WHAT DRIVES AN EXPLORER... BY ROBIN DUTT

January 11, 2015

It may well be a fair assumption that every genuine artist has the soul of an explorer. His map is the complexity of emotion, his grappling irons and shovels, that box of irridescent paints. What drives an explorer on is the same spirit within an artist - the desire for knowledge and through knowledge, understanding.

 

It may well be a fair assumption that every genuine artist has the soul of an explorer. His map is the complexity of emotion, his grappling irons and shovels, that box of irridescent paints. What drives an explorer on is the same spirit within an artist - the desire for knowledge and through knowledge, understanding. 
Herve Constant is an explorer. His journey is arduous but rewarding. Even a cursory look at this body of work will confirm that Constant has many inspiration, many preoccupations and, despite having captured something of the passion is never so complacent to simply rest on unsought laurels. The search for an artist is a cruel one - for it is a search for that discreet object of desire which can never truly be captured. The final result, the work in question is not necessarily the end. The process of working to that point is indeed however, the art. 

Herve Constant is fascinated by the poetry and life of Arthur Rimbaud that spark of genius, magnesium bright which though brilliant was also short-lived. Constant's work is at the same time, a tribute to the young poet and a visualization of some of the most powerful emotions of his verse. Images and symbols relating to Rimbaud are all here - the anchor, the drunken boat, indeed, keenly observed sketches of the poet's head and another powerful image of Rimbaud - a close-up, focusing on a tight fist resting on a pile of books taken from an original photograph. 

Rimbaud it may well be argued, was always in search of something new. It was an inexhaustible desire for the unexpected. Inspired by the image, by the emotion, the words tumbled with as much fluency as his Blackcurrant river. Constant, it is true, has been touched by the feverish energy in Rimbaud's work - his old man adolescent ranting of supreme and unusual eloquence. Constant is inspired by the evident madness of the poetry. But then again, is not inspiration itself a kind of madness? 

Constant's art is certainly a celebration of life. A knowledge of Rimbaud's work and history will enrich the visual experience of the art but those who come to this work without any notions of the shooting star poet will be able to appreciate Constant's narrative stance too, through his images and symbols. Despite the deliberate crafting of these paintings, there is a certain simplicity and therefore, immediacy - some may even say, an imagistic stance where the image creates an instant impression. A kind of vignette. 

Also, Rimbaud apart, the images are open to many more interpretations. That image of the poet's hand resting on the books may well suggest his triumph over the written word and total lack of interest in the possible fame it could bring. It is an image which suggest power, superior knowledge, strength and authority. Curiously and also not so fancifully, it hints at the solid determination and frozen might of a dynastic pharoah.

The back to back portrait of Rimbaud as a young man, vibrant and haughty takes on a classical meaning as a representation of Janus - looking to the beginning and the end of the year. This work also has something of the studied negligence of some eighteenth century Delftware. The heads look like those you would expect to see on a coin. Rimbaud as king perhaps? 

But there is also a symbolic reminder of where all life must end just beneath him, beneath all his undoubted brilliance and haughtiness the stripped and stark casket, here represented as a sharp geometric form - alien, cold mathematically precise and sinister. 

Constant's confidence with colour is self evident in this selection of work. He is able like the most purposeful artists to make colour sing, speak loudly or whisper and like the images themselves, colour becomes symbolic. It is used to great effect in one work boasting brightest vermillion as the burning background for an anchor and wheel. 

A frenzied clash of colour for his 'AEIOU' colour block piece suggests the haphazard joy of a child's toy box and hints at the rule breaking stipulations of Pop Art. Rimbaud's eyes in cornelian and acacia honey tones stare out of an anonymous rough cream facelessness. This is exquisite agony - the poet or indeed anyone for that matter being able to see and record but to hear, speak, smell, feel or act. 

Then Constant will take the extremes of the spectrum - black and white and presents the viewer with an image no less significant than its fellows. In fact, the black and white works have an eloquence and a photographic, archival quality that suggest that they are rooted firmly in fact. The painting mimicing the newsworthiness or historicity of the photograph? It is a good idea. T

he artist, it should not be forgotten, is something of a magician, an alchemist when it come to the mixing, matching and clashing of his colours. Rimbaud would surely have approved, having rejected established religion for precisely these interests in his search for the truth. 

Explorers it would seem, indulge in a tenacious friendship.

Robin Dutt, London July 1991 

 

 

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