Alain Rodier’s story is one of thorough and enduring adventure. Brought up in Saint-Julien-en-Genevoix, on the brink of France’s alpine border with Switzerland, a young Rodier first moved to Paris in 1980 to study Economics. There, he befriended a photographer who was in need of an assistant, and from this his, perhaps most unlikely, career in modern art began to unfold.
First experimenting in film and photography as a student, his eventual position as a fashion photographer for Vogue magazine took Alain around the world, with stints in France, Australia, the United States, Italy and finally London, throughout the nineteen-eighties.
It was not until reaching the latter in 1989, that he would give up his position at Vogue to focus full-time on the potential of his own artistic endeavour, first in collage, and then in paint. From this, he then begins to mix the two, and experiment with his method of composition, including expansive silkscreened photographs as the starting point for larger paintings. His first ever solo exhibition takes place in London, and from here he once again moves around North America and Europe, fuelled this time by his own creativity.
His ‘Paintings in Series 2012’ exhibition, showing at the SW1 Gallery in December, will mark his first return to London since 2003. It will collate twenty-five of his most recent works, taken from over the last year or so, and showcase them across the four main series within which they were conceived, ‘Cities’, ‘Women’, ‘Burn Cash, Buy Paintings’, and ‘Entanglement’.
Like much of the work Rodier has produced in the past, these pieces are composed through the duality of setting forth contrasting forms and elements into one another, most notably silk-screened photography and acrylic painting. They achieve an abstract whole, endowed with a powerful and stark ambiguity. They give rise to new and contemporary aesthetics through the boldness of their own surreal dislocation. The end-result bears an influence on the eye that is powerful and sharp, potent and evocative. Rodier explains, “my work is based first on a painted background, then a photographic collage is produced, which is then printed onto the painted canvas. This has become my language of sorts.”
'Women', by Alain Rodier.
This method is at its most daring, and perhaps most impactful, in the ‘Women’ series. The last in the series, entitled ‘Women’ itself, presents perhaps the most profound dichotomy between elegance and abrasion, in a manner that approaches a sort of traumatic urgency. “I like the completely different energies that they both put out. One is obviously physical, and the other more mental. They are two of my favourite models Sveta and Marusha. Both sides of the image reflect both facets of the women I paint.”
The ‘Cities’ Series collects images of iconic landmarks to produce expansive urban collages of some of the world’s most recognisable cities. We see pieces of the famous New York skyline, with buildings that appear to vertically sprawl, and sway across each other, as they forever extend beyond themselves. These are again accompanied by colourful shapes and patterns that manipulate and expand our perception of the modern metropolis. The series tells an intriguing tale of a very twentieth century brand of modernity. “Cities are places where I get my inspiration; I find their energy fascinating. The collages are an interesting way to show different aspects of each city, mixing images that would not normally be together. For me it is something very positive, but because of the way that I do my collages, I could see how they could be viewed as subversive, because they are fragmented by definition.”
In ‘Burn Cash, Buy Paintings’, we see Rodier take on more explicitly topical subject matter, “‘Take the money and run’ was the first in the series; I started by wanting to show how much cash one million Euros really is, and it is a lot! It puts a very real image to a very abstract sum for most people.” This playful exploitation forms a cold reminder, of the deep madness that manifests itself in the western world’s modern corporate culture, something that appears to add a particularly severe undertone to the representations made in the ‘Cities’ series before it.
“Then I also started working on ‘The Banker’ which, once finished with its drawing of the face, gave me the overall direction for the series. The character with his suit and attaché case open full of cash came naturally in the idea of the ‘banking crisis’.” Rodier goes on, “even though events around me obviously influence my perception of the world, I usually tend to paint through feelings more than a conscious will to say something relevant to the world around me. I think that the ‘Burn Cash Buy Paintings’ series is the first time I have actively tried to make my work pertinent to my environment.”
‘Entanglement’ is the collective title of a work spread across two different paintings. The chaotic result helps tell the troubling and difficult story of disarmament after the Lebanese civil war, “all the pictures of this collage were taken using the extensive gun collection of one Lebanese individual.”
There will also be other works featured at the SW1 exhibition, in addition to these four collections. “The work going on show at the SW1 Gallery is a collection of paintings that reflect a certain period of my life, so in this way they are all quite closely connected to each other. I hope people will enjoy discovering and looking at these paintings and collages as much as I enjoyed producing them, and now looking at them again myself.”
Find out more about Alain Rodier here.