DAVID COHEN, Editor           
       October 2003  



Erwan Ballan: E.T.C.

Galerie Corinne Caminade
14 rue du Perche - 75003 Paris

September 12 to October 31, 2003


Erwan Ballan E.T.C. 2002
mixed media, 35 x 29 cm
Courtesy Galerie Corinne Camarade, Paris
cover, October 31, 2003: E.T.C. 2003, 62 x 123 cm

It is paradoxical that the more art attempts to evoke an immaterial quality the more the involvement in the material means becomes crucial. The spirit must resolve from the love of matter just as matter must resolve from the love of spirit. Ballan's work exemplifies this paradox so the viewer must consider his material first. Rectangular shapes cut from a variety of woods are immersed in thick oblong masses of colored silicone. Though structurally unnecessary, steel angle fasteners are added which underscore and communicate the very nature of 'construction' itself. The last step is the placing of a sheet of heavy glass over the organized elements. The silicone dries within fifteen minutes welding all the parts into a whole. We have become used to the notion of artist as C.E.O. setting the policy of design for underlings to execute but this mode isn't used here where we might expect it. The entire procedure is carried through by Ballan himself, suggesting the presence of a phenomenally accurate intuition that acts without the option of erasure or reconsideration. There is simply no time for patient measure, doubt and revision; the committment is now. This implies a process that, as a dance of action, must surely be as interesting as Namuth's movie of Pollock painting.

Still, it is the result in the finished work that must move us. The glass intrigues. In traditional glass-painting the work is done in reverse; foreground objects painted first, then back through layers until the final underpainted ground, the first stage in conventional painting. Seen from the front the glass adds a three-dimensional effect to the sequence of layers like that formed by the ten chemical elements united in the transparency of air between our eyes and everything we see. This effect obtains in Ballan's work as well but it is the suggestion of the fourth dimension of space-time, as the distance between the pigmented events, that is most compelling. We can relate his antecedents from the Russian constructivists, especially the sophistication of Lissitsky's Proun series, to Duchamp's "Large Glass", with a genuflecting nod to deStael in the use of eloquent stacks of rectangular shapes. Yet, these are only notations to the final assembly of sensory ideas, something like the occasional exotic quote or phrase in a poem by Eliot or Pound. Ballan's constructed poems have their own voice, one uniquely tuned to a new necessity. They suggest it possible that our artifice, our utilitarian rationale, our industrial effluvia and compulsive constructing can actually, with gifted insight, produce statements that enhance our lives with an elegance as natural as a bird's wing or a leopard's prowl.

KIRK HUGHEY is a writer based in Paris.

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