In a constant oscillation between science and conceptual art, Evariste Richer has for several years been developing a practice that plays with the different codes and perspectives of disciplines such as astronomy, physics, minerology and mathematics, but also cinema and archaeology. His fifth solo exhibition at the gallery is titled Everything’s gone green, the name of a song by the English band New Order. The group’s name itself echoes Richer’s desire to understand the order of the world, by measuring, mapping, archiving and scrutinising it down to the very smallest details.
In the room on the left visitors are greeted by a photo of a hugely enlarged slice of agate. Its title, La bocca della verità, confronts us with a vital question in this era of fake news: what is truth? In an age of constant digital retouching and manipulation, the question seems relevant. Are there nuances of truth, as there are of colour? The blue and green used in Richer’s paintings are an explicit reference to the background screens used in film to place the characters in a set at the post-production stage.These backdrops question the very notion of reality, casting doubt on the eye’s reliability as a filter for understanding the world. Trompe l’oeil paintings (the sun painted in fake marble) and works of hyperrealism (survival blankets) underline this question. Should we take the visible as the sole basis for perceiving reality?
This question is perfectly illustrated in the Maryon Park photo series (room on the right). Maryon Park is the natural backdrop for the opening scene of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow Up (1966), in which a photographer records a murder that he only later discovers when repeatedly enlarging a detail in his photographs. Is what the camera captures always true to reality?
In slightly changing the logo of a major manufacturer of asbestos cement to form the word Eternité, Richer invites us to question our certainties by understanding the spaces between things, the inframince so dear to Duchamp. The series of eight vinyl records entitled Bruits de la vie (Sounds of life) contains recordings of sound effects for the film industry in the 1960s. Reality is in the grooves, you could say.
Richer works on imaginary stimuli, to be created by our own minds (sounds recorded on discs, the empty spaces of Maryon Park), as found in the back room with the presentation of the two sides of the moon made up of thousands of dice. It is always interesting to remember that, from the Earth, we only see one side of the moon, and it is only modern-day technology that has enabled us to discover the hidden side.
This duality is highlighted by the neon Le Lune/La soleil, sign that in French plays on gender with a rhythm reminiscent of the
notion of eclipse. By reversing the masculine/feminine genders of certain cogs in the celestial machinery, Richer distorts accepted
conventions. On the wall, the two paintings of coloured circles are inspired by a mathematical treatise by Nicolas de Cues, the 15th century German theologian who formulated proposals for resolving the problem of the squaring of the circle, and who questioned the very principles of mathematical reality.
Ultimately, Richer speaks to us of mystery and rationality, of imagination and truth, but with a slight displacement, with a poetic
magic, as in the sculpture Le noyau du monde, where he encourages us to dig deeper and clear away the dust to try and
discover the seed that – who knows? – may have the power to germinate and fertilise the future.