The painting is sober and the object it depicts is mysterious, in some ways reminiscent of a cyborg spider: Le musée des musées (microprocesseur) could be viewed as a starting point for Florent Contin-Roux’s whole body of work – the work of an artist who so loves to capture images inside his canvases. These can be all sorts of images: found on Google, in family archives, photographs taken by the artist at the break of dawn or pictures gifted by friends… But his appetite for images isn’t gluttonous or unreasonable. On the contrary, the choices he makes in the context of his work are precious and precise, and become enhanced in painting formats that reveal their intimate nature. Viewing Florent Contin-Roux’s works on a computer screen, which has often become the default way of accessing art today, can be somewhat misleading if one fails to look at their dimensions. The smallest are as small as 10 x 15 cm, while the largest are rarely over a metre long. Let it be said that historical painting need no longer be monumental: Hiroshima’s mushroom cloud, the Zeppelin fire, the assassination of President Kennedy and the hoisting of the red flag over the Reichstag are all considered icons by the artist, who therefore treats them with minute care and devotion. He sometimes uses glitter for his backgrounds instead of gold, as a reminder that our times are moving further and further away from a uniform Eden and more toward a dotting of lights. In fact, Florent Contin-Roux attaches as much importance to images that have become part of the collective unconscious as to ones that come from his family environment. As an artist who says that the starting point of his painting is always personal, he also accepts the conceptual dimension of his work while refusing to let its emotional element be set aside. His is the story of a man who has found photographs at his grandfather’s and at first believes that they come from history books, before finally realising that this History only exists in fragments destined to never be fully recomposed. Therefore, since any depiction can potentially become part of this necessarily fragmentary puzzle, the lawnmower, the camping tent and the Playmobil toy are featured in Florent Contin-Roux imagery with equal solemnity. Recently, the artist has taken a step back from photography, which played such a major part in his early work, and which he always strove to dissolve, drown or fumigate. The body, which appeared like a ghost in his first paintings – a body looking out from the window of a moving car or train, or a body sitting on a plastic garden chair and taking in its surroundings – has now assumed a more prominent position. Pale shadows with vigorously painted outlines, sometimes stained with the artist’s signature neon pink, crop up on his canvases. Not faces – not yet. Maybe later, but for now his painting is too reserved to give them a try. However, the artist has ventured of late into the field of performing arts; “ventured”, because painting is still a total commitment. He is comfortable with the martial metaphor: to paint is to fight, to exhaust oneself, to hunt. In L’acte de peindre (The Act of Painting, 2019), he shot an arrow through one of his old nocturnal pictures. Shot it right through the heart of its dusky blue clouds. Not even scared of attacking its melancholy. At the end of the day, in Florent Contin-Roux’s eyes, painting is undoubtedly the only worthy form of predation.
Text by Camille Paulhan, 2019
Documents d'artistes Nouvelle-Aquitaine