Centre Pompidou, Paris

F-75004 Paris

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press release

For the first time, the Centre Pompidou is presenting a retrospective exhibition of the work of the artist Christian Bonnefoi, a singular figure on the French contemporary art scene since the 1970s.

Spanning 700 m2, this exhibition will allow visitors to grasp the originality of a body of work that has remained resolutely pictorial and abstract, at a time when painting was viewed as outmoded and surpassed by other artistic territories or was swept up in a return to representation.

With just under one hundred works – from the first collages of the 1970s to the latest tableaux painted in 2008 from the Babel and Ludo series –, the chronological display showcases the major series that make up Bonnefoi's oeuvre. It offers the possibility of measuring the consistency of his artistic project and demonstrating the specific nature of his approach, which looks to adopt a speculative, experimental standpoint that promotes a "revival" of the classical tradition of painting.

The trajectory of the work has been constructed around the central axis of the Babel series, in a constant alternation between works made of tissue paper and those in tarlatan, all of them based on a common medium: collage, which – by destroying the surface unity – opens the way for all kinds of manipulations. Tarlatan and tissue paper, both of which are transparent, supple and porous, allow – with the use of glue – a whole suite of impregnations and layering of material, incorporating acrylic paint or lines of graphite pencil or pastel, which are added "blind" to the front or back or both at once. All of these techniques and materials ultimately become juxtaposed, intertwined and complexified to obtain a "laminated" effect that is inextricable from the surface, taking the form of a "painting". The work is thus created as much by what it conceals as by what it reveals.

In the most recent Ludo series, from 2000 onwards, the painted tissue paper collages burst free from the standard rectangular frame and spread themselves freely over the walls: the painting exists without its frame. Christian Bonnefoi is a non-dogmatic painter for whom experimentation remains an open game, a field of investigation that is always being called into question.

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Christian Bonnefoi