Gilles Barbier

(France) b.1965

Lives and works in Marseille

Born in Vanuatu (South Pacific), Gilles Barbier arrived in France at the age of twenty. Since then, he has established a body of work that he defines as neither criticism nor “painting of the world” nor problematics, but as fictions. The distance he systematically introduces through the “intelligence of the work” gives him considerable flexibility in the medium he uses, the subjects he covers and his formal aesthetics. Among Barbier’s main influences are probability theory and the scientific theory of uncertainty. Therefore, the artist admits that his work as an artist “probably consists of establishing the maximum number of procedures, so that I have the maximum chance to isolate something of the nature of a work of art.”

The Black drawing series, started in 2002, could be compared to a diary, or a notebook. It is a transcription of speculations, questions, hypotheses and all the researches that come before and with art work, all realized with black gouache on white paper. One of these series of drawings considers adhesives and anti-adhesives. Barbier has invented his own vocabulary and set of metaphors: the “sliding” is what enables you to think fast, to jump from one idea to another. In order for you to slide, you need the help of “wetting agents” or “anti-adhesives.”

Two other drawings, Brian’s Brain and Conway’s Life are references to cellular automatons. These structures made of regular grids of cells, studied in different hard sciences, create order from chaos and have great importance in Barbier’s own theories. The patterns on the backs of the drawings reproduce the grids of cellular automatons, as if they were wall papers illuminated from time to time. 

Using hyper-realistic techniques, Barbier has been developing a new series of sculptures since his last solo exhibition at Galerie GP & N Vallois in 2013. Still Bodies and Still Memories looks at a Nature that has reasserted itself and imposed its own pace on the world, strangely invading objects and men with moss, lichen, ivy, mycorrhizal fungi and other climbing plants. These “romantic” sculptures can be interpreted in many ways, among which is the reconciliation between Anarchy (Nature), which Men has domesticated and enslaved for centuries, and Wisdom, Order and Culture (books/bodies). At the Taipei Biennial, one will discover Still Man and Still Woman. In the meantime, the artist is preparing a complete environment that will totally invade the library of a private collector’s castle.

Gilles Barbier has had major solo exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Carré d’Art de Nîmes, and the Kunstverein Freiburg, among others. He has also participated in many prestigious group exhibitions, such as “The American Effect,” the Whitney Museum, New York (2002); “Jour de Fête” (2000) and “Paris-Delhi-Bombay” (2010) at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; as well as the Venice, Istanbul, Moscow and Sidney biennials. Since 1995, he has been represented by Galerie GP & N Vallois in Paris. His works are part of numerous prestigious private and public collections.

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