Through his extraordinary journey, Philippe Pasqua has emerged as one of the major artists of his generation. From the beginning, his art made a great impression and challenged the certainties of those who rubbed shoulders with him, like the great critic Pierre Restany.
With Pasqua, the taste for the monumental goes hand in hand with an attraction towards what is most vulnerable – bodies and faces, sometimes with stigmatising differences that the artist adopts and magnifies through his painting: for example, portraits of transsexuals, people with Downs syndrome, or people who are blind. Handicaps, differences, obscenity or the sacred: each canvas is the fruit of a struggle, a tension between what can be shown and “tolerated”, and what is socially repressed or concealed.
Pasqua’s painting strikes the visitor like an almost physical impact, but also like a vision that is at the same time explosive and incisive. The monumental format of the artist’s canvases is dictated by the breadth of his gestures – a dance where brutality and finesse, trance and lucidity alternate. He begins by painting the sort of fetishes or enigmatic silhouettes that evoke voodoo. Then, gradually, his gaze turns to those who are standing around him. He interferes with the twists and turns of people’s intimate depths, going right into the innermost areas of their being. As a counterpoint to this physical work, there are his grand drawings. The face or the body becomes a halo, mist, smoke, stroke, vibration. It is no longer so much a case of flesh as of sketched contours and delicate textures.
Another major aspect of Pasqua’s work lies in his series of “vanities”. The technique employed evokes that of the silver- and goldsmiths of the Middle Ages working on a reliquary, and also some kind of shamanic ritual. He covers human skulls with gold or silver leaf. Sometimes, he covers them in skins and then tattoos them. Then there is the delicate stage where the skulls are decorated with preserved butterflies, with their outstretched wings and their iridescent colours: the light is refracted on their coloured, powdery surface, or falls into the deep shadows in the eye sockets. He also sometimes pours liquid paint in a thick stream that covers everything and submerges it.
For several years, the artist has also been going to Carrara frequently, where he sculpts skulls weighing several tons that are like massive stars radiating telluric energy. At the foundry, he produces large bronze casts that are then plunged into baths of chrome. The skulls that emerge — human or animal, like that of the hippopotamus — become like mirrors: sometimes you only see their blinding reflection, sometimes they disappear, so that what they are reflecting emerges. And on approaching them, inevitably it is our own image that we see.
His monumental sculptures permanently adorn the streets of Paris and were exhibited in the 53rd Venice Biennale.
Pasqua has exhibited in several museums to great acclaim, including his retrospective at Ahlers Foundation (Hanover, Germany, 2010), “Painting and Drawing” at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (June 2010) and the monumental show “Boarderline” at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco (2017)