8 Hz. The exhibition title therefore evokes a very specific moment of perception, a moment when the mind, the body and the environment are dissociated. A suspended state that is fascinating in itself.
Should we understand this as a metaphor for the state of the artist at work? Is it the state he would like to induce in his viewers? Is it a reference to a place where deep images appear, images both vague and persistent? As if there were a kind of antechamber to our thoughts or actions? Can we not even extend this metaphor to Platéus’ paintings themselves? Neither figurative nor abstract, they present vaguely sketched forms, circumvented objects, silhouettes that capture the essence of the subject rather than the subject itself. Representation rather than portrayal. Seeing without opening your eyes. Enunciation without speaking out loud.
As you look at these paintings, you detect something that belongs to the realm of the murmur, with everything this can entail in terms of non-understanding, distortion and confusion. These paintings can be seen as representations of the intermediary. «It all depends on how we inhabit the in-between,» says Jacques Rancière. This in-between state is conducive to dreaming and to personal suggestion.
Without erasing or destroying that which went before, Platéus nevertheless goes against the grain. His work carries both assertion and reserve: there is affirmation in the gesture, the colours or the subjects, but at the same time suggestion, withdrawal and effacement. In this respect, you can speak of cinematic crossfade in his work, echoing Jean-Luc Chalumeau’s interpretation of the art of Sigmar Polke. A disappearance fading into an appearance.
Another reference, biological this time, can be applied to Platéus’ work: the persistent images that can remain «behind the eyelid» following a violent stimulus. The technical term for describing these phantom images that can occupy our field of vision is palinopsia. An exhibition of Platéus paintings - in the repetition of certain motifs, in the persistence of source images - acts rather in the manner of palinopsia.
To those seeking a common thread with his works from the early 2000s (altered comic strips, scanned images, resin cans, etc.), the answer lies in showing how topical his former questioning remains. The transition from analogue to digital, for example, resonates with his pictorial work. He uses the medium (oil painting) to continue searching for the real and its representation in both the banal (tools, objects) and the fascinating (orchids, flowers). Platéus’ painting is interesting in that it stands outside current trends for fake abstraction and figuration stemming from prevailing strands of thought.
Though there is a clear connection between his aesthetic and that of certain artists born before him, his is ultimately a singular and original aesthetic. In addressing the usual issues that confront the painter (colour, matter, form, gesture), he draws on certain contemporary modes of representing the real (the Internet, cinema, photography), in order to paint a distancing and dissonance, while at the same time celebrating painting as technique. To paraphrase the Spanish philosopher Andrea Soto Calderón in conversation with Jacques Rancière: “The images always lie somewhere between an excess and a deficiency: there is always a little more than one would want to put into an image and always a little less.” That is the painting of Benoit Platéus