To be honest, I never wanted to become an electrician anyway
July 10 - August 07, 2021
Curated by Nele Ouwens, BBA Gallery, Berlin
Photography: Rick Schubert
Swiss artist Nicolas Vionnet is fascinated by irritations. A multi-disciplinary artist, Vionnet is creator of thought-provoking, jarring and sometimes playful interventions between objects, conceptual paintings and installations which provoke a dialogue with their environment. His works do not shout for attention, but instead present themselves through subtlety and wit. To engage with his works is to feel a build-up of tension that challenges viewers and triggers curiosity. As one of the winners of the BBA Artist Prize 2018, this is Vionnet’s first solo exhibition with BBA Gallery.
Like an electrician wiring a circuit, Vionnet interconnects objects together. However, instead of closing the circuit and creating functionality through the correct interconnection, Vionnet's work may appear functional for a split second then impossible on second glance. In “221 Reasons to say No” a set of bathroom scales is bedecked with metal nails pointing upwards, while in “Always stand on the bright side of life” a floor lamp merges with a walking frame. An industrial power socket with a wig stuck inside is called: “To be honest, I never wanted to become an electrician anyway.” Each object is in itself commonplace, with the titles of the interventions also somehow familiar, yet by integrating elements and the visual language of each object, the artist achieves the reaction he hopes for: irritation, reflection, a smile.
With his indoor, and sometimes outdoor installations, Vionnet continues his principle of irritation and integration. These are interventions of the quiet kind, where the viewer is invited to enter into a dialogue. Visitors to the gallery hear the splashing of a shower head dripping water coming from another room – then on entering the next room they are confronted by a bathroom where an old bathtub invites them to shower in the unsuitable location of a gallery. What remains is astonishment. This room installation is given the title “Maria, if you had stayed tough, we would have been spared Christmas” turning the visitor’s perception upside down and tempting them to immerse themselves in their own story.
When describing his process, Vionnet speaks of "non-hierarchical dialogue" where the artistic work does not rise above its environment and its message is not pre-defined by the artist. In this sense, viewers can also be understood to be part of the environment of an object or an installation; their internal processes, irritation, amusement or lack of understanding become part of the work and are all equally valid. Vionnet says, “the expression 'non-hierarchical dialogue with the environment’ describes my conviction that the work of art itself should never dominate. Actually, there shouldn't be a hierarchy. Ideally, there is a balance between work and the environment. This balance enables the viewer to perceive both components at the same time.”
Vionnet also plays with the existing artistic expectations in the field of painting. His large-format paintings in the series “Untitled” are devoted to drapery; a motif that is significant in art history and which, if executed convincingly, underscores the painter's mastery. Vionnet dedicates himself to the topic in a completely different way, through a direct and conceptual approach. The raw fabric of each canvas is draped with layer after layer of transparent, black paint via a spray can, leading to different parts becoming loaded with compacted paint. Wherever the fabric of the canvas is raised, the paint sticks, leaving other areas white. After this painting process, the fabric is stretched and drawn onto the canvas. So simple, so convincing.