Exquisite redactions

Laure Eggericx
12 juin 2016
A crouching skeleton, another with horns and a more nonchalant attitude, and the rest neatly stacked directly on the four-line musical staff of the neumatic notation of this 18th-century antiphonary which ended up in the hands of Philippe Favier. Using dark humour, the French artist (born in 1957 in Saint-Etienne) revisits and hijacks the pages of this ancient liturgical book and disguises the etched portraits of famous people from the Grand Gallery of the Palace of Versailles.

For the time being, he has slipped a few of his contemporary Vanités inside the Erasmus House. This teeming universe is full of fantastic, sometimes winged, animals – half deer, half steeds; half-man, half-sphinx –, critters on wheels or impromptu hybridizations, hairy gargoiles, vines dotted with feathers or fins, shaggy heads and mummies lying in a swirl of stars! It is quite funny. We cannot but smile or laught at the sight of these jubilant and irreverent illustrations curated by Daniel Abadie in a place that exudes tranquillity and in one of the oldest Gothic houses in Brussels.

These redactions which have also invaded portraits of famous people in the fresco room, on the upper floor of the respectable residence, are not as frivolous as they would seem at first glance. Their depth shines quietly through and beyond their concealment of lace, red balls and greedy tentacles, revealing the same thought processes as at the the great humanist's time. In a section of The Praise of Folly, Erasmus mentions court jesters who are the only ones able to entertain the king with their truths.

Inspired by this amazing phenomenon and incorporating the terms coined by Erasmus, Philippe Favier entitled his exhibition The Fool's Paradox. In so doing, he has endorsed the mission here and now. Abadie wrote the following in a foreword to the exhibition: “As for the truths that only the jester was able to tell the king, now, in a society that practices forgetfulness as a protective measure, only the artist can try to remind them not just to one person, but to all." This is the artist raising the question of his role in today's society. An artist who takes his place with elegance and know-how. His colourful annotations demonstrate a steady hand, a pen that masters the curves of his tiny figurines with their soft lines. The colours he uses are attractive and charming, until one deciphers the contents.

The universe of Flemish painters of the 16th and 17th centuries is not far and it is a happy coincidence that Erasmus House should exhibit some, including Bosch and Pieter Huys, in the Renaissance room where Favier has precisely reworked the antiphonary he found at the flea market. He denounces by insidiously infiltrating his miniatures into the white reserved by the musical staff where only  small black squares are traveling. Conversely, the Portraits infernaux are of noble origin: they come from albums of the collections of the Gloires de la France at the Palace of Versailles. Regardless, the artist continues his work, modifying them with large amounts of black ink, red beads and acrylic paint to make them reappear as bigger fools than those they once mocked ... Delicious moments to enjoy without moderation.
Philippe Favier
Le Paradoxe du bouffon
Maison d’Erasme
31 rue du Chapitre
1070 Brussels 
Until 25 September
Tuesdays - Sundays, from 10:00 to 18:00




Laure Eggericx

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