20 Jan. 2017 — 25 Mars 2017

Théodore Mann – Période verte 2016

Théodore Mann, an artist, a painter and a poet, was born on the 8th of February 1985 in Lyon. Being a self taught artist, he started to paint on wood, using leftovers from the wood factory where he has been going regularly from the age of 16. Could it be the artist’s first contact with paper which was later to become the object of his fancy and expression? What could be better indeed, to get to know the essence of something than to know what it is made of? From an early age, Mann has been on a quest for absolute freedom as a deep belief in the virtues of the self. Refusing to be trapped inside a one-sided way of thinking, a concept or any kind of dogma, only his emotions and his inner feelings guide his steps and tell him if something is a necessity or not. And so it will be in his art. The « Green Period » is very important to that regard. As a consequence of his artistic evolution and inner trail of thoughts, the artist found with this mean of expression an esthetics capable of fully conveying his feelings. In order to understand him better, I thought it necessary to study his early periods which are but the emerging part of his intimate truth.

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Inks on paper When I first met Mann, in October 2014, he had just started for a little more than a year, an important series of works on « old » paper: a creative process which the artist then considered to be a vital necessity. Made chiefly with ink, they are impregnated with the irruption of irrational shapes as well as more formal ones, like in his « approche de la tête », thus pushing further the limits of figuration, energetically adding to it the force of the mind. Their concentrated, spontaneous and largely improvised making outrank the completed object. Only the traces of the movements from which they originate count, as it can be seen in his correspondence with his father, who died in 2008, to whom he said : «… When I’m painting, I disappear. As in the depths of a pit with strange luminous shapes. A passer by could scream at a short distance from here, street workers could noisily rummage through earth and stones, or a building could collapse, and it would not really affect me ; at least not until the completion of the movement which would have been my only true obsession.» We can distinguish two periods in Théodore Mann’s poetic outcry: - A first period 2013-2014 during which the artist needed a relatively regular format, so as to be able to express and deepen his research on « trait », movement and shape. - And a second period 2014-2015 corresponding to the final processing of his thoughts which would lead him to accept his status as a painter. His gesture becomes more liberated. Size or the origin of the support do not matter as much, as long as it bears inside it the ramifications of a previous life. Engravings on cardboard Wednesday, 13th, January 2016. Being in Mann’s house on this winter morning to arrange the last details of the two exhibitions that were to come: one personal, at the galery, and another one, collective, with Isabelle Jarousse and Gordon Hart – to be started in February at the Art Fair Karlsruhe. For six months has the artist more or less set aside inks on paper to make printings on cardboard with a cutter, as well as different media – mostly old book covers. As for the inks, only the movement and the trait really matter, as it is revealed by this text written about the painting entitled Sauvage: « ... The journey begins with a few stripes tearing up the night. The nail penetrates, the blade cuts. At this very moment, in its hold, sight does not count. Finally, the movement end as it had started, in an abrupt and violent strike from top to bottom. Sauvage does not only mean simple, it is full of an invisible complexity which, contrary to the engine of a rocket, will not blow in your face straight away...» Among the engravings, the last one he made – Composition entre deux mondes – somewhat differs from the others in its composition and its expression. It is only much later that I understood that this work of art – later destroyed – announced the important change in Mann’s writing which was in the middle of happening; the passage from an esthetics of resistance – as a « reaction to » certain events – to a more universal writing, which seemed to get further from any esthetic model ; a passage from a certain servitude to freedom with but one purpose: love and the truth. The « Green Period » After having caressed the surface of the paper with ink, and penetrated its entrails with his hands or a cutter, the artist only had to reveal his essence, his perfection. But Mann still had to find the paper capable of transcending it. Some say that we often look for happiness at the other end of the world, when it is only a few steps away from our house. As for Mann, it was in his own apartment. The artist had indeed, in his library, a collection of literary works, 45 volumes whose covers were protected by a jacket which was plain green on one side, and green with stripes of a darker green on the other side. The meeting of the artist with this paper came in as an evidence. With its shades of green that time and various expositions to light had provoked, as well as its original proprieties and the memories it carried, this paper possessed all the qualities which would allow Mann to fully express his feelings. The « Green Period » is caracterised by a creative process in two distinct times. In a first time, the artist selects a load of green papers which each have a value, « a weight », depending on their size and the quality of their green. In a second time, he works on the composition of his picture, varying at will stripes and masses, disposing those green papers following unpremeditated rhythms, with the help of random accidents to finally look for harmony, balance, and some beautiful plasticity. The making of those « sentimental structures », as he likes to call them, gives him an immense sense of happiness ; and the titles of the « Green Period » series leave no possible doubt about the joy that the artist feels in his inner self: Harmony, Horizon, Eternity in the Making, Inner Space...