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19.02.2014 STATEMENT

Jean-Pierre Roy Foto: Lukas Flygare.

Some excuse to show lasers and aliens

While staring at the paintings at Gallery Poulsen, it won’t come as a surprise that the American artist Jean-Pierre Roy (b. 1974) once worked in Hollywood, and that his visual up-bringing was deep-rooted in comic book aesthetics and television. But while being somewhat of an ‘American’ artist, Roy’s skillfully executed paintings draw inspiration from European classical art as well as contemporary anxieties that are often too much for modern-day people to comprehend

Jean-Pierre Roy graduated from New York Academy of Art and The New Me Is Already Old is his first exhibition in Denmark

AF Lukas Flygare

Flæsketorvet 24, 1711 København V, W: gallerypoulsen.com
The New Me Is Already Old
Jean-Pierre Roy
22.02.2014 - 28.03.2014

“I grew up in Los Angeles, my parents were not involved in the film industry, but I started working in the film industry when I was maybe 15 and the first movie I ever worked on was ‘Terminator 2‘. I was a 15 year old kid, assembling plastic Terminator-parts. Later I worked on ‘Jurassic Park’, so I was really living and breathing this visual film culture, the culture that I grew up on and that I suspect a lot of kids growing up in the 70’s and 80’s did too, especially in Los Angeles. 

And that is about as far removed from Western European art tradition as you can get and still be in the Western Hemisphere. There were a couple of decent museum, but visual culture was all movies, television and comic-books, so that was where my visual memory was really formed. I studied undergrad at SACI Florence, Italy and spend a lot of time in England, then went back to the film industry in my late teens and early twenties, and it was not until then that I could really critically start to see - what are the narratives that we have been obsessed with for hundreds of years and what are the ones that are really contemporary. Most of the times the ones that were really contemporary were not really narratives, they were just some excuse to show lasers and aliens and there were not a real kind of story about the human condition. What I kind of got really interested in was, within these cinematic and genre-influences like fantasy, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic stuff, there were these stories or desires to wanna explore the human condition that were very similar to, if not exactly the same as stuff that fine artist has been dealing with in Western art for hundreds, if not a couple of thousands of years.

My early work was an attempt to kind of reconcile my early low art influences with this new kind of high art, critical language. And that is when I moved to New York, 3 weeks before 9/11. My paintings have a certain kind of intense cataclysmic dystopian or occasionally post-apocalyptic feel to them, but the early stages of them were literally born in downtown Manhattan, blocks away from the World Trade Center. So my whole early investment as an artist was kind of racked up in that time. I do not think it really changed my point of view. I am also from LA, so we had big fires and earthquakes. In my cultural experience there has been these cataclysmic events that kind of were so big in scale that you were not wired to process things at that scale, so your brain wants to turn it into a movie, and that is kind of what happened with the scale of 9/11, but it was not a natural disaster, it was a man-made one and that was my first experience at a man-made cataclysmic event of that scale.

The earlier work were really connected to landscape painting. Either they had a cinematic, almost like a concept-art kind of language, this kind of visionary film that has not been made or they were more focused on landscape painting tradition. I wanted this newer work to have a-whole-nother set of entry points into it, so the figure came into play with the sense of scale, but also to give it an opportunity for me to quote certain figurative, classical traditions, instead of just landscape-based painting tradition.

I do think we have to create these manageable narratives around stuff. If we feel like we are not in control, we tend not to be able to be our best self, even if that counter-intuitively means we are gonna end making a lot of mistakes. One of the things my work has always been really focused on, is presenting the viewer with an initial read of a situation, like a quick read. I enter this space, almost like an act of discovery, like you are parting the bushes and seeing something for the first time that may or may not be a threat, and the initial read tends to be this moment of ‘Ohh...’. I try to interject the painting with enough narrative juxtaposition that the more time you spend in the piece, the more your initial presumptions about the piece are undermined, and what may be something that started off as a kind of an apocalyptic situation, ends up being more of a creative event.

I want the paintings to be autobiographical, but without being portraiture. It gets back to this idea how do we frame these big events - essentially we use stories to fill in the gaps of the unknown, and in a sense that is what mythology has always been about. The masks in my paintings really connect back to this idea of personal myth-making. Part of it is also just a perceptual thing, that the second you put a face in the painting, that becomes the undeniable focal-point, and I wanted to keep the eye moving within in the piece. Your senses are finite and our desire to wanna access the objective world is almost always hindered by the limitation of our senses. So there is a way of cutting off the figures access to the world - to me that was the flipping point, it is a mask and you cannot see the face, but more importantly none of the figures can see out.”

Thank you

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