In-between Territories

Rory Biddulph

There is a sense of honesty in Simon Le Ruez’s artwork, each piece testing perceptual, physical and traditional structures via a novel mix of heterogeneity and specificity. Planet-like sculptures stand unsurely on long, thin legs. A reworked collection of found, postcard-sized paintings of trees are geometrically clustered and carefully positioned against one another. Large black and white stills appropriated from Ingmar Bergman films have been reanimated and contemporised through intricate, colourful patterns of ink; and a small black ball looks to topple from its delicate, red paper confines onto the floor below. These describe only some of the diverse artworks in Le Ruez’s exhibition; the title of the show, ‘This is Where We Meet’ recognising the culmination of avenues of thought and coinciding also with what Le Ruez calls, his search for ‘in-between-ness’.

For Le Ruez, in-between-ness is fundamental to the exhibition. It denotes a specific form of visualisation within a broader perceptual landscape, one that exists between territories of ethereality and reality. It is in a way phenomenological in that it refers to domains of sensation, but in Le Ruez’s willingness to reflect mental processes and test material possibilities is also psychological and scientific respectively. As such it is not comparable to exterior or illusory existence (such as Schopenhauer’s Principium Individuationis or Nietzsche’s belief in the Apollonian and Dionysian), nor does it describe a metaphorical or fictional existence. It is instead something more tangible; a combination of actual and psychological space which manifests through Le Ruez’s investigation into aesthetics. (1)

When combined with willingness to reference interests such as architecture, film, photography and science fiction, Le Ruez twists form and imagery, constantly analysing structure, scale, composition and surface. Even his more simple interventions are thoughtful and deliberate. In L’Entrée des Groites (2010) for example, a black and white photograph of rocks, mounted on a rich blue material background has had a section negated with a block of red paint. Demonstrating consideration of sculptural and architectonic form, Le Ruez provides a section of the image with greater emphasis through negating the remainder, highlighting the structure of the rock formation and adding further sense of depth through play with colour.

Negation or, more appropriately concealment is recurrent throughout the exhibition. As well as being used to emphasise details within drawings it is employed to provide intrigue and depth to sculpture. Notably, Le Ruez often uses negation in conjunction with appropriation, highlighting his visual and personal interests with a select choice of imagery. A treasure chest of found postcards, paintings and filmic images are hierarchically elevated through interventions and their subsequent display, undergoing transformations while showcasing characteristics that reflect their origins. To create the installation Correspondence (2011) Le Ruez spent months frequenting a flea market in Berlin, searching for and discovering postcard-sized paintings containing trees. Using mainly white and blue washes of paint to negate areas of the found paintings, he has left single trees as solitary structures within pale backgrounds. On occasion however, the background is replaced with a deep red (highlighting a cloud rather than a tree) and a pale blue, providing a leap into depth and colour that breaks up the imagery and mood. Mounted within frames as either singular images or pairs, the paintings are positioned at slight distance from one another in a geometric framework. As such what might appear isolated comes across as structural, an oeuvre which would be compromised were they to be displayed separately.

Le Ruez’s dedication to this collection and his insistence that they be viewed as a collective highlights his affinity to his selection of imagery; his embrace of methodology working in combination with a desire to discover territories within pre-existing chains of thought and perception. As is positive in a contemporary art-world that is so diverse and at times confusing, the manner in which Le Ruez’s interests collide with experimentation provides the works with the feeling of being part of a larger body of research. Although each piece is consolidated, they ‘meet’ as different parts of a larger whole, reflecting a battle with concept and process.

All Is Clear (2011), with tensions of intertwined thread, tape and crumpled paper is emblematic of such a battle. Contained in a glass box atop a white, wooden plinth the sculpture feels like a caged relic. For all of its mesh of delicate materials, the voracious ball has stone like qualities, pinning down a crumpled ramp of brown paper as though it had an incredible weight. Upon examination, the ball contains a colourful blend of pinks and purples, its soapy textures flowing into lines and folds, echoing the psychological and physical effort of its conception.

Although colour is used throughout the exhibition, Le Ruez is quick to point out that he mainly restricts his palette to that of reds, purples and blues. From I Believe I Have Seen What I Longed To See (2011) in which two glittered spheres, one a mix of gold and red and the other deep red, are confined within a spitting network of purple, black and grey steel rods, to My Only Weakness (2011) in which a deep red piece of transparent paper loosely grasps within its folds a black foam ball on a bed of charcoal, Le Ruez has learnt that combinations and shades of selective colour can bring out the complexities of forms more definitively. This is not to say that he has reached a point of consolidation with these particular colours; rather that he has found an understanding through them. Le Ruez admits that in an effort to discover he has a tendency to push expectations within a line of enquiry, often working with a process, material or idea until it is exhausted. This can, and has taken years of dedication. On occasion, he has even hired practitioners to intervene with his work, forcing outcomes in areas of his practice which seemed to him to have otherwise reached a point of conclusion. This does not, however, curtail any motion toward spontaneity or indeed, use of new materials. Le Ruez’s dedication to a line of inquiry merely exemplifies a highly considered approach and a willingness to examine every possibility.

This type of persistence, when combined with Le Ruez’s experimentation and spontaneity often leads to his works having surprising juxtapositions and uncertainties which, as recognised by Anne Ellegood is ‘integral to the artists’ endeavour to create a sense of order among the chaos’ (2). Looking at A Night In Naples (2011), a cloud-like texture floats across a delicate piece of blue-washed paper which in turn, has been folded and crumpled atop seemingly unbalanced legs. It is a sculpture that has the appearance of being in transition; its supporting steel structure beginning to bend while its light, airy top looks as though it were moving or about to change. The light-blue painted tracing paper, having been blowtorched to bring out the white, cloud-like shapes, conceals underneath a play with surface through paint and pencil marks. It is not therefore a work which can appropriately be viewed at a glance or even from a single position but requires a degree of interaction. The juxtaposition between the light, delicate paper and the unbalanced steel legs brings with it a sense of otherness and paradoxically, connection (both structurally and visually), allowing the work to reveal itself in a peculiar, idiosyncratic manner.

As recurrent techniques, concealment, tension and release are all part of Le Ruez’s efforts to push and pull at different strands in art. Although he describes himself first and foremost as a sculptor, he uses drawing just as readily as long as it accords with a new way of approaching a particular territory of thought. As such, Le Ruez’s works can be involved with isolated subjects comparatively, yet still maintain indubitable links to one another through broader lines of inquiry. Le Ruez’s Wild Victor (2011) for instance, contains techniques and themes similar to A Night In Naples (such as concealment and colour), though as a two-dimensional piece which employs figuration, is very different visually, considering mood and depth in different ways. In the piece, Le Ruez appropriates a black and white still from Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (1957) in which actor Victor Sjöström is looking contemplatively at his hand in a window reflection. The print, taken from Bergman’s film, is already laden with weighty issues such as age, identity, loneliness and longing, yet by drawing over a select area Le Ruez creates a meeting point between two modes of expression, providing an alternate narrative in contrast to the pre-existing weight of the Bergman image. Focused solely around Sjöström’s hand, a network of coloured ink lines take form as though powder or mist. Like Jean-Paul Sartre’s archetypal character Roquentin, Sjöström appears fascinated by this change in perspective, as if seeing his hand for the first time. Le Ruez maintains the depth and feeling of Bergman’s film through the imagery and chiaroscuro and yet provides a path within the image by his intervention, presenting a scenario that is enigmatic yet deliberate.

In viewing Le Ruez’s artwork it is necessary to keep hold of the fact that underneath the psychological and sensory complexities there is playfulness involved. His works, although based within foundations of aesthetic study and wide ranging interests, still maintain a child-like inquisitiveness that reflects the intrigue with which they are made. As said, This is Where We Meet is an exhibition in which different strands of thought convene at a point within Le Ruez’s practice. Yet it is nevertheless a point at which pursuing, fighting with and consolidating territories, is still leading Le Ruez toward new and intriguing developments.

(1) I use aesthetics in this context more as a philosophical term describing that which concerns one’s sensory engagement with the surrounding world, rather than looking at visual study alone.

(2) Anne Ellegood, Motley Efforts Sculpture’s Ever-Expanding Field, taken from Vitamin 3D New Perspectives in Sculpture and Installation, Phaidon Press Limited, New York, 2009 p.8

In-between Territories was commissioned by Vane in 2012 in conjunction with Simon Le Ruez’s solo exhibition This is where we meet at Vane gallery.