Anna McNay

Review of Philippe Pasqua: Solo Exhibition at Opera Gallery


Philippe Pasqua: Solo Exhibition

Opera Gallery

26 January – 15 February 2012

Often described as the French Francis Bacon, Philippe Pasqua’s canvases can hardly be called as a pretty sight. The terms ‘abject’ and ‘disturbing’ have been used far more commonly, and yet there is something simultaneously beguiling about them. Not exactly because you are drawn in closer, since the dimensions of these works are huge – larger than life, looming down over you from afar – but because there is something confrontational and something unexplained, something that makes you want to find out more.

Untitled for the main part, the portraits, worked up from photographs, are detached from any background or context. Mixed media on paper, laid down on canvas, the faces, eyes usually closed, are beautifully drawn, with rubbings out to create intense effects of shadow and light, then washed in colour, before being subjected to violent splashes of paint in the most vibrant reds, purples, pinks and blues, making one question whether the dream-like state of the subject, seemingly peaceful, mightn’t actually be one of death. Indeed Pasqua has worked intently with the theme of death, not only in his paintings, which also include series on transsexuals, prostitutes, and children with Down’s Syndrome, but also in his sculptures, made out of skulls, bedecked, in a Hirstian manner, with jewels, butterflies, and often thick paint.

Even his nudes are overhung with a large question mark. A black and white girl, for example, hangs at the top of the staircase, sitting with her legs apart, exposed and bare, apart from a vest. Again daubed with splattered paint, and no more than a mere sketchy outline of her limbs, the dark black hair and shadowy face beggar the question of what her story might be. Is she damaged? Vulnerable? Provocatively eliciting attention? Desirous? It is impossible to tell.

Similarly with the children on show in the lower gallery, again sleepy looking, drugged even, their mouths slightly parted, sensual and enticing, but inappropriately so. Who are they? What has happened? Are they asleep, dead, suffering, at peace? Each viewer must draw his own conclusions. The information to accompany the exhibition cites Lucian Freud as having said: ‘The role of the artist is to disturb the human being,’ and if ever there was doubt as to the verity of this statement, Pasqua is living proof. 


All by Philippe Pasqua


Mixed media on paper, laid down on canvas

© Opera Gallery Ltd, 2012

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