Discovering Floating Worlds

Light, color and transparency are the keywords of the exhibition Floating worlds presented at the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art until August 27. Admiring the motif of the jar, the artist Stefan Belzer takes us into a universe full of strange patterns.

Mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish preserved in liquid have surprisingly taken over the first floor of the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCS) for an exhibition that combines scientific heritage and contemporary art. . In addition to the joint exhibition, Floating worlds The exhibited paintings celebrate the work of Stephane Belzer, whose paintings span the period from 2000 to the present day.

Unusual passion

Room of soft fabrics – Nocturne, an important work by Stéphane Belzère opens the course. An impressive coelacanth (a deep-sea fish that has existed for millennia) stands out in the center of the canvas. All kinds of formalin-preserved specimens occupy the shelves. The intensity of blue touches contrasts with the gloomy atmosphere of the room.

Here, the artist depicts the preserves of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, where he set up his easel in the mid-1990s. Despite the uneasy atmosphere that fills the space between these walls, the artist feels a real passion. the repulsion produced by these bodies. An attraction that soon turned into an obsession, until it became the main subject of his paintings.

Stephane Belzer, Room of soft fabrics – Nocturne2000 (Photo M. Bertola / Strasbourg Museums)

It hung opposite in the corner of the corridor Dips. Two monumental paintings bring an original point of view: from the observer to the model, the visitor is immersed in the protective liquid of a jar. In this aquatic environment, the curves reveal a distorted world. For Echo Room of soft fabrics – Nocturne, a window appears in the background. Decorated with blue, these works remindInside, goldfish bowl By Henri Matisse, a tension between interior and exterior emerges from the bedroom window. But it’s a pity that the distance between the paintings does not allow full immersion in this outside universe.

Pushing the boundaries between art and science

More than 200 specimens preserved in liquid from the collections of the Zoological Museum of Strasbourg are stored on shelves specially prepared by the artist for the exhibition. Stéphane Belzère’s haunting work takes center stage. Hands of Angels. This installation, the only painting on display in the exhibition, features jars and colored glassware in which the artist’s wax hands strangely float. The unique encounter between the collections of the zoological museum and the Belzer installation creates a resonance between the past and the present.

Hands of Angels is an evolving and participatory work. Educational workshops for young visitors offered by MAMCS enrich the installation as new hands fill the empty jars.

Stephane Belzer, Hands of AngelsFrom 2020 (Photo by Sophie Blanchard)

But why hands? If the desire to store in jars is understandable, the use of the figure of hands, a priori, is less clear. Then it is necessary to turn to the personal and family history of the artist. The hands recall his father’s collection of religious sculptures, while the colored glass panels serve as an imprint of the stained glass windows Belzer designed for Rodez cathedral. with The The hands of angels, the artist does a great job on light and color. The glowing reflections of the cylinders change from green to gold, from blue to crimson.

Bank in all states

In order to master his favorite theme, Stefan Belzer studies the motif of the jar down to the smallest details. Oval, rectangular, vertical and horizontal paintings parade the walls.

“My paintings are born from a subject that possesses me. This topic has been occupying me for a long time, it doesn’t let go, it even torments me sometimes, it even haunts me in my dreams.

Stephane Belzere

Fascinated by the undulating aspect of glass, liquid and light, Stefan Belzer’s paintings are an ode to living matter. More than an object of conservation, the jar becomes a source of inspiration that spreads to infinity. From care The hands of angels, successive drawings depict the shelves on which the jars are placed. The artist lists the specimens one by one in the reserves of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris as an inventory.

Stefan Belzer series Shelves (Photo by Sophie Blanchard)

But the border between figurative and abstract is slight. Is Stéphane Belzere interested in the representation of species or the effects of composition, texture and blur? Over the series, patterns disappear and give way to vague forms. In Big Banks, four spectacular vertical paintings, gruesome organs emerging from jars. With an incredible perspective work, the works represent cylinders full of strangeness and offer a great dive into underwater landscapes. The canvas turns into a bowl. transformation highlighted by Oval paintings which surrounds the circular contours of the jar until the seascapes are visible. A variety of artists compose the many views of the jar, which are transformed into sumptuous panoramas.

Exhibition view, left, Hands of Angelsin the central series Large Jarsright, series Oval paintings (Photo by Sophie Blanchard)

A door to the imagination

The appearance of small water landscapes perfectly presents the three Long tables. Made of large horizontal panels, these canvases represent the bottom of a jar where liquid and glass mix. From this assemblage emerges a linear motif that, once magnified excessively by the artist, turns into majestic abstract landscapes. The form becomes large panoramic views that cast doubt on their symbol. Do they detect space? Or a landscape of water and ice? It is up to the viewer to choose and go to distant lands!

Shades of blue, green, and white contrast with the dominant gray, green, and brown colors of earlier works. It’s nice to see clarity emerge after the accumulation of strange and dark forms. A return to stillness, an almost meditative moment of parenthesis.

Exhibition view, series Long tables (Photo by Sophie Blanchard)

With him Floating worlds, Stéphane Belzère meets the world of science and art. Not as two different entities, but as an encounter. Represented from all angles, the cube represents the gap between realism and abstraction, scientific object and artistic creativity.

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