Jérémy Demester explores the nature of art and its relation to the founding myths of our world: symbolism, energies, alchemy, fate, sacred representations... His paintings and sculptures can thus never be taken at surface value as they are always layered with diverse, and sometimes cryptic, meaning. His work, often the result of collaboration (with craftsmen, children, scientists, philosophers and friends, who form what he names La Demestria), avoids being self-involved and rather opens itself to the world.
In reference to his nomadic roots, Demester describes himself a gypsy painter and a quest for identity underpins his work. As the descendant of a wandering ancestry, who drifted between continents, Demester is unsurprisingly influenced by a wide variety of cultures and traditions. It is also an inherited Wanderlust that recently drew the artist to Africa, where he was invited for a residency at the Zinsou Foundation in Benin – the connection between Demester and the African continent is the word gypsy, which traces its etymological roots to Egypt. During the residency in Cotonou, he discovered an alternate way of connecting to the world, through the power of magic, rituals and dances inspired by a keen observance and insightful knowledge of nature as well as of the spirit world. Demester accidentally recognised this same unique energy in the village children’s dances. He thus asked them to hold his paintings whilst dancing in order to allow the natural pigments and locally sourced oils to flow in accordance with these uncontrolled forces. The concept of ‘gravity’ is shattered and the viewer can’t decipher the movements preceding the creation. Demester talks about the absence of rationality and the idea of a “painting without seeing”. His canvases stretched with ebony wood are then exposed to the elements outdoors during the rain season, before being re-stretched.
A large metallic triptych in the exhibition constitutes a sort of halfway point between painting and sculpture. Acting as a counterpoint to the African paintings, this series of “holographic paintings” departs from the Vin d’Anjou series, also exhibited, which experiments with the notion of blood. Here, with the Três Veladoras (a reference to Pessoa’s writings), Demester explores the delicate notion of skin. The three works adopt the form of a tessellating hourglass, which can also be read as an extremely simplified anthropomorphic shape. Unlike his paintings on canvas, which absorb energy, the metal reflects and diffuses these transcendental forces. The holographic paintings evoke the infinite variations of skin tone, and are far from being monochromatic, although they appear white: there is no single colour that could successfully embody the tonal variety of the human epidermis. Through these works, the artist aims to create a physical relationship with colour: a real tangible sensation instead of an image or a tint.