Étienne Pressager

Born in 1958 in Épinal (FR)
Lives and works in Malzéville (FR)

Monument pour un oeillet rouge

Gouache and washing on paper
42 x 50 cm
Year of Purchase: 1984

Is it because Étienne Pressager was born in Épinal that he shows, in his work, such a pronounced fondness for beautiful images, including their anecdotal dimension and their connection with the letter? His preference for paper, water paint (gouache, wash, water-colour) and the use he makes of words in the picture, tend to confirm as much. Here the title of the works features very visibly, in fine capitals, with a relief trompe-l’oeil effect. Other works are made up of letters and alphabets… In these two paintings from the 1980s, Étienne Pressager imagines naïve landscapes whose arrangement calls to mind some of David Hockney’s theatre maquettes. Otherwise put, the representation in them is assumed in a straightforward manner, at a time when painting was being challenged by many artists. The inspiration remains close to surrealism, and the themes might well have been dealt with by artists such as Max Ernst and Magritte. The Monument pour un œillet rouge (Monument for a Red Carnation) and the Monument près de la rivière (Monument near the River) both apply the same principle: a floral or animal element is glorified by a stylized stone construction, a temple perhaps. Rare touches of red and yellow enliven the scene, contrasting with the landscape’s cold tones. In his pictures, Pressager invents imprecise mythologies, not without wit, which provoke daydreams. The obviousness of the framing, and the emphasis of the objects placed in the middle of the composition—further underscored by the perspective of the architecture—seem to illustrate a fable whose exact contents are unknown, and lend the images a deliberately poetic character.

Olivier Goetz