Pascal Rousson, Cezanne, 2011.
London-based artist Pascal Rousson talks art and irony with Traction.
What are the main threads running through your practice?
From painting to sculpture and installation to ready-made objects, there’s a great diversity in my work and people can, sometimes, find it quite eclectic. I tend to produce a lot, trying new ideas; not to exploit one theme over and over again. Irony is a constant component, also the use of popular culture and found objects (Comics, photo magazines etc). References to art history to try and highlight or understand today’s problems is another idea I have explored. I once did an installation called ‘The Museum of the Dispossessed’ which looked like a car boot sale display where each found object referred to an art movement or persona. This title could summarise my practice quite well.
A welcome dose of irony can be perceived in much of your artwork. Do you consider it to be an important component?
Irony is definitely important, as I suppose I don’t take art that seriously; a bit like Picabia who once said, “Artists, so they say, make fun of the bourgeoisie; me, I make fun of the bourgeoisie and the artists.” In the same vein, Martin Kippenberger’s dark humour and provocative stance strongly influenced my work. Lot’s of my ideas are built on skepticism of art history. I find the seriousness of art quite depressing nowadays and I think it’s due to the fact that academies and other institutions, which are mainly businesses in disguise, produce these ‘uber professional’ clones and display their ‘uber professional’ works of art in such sterile environments (it’s a funny thing that the Tate modern is still a monumental factory). The role of the avant garde has always been to fight such academism (Think of Courbet, Manet, Duchamp..) with great irony.
Pascal Rousson, Jackson Pollock (2011) and The Elder (2011).
You frequently reference art history, specifically the ideologies of Modernist art, in your work. Do you regard art history as hypocritical in its portrayal of certain figures as heroes?
I suppose I do, and some of my works refer to that. In the case of Joseph Beuys’s wartime fabricated myth and biography for example which suited Germany’s need of redemption after the war or the kind of American propaganda behind the abstract expressionist movement with the portrayal of Jackson Pollock as the ultimate American Rebel. There’s a great book from Serge Guibaut about that, called 'How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art’ which highlights the political context and political input behind the avant-garde at the time. I think somebody said that whoever the artist is or whatever he does, first of all, he is here to amuse the "bourgeois”. Dali, Beuys, Warhol, Klein, and Pollock etc were masters of that. Art history is full of colorful, money driven, narcissistic artists. These artists had to create a character and play a part in order for their art to exist. Most of the “Saatchi sponsored YBA’s group” phenomenon was in part fabricated and used by new Labour as a propaganda tool. Tracey Emin and Damian Hirst’s antics were, for example, particularly used as a way to patronize the working class giving, for example, this false idea of a culture for the masses. Everybody knows now that it was only built for financial purposes and profits. Not that I am a fan of conspiracy theories here, but I like to highlight and work on some of these facts in my practice.
Your series of mock- D.I.Y Magazine covers feature American modernists as D.I.Y maestros accompanied by their docile female sidekicks. Is your work political in its engagement with gender binaries?
I don’t see my works as very political but more like some sarcastic comment or comic statement on certain aspects of art and society. In this particular case, it was about the fact that Modern art was and still is a male dominated world. I found this quote the other day saying that “in the Tate Britain’s lauded new re-hang, which they describe as ‘a circuit of Tate Britain’s unparalleled collection, from beginning to end’, less than 8% of the works are by female artists”. I was interested, for example, by the relationship between artists as couples, by Pollock and Lee Krasner or Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera and how male artist tends to literally crush the female adversity. Rodin and Camille Claudel is another good example of that.
Pascal Rousson, Carl Andre, 2008.
Where can we see your work in the coming months?
I am going to participate in a group show in a project space call Lage Egal in Berlin in April. Another aspect of my practice is that in recent years I have been co-curating a numbers of shows in Switzerland, London etc and have been part of numerous artist-run projects which I really like because they give you total liberty and less constraint than showing in a commercial space or institution which are becoming, in my view, more and more sterile and lobotomized. With the help of very close Swiss and London[based artist friends we managed to put together quite a large diversity of exhibitions like, 'I am By Birth a Genevese’, which involved around two hundred artists from all over the world around the idea of the Mary Shelley book 'Frankenstein’, creating a monster of an exhibition between Geneva and London and more recently in Dalston we took over a wine cellar to organise 'VINIS VINIFERA’ asking artists to produce a 10cm by 9cm piece around the idea of the wine label. The show should travel to Zurich in the near future. Other shows include The Thing of Life at Flowers, London and MMXII at Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Basel.
For more information on Pascal Rousson’s practice, visit http://www.pascalrousson.com.