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Jean-Philippe AUBANEL


Born in Lyon in 1953, Jean-Phillipe Aubanel grew up in Portugal, before eventually moving back to France to study at the Academies of Fine Arts of Aix-en-Provence, Paris and Lyon. A traveller by nature, Aubanel continued to globe trot. In the 1970s, he successively discovered Tunisia, New York and the Netherlands. All these trips influenced his early work and inspired the defining features of his paintings from this time — paradise, chicken coops and fishermen. In 1977 in Villeurbanne, he founded the ‘Lieux de relation’ gallery with several other artists, where, until 1983, they organised over 70 exhibitions showing French and European artists.

Aubanel’s artistic style places him among the ‘materialists’, a group of painters who came to prominence in the 1980s. He draws attention to the materiality of his paintings with great attention and care: the stridency of colour, paved surfaces, varnishes, obscured or scratched sections. In addition to these visual elements, the human figure emerges as the thematic core of Aubanel’s corpus. Masks feature heavily in his work, particularly those stemming from non-Western cultures. Among his more established and conventional influences, he cites Matisse, Gauguin and Jorn, though one could also draw comparisons to Chagall in his depiction of fantastical animals. Various animal motifs such as fish and horses make reoccurring appearances throughout Aubanel’s corpus, as well as self-portraits and high-speed trains. Short texts also find their way into his work, accompanying the image in certain artworks.

In the 1980s, the mask trope dons an ironic facet, and then drops all levity as time goes on — the masks gradually turn into skulls, giving the motif a morbid gravity which is closer in style to the memento mori tradition. This darker trajectory is in keeping with aspects of the artist’s creative process, which is inspired by memories of youth, an appetite for battle, the conception of each canvas as a struggle but also a playful pleasure, and an adventure punctuated by surprises.

Aubanel has also dedicated his time to more auxiliary artistic work, flourishing in the realms of theatre, set and costume design and advertising. The artist adapted his style, technique and medium for these various endeavours.

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