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The Repairers of the Sky and other Ghosts

By Florence Renault


But who are these “repairers of the sky”, hieratic figures suspended in the fragmented space of these dismantled architectures? What are they repairing or rather what are they trying to repair? If indeed there is something left to restore in this chaos of black matter spattered with gold… Hassan Darsi adds to the series of Gilded Applications a new “exhibit” with works as strange as they are disturbing, paintings that do not are ultimately not really and only borrow their appearance and potential mediums: black paint and gold dust…

The Applications dorure series, initiated in 1999[1], used golden adhesive in its minimalist quality of reflection and covering. Since then, the use of gilding in the artist's work has evolved considerably, both in terms of the techniques used and the “gilding” medium itself. Over the years, and the works produced, Hassan Darsi has gone from covering with gilding (with golden adhesive as his preferred medium) to emphasize - the object, the discrepancy, the danger, ... - to the use of gilding as Subject, as a vibrating (not to say living) form disturbed by other materials and vice versa. As early as 2009, gold dust appeared in the artist's work, both for its physical properties of lightness and variability, and for the aesthetic and formal possibilities it offers. In the Project in Drift installation, the gold dust stretches across the surface of the water[2] like a fragile and unstable skin, subject to air currents, subject to air currents, clumping together in places, repelling itself in others. A starting point that operates a new shift in the work process and opens, in the same period, on the use of gold leaf[3], a material that combines covering capacities with those of flexibility and fineness, causes collusion between adhesive and dust. The gilding is declined around substances which open the field of possibilities that the artist explores and manipulates, associates and diverts...

First of all, there is this black material, industrial paint as thick as it is resistant, made from petroleum derivatives. There is this gold dust, both evanescent and omnipresent. An alchemy takes place between the two... Black gold and yellow gold interpenetrate without ever really mixing, playing off each other, repelling and attracting each other like magnets, in a duality of chemical and organic contrasts skilfully orchestrated and distilled by the artist. Black gold and yellow gold, objects of all earthly desires, summon and provoke explosions, volcanic or solar eruptions, imagine devastated universes, apocalypses, legendary monsters, phantasmagorical worlds... Sometimes, it's the yellow gold that comes to pacify the torments of dark matter, and chiselled plains or cracked deserts spread out between the tumultuous gushes. Sometimes it's black gold that comes to draw a deep and mysterious void in the explosions of gilding... And then there are these bits of architecture, hollowed-out skyscrapers or enigmatic frameworks, half-ruins or constructions in the making, which insidiously interfere in what appears to be a turf battle between gold and black. Their lines appear and disappear alternately and just as randomly, playing with our gaze in the superposition of black paint and silkscreen ink. Both structuring and disconcerting, these exploded structures are as if suspended in the cosmic spaces created by the artist and inevitably raise the question of what is going on in these celestial worlds without gravitation...

Is it a dream that comes to materialize through painting? Is it an allegorical vision of a nightmarish future or a very real reality? Is it a fantasized projection of a tormented beyond? A chimera, a fiction, the utopia of a future under construction in an intergalactic space? Perhaps all of this at the same time, produced by a feeling of uncertainty and inevitable questioning... Perhaps it is precisely a question of questioning, of disturbing, of giving rise to eventualities, of letting ambiguity or letting the imagination run wild…

Moreover, aren't the repairers of the sky who are active in these upheavals in suspension the guarantors of a pacifying vision? Whether they are balanced on a levitating ladder or cosmonauts in weightlessness, the slender and sometimes ghostly silhouettes of these "repairers" are what connect us to our visible and comprehensible world. They repair, and even if we don't really know what they came to repair, or what they are trying to restore, this simple possibility of “repair” is enough to curb the tensions of chaos. The repairers of the sky are the metaphorical figures of possible hope, of “all is not lost” and of our ability to remedy. However, if it is a question of "repairing" it is necessarily a question of breaks or destruction, and here again the artist leads us into the meanders of doubt, because something must have happened for we have recourse to these "repairers of the sky", so that the yellow gold and the black gold, like greedy monsters, seem to have swallowed a built world to regurgitate only its bones...

Hassan Darsi explores the fusions and splits of two materials, black paint and gold dust; he visits the possibilities and the constraints, the evolutions and the routes, until giving birth to landscapes, organic or celestial, until the appearance of phantasmagorical monsters, or even until the sought-after and expected explosion. A process that he had already experienced with the series of Exuvia[4], which offered different states of snake moults. An omnipresent change, prefigured with the series of Golden Waves[5], where the golden screen printing came to transform the stormy overflows of the ocean. A change from which the Ghosts[6] also suffer, ineffable silhouettes with uncertain contours, who coexist with The Repairers of the Sky. An allegorical moult, prefiguration of changes, of metamorphoses, those of our society, of ourselves, of our built world and its sometimes controlled mutations... sometimes not, or badly... The exuviae, this dead skin that the snake abandons when it becomes too cramped, is yellow gold and black gold, the original temptation, the alchemy of the materials that make up these tormented landscapes. Both a symbol of a rebirth and an end, it marks the sly presence of an indomitable Lernaean Hydra, which absorbs and digests the fragile constructions that The Repairers of the Sky seem to want to mend... in vain it seems because is it not a figment of the mind to want to repair the sky? But are not the vainest actions also the most beautiful? Because it is indeed an artistic work in question, and if one could sometimes think that the work of the artist is of a very futile use to our world, is it not so far? since the dawn of time the deep and inextricable symbol of our humanity?

Two years ago, Hassan Darsi filmed a house painter, perched on a frail ledge more than ten meters above the ground. A lonely man, compelled to repaint the facade of the long-abandoned building facing the artist's studio… A tightrope walker defying the laws of gravity for a task as tedious as it is pointless. Zone of uncertainty[7], the title of the video work created by the artist from these images, could be the invisible link that is woven in the works and projects developed by Hassan Darsi. A work that draws its origins from a very real and often close world, but that diverts, manipulates, subverts its mechanisms and issues to bring out the unspeakable doubts and inevitable questions... These same questions that lead us to hesitate when we look at The Repairers of the Sky, suspended, like the painter in Zone d'incertitude, in the meanders of gold and black, light and darkness...

When Hassan Darsi initiated this new series, he had in mind a phrase from Isaac Newton: “men build too many walls and not enough bridges”. These words of the author of the universal law of gravitation, resonate very strangely in the chaotic compositions of the artist, here there are no more walls, no bridge either... unless it is precisely footbridges what are the repairers of the sky building?


(April 2016)


[1]- Work/installation Some places, 1999, gold adhesive, and mixed media; Dole Fine Arts Museum / Franche-Comté Regional Contemporary Art Fund.

[2]- Work/installation Project in drift (2009, water, gold dust, metal footbridge, inner tube and featherboard model; Villa des arts; 2012, Bozar, Brussels; 2016, Museo Riso, Palermo)

[3]- Wisdom tooth series, 2009, polyester resin and gold leaf - Exploded tank, 2009, tank (challenger 2, UK Basora 2003 - 1/32 scales) gold leaf , wooden base and glass bell.

[4]- Exuvies, 2011, black paint and gold dust on dibon.

[5]- Golden waves series, 2009, photographs digital prints and gold screen printing on dibon.

[6]- Ghost series, 2015-2016, black paint and gold dust on dibon.

[7]- Zone of uncertainty, 2014, video and sound, 20 minutes.

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