Bewilderment By Dorota Kozinska
Bewilderment, in the best sense of the word, is what strikes the viewer when faced with the oeuvre of Hervé Constant. The kaleidoscope of works could easily be overwhelming, were it not for the artist's mastery of his métier, and the elegance of his visual lexicon.
Profoundly engaged in his work, he is at the same time highly in tune with his surroundings, exhibiting a particular ability to extract the essence of his subject matter, revealing in the process the unseen and the unknown. He is also deeply versed in literature and poetry, theatre and music, and all these disciplines find their way into his diverse artistic production.
Hervé has a particular penchant for the French poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), a romantic, tragic figure that, despite his short life, greatly influenced modern French literature and art. A restless, driven soul, his wanderings echo Constant’s own peripatetic past, moving from country to country, culture to culture. But how does one walk in the footsteps of a man called "l'homme aux semelles de vent" (man with the soles of wind)? Constant does it through the alchemy of his art as manifested in a series of paintings titled Traces or Steps. An idea he has been playing with for some time, it began with a series of footprints, painted in primary colours using the soles of shoes pressed onto paper. Drawn to another subject, he put these works aside for several years, until the day when a busy London underground station, with its tumult of people weaving and jostling, footsteps mingling and overlapping, brought them back to mind.
But what often happens with resurrected works of art is that in the meantime their visual vocabulary changes, or more precisely, the artist's eye sees differently. Finding the images too straightforward, figurative, Hervé deconstructed them into entirely new, boldly abstract paintings bursting with colour and form. The images became more symbolic in nature, imbued with "a sense of solitude, an existential journey" to use the artist's words. And, "consciously or not", the works became homage to the man with soles of wind.
That series segued into a whole new visual narrative: small, 20x20 cm paintings, each encapsulating a particular image-cum-vision, and each but a fragment of a larger dialogue to be picked up by the viewer, and ultimately, by time. As the works parade before our eyes, they draw us into a storyboard that is left to us to decipher, or perhaps create in tandem with the artist. Imbued with personal, profound ruminations, they appear on canvas in colour and form, at once pleasing and mysterious, and always, complete. Standing their ground.
Constant is what one may call a painters' painter; his brushstrokes are decisive, the texture almost three-dimensional, and yet there is great sensitivity in the compositions, with intuitive visual pauses, but never hesitations.
Hervé Constant is truly an original creator. A multi-disciplinary artist, with a talent for mastering diverse mediums, never losing his unique touch, his profound dedication to the métier, and to the public.
Dorota Kozinska is an international writer and art critic based in Montréal, Canada.
TRACES Acrylic on paper 20x16in Hervé Constant
SOUVIENS-TOI Oil on paper 4x4in Herve Constant