April 27 - June 15, 2024

The vegetation is lush, almost dissolving the picture. The impression of depth comes from the colored shadows. In vertical formats such as La mer des Hystoires, Arnaud Rochard evokes the work of dominoté paper and its panoramas, the beginnings of wallpaper in the 18th century. The landscape extends like a motif, and therein lies the ambiguity of the artist’s work. If you look closely, you can make out the detail of a plant, as if taken from a botanical plate, next to the silhouette of a tree, a knight lost in a forest of vines. The juxtaposition and interplay of scales create a visual disorientation between genres. By employing techniques associated with multiples, such as linocut, which he twists into a complex superimposition of layers, the artist creates unique images. He literally exhausts the pattern and makes it his main subject, as in the wallpaper produced with the Antoinette Poisson brand, where the figure of a horseman is repeated to the saturation point. What are the images that remain after having dressed the walls, tapestries and minds for so many centuries? A knowledge of the history of the decorative arts that enables him to develop a pictorial approach that transcends this framework and stands on its own, with all its secrets and unseen aspects.

Whether Arnaud Rochard is exploring azulejos, the Spanish-Portuguese earthenware tiles that first appeared in the 15th century, or referring to tapestry, leaving the canvas free : he enjoys mixing temporalities. Eclectic, in the first sense of the word and according to Diderot’s definition of free spirits, he combines in Casa the touch of oil with the frame of linocut to evoke the specificity of patchwork on canvas. Beyond the question of taste, to which the notion of eclecticism was reduced in the 19th century, he introduces notions of filiation and heritage, of which the half-faded Âge d’or coats of arms are the most visible aspects. This work on the transmission of a visual culture shows the interweaving of different temporalities and geographies.

Like La Mer des histoires, one of the most beautifully illustrated books of the 15th century, Arnaud Rochard works with fragments that he assembles and compiles. In this chronicle of the late Middle Ages, different types of texts and narratives blend together, poetry and prose, history and fiction, to redraw a genealogy of the world, and the image itself participates in this undertaking, notably with a number of cartographies. The artist places himself in this same position, with variations in style and playing on existing narratives and their counter-narratives. With the reverse technique and non-finito of Bataille arcade, he displaces details of a battle scene, just as he might do with hunting scenes in another context. The idea of conquest or the stakes of power seem to become as futile as the battles in Italo Calvino’s «The Non-Existent Knight». Arnaud Rochard likes to refer to authors of fairy tales and parables like Salman Rushdie; like them, he leads us to look elsewhere, and perhaps to sketch out other possibilities.

Henri Guette