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Pierre Malphettes: Terrain Vague at Kamel Mennour


Text: Aran Cravey
Image: Pierre Malphettes, Un arbre en bois sous un soleil électrique

In the absence of urbanity, what becomes of the barren habitat? What emerges in the empty landscape left by civilization? These are the questions that Pierre Malphettes poses in his solo exhibition “Terrain Vague” at Kamel Mennour. What he proposes is a metonymic wonderland of paradoxical possibilities. In this apocalyptic eden, nature and artifice mingle in a metaphorical pas-de-deux, creating potential in the place of the impossible and re-establishing the order of origins.

Industrial materials, previously used in the deconstruction of nature are re-imagined as the new progenitors. Aluminum fabricated rocks project horizontally from a white plaster wall in a redefinition of gravity (Trois pierres). Shafts of glowing, white fluorescent tubing spiral upwards with antilogous fluidity evoking the ethereality of smoke (fumée). True to the compositional contradictions of Malphettes’ artistic idiom, “Terrain Vague” (translated as ‘Wasteland’) presents not a desolate solitude, but a realm replete with the lush virility of the artist’s imagination. For Malphettes, the indeterminate zone offers space for creative and symbolic appropriation.

In Un arbre, un rocher, une source, a single tree, constructed from the timbered planks of its own fibers, stands verdant with a neon lit vine clinging to its branches and trunk, its existence simultaneously representing both its destruction and creation. It is this poetic duality of forces that makes “Terrain Vague” such a compelling exhibition. More than a sampling of objects, the nine sculptures work as an ensemble to create a compositional meditation on force and fragility.
The young artist from Marseilles draws inspiration from a variety of sources ranging from the symbolic, spatial arrangements of Japanese rock gardens to the structural sublimity of French poet, Jacques Roubaud, whose Oulipian style of creating fluidity within form is notably evident in Où nulle feuille ne tombe. In this ephemeral composition, the lamp projecting the mountain landscape onto the adjacent wall, is switched on and off in a Morse code recitation of Roubaud’s poem of the same title. 
This, the second solo exhibition at Kamel Mennour, “Terrain Vague” continues the artist’s exploration of equanimity within oppositions. Already having shown at the Centre Pompidou and Jeu de Paume in Paris, Malphettes contemplative, mixed media compositions have earned him notable recognition the world over. His re-appropriation of pre-manufactured materials calls to mind the Situationist concept of détournement and the theories of the 1960’s French deconstructionists, as well as the spatially re-conceptualized, site-specific work of artist Gordon Matta-Clark.
Visitors to “Terrain Vague” are invited to journey through a post-industrialized wilderness of metaphorical “what-ifs,” the conclusions to which are left to imagine. Malphettes provides no answers or endings in this metaphysical adventure, but rather welcomes the viewer into his contemplative un-known: the process of artistic exploration is in itself, the artistic product.

As warmer temperatures draw Parisians out from their nests and into the open air of the city’s parks and cafés, Pierre Malphettes’ “Terrain Vague” reminds us that nature can be both a place and a state of mind.

Pierres Malphettes
“Terrain Vague”
12 March to 24 April 2024
Kamel Mennour
47, rue Saint-André des arts
75006 Paris
Tel: +33 1 56 24 03 63
Email: galerie@kamelmennour.fr
Open Tuesday - Saturday, 11am - 7pm
Mº Odeon

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