The French writer Christian Bobin died on 23 November 2022 at the age of 71. That is young to die. His death cuts off his readers from a source of life and joy. His simple writing, which constantly oscillates between prose and poetry, invites us to marvel, to look back at childhood, to observe the small, the nothing, the subtle around us. This exhibition, spontaneous and unexpected like his death, exists to thank him for what he has disseminated. His writing is a real encounter.
This exhibition is about poetry, nature, life, fragility, enchantment.
In the left-hand room, the work Illuminance by Rinko Kawauchi (°1972) combines photographs taken over a period of fifteen years that speak to us of the cycle of life and death, of the relationship between microcosm and macrocosm. Poetry is irrelevant is a neon work by Jorge Méndez Blake (°1974) who makes a cruel statement about the irrelevance of poetry for many in today’s society. Poetry is nevertheless essential to life event if it’s often considered as hermetic. Bobin however has always written in a limpid style that welcomes both the scholar and the layman.
Méndez Blake’s large drawing of floating books, Not the Book but the bookshelf, can be seen as a reference to the fact that Bobin published some sixty books and that despite his death they remain and will remain accessible. Another of Méndez Blake’s drawings, You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on (IV), subtly shows a tree in bloom, reminding us of Bobin’s fascination with the birth and fragility of nature and the living.
In the room to the right, I will defend Poetry (Poems on Ruins), again by Méndez Blake, is a hyper-realist drawing that acts as a
counterpoint to his neon. The words ‘Defend poetry’ are carved into the stone, making the injunction somehow immutable. Let us extend its fulgurating power, let us defend it!
The large painting Harvest by Xie Lei (°1983) dates from 2011 and is a beautiful metaphor for what we should try to do. Harvest the light, probe the colours of the rainbow, to understand the beauty of the world and the miracle of life. My Path to Heaven. Are you Blind Bastard God? (2007) by Terence Koh (°1977) combines a gesture of pointing with the fig sign (thumb stuck between two fingers) used to ward off the evil eye. This gesture underlines the importance of observing and taking the time to look around. The photo Deiscrizione by Claudio Parmiggiani (°1943) is a trace of a 1972 performance that he made in collaboration with Mario Diacono. In a sibylline writing, reference is made to the ancient scribes (one obviously thinks of the emblematic Seated Scribe in the Louvre), to the birth of writing and the potential of language.
Finally, with Sanlúcar de Barrameda, three small works in wax from 1994, José María Sicilia (°1954) shows the intimate link between material and spiritual. Under a layer of beeswax, facsimile pages of The Dark Night of the Soul, a spiritual treatise by St. John of the Cross, can be seen. If you look closely, you can see small insects engraved by Sicilia in the wax, which brings us back to Christian Bobin’s admiration for life.
Images by Alice Pallot