Xavier Veilhan's first solo exhibition on Chinese territory presents a series of newly produced works from each of his significant formal research fields: variations on both human and animal statuary, mobile sculptures and Rays installations. It is an introduction to his oeuvre in its present state of development.
Like a true landscape of sculptures, with variable perspectives yet on a single horizon, the ensemble steers our gaze in many directions, but anchors on the colour orange of Manfredi and Mobile n°5. Choice of colour with Xavier Veilhan is often aesthetic but always in regards to the context, either of the piece or of the physical space where it lives.
Channel Orange is a title in homage to Frank Ocean. It is the name of his first album and refers to the phenomenon of synesthesia1 and the colour he once perceived during a summer when he fell in love for the first time.
For Xavier Veilhan there is also the evident reference to the colour orange that passes through the exhibition, notably with the three works of roughly the same colour applied to different materials: the mobile, the large bust and the double-necked guitar. A sense of musicality clearly underlies the exhibition and can even be related to the low relief portraits: Tony, for example, reminds us slightly of Frank Ocean. But it is no illustrative title. It rather tells a parallel story to the show.
Channel Orange also recalls a television or radio wave broadcast. Veilhan feels a strong link between the works and the object of the radio, somewhat abstract, transported, materializing once we listen to it. The exhibition itself could be interpreted as a diversity of interveners and music that form a whole, much like a radio channel. There is at the same time divergence and continuity. Shapes and sounds associate to create a unique rhythm.
Xavier Veilhan on Channel Orange: 'I like the notion of horizontality in this exhibition. I clearly feel this idea of a horizon with the rays, the big mobile and the bust. The latter, to me, is like a character standing in the water. A few years ago, in 2015, I imagined a project for the Venice Biennale competition called Aqua Alta. It didn't win, but its basis was also this line that crossed the space and gave a unity to all the pieces. I really like this idea of a level, a gauge. It is of the same fascination tome as the aspect of the Mobiles' gravitation: the central gravitation that governs all movements of the air; a very soft force compared to the magnetic forces or those that hold electrons together. The gravitational pull is hardly noticable but so implicit that we tend to forget it's there. Yet it steers the world.'
Manfredi, Philippe Zdar, Lyllie and the series of 4 low reliefs—the exhibition's inhabitants—play with the ambiguity of representation and reality of bodies in a space. Despite the rupture in scale and the seemingly impossible size, either too small or too large, one has the clear impression that someone is there: our brain perceives a figure. Yet at the same time they can be viewed by their components, as abstract sculptures, as objects destined to be seen. Each has his or her own story and personal relation to the artist, but through their representation they enter into a more generic existence defined by attitude or posture. Much like looking at a painting of e.g. Napoleon they come to epitomize an era through pose, dress style or even through the specific treatment of the piece.
For the creation of his statues, Xavier Veilhan relies on 3D capture technique, where 3D scanners generate point clouds that construct an identical digital copy of the person. The computer file is then used to conceive the actual piece without constraint of scale or number. This particular use of digitization in three dimensions allows Veilhan to create similar and recognizable statues, not a figurine, but a transformation of the model.
All of Xavier Veilhan's Mobiles have a forever-changing form floating within a general architecture, programmed almost. We are aware that the elements of the Mobile will never exit its volume, but we could never predict how they will organize within. It is both a calming and reassuring object as well as a microcosm of unexpectedness. It recalls a certain principle of uncertainty, but also hangs there as the crust of a tree, a permanent form, constantly changing.
Xavier Veilhan has been developing Rays installations for about 5 years now. His focus at the start lied on exterior installations made with stretched elastic wires, but slowly these materials solidified into carbon rods and even aluminum beams, like his most recent monumental piece Rays (Sarus), to be inaugurated later this year in the south of France.
The Rays pieces have an outspoken dynamic dimension in relation to their surroundings that reminds us of Kinetic and Op Art, yet they also indicate the artist's very technical and even industrial exploration, especially with the smaller sizes, inviting us to inspect closely. Like the Mobiles, the Rays are never oppressive and stay transparent. The large Rays piece in the exhibition - his largest mural to date—defines the visual horizon of the room. Its rhythm refers to the Doppler effect leaving us with a musical partition to write on.
Instrument n°5 bridges Veilhan's growing interest in music and all its creative processes. The Large Instruments were built within the scope of the 57th Venice Art Biennale, for his installation Studio Venezia in the French Pavilion—a fully operational recording studio, in which over 200 musicians were invited to work during the seven months of the exhibition. The initial idea of these pieces was to create a link between visitors and the wooden architecture of the venue by reproducing familiar objects, yet distinctly out of scale. Against all odds, the instruments were used very often by the musicians and exceeded their added function, to instead become fully-fledged instruments. They gradually acquired a multiple duality, becoming simultaneously familiar and architectural objects, both inspired by the 1970s—by size and shape—and the 1920s—through their constructivist aspect. Added to this is an artisanal dimension, given that Xavier Veilhan and his team have used very 'lightweight' means for the production of these pieces, without going through the digital phase, usually very present in the work of the artist.
The Large Instruments are certainly diverting, but they also question the purposed anthropomorphism of a typical musical instrument. Its construction is always imagined to fit the musician's body, to become its negative space. By oversizing it, Xavier Veilhan breaks this anthropomorphic dimension: the instrument no longer takes on a human form, but rather an architectural one.
Veilhan's work has been exhibited worldwide in acclaimed institutions such as the 57th Venice Biennale, for which he transformed the French pavilion into Studio Venezia, the Castle of Versailles, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, or at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Geneva . Veilhan recurrently pays tribute to the inventions and the inventors of modernity, a period when fine art's multidisciplinary interest created opportunity for much further investigation in the contemporary world.
1 Synesthesia is a condition in which someone experiences things through their senses in an unusual way, for example by experiencing a color as a sound, or a number as a position in space. (Cambridge dictionary)
Press release courtesy Perrotin.