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On the verge

François Daireaux prefers steep paths to clear roads. The tracks he takes are lined with obstacles and difficulties which confuse the sense of the issue and make the journey as chaotic as it is fascinating. The evolution of his work is in the image of these paths. Bit by bit, François Daireaux banishes his doubts, in any case he gives them a legitimacy, a raison d’être, he transforms his interior conflicts into proposals for reflection and his fragility into a live source which nourishes a complex art based on imbalance, ambiguity and relations of strength.

Since 1998, he has been careful to consolidate his work and to make an future for it as if it had become urgent to intervene in the destiny of the works which he created by leaving maybe too much to chance. Now, the sculptures have a title, they are named, granted an identity which confirms their presence and situates them. They are still fragile, imperfect and irregular, but seem to be enveloped in a protective aura. In François Daireaux’s approach there is the willingness to take on the paternity of his works by looking at them with attentiveness and lucidity, ready to detect the least fault. The sculptures from 1996-97 in particular are characterised by their extreme fragility. One thinks especially of Aiguilles, with its long and flimsy plaster rods ready to break at the least movement. To avoid any accident which risks altering them, or maybe simply by a wish to conserve the vulnerability of the works which he wanted to be delicate, he built a « survival shell » for them. Entirely destroyed, broken in bits then piled in a wooden case, a 1996 work in arches in this way became Ce que je cherche à faire in 1998.
In 2001 he decides to take the portrait of two needles by photographing them in a slightly faded, tired interior, maybe in their image. A last shot before leaving the place. _Pour ne pas oublier I and II : photographic souvenirs, hommages rendered to past existences, witnesses of a presence.
With Grisaille, he conserves this wish to immortalise his sculptural figures by capturing their print on paper. Re-using one by one all of the 177 elements which made up a 1996 installation, he creates a series evoking a collection of wallpaper samples in which sculpture becomes drawing and form motif. As if X-rayed, every form is reproduced back to front and in place in a symmetrical and systematic manner. Thus François Daireaux draws up a sort of genetic map of every « sculptural subject » and presents it to us. Seen from far away these prints appear simply as ornamental geometric motifs, a more attentive gaze discovers a succession of “portraits” bearing the marks of remarkable beings.

François Daireaux’s sculptures are in constant evolution. Not only because their future is punctuated by life cycles which renew themselves every time, but also because they carry within themselves dualities which make them complex, even imperceptible and which tirelessly pose the question of sense. Every time, antagonistic elements confront each other, bodies unknown to each other try to live together, individuals struggle at the heart of a whole. Always tensions, attraction-repulsion, the wish to conquer a territory. And always this imbalance which makes the combat endless.

The choice of materials partakes of these dualities: the hardness of the plaster’s cold whiteness opposes sometimes the softness of the coloured latex, sometimes the warm colours of lipstick or nail varnish. Coiled-up stockings in shimmering colours making up Tapis and seeming to invite caressing and peace turn out to be rough and slippery to touch, thus ironically rendering the contact disagreeable. In the end, the use of floral mousse in the work entitledFormité, a tender material receptive to the least pressure is contrasted by the coarse presence of the resin, the sculpture thus becoming bitter and hard. These surprising combinations disturb anyone who confronts them, at first they invite the approach, the touch, but at the last moment they show themselves to be unsuitable for physical contact. Yet they are the very condition for which everyone comes, explores, observes, engages himself. They are a ruse to avoid a contemplative gaze and a passive attitude, a bait which ends up trapping the spectator battling with incessant games of strength. Incessant because the artist never proposes definitive solutions, but also because through the repetition of the elements, he maintains the feeling of infinity, through his many effervescences the multiplicity of meanings, the beginnings of problems or stories which only an exterior gaze or presence can develop.

Series, systematically, for every installation. Every time, a ritual in the creation, a same gesture repeated, again and again. An enormous amount of similar but unique elements, certainly bearing the “marks of fabrication” but each one with its own characteristics, outlines which despite everything individualise them. One thinks of Rousseau and of his questioning about the possibility of belonging to a group while simultaneously conserving one’s own integrity. In François Daireaux’s sculptures, as in the society Rousseau talks of, to find one’s place, to say “me”, entails constraints which it is often difficult to resolve without resorting to the relations of strength and power, with the perpetual risk of alienation. The floor installation of 1996, invasive, even swarming about, gives an idea of the uneasiness provoked by such a gathering of things. To walk around the installation gives the feeling of being invaded by a proliferation of hybrid beings, of monsters, social misfits to our eyes, but who, regrouped in this way, form a clan from which we are in turn excluded. In this work, the multitude alarms, as does the resemblance. In this way surveyors of these unknown lands reveal a high stake to us: that of positioning oneself. Physically, intellectually, intuitively. We are plunged into a universe which is simultaneously strange and familiar to us. Although the elements in question are indefinable, unclassifiable, they nevertheless appear to us as beings, creatures whose allure evokes human attitudes and whose moderate proportions, neither miniscule nor gigantic, include us in the gathering from the outset.

François Daireaux’s accumulations place us on the verge of vertigo, they cancel points of reference, endanger the established balance, disrupt the a priori and entertain themselves with the reversal of roles. The works from the years 1996-98, playing on the proximity of antagonistic universes, confuse the notions of agreement and harmony. One thinks particularly of the sculpture entitled Fuite, created in 1996 and exposed for the first time at the Villa du Parc at Annemasse in April 2002. It is a frieze composed of hundreds of latex tubes in lively colours each one suspended from points and from which stalactites of translucid glue seem to leak. The work materialises the instant which precedes the decisive event, a sort of paroxysm which makes us feel again that tension, that tightness without however delivering the conclusion to us. All the tension is concentrated in one point, the link between the two extremities, like in Rodin’s Fugit Amor where two beings tear themselves apart until they are only united by the feet and hands. In Fuite, like in Fugit Amor, the two antagonistic elements were created separately, then assembled. To materialise this contact zone in this way, to make the gesture to join the two entities, is to admit that in the construction the possibility of a destruction already exists, and that the rocking from one to the other is at the very heart of the whole creation process. Mes Ruines is completely based on this principle, it evokes the vestiges of a city which seems on the point of being reduced to dust, but is at the same time a composition, a model setting the boundaries of a plot, composing a territory: has it just been destroyed or is it being constructed? And what is it with the five « bundles of sticks » making up Formité ? Are they also ready to unbalance themselves and to disintegrate from one instant to the next or do they on the contrary form fused, rooted blocks, which nothing can disturb ?

This construction/destruction process is the quintessence of all of François Daireaux’s work. It is the duality-matrix which founds all his art. Whether they are on the floor or suspended, his plinth-less sculptures neither impose themselves as immortalised representations or as sacred objects. And to cross their path, to confront them, is above all a human adventure which unavoidably reminds us of our own history.

Célia Charvet, april 2002.