In botany, a rhizome is a thick underground stem of plants whose buds develop new roots and shoots, such as ginger, hops or lotus.
The rhizome is also an “image of thought” which emphasizes fluidity and multiplicity. The movement of the rhizome resists organisation, instead favoring a nomadic system of growth and propagation.
It is best understood against the image of a tree: the structure of trees is mainly hierarchical, based on a central root, and its type of growth is all but binary. The rhizome, in opposition, is seen by philosophers Deleuze and Guattari as a liberating concept against “structures of power and dominance”.
For me the idea of the rhizome translates visually as a free association of signs, words, color, symbols, therefore, as an image of the unconscious.
Not unlike automatic writing my paintings start off with an almost blind process : I trace thin cuts with an engraving tool through a thick build-up of canvas, paper and glue; then liquid color will run through the creases and tears and spread into unexpected blots and shapes.
“A root is always a discovery. We dream it more than we see it”
An epigram is a short poem; it comes from a greek word meaning “to inscribe”and would usually be carved on statues, but was also an early form of graffiti on Roman walls.
My attempt is to create visual poetry on the canvas; I use signs, symbols, blots, carving, erasure, and imaginary alphabets.
In short, all things that are in excess of the legible word in the act of writing, and which have all but disappeared in the digital age.
On the surface of the canvas, ruled like a notebook, I build a thick layer of gesso and paper. Then I trace lines into it with an engraving tool, gliding atop or tearing into it .
My first impulse is to make marks; then color will run into the folds, creases and tears, while leaving transparent veils in between.
The semantic field becomes a ploughed field, with its furrows, puddles, dark rocks and streaks of luminous meadows.
My studio is facing the East River, in the industrial setting of the Brooklyn Navy Yard; from my window I can see huge cranes moving slowly, and tracing, like semaphores, a giant and graceful alphabet of signs against the sky.
STEIN'S DIARY SERIES
In this former series of paintings (1995), I used excerpts from a text by Gertrude Stein (The Birthday Book) and placed them into an imaginary diary, where next to nothing would happen.
Texts, markings, images respond to a world of confinement, anguish, within a sour sense of the absurd.
The basic structure of my paintings is derived from a childhood ritual.
Alone, lying down, I would stare for a long time at my bedroom ceiling, a blank square ornamented by an intricate frieze.
There, I would effortlessly reconcile the minimal and Baroque elements of the decor and combine them into imaginary, enigmatic shapes, suspended between the lure of the void and the exuberant profusion of life.
La structure de base de mes peintures me vient d’un rituel d’enfance.
Seul, allongé, je contemplais longuement le plafond de ma chambre, un carré blanc orné d’une frise.
Sans effort, je réconciliais les éléments antagonistes de ce décor baroque et minimal pour en faire surgir des formes nouvelles, énigmatiques, suspendues entre le néant et le foisonnement de la vie.