JÉRÔME BOREL

Point of view

Mysteries of the Incarnation
Note on the straight line in works by Jérôme Borel

The Beautiful Absence

Over the past few years it has not been difficult to get in touch with Jérôme Borel, because once a quarter he has hosted two artists, friends or not, for a two-and-a-half-day flash exhibition. These events took place in his studio, which he made available for the works of others for the occasion. Of course, we visited the studio to talk with all of those present, to taste the dishes prepared for the occasion by the head of the house, who was keen to provide his guests with the best hospitality, but also questioning the initiator of these sessions, known under the generic name “La Belle Absente/présente” (The Beautiful Absence/ Presence), was certainly not off limits.

But who is this ‘Beautiful Absence’ that he has managed to get so many others to take notice of? Answering this conundrum, even with a barrage of questions, would produce nothing more than a sketch of the outlines of his practice and his work. We could sure-footedly jump to the word painting, except that it is present more than absent in these places. Always directed, always activated and forever elusive as such, it shines, in fact, not by its absence as a realised object, the painting, but by the absence that radiates from its very heart, from a centre that cannot be grasped, from which are born, in each one, the images. But we must add that The Beautiful Absence/Presence could just as well be the colour as the face, the gesture rather than hope, hunger rather than thought, the silence that hollows the sky as an unexpected encounter with the unrepresentable.

There is in Jérôme Borel a simple bias which constitutes the axis on which he has pledged to lead all aspects of his life: to consider that nothing that he does, lives, creates, refuses, choses, should not nor could not be outside the central magnet that he calls existence. There is neither ease nor truism here, but rather a choice that is as difficult as much as it is passionate, a continued choice giving birth to a line that has become a guideline, taking into account all the aspects of the moments lived, and which reveals itself to be existence. To try to understand this unity that Jérôme Borel seeks to achieve, we must take note of what painting is capable of bringing together, coordinating and revealing, some of the essential mysteries of what makes existence. If, here, the singular is imposed as a measure of the shareable, it is because it is the

Code name: existence

The major plank of Jérôme Borel’s existence is the act of painting pictures. The painting, the element which allows him not to lose the thread and, in particular, to continue to create, to invent, prolongs life itself through its gestures. To gaze into his works is to experience for oneself what it means to set existence in motion. While the term emotion keeps the vibration of this movement active within it, that of thought brings together the various traits that it is vital to let fly in all directions if we want to succeed in defining the direction in which we are moving. It is against this yardstick that it is important to understand these paintings. Looking at a painting means both facing a moment of existence and looking at all of them. The concomitance of the unique and the ensemble being developed is the very heart of an ‘existential’ approach to the act of painting. It is both that without which the pictorial visible would not be and that which escapes all representation. Jérôme Borel himself says that in each painting he tries to ‘represent the unrepresentable’. The correctness of the wording should not lead to the illusion of immediate understanding. To achieve this, we must enter into the modes of manifestation of the incarnation that is a painting. There is what the painter himself says about it, arguing about his sensitivity, the impact on him of certain ‘images’, perceived, received or conceived, of its major link with what those who preceded him brought to painting, monochrome artists and artists of a renewed abstraction and figuration, gestures relating to covering and gestures allowing the emergence of a figure. There are moments, stages in a work. Not that we have to go towards a goal that has been fixed in advance but, each time, specify a little more, a little better, what secretly motivates and comes to the table of the visible that is the painting. So we see ‘the’ figure emerging as if the gestures of painting were to also open it up to a magmatic world. So we see a human figure planted in front of a block of violent red. So we see an animal emerging from the non-place represented by the crossing of flat colours, lines forming a cross and silence populating the objectless expectation that vibrates in every living being. Everywhere we see the active presence of the straight line. And hardly a glimpse of it, a presence that is both mysterious and disturbing, it imposes itself on us as the entity without which almost no painting by Jérôme Borel seems to be able to exist. Yes, something takes place here, which is a meeting, combat, insistence, authority, measure and excess, something of which the straight line - and its multiple variations - is at the same time the trigger, the actor and the so singular establishment of a measure.

Through its history as well as its practice, painting owes much to the notion mainly held by the Christian thought of incarnation, the ground and base of one of the major questions to which, as an image producer, painting strives to answer. Jérôme Borel took up this question in his own way, which is not Christian. Each painting must be understood as a single scene, albeit infinitely repeatable. More simply, the question of incarnation could be reformulated as follows: how does everything that exists come to take shape, consistency? How to represent something which arises from a single thought even though everything that is visible carries in itself traces of the motive power of the sensitive? It is rare to encounter artists who seek to make each painting an attempt to bring into existence the question of ‘how to think’. To achieve this, we must design each painting as an arena in which to project the forces that move us. But what are they today? Printed words, images from various painters, films, advertisements or what the street offers us in its generous diversity, bare landscapes, banal objects, uncertain dreams, evasive visions, everything is good for the painter. But all of this, we know, yes, it has all happened before and is exhausting itself through being repeated ad nauseam by the sellers of image makers. They lack a capacity, that of identifying the major conflict, which in our time is the embodiment. For Jérôme Borel, incarnation does not first produce a figure but expresses the meeting of an era and an existence in the process of being developed. In order for the painting to gain access to the power of the incarnation, it is therefore necessary for a diffuse consciousness to act undercover. And for this, it must grasp the nature of the time, which is none other than the undermining of the living by a rationality that has been driven mad by dint of rationalism. And one also needs a powerful capacity to summarise so that this mad rationality, in its oldest form coming from the field of ‘conceptual’ thought and the most anti-natural there is, namely the straight line, can be shown as existing in a coextensive manner with all the non-rational elements that haunt the human psyche and drive the world. By staging in almost all of his paintings the encounter of a being made of flesh with patterns, objects, colours or traces, Jérôme Borel invites us to the party of a sensitive thinker, a party that he has designed for himself and is offered to us in passing.

2021’s <i>Ecce homo</i> forces us to face the trap in which we are caught, having to face the rectilinear wall by means of prostheses, which also results from a sick rationality. 2020’s <i>Seuil</i> (Threshold) was already telling us that the road we are following leads us into a no-go zone promising nothingness rather than a happy life. With <i>Je ne suis pas innocent</i> (I’m Not Innocent) from 2019, he tells how the straight line executes the secret plan that motivates it, to reveal by separating, by slicing and by blinding, and to weave its ignominy through the psyche form that is the human head. With 2019’s <i>Le mur</i> (The Wall) we are involved in the shift towards the beyond that promises us and offers us the horizon of our most insane expectations. With 2018's <i>Cénotaphe du critique</i> (Cenotaph Of The Critic), he stages in a way that is both ironic and instructive, how thought and dreams are unconscious victims, because they gain life from and live within their denial, with a rectitude that does not consider ethics but is content to mark out what is possible to reduce things to their norm.

Instances of the act of painting

This norm is imposed by rationality, embodied by the straight line, comprising of making it stand there. It is an indelible but elusive mark of a certain way of thinking, the most obvious and most obscured aspect of which is to make obsolete all that relates to emotion. It asserts itself and imposes itself as the highest value ever produced by thought itself! Thoughtful, Jérôme Borel’s paintings show that their future is to be thinking, on condition of accepting that, in the same gesture, we can also heal a little the wound that each of us carries within, that of having been thrown into a universe where one is not expected and where one will not be missed. Spending your life waiting for an answer amounts to nought. Each answer comes only from the capacity of each one of us to embody the world which haunts us. This response can only be heard if one participates without fear of creation in the creation. So this response takes the form of a singular lifeline. For Jérôme Borel, it is that of a pictorial incarnation.

If the term emotion keeps the vibration of this movement active in it, that of thought brings together the various traits that it is vital to release in all directions if we want to succeed in specifying the one in which we are moving. It is against this yardstick that it is important to understand these tables.

To look at a painting is both to be faced with a moment of existence and to look at them all. This concomitance of the unique and the whole being developed is the very heart of an "existential" approach to the act of painting. It is both what without which the pictorial visible would not be and what escapes all representation.

Jérôme Borel himself says that he tries in each painting to “represent the infigurable”. The correctness of the wording should not lead to the illusion of immediate understanding. To achieve this, it is necessary to enter into the modes of manifestation of the incarnation that constitutes a painting.

There is what the painter himself says about it, arguing about his sensitivity, the impact on him of certain "images", perceived, received or conceived, of its major link with what those brought to painting. who preceded him, artists of monochrome as artists of a renewed abstraction and figuration, gestures relating to recovery as gestures allowing the emergence of a figure.

There are moments, stages in a work. Not that it is necessary to go towards a goal which would have been fixed in advance! But each time, specify a little more, a little better, what secretly motivates and invites itself to the table of the visible that is the picture.

Thus we see "the" figure emerging as if the gestures of painting were to both open it up to a magmatic world. Thus we see a human figure planted in front of a flat of a violent red. Thus we see an animal emerging from the non-place represented by the crossing of flat colors, lines forming a cross and silence populating the objectless expectation that vibrates in every living being. Everywhere we see the active presence of the straight line. And hardly a glimpse of it, a presence that is both mysterious and disturbing, it imposes itself on us as the entity without which almost no painting by Jérome Borel seems to have to or be able to exist.

Yes, something takes place, here, which is meeting, combat, insistence, authority, measure and excess, something of which the straight line - and its multiple variations - is at the same time the trigger, the actor and the so singular establishment. of a measure.

Straight line and incarnation

Painting, its history as its practice, owes to the notion mainly carried by the Christian thought of incarnation, the ground and the base of one of the major questions to which, as producer of image, it works to answer. Jérôme Borel took up this question in his own way, which is not Christian. Each painting must be understood as a single scene, albeit infinitely repeatable. More simply, the question of the incarnation could be reformulated thus: how does everything that exists come to take shape, consistency? How to figure something which would arise from the only thought even though everything that is visible carries in itself traces of the motive power of the sensitive?

Rare are the artists who make of each painting an attempt to make exist the question "how to think"? To achieve this, we must design each painting as the arena in which to project the forces that move us. But what are they today?

Printed words, images from various painters, films, advertisements or what the street offers us in its generous diversity! Bare landscapes, banal objects, uncertain dreams, evasive visions, everything is good for the painter. But all of this, we know, yes, all of this has already happened and is exhausting itself to be repeated ad nauseam by image makers for sale. They lack a capacity, that of identifying the major conflict of which our time is the incarnation.

Incarnation, for Jérôme Borel, does not first produce a figure but expresses the meeting of an era and an existence in the process of elaboration. In order for the painting to gain access to the power of the incarnation, it is therefore necessary that a diffuse consciousness acts behind the scenes. And for that, it must grasp the nature of the time which is nothing other than the undermining of the living by a rationality that has gone mad by dint of rationalism.

And one also needs a powerful capacity for synthesis so that this mad rationality, in its oldest form coming from the field of the "conceptual" thought and the most antinatural there is, namely the straight line, can be shown as existing in a way. coextensive with the set of non-rational elements which haunt the human psyche and make the movement of the world.

By staging in almost each of his paintings the meeting of a being of flesh with patterns, objects, colors, or traces, Jérôme Borel invites us to the party of a sensitive thinker, a party he has designed for itself and which it offers to us in passing.

ecce gay 2021 forces us to face the trap in which we are caught, having to face the rectilinear wall by means of prostheses, also resulting from a sick rationality. Threshold of 2020 already told us that the road we are following leads us into a forbidden zone promising nothingness rather than a joyful life. With I am not innocent of 2019, he tells how the Straight Line executes the secret plan that motivates it, revealing by separating, cutting and blinding, and weaving its ignominy through the form of the psyche that is the human head. With The wall of 2019, we are involved in the shift towards the beyond that promises us and offers us the horizon of our most insane expectations. With Critic's Cenotaph of 2018, he stages in a way that is both ironic and instructive how much thought and dream are the unconscious victims, because they live in and in their denial, of a rectitude that does not take ethics into account but is satisfied with mark out what is possible to reduce it to its standard.

This standard imposed by rationality, embodied by the straight line, consists in making it stand there. Indelible but elusive mark of a certain mode of thought, the most obvious and most obscured aspect of which is to make obsolete all that relates to emotion, it asserts itself and imposes itself as the highest value since produced by thought itself!

Thoughtful, the painted paintings of Jérôme Borel show that their future is to be thinking, on condition of accepting that, in the same gesture, we can also heal a little the wound that each one carries within him, that of having been thrown. in a universe where he was not expected and where he will not be missed.

Spending your life waiting for an answer is nothing. Each answer comes only from the capacity of each one to embody the world which haunts him. This response can only be heard if one participates without fear in its creation, in creation. So this response takes the form of a singular lifeline. For Jérôme Borel, it is that of a pictorial incarnation.

Jean Louis Poitevin
Writer, art critic, IAC member, editor of TK-21 LaRevue.
October 2021

 


An overview of the French art scene | Common and Uncommon Stories 

Jérôme Borel’s paintings are contemplative and climatic; shapes seem almost to vanish as they are sucked into the artist’s sfumato, which envelops both the background and the details of the subject in a sort of pictorial cloud. Borel paints "abstract representations with figurative shapes" and should figures be present, they seem to be looking for something, a direction or rather a meaning, within the painting itself. The pictorial space is usually treated in a frontal manner and, on the occasion that elements of perspective do intrude, they tend to define an environment as would Bacon, i.e. not by placing the viewer in front of a large wide-open perspective, but rather by creating the feeling that we are observing a parallel universe, a world within a world, a place whose logic escapes us. It is sometimes the titles of the paintings themselves (which are full of historical, artistic and literary references) that provide us with a key to understanding, for example <i>Eurydice</i> (2013) or <i>La confusion de Narcisse </i>(2014) in which, by means of a graphic interplay of contours and surfaces, the young hunter’s body becomes a structural element of the surrounding landscape.

Gaël Charbau
Curator
Paris, September 2019


Jérôme Borel, or figuration on the edge of the abyss.

"Each of Jérôme Borel's painting is immediately recognised for the oscillation between a floating, non-figurative object and a clearly identified object that captures the eye. Jérôme Borel seems to be working directly on the dynamics of perception. He proceeds by layers. "It is often the working process that determines the subject," he reckons. He also integrates experiments to his approach: "I like movement, composing, recomposing, returning to the paintings many times, erasing everything, starting over. This is why, for each painting, the question may arise as to when it is completed. But Borel’s paintings do not have the status of sketches. The artist has certainly developed a style that resembles the non-finito, the sketch, but they are in fact very conscientiously finished paintings.

As far as style is concerned, there is no clear outline separating the figure from the background. The borders in his works are porous. The spatial contradictions join this porosity to produce an unreal effect, as if it was a question, then, of illustrating a certain state of consciousness, a fluctuation between a state of dream, or of half-consciousness, and the direct acknowledgement of the matter within the painting; or still, an oscillation between the memory of a dream and the perception of reality. As such, we are dealing with open works, an open work characterised by the fact that it cannot suffer one single interpretation.

In fact, one could see in Borel's paintings a universe of post-figuration, or even (and more radically) of non-figuration, but of a non-figuration which would enhance itself by mistreating, or by quoting (with great care, moreover) the figuration. This is why Borel may still imitate figuration, seeing him do it, we no longer really believe in it. It seems that he has applied himself to answering the (somewhat absurd) question – what fate will be reserved for figuration when it is dead? — and that he has fun making sure that the world of non-figuration still works on that of figuration. In this way, he always places the figuration on the edge of the precipice (…)”

Julia Garimorth,
Head curator at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris.
October 2018


Care instructions

Patrick Scemama : If you had to give a definition of your art, what would you like it to be?

I would like to talk about paintings more than about the act of painting. I would like an art connoisseur to be able to see that they belong to our time. And, lastly, I really do not want it to be referred to in terms of series. This being said, I believe there has been too much of a confusion between form, motive and style. I never aim to do a theoretical demonstration. I give myself the freedom to address any type of subjects, without limitation. An artist may escape himself because his only limits are the ones imposed by his mind, his body or his actions. That’s why a constant work on his own sensitivity truly defines his personality. I always keep this sentence by René Char in mind: “ Nous faisons nos chemins comme le feu ses étincelles. Sans plan cadastral.”

Patrick Scemama: It seems you once said: “ I do abstract paintings with figurative motives.” Is this true?

Jérôme Borel: Absolutely. Many years ago, during a studio visit, an art critic asked me to pitch my work. I was in panic and this made me understand that I also needed to address this aspect of my career in order not to be taken by surprise. I decided that it was like a game and summarized my concerns in one sentence: before anything there is the painting. It is a very culturally-connoted object, once out dated and replaced by “painting”, a rather inert concept in my opinion (…) I won’t directly paint a portrait but rather a figurative motive. The result is just a form one may recognize and identify, derived from a painterly matter.

Patrick scemama
Art critic and journalist
October 2018

EN FR