Christine Buci-Glucksmann, The skin of the world


«“Everything is vision, becoming. We become universes.
Becoming animal, plant, molecular, becoming zero
Gilles Deleuze et Felix Guattari

For paint to create landscape abstractions that map the world in its multiple surfaces, such is the challenge of Yamou’s latest works. For here, an identical, yet always varied plastic disposition, seems to impose itself as a Garden of Eden, where a white figure appears at times.
Arabesques that intertwine and intermingle in a veritable vegetal network of sinuous curves cutting through multiple spaces. And then, scattered seeds and bulbs, ashes and stylized flowers in suspension. And below, a bio-vegetal line of horizon reminiscent of the ornamental panels or top surfaces of the Nasrid palaces of Granada, releases the very light of heaven or of the waters of a purified source. As if these three elements, infinitely varied in color and flow, recreated this skin of the world which inhabits everyone in their dreams. Escaping the borders of the kingdoms of nature, between top and bottom, under and above, organic and inorganic, defines from the outset a hybrid practice of art which may claim plural values, contrasting, even contradictory.

The arabesques evoke the ornamental way of Islam, its architecture and its miniatures. But they also evoke the passion of Matisse who wanted to “go straight into the arabesque with color,” and who found at the Alhambra and then in Tangier, his plastic Orient (1). The rarefied and transparent abstraction of the background may also recall Rothko and Richter, whom Yamou sometimes declared inspired him. But in this between-expression of cosmic elements, botanical or topological, the abstraction of the landscapes reinvents itself in its own aesthetic tensions.

On the one hand, a floral aesthetic of arabesques and “miniaturization” of decorative atoms, flowers and grasses, always marked by a signature: the renewed presence of this Soleirolia, a highly stylized flower-seed that is ubiquitous in his detail work. A veritable “grammar of ornament”, where the floral arabesque leans toward the dynamics of a form-line that joins the entire floral history of painting between East and West.

But this aesthetic of the detail and the minuscule is coupled with one that is totally different: that of a usually horizontal, sometimes vertical cut, framing a rarefied, spiritual space that emerges from the light of the colors. Gray or purple harmonies, dissonances of a violet-red, all these colorful sensibilities create an inner light, an aerial and haptic surface.

The tension of these two aesthetics, one of the tiny, the other of the limitless, creates abstract landscapes, epidermises, to borrow the title of a series of paintings in 2011. But unlike the first paintings marked by the use of materials (soil, sand) reminiscent of Tapies, or even separate from those of 2009, with their still “figurative” bouquets, entwined leaves and flowers, the recent paintings  are of a new abstraction which I had called post-abstraction (2). Complex and impure, juxtaposing multiple and heterogeneous elements, post-abstraction does not elude the world. More additive than subtractive, it breaks with the monochrome by integrating diverse elements: ribbons, spirals, flowers or fluxes, much like David Reed, Lydia Dona, Jonathan Lasker or Dominique Gauthier and Pascal Dombis. Thus, the end of modernism and earlier dualism that radically opposed the figurative and the abstract. For post-abstraction develops abstracts and plastic signs that function as codes, signatures that remain identifiable in their infinite variations.

Yamou deploys this “non-organic vitality” which Deleuze analyzes, and which leads to smooth non-geometric spaces, infinite as the sea or the desert. Paths, bifurcations, musical rhythms in expansion or contraction, all kinds of assemblages. Between the organic and inorganic the surface effect  and the prioritization of the planes, the earthly, the aquatic and the aerial, the botanical scales of the elements, from the tiniest to the largest, the transition from life that germinates to the ashes of a foretold death, all the hybridizations of universes are possible.

For when we extract visibilities from the bio-organic world, we are led to practice what Michel Foucault called an “experience of the outside”, which fixes the affects into the linings of the world while mocking the mirror-painting or the screen-painting. The skin of the world or the Duchampian infra-thin, according to Yamou, with its distances, its restraint and perhaps even the “beauty of indifference” that Bataille spoke of in reference to Manet. An emotion that denies any pathos and provides a reverence of the feeling.

You look at the works of 2011 and especially those that are constituted in a variation: As above so below, or again Epidermis:

Epidermis I, 2011, on a yellow and very light purple background, with its ornamental band, and this traversing floral arabesque with its seeds and its ovals.

Epidermis II, or the rise, the push toward the top of an invasive germination like a live rock on an aerial background.

Epidermis III, no more horizon, but a stormy sky black like a Japanese lacquer, comets and constellations escaping from a plastic and planetary catastrophe.

Finally Epidermis IV, return of the band, a background much more pink and seeds enlarged into a stellar universe.

In no time, you enter the laboratory of the painter, in which elements change size, shape and status in a permanent permutation, from the quietest to the most violent, from the most stabilized to the most removed, in a law of rhythm which is time, with its alchemy of the light of Marrakech in Paris.

Time suspended, with its ephemerality and its impermanence, as much a part of life as it is of the works, at the cost of an artificial which sometimes reminds me of Japan and its ikebana and this “flower that is at the heart of the men of this world” as Zeami wrote.

Now, the artificial is not merely a second nature that stylizes the world. It creates all the passages in the nudity of a space between full and empty, heavy and light, real and suspended.  Depth made of multiple paths, where one “joins oneself like skin to the flesh” (Zeami). This abstract flesh of the plant, this skin of the world, made of ideal expansion as such cares little about the connection of the lines and forces, in an expanded look at the cosmos. From then on the surface effect of Yamou’s paintings operates a filtering of the elements. The clarity thus comes from the power of the background, treated as a virtual screen or a mirror of the world, where time emerges from the interstices between arabesques and microscopic movements of the botanical and the floral, to the point of creating this “frozen agitation” made of the virtual similarities mentioned by Walter Benjamin (4).  From then on the painting becomes a mirror that reflects thought, like in this Tribute to Claude (Monet, I assume) created the same day as Epidermis IV. A vast liquid expanse, on a grayed thinned and floating band, memories of white water lilies, like so many “Soleirolias”, marks of the same emotional signature.

Tones most often broken and colored and decorated emptiness, in the vibration of the painting “one becomes universe”.  And it is without a doubt this cosmic emotion always retained that we feel, and that introduces us to the seasons of the world and of dreams, in all these “Arabian Nights and Days” of painting, in which Shahrazade sometimes appears, faded by memory.

1)On the Orient of Painters, Matisse and Klee, c.f. our book: Philosophy of Ornament. From Orient to Occident. Galilée. 2008.

2) On post-abstraction and the Notion of the Abstract : “Toward a Post-Abstraction”, Abstract Practices, Rue Descartes Magazine, N°16. Taken and developed in an Aesthetic of the Virtual, The madness of Vision, Galilée, 2002.

3) On Hybridation, C.f. our text «Toward an Aesthetic of the Hybrid», Exhibition of the Villa Emerige Traits d’Union and the book: Paris and Arab Contemporary Art, Art Absolument Editions. 2011.
4) Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire, Petite Bibliothèque Payot, 1982. p.222

Christine Buci-Glucksmann