The Sound Gallery
104, quai de Jemmapes Paris 10
La trahison des jouets
Entrer dans une exposition de tableaux d’Iskias, c’est risquer de jouer un jeu qui nous engage dans le réel, d’où l’on ne sort pas indemne. C’est accepter d’être aspiré, hypnotisé, englouti… d’être entrainé par la foule, de parcourir Paris, d’être bousculé. C’est accepter d’être entassé dans le métro, d’être assourdi par tous les bruits, les cris, les rires, les pleurs, les grincements, les pétarades, les ronflements, les sirènes. C’est respirer difficilement un air encombré. Dans ses tableaux, Iskias nous fait revivre toutes nos sensations avec une acuité électrisée. Le passant, s’il ne s’y colle pas, n’y voit rien. Iskias nous en met plein la vue, pas seulement dans le sens d’une ostentation habile, mais dans le grouillement de tous les affairements qui s’y nouent et dénouent. Les toiles sont habitées jusque dans les moindres recoins… attisant notre curiosité. Chaque tableau déploie son histoire, et joue la métonymie, réalisant l’impossible pari de nous inquiéter tout en nous faisant sourire. Dans son monde la jouissance est souffrance et plaisir à la fois.
BETRAYED BY …THE TOYS
Going to an exhibition of Iskias’s paintings means taking the risk of playing a game which draws us into a reality from which we cannot re-emerge unscathed. It means agreeing to be sucked up, hypnotized, engulfed, swept along by the crowd, propelled through the streets of Paris, constantly jostled. It also means accepting to be crammed tight in the underground, to be deafened by all the city’s noises – cries , laughter, weeping, the squealing of brakes, backfiring car-engines, roaring sounds, sirens wailing – and finding it hard to breathe the city’s heavy air.
In his paintings, Iskias tries to get us to relive all our sensations with an electrified intensity, but if the passer-by doesn’t make the necessary effort, he won’t see anything. Iskias really blows us away, not only by means of clever ostentation but also through all the seething hustle and bustle building up and dying down. All the nooks and crannies of his paintings are completely inhabited, at once arousing our curiosity. Each painting unfolds its story and plays on metonymy to achieve the impossible bet of making us feel anxious while simultaneously making us smile. In Iskias’s world, enjoyment involves both pain and pleasure.
The illusionist perspective subtly introduces imaginary spaces in realistic spaces, and gives shape to the setting. Haussmann-style apartment buildings, grey streets and squalid underground passages constitute a meticulously elaborate backdrop within a painted representation which is both subtle and precise, depicting scenes which swarm with fluorescent creatures from a crazy counter-culture who bustle about in the machine-like clutter of a bazaar stall … Barbie dolls, Lego sets, Meccano pieces, PlayMobil characters, model soldiers, cuddly toys, miniature cars – they all come to life, no longer playing children’s games but those of adults, of enslaved human beings who have been reduced to toys … disillusioned toys. The worn-out teddy bears seem to be having a hard time, the dishevelled dolls feign their power of seduction, the PlayMobil characters come alive, the sex-toys stand erect and the toy soldiers defend their secrets … but why doesn’t Peter Pan want to grow up ? Doesn’t Pinocchio find himself trapped on “Pleasure Island while plans for an economic conspiracy and a factory for turning out cannon fodder are being hatched ? In “Secret Defence”, a head of state in well-fed monarch-fashion hides his ogre-like face behind a depraved smile as he looks out from the top of his palace. Like Medusa, his octopus-like tentacles challenge anyone who might try and creep in to dethrone him.
On Iskias’s artistic stage, everything is a game – a diabolical game in which childhood toys are anything but innocent. In his view, they never have been – they have always been part of the conspiracy. On discovering this act of deception, Iskias the visionary artist opens our eyes wide to ensure we don’t miss this sight which bears such bitter truths.
Thanks to his paintings which demonstrate a delicately rich colour range, everything we hate about Paris becomes beautiful, and Iskias has fun with this thanks to his humour which ranges from good-natured mockery to the most acerbic causticity. Make no mistake, we are in front of an art form which is deeply committed in its criticism of society.
Just like in certain fables, the person who observes the scene scrutinizes, analyzes, mocks, becomes ironic, protests vehemently. The paintings simultaneously display Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, the crushing-machine from “The Wall” and a Tim Burton fantasy… Our childhood monsters swallow up all our childhoods and leave us unprotected in our frailty in front of Big Brother and the exposed illusion of the Wizard of Oz.
Strips of newspaper pasted to the canvas as a backing constitute the background on which Iskias builds his scenery, revealing current event headlines of an internationalist nature which touch us and shake up our daily lives. The painted or pasted texts which emerge from the canvas –or which are added to it – intersperse, accompany or jostle the paintings’ characters. Snatches of text and plays on words abound – often superfluous, sometimes by way of a caption, or simply as jokers thrown in by Iskias to help us see through the mysteries and the illusions.
“This is not a Toy” – an allusion to Magritte – reveals the bitter betrayal perpetrated by the toys. From below, we see anonymous onlookers behind their windows, but when we move from the bustle of the street to the privacy of people’s apartments, the restricted space in the bedsits reveals a parsimonious reverse side of the setting – one which is narrow, confined, cluttered and stifling, but where everything is absurdly within arm’s reach: within reach of someone whose destiny is both tragic and pathetic.
What we remember from Iskias’s paintings is a plethora of concentrated details which reveal a sensory hyper-acuteness that has been manifest for a long time. Just like Pandora’s Box, a painting needs time to disclose its patiently passed-on stories. Iskias plays with us before treading the path to victory – getting people to see, helping them to become aware, and encouraging them to take up the fight to change the crazy world we live in.
L’esprit du mot et le mot d’esprit
À la densité des boîtes habitées et des corps compressés, Iskias ajoute parfois
Pour ruiner toute morosité, Iskias joue avec les mots. Ça barbe ! tourne en dérision
* Sigmund Freud, « Le créateur littéraire et la fantaisie», L’inquiétante étrangeté
Françoise Caille, historienne de l'art.