pierre et gilles

Oreste (modèle : Staiv Gentis), photographie peinte, unique , 2013

Oreste (modèle / Staiv Gentis), photographie peinte, unique , 2013

For their first exhibition at Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris, worldwide renowned French artists Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard have revealed a new series of works revolving around the concept of “hero.” Featuring around 25 portraits, the exhibition highlights fearless figures of antique mythology, ranging from Achilles and Prometheus, to superheroes from pop culture such as Batman. Using the brawn and virility from fictional heroes, Pierre et Gilles also depict a number of modern day champions like the young rebel from the Arab Spring to a portrait of the artist couple tying the knot, symbolising same-sex marriage.

Each photograph is a unique work of art. The artists give each work a distinctive character by creating personalized studio sets and accessories. After it is printed on a canvas, the photo is then hand-painted with acrylics, and encased in individually tailored frames. Pierre et Gilles study the obscurities of representation and the ambiguity of the hero myth, providing their own stimulating insights. Staying true to their signature aesthetic, the artists illustrate nude men surrounded by flowers or rose tinted clouds, but go further in this exhibition by incorporating daring costumes and exciting locations. 

Narcisse (modèle : Matthieu Charneau), photographie peinte sur toile, unique, 2012

Narcisse (modèle / Matthieu Charneau), photographie peinte sur toile, unique, 2012

With an intersection between photography and painting, Pierre et Gilles’s art is composed of their family, friends, and celebrities including Isabelle Huppert and Rick Owens. The creators’ work makes us contemplate the signification of a hero who is portrayed as nude. While extremely muscular, the male models in the artwork bare apathetic facial expressions. Their blank faces demonstrate that these heroes are not proud, but modest in who they are and what they represent. These heroes are portrayed in bright atmospheres, bringing an element of pop and modernity to traditional portrait depictions. By placing the heroes in nature, or enclosing them in a frame of flowers, Pierre et Gilles create a softness and approachability in their work. An element of vulnerability is seen in almost all pieces.

Colourfully charged, the painted photographs emphasize the male form in all its glory, while women are portrayed in a pin-up manner, or elegantly like Mary Magdalene. We see the Queen of Saba, regal with a headdress and jewels next to the King of Salomon. Then, we surprisingly come across a depiction of a Barbie-like figure with her stuffed poodle against a pink backdrop of bones. Is she a champion of femininity, or a comical analysis of what a hero should be?  While some may call it kitsch-chic, it is without a doubt that Pierre et Gilles have constructed a new meaning of contemporary iconography that aims to heighten the breadth of our imagination.

You can’t help but have a spring in your step after exploring the “Heroes” exhibition. Joyful and full of artistic energy, Pierre et Gilles’s work allow us to connect the conventional heroic characteristics of bravery and sacrifice to a lighter, fantastical atmosphere infused with ornamentation. The inspirational exhibition dares us to create our own picturesque environment by reflecting on the inner heroes in all of us.

“Heroes” by Pierre et Gilles is at Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris, France from now until 31st May, 2014.

Words / Sheri Chiu

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