For his first personal exhibition in Belgium, Evariste Richer (born 1969) is showing a body of work collected under the generic title The Catalyst. Various questions lurk behind this title. Can one discern a reaction trigger in his artistic work? What is it that acts as a catalyst and leads to a more profound reality? Is there not in the movement by any artist a wish to alter, to penetrate the opacity of the world? Without providing any answers, the work of Evariste Richer explores a place where notions of change and about-turns are constantly on the agenda.
As the visitor contemplates La Nuit which is housed in the alcove of the first floor, he/she is immersed into a questioning aroused by the unlikely encounter between a block of black Belgian marble and a Braille typewriter cover. It is somewhat paradoxical to enter that world through the darkness of night.
In the left-hand room, the artist questions another gaping void, a man-made one in Bingham (Utah), in the world's largest open-cast copper mine. This large sheet of plywood is fixed to the wall like a painting. This is how it left the sawmill, and Richer is using it for what it is (a wood panel), and a slight shift (a catalysis, one might say) gives it a new role in life, that of a ready-made landscape.
He also examines landscape with the series of photos We never forget who we’re working for which creates a mysterious atlas of clouds. These images are taken from advertising for the heavy arms industry (warplanes, missiles, etc.) published in the American magazine Defense News. With that in mind, these little windows of sky open up the horizon of a world that seems rather precarious.
Space and time are two fundamental concepts that pervade Richer's work. Caesium shoes, for example, illustrates travel, whether literal (a pair of shoes), celestial (constellation of paint spots as residual traces of the studio) or temporal (presence, underneath the sole, of a capsule of caesium, the metal used by scientists to define time - the second - with the utmost precision). Other physical phenomena are tackled, such as the loss or retention of heat with South Face/North Face; two large photos of survival blanket which, when spread out like maps, question notions of symmetry and opposite.
We see other hemispheres with Cerveau, a small sculpture with a weight equivalent to a human brain. Consisting of blocks of pyrite and a tessera of Pompeii mosaic, it mischievously combines nature and culture. In a similar vein, Les Masques à faire tomber la neige (Masks to cause snowfall) bring together the complexity of natural phenomena and the ritual function of masks. As to the two large watercolours Cumul pluviométrique (Total pluviometry), they reproduce the rainfall zones of the planet in the newspaper Le Monde. By not painting the underlying world map, Richer decontextualises the concrete information and diverts our gaze into an abstract vision.
By using overlaps and ellipses as the modus operandi throughout his work, enabling a "fortunate collision" of materials and symbolic images, he opens up gaps in the meaning of things, and alters our perception of reality.