Gérard Garouste

Contes ineffables

Three years after his last exhibition, Gérard Garouste is returning to Galerie Templon with Contes ineffables (Unspeakable Tales). The new exhibition journeys into the world of myths and fables, a voyage the artist uses to evoke universal questions such as our relationship to time, other people and knowledge.

Following on from his exploration of Goethe’s Faust in 2011, with these new works Gérard Garouste has chosen not to confine himself to a single subject: paintings, gouaches and sculptures are given a dreamlike structure, their underlying logic rooted in unpredictable currents that create an effect of ambiguity which provides the exhibition with its main theme. The artist is suggesting that knowledge is enriched by means of a two-tiered interpretation, based on what reason tells us and on what our eyes tell, a process wherein we are necessarily guided by our imagination.

These “subliminal images”, built of reminiscences and associations between ideas, contain a panoply of references, from Tintin and Snowy in Hergé’s comics to the Talmud, La Fontaine’s fables and Ashkenazi legends, from Don Quixote and Faust to art history, Grünewald, Millet and romantic landscapes.


The artist endows the protagonists of his works with the features of his nearest and dearest as well as his own features. He takes on a variety of roles in his numerous self-portraits: the invalid, the biblical hero, a mysterious animal. These visions mirror the autobiographical narrative the painter constructed in 2009 with L’Intranquille : Autoportrait d’un fils, d’un peintre, d’un fou.

The works are hung in the manner of an installation, suggesting the affinities that flow between the pieces, from Saint Hubert to Rabbin et l’oiseau, Jonas à l’Ane au crépuscule and Prince Valet to Cigares du pharaon. Contes ineffables pulls together the fragments of a disjointed mind, thus charting a mental journey that will vanish once the exhibition is over.

The artist

Born in 1946 in Paris, Gérard Garouste lives and works in Paris and Normandy. He is one of the leading figures in French art. As both painter and sculptor, he is obsessed by the origins of our culture, myths and the legacy left us by the old masters. His own life is the springboard for his work on ‘dismantling images and words’ and his fascination with the questions of origins, time and transmission. His paintings are born of associations of ideas. Now unsettling, now joyful, they teem with animals, some of them fantastical, and a cast of different characters. His sources range from the Bible to popular culture and literary greats, from Cervantes to Rabelais.

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