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Essay by Michael Archer for an exhibition at Galerie SAPET – Beaux-Arts of Valence, France

Herve Constant’s major preoccupation is communication. This is, of course, another way of saying ‘the modern world’, since it is communication itself, the flow of information, which underpins our contemporary way of life. Constant sees the images which occur in his paintings – a wheel, a tree, a telephone, a chair – as symbols or, at least, as being symbolic in some indefinable way. That is, their possible meaning is somehow radically impenetrable. The inherent problems, the static, system noise, ruptured channels, and so on, which conspire to thwart our efforts at communication, lie at the heart of the diffuse nature of his images’ symbolic intent: the cussed refusal of an object to stand for some particular thing.

On one level we could perhaps take one of these objects, the telephone, as an acceptable overarching metaphor for all of this, but care is needed, for it is only in the fractured nature of the communicative web that it comes to life as an image. Its repetition in a work, its ubiquity in real life, serves only to stress the individuality, the fragility, the un-repeatability of each message it transmits. The incomplete transmission of each message as a result of distortion, rerouting, or whatever, represents a real loss. Further to this there is the way in which Constant’s objects refuse their anonymity by taking on for him a gender, a personality: two chairs, one utilitarian, rectilinear, the other curvaceous, sit superimposed on a surface, intertwined.

More recently, Constant has begun to incorporate text into the works, the directness of which seems able to stave off such a breakdown while at the same time expressing its inevitability.

Essay by Michael Archer for an exhibition at Galerie SAPET – Beaux-Arts of Valence, France

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