Gérard Garouste has long been fascinated with the influence of Christianity on our culture, and has chosen to explore the myth of Faust as presented by Goethe in 1808: a man arguing with God and the Devil about his fate.
Using oil on canvas, gouache and bronze, the artist examines the main themes of Goethe’s tragedy: the quest for knowledge, desire for pleasure, nature of evil, the idea of wagers and pacts with the malevolent forces and alchemy, and individual accomplishment.
Gérard Garouste’s interest in the founding texts of Western culture began in the 1980s. After Dante’s Divine Comedy, Cervantes’s Don Quichotte and Rabelais’ Gargantua, he has spent ten years or so examining sacred texts, primarily the Bible. With Faust, Garouste signals his return to literary sources, even as he continues his fundamentally political questioning of Christianity and Judaism.
Gérard Garouste's baroque paintings, combining the unsettling with the joyous, are inhabited by variations on the various protagonists—Faust, Mephistopheles, Marguerite, the witches—and fantastical creatures—apes and hag, scape-goat and pig steed.
As in his previous work, Garouste uses the faces of his friends and family to illustrate the various characters. As a reminder of his recent autobiography, a great many self-portraits are also featured, constantly metamorphosing between Mephistopheles and Faust. In L’Intranquille: Autoportrait d’un fils, d’un peintre, d’un fou, published in 2009, Garouste revealed his battles with his anti-Semitic father and his own struggles with insanity. Walpurgisnachtstraum is another examination of his preoccupation with the concept of “The Classic and the Indian”: the artist’s mastery of the rules of classical painting is counterbalanced by the “Indian”’s total pictorial freedom, intuition and wildness.
Gérard Garouste’s sculptures also play an important role in the exhibition, with the artist returning to the casting work he abandoned during the 1990s. In 2010 he was commissioned to create a monumental work as part of the renovation of a private mansion in Paris’s rue de l’Université. As a result of this renewed urge to create sculptures, the exhibition will be showing new works in bronze.
Born in 1946, Gérard Garouste lives and works in Normandy and Paris. One of the most popular French artists of his generation, he occupies a unique position in the international art world. In the 1970s, he opted for a timeless, figurative painting style, a daring choice at a time when conceptual forms of expression prevailed. He explains : “the more I apply myself to a simple, basic shape, like someone practising a violin, the more I will be able to start inventing my own music.” It is in this spirit that Gérard Garouste approaches the old masters and ancient texts, allowing him to then re-examine European myths. According to Michel Onfray, this approach makes him “perhaps the most modern of all.”
In the 1980s he was represented by leading American dealer Leo Castelli. His work has been shown worldwide (USA, Japan, Germany, Latin America and Italy) and can be found in many major public collections, including Paris' Musée national d’art moderne–Centre Georges Pompidou and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Ludwig Museum in Vienna. In 2009, the Villa Medicis in Rome held a major retrospective of his work, entitled Le Classique et l’Indien .
A 80-page catalogue will be published for the new exhibition at Galerie Templon, with contributions from curator Bernard Blistène, mathematician Henri Berestycki and critic and art historian Aurélie Barnier.