We are pleased to announce the summer exhibition HEAT by French artist Gildas
Coudrais. Gildas Coudrais’ first solo show in Berlin is a continuation of his successful
exhibitions at Villa Aurora in Los Angeles in 2013 and 2014. The exhibition was curated by
art historian Katharina Schulenberg-Leduc with the support of Villa Aurora.
The exhibition title “HEAT” refers both to Gildas Coudrais’ way of working and to his
attempt to caricature and expose the superficiality of society and its values. To this end,
his work explores the following questions: What is the connection between content and
representation? What is the significance of the relation between word and image? In what
way is the spectator involved in the work?
Gildas Coudrais often incorporates quotes and poignant adages into his works, which for
the most part are mirror-inverted and thus impossible to decipher at first glance – they
thereby accentuate the painterly representation, functioning as a kind of subtext. The
short sentences that are worked into the colour-intensive, monochrome paper works
entitled Let’s talk about it...(2014-present) are partially derived from advertising. They
seem to address the viewers directly, by inviting them to engage in a quiet heart-to-heart:
in the shimmering reflexion of the glass frame, the spectators catch sight of their inverted
mirror images, which thus exist on the same level of perception as the inverted words.
The palm tree is a dominant image in the artist’s work, featuring prominently in his latest series California Dream, 2016. These works, created in an extremely narrow portrait format, show upside-down palm trees against a monochrome blue background, supplemented and glossed by an equally monochrome red word in mirror writing,hovering in the lower third of the image above the pictorial representations. These reverse glass paintings use molten, deformed plexiglass instead of actual glass. Gildas Coudrais thereby creates an ironic commentary on issues of beauty and superficiality. The palm tree, symbolic for the city of Los Angeles and synonymous with the sun, the beach and a carefree life, is turned on its head, refuting and parodying those stereotypes. It seems as if the trees were reflected in the clear blue water of a swimming pool in a typical Los
Angeles villa. The artist furthermore alludes to the story of Narcissus, who, faced with his own reflection in the water, is unable to recognize it.
The installation A quel sein se vouer? is a wordplay on the French words “sein” (breast) and “saint” (saint) and is informed by the spirit of Dada and Surrealism. At first glance, the work seems like a baroque installation of delicate porcelain. On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that the material is in fact painted, moulded plexiglass. The puristic naturalness and immaculateness of this symbol of femininity is undermined by an old-fashioned ornateness with its variously shaped, profiled frames and the baroque candleholders with their red electric cables. Whereas in early art history, the breast is often seen as socially acceptable and innocent, here the spectators find themselves confronted with a tension between beauty and naturalness, between semblance and deception, in all its romantic and erotic aspects.
The artist’s works have been shown in exhibitions in Germany, Switzerland, France and the US. We would like to express our sincerest thanks to Villa Aurora for this latest collaboration.
Text: Katharina Schulenberg-Leduc