The sin of Promotheus
Sculpture is in a world of its own. Of all the arts it is the one the most marked by the strangeness of its resemblance with the human body. We go around and around it. Regardless of whether it is a beneficial idol or an evil idol, statuary imprints on our imagination the volume and the matter from which we ourselves spring. "You are dust and to dust you will return" claims the Bible.
Pygmalion falls in love with his own creation. Don Juan, the blasphemer, defies God through his statue of the Commander.
We attribute supernatural powers to the statues of virgins that weep in churches or that, still nowadays, are carried in processions. Sculpture maintains the ambiguity between the sacred and the profane, between life and death: "You have but to copy a model, and the task is done; but to give it a soul, to make it typical by creating a man or a woman - this is the sin of Prometheus" wrote Balzac.
Jean-Philippe Richard focuses his creative output on this very distinctive figurative art.
His work is marked by the shape of the woman in general and the essence of femininity in particular. He has created a "type" that is instantly identifiable: a willowy body that is very elegant, even Mannerist, harking back to the drawings of the 1920’s by the Parisian fashion designer Paul Poiret. Each face he creates is different. Each statue carries the name of the model. Whether they have a mischievous, unconcerned or imperious smile there are slight traces of the mysterious Etruscan smile that linger on their exquisite lips. Are they sleeping? Are they dreaming? They are unaware of the spectator who does not know what the attraction is, the charm they exert that calls from elsewhere. His nudes are sensual, very similar to those of Rodin. We are tempted to hold them in the palm of our hand, but the well-defined originality of the works of Jean-Philippe Richard expresses itself in his head-to-toe full size sculptures -his women.
The artist extracts the beauty in the inert mass of earth, bronze, stone. Zeuxis, the Greek painter, could not find a woman beautiful enough to pose as Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, so he selected the finest features of five different models to create a composite image of ideal beauty. Jean Philippe Richard is inspired by the history of statuary, cinema and fashion.
From the classical style he retains calm, sweetness and youth. Their bodies remain firm underneath their dresses which drape their delicate shapes. Neither sadness nor excessive joy comes to darken the calm and gentle features of his figures. They seem to belong to an immaterial world. The outline prevails over carnal sensuality, style over volume, fantasy over reality as in Egyptian statuary.
Terribly present and paradoxically terribly absent, his women are too idealized to belong to that which we would call naturalism.
They seem to be our contemporaries given the spontaneity, the more or less studied attitude of their own little selves and given the hairstyles that are meticulously shaped by the artist. But their sophisticated and highly refined attitude, which distinguishes a diva of the black and white screen from every other real woman, is what sets them apart. Deeply rooted in the material, like the figures of Camille Claudel, they express their inner being, their respective personalities and their uniqueness.
These are interpretations of barely sexual women seen as "long stems in bloom" as Marcel Proust said. They seem to have been there forever. "I like the old statues in the gardens. It is a silent and parallel world that exists outside of oneself where a lot of things happen as in the story of the Venus d’Ille by Prospère Mérimée" - as I once learned from the surrealist artist Aube Elléouët Breton.
Ileana Cornea, Paris, December 2015