I think that, for the working process as much as for the conceptual aims, there are two major factors in my work: layers and complexity.
I might worship simplicity as a remarkable quality in life and art, but I think sheer simplicity has solid roots. Simplicity has nothing to do with gimmicks and instant access. A black square by Malevich, or a Tai-Chi gesture are the results of a complex process. The same for a great popular song. I feel less and less comfortable about easy answers to the world’s problems. The more questions you ask yourself, the subtler the answers become. But this questioning process has nothing to do with suffering. There’s a feeling of dazed joy in thinking of the billions of galaxies in the universe, and the billions of cells in our body. Each simple action (my hand moves, the leaf falls) is the result of a complex miracle.
Therefore, talking about creation, if I ever have to paint a ship, I would not be happy with a simple rendering. I must show the engine room and the captain’s lost childhood.
This is why, maybe like Sean O’Hagan in his music, I generally work with multiple layers. It’s like building Rome every time, from the foundations to the finishing decorative touch. Many skeptics will reject the results as confused, unclear. As for me, I think that in my work the viewer is offered an interesting journey, from the first appeal of the surface (the melody) to the other truth hidden behind (the arrangement).
Those multiple layers give resonance and harmony. High and low references can happily entwine, shapes becoming images. Dissonances lurk in harmony, contradictions unite to create an original picture. Beauty can arise, even though it’s a forbidden aim when cynicism dominates.
The difference between art and advertising is this: depth and complexity. In advertising, you must instantly get the idea. It’s not the way it works with Velasquez or Beethoven. You honor the viewer when you consider his intelligence and his curiosity. This is what we try to do with the musical painting.
Jean Pierre Muller
Muller a vu Ithaque York
A chaque fois qu'il remonte sur le ring, Muller frappe fort. Et à chaque fois l'année suivante, je suis surpris de le voir se remettre en selle, relever son propre gant, réinventer tous azimuts les genres nombreux qu'il a lui-même créés. Le millésime 2011 n'échappe pas à cette règle et, comme d'habitude, transgresse toutes les autres avec brio.
Une fois la plastique dynamitée, il fallait bien en faire quelque chose. Suite à cet avènement singulier des toiles sans cadre, on avait assisté à une escalade de concepts radicaux et revendiqués, qui a culminé dans "7x7", une tentative cyclopéenne et encyclopédique de l'artiste pour circonvenir son propre univers, qui se veut mondial, et dont il a programmé pour bientôt la publication à l'échelle globale, dans quelques grands musées.
En attendant, pour notre plus grand plaisir, il a bien voulu sacrifier à Bruxelles, sur le grand autel de la galerie Zedes, au rituel du vernissage annuel, conviant ses meilleures toiles et les bans chaleureux, entreprenants et créatifs, de sa large famille culturelle.
Accortes à l'accueil, et dédiées à notre guidance dans le labyrinthe Mullérien, quatre pythies bleue, verte, rouge et jaune en minirobes sérigraphiées, portent les couleurs de l'artiste dans sa facette néo-pop, héritier réclamé de la Factory warholienne. Par un de ses truchements qui me déconcerteront toujours, Jean-Pierre Muller a eu l'idée exquise d'imprimer Marilyn sur la robe qu'elle enfile.
Alors que la Circé verte me convie de manière fort sympathique aux mystères de Perrier-Jouët, je craque immédiatement pour 'More than ever' et ses entrelacs auburn de chevelure au charme fou. L'un de ces quelques beaux portraits en découpes d'aluminium peint, esquisses raffinées et mystérieuses qui donnent enfin une suite, surprenante et intime, à la révolutionnaire abolition du cadre que jusqu'ici l'artiste affirmait dans un mode plus majeur.
Pour thématiser ce nouvel épisode de son parcours, Muller a convoqué Ulysse, qui pointe le bout de son nez antique dans la plupart des oeuvres accrochées cette année. Voeu ou constat, de départ ou de retour? Si le sens de cet Odyssée remixée me demeure ambigu, la distribution est plus claire : l'artiste en Héros, sa femme en Pénélope, sa fille en Télémaque et surtout New York dans le rôle proéminent d'Ithaque.
Ithaque York. La ville, réduite au motif répétitif, obsessionnel, redondant, et tautologique de ses façades et de ses gratte-ciels, demeure la préoccupation majeure de Muller, comme métaphore de la civilisation, de ses profondeurs culturelles et des défis qu'elle impose à nos destinées.
Ithaque York, alpha et oméga du devenir Mullérien, amoncelée au fond du couloir en noir, dans un désordre jaune mat, comme une volée de cubes de bois déversée sur le sol par un enfant qui s'apprête à créer.
Ithaque York, en pantones acidulés sur fond noir, derrière un verre où l'on peut lire la promesse, faite au héros par la déesse Athéna, de l'éternel retour, m'arrache une larme.
Dans les carnets personnels de Jean-Pierre, on retrouve en gros plan ces tours ensoleillées, absolument charmantes pour le regard et qui, dès lors qu'on peut les manipuler, livrent à nos doigts la sensualité de leurs pellicules sérigraphiées. Je retrouve ici les mystères d'une exploration nocturne, enfant, aux greniers de mes oncles décorateurs, de ces fantastiques catalogues de papiers peints où le rapport tactile avec les textures vient donner du relief aux motifs de couleur.
Avec ces carnets, nous avons entre les mains le quotidien touchant de Jean-Pierre, ses postulats pour l'art, des croquis intimes, des photos de presse, des fleurs bleues et roses baignant de coups de brosse et d'éclats argentés, et trois sucrettes de Buenos-Aires.
Pièce homérique de l'exposition, une grande toile de mer, paradisiaque et vénéneuse comme les délices de Bosch, cadre en polyptique Alechinskyen des extraits de gravures infernales et naufrageuses, à la Dante de Gustave Doré, autour d'un portrait de famille pointilliste et charnel, couleur de terre et pétri d'amour.
Enfin, si vous n'avez pas froid aux yeux, vous pourrez descendre aux caves de Zedes affronter le chant des sirènes, mélange audio de feulements pornographiques et de bruits de vagues, qui prêtent leur voix aux visages de noiseuses à l'oeil torve enluminées sur un tsunami d'aluminium.
En remontant de ces mystères profonds, je croise dans l'escalier Ithaque York sur fond clair, qui rend une vie nouvelle au cliché des vues aériennes de Manhattan, redevient graphique, générique et éminemment consommable. Nous donner envie de croire encore à la civilisation, c'est bien là tout le miracle Mullérien.
Abîmé dans les oranges saturés et les ombres portées, je revois le travelling ensoleillé de la sublime scène introductive de West Side Story, et je fredonne inconsciemment "America".
Jean-Pierre Muller a vu Ithaque York. On attend avec impatience qu'il y débarque, et nous raconte ce qu'Homère n'a pas vécu pour dire.
Michel Ange Baudoux
Jean Pierre Muller Paintings and the Urban Experience
To me there is one word that describes well the work of Jean Pierre Mueller and that is: urban. Urban in a sense of a city and not a city as conceived by Corbusier futuristic vision of clean skyscrapers and superhighways, but a city grown organically and over time.
Visiting a busy street that has been there for long time you will notice old and new buildings mixed up together, new and old shops working synergistically to cater the people that pass by, people that may or may not know each other but have implicitly something in common by being in that place at that particular time. On these kinds of streets, we seem to pick up the implicit energy, the sense of togetherness that emanates from the place.
I believe Jean Pierre wants to make you feel this experience in his paintings. It is not just the landscapes he often paints can be one of these streets, but that by walking with your eyes through the canvas it seems that the details and elements do come together in a whole that gives you this urban experience as a gestalt.
Streets like these have been put together with a self-organized mechanism following probably some unwritten laws of urban evolution. There are those thousands and thousands of people that have at some point contributed to or modified a detail in the street. There are probably thousands of stories to be told, intermingled by one place. The outcome is something that cannot be done in any other way. It cannot be simplified or abstracted because you would loose the texture that makes it whole.
I believe Jean Pierre is trying to capture this process with his painting. Indeed, looking at the evolution of Jean Pierre’s early compositions to more recent ones, you can see that they have gotten more complex. But, as the study of mathematical complexity can tell you, it is not good enough to overlay more elements to get more complexity. Randomness is very regular. In order to get true complexity, the elements have to interact in a particular way to have some structure, but with enough variety to have differentiation.
The elements that Jean Pierre uses in his paintings interact by telling stories through their juxtaposition and, in combination, they tell many intertwined stories within the composition, much like the intertwined stories of people within a street. But, probably also these elements are threads across compositions much like people wondering in a city connect in a hidden way its streets. This sequence of compositions resembles this process of urban evolution.
The question then arises: how is that our eye picks up this urban experience from one of Jean Pierre’s painting as a gestalt. In the work of Semir Zeki, he shows some neurological experiments that confirm how our eye/brain seems to pick up/resonate with a Cezanne, but not with something that looks like. Zeki paints a picture of the painter as a neuroscientist that explores the innards of the brain by trying out various compositions until discovering the correct ones that trigger some structure of the brain to resonate. My conjecture is of course that Jean Pierre paintings do this and trigger our innate structures to recognize urban structure.
The subjects though, what unites often the composition in Jean Pierre’s paintings is a person: a particular person in a city. It is almost as the main person is the intersection of all those elements telling many stories that directly relate or peripherally converge to him or her.
Bill Hillier and his work on Space Syntax come to mind. Hillier analyses urban layouts by placing lines of sight within streets and deriving graphs out of the intersection of these lines of sights. By studying these graphs and deriving what he calls their degree of integration, he uncovers particular streets and plazas that are highly integrated. These are places that people converge to even if they cannot see them directly, somehow guessing while wondering around where they are. They seem to integrate all the pathways through the urban grid so that they are close to many places people go and therefore people go often through them.
I believe Jean Pierre compositions of particular persons are equivalent to these urban integrated places. If you would create a graph of all those intertwined stories based on the elements that Jean Pierre uses, you probably would find that there are people that unite in some ways many of these stories, those people that are often involved in many of them in some way or that the stories converge to them. I think Jean Pierre uncovers these people whose urban realm needs to be told about and paints them in a composition that captures their effect in the urban experience.
The Mullerplaine V
The Mullairplane project was born out of an artist’s desire to flatter our capacity to marvel. And, more than a hundred years after Wright’s first take-off, there is no human achievement as great dream-wise as the airplane. There is no better symbol of man’s quest for freedom and divine. Therefore, even if we can understand logically how huge metal monsters can escape from gravity and dance with the clouds, there is a part of us that acknowledges only magic in this miracle.
The artist’s role
I firmly believe that one of the most important roles for the artist in modern society is that of a witness. He can scream and denounce in front of injustice, but he may also want to share his capacity to marvel. While the others have to run for work and life, his job is to stop and look at things, real or imaginary, and then recreate them in order for the others to see for themselves. We are constantly bombed by images, we are using tools and machines we don’t really understand, but we don’t really have the time to see. This is why the airplane has always been present in my work. Look! Aren’t those heavy angels marvellous? Aren’t they a dream come true? Can they not symbolize our love for humanity?
It is one thing to paint (represent) an airplane. It is another to paint (on) an airplane. The Mullairplane is a painted plane that wishes to fly around the world to bring a message of colour and peace. From Guernica to the Twin Towers, one knows that death can come from the sky. The airplane becomes suddenly a threatening figure. We have to recapture our most beautiful invention and reinstall it as a symbol of harmony and brotherhood. This is for instance what the photographs I’ve made of the Mullairplane-V over New York are for. We must dream again.
There are three levels artistically to the Mullairplane. First it is a work of art by itself, a sculpture, a painted airplane model. It is then a photographic work: montages of the Mullairplane taking off, flying or landing, which are stand-alone works of art. And at last it is the small-scale version of a much larger project: the painting of a real airplane. One look at the photographs gives a glimpse of how amazing a life size flying Mullairplane would be.
About the Zedes show:
(…) To witness the vibrancy, the dance of colours, the feat of the canvas (or more appropriately the medium) constituting an active element of the creative burst (see the works with your favourite and most beautiful muse and the playful yet complex forays into aluminium) and the energy and thought they evoke is quite simply awesome. It would be unfair to mention favourites but Beauty is our Duty is both elegant and playful – beautiful women are dangerous (as in gun slinging and adorning hot-pants and red hot lipstick. The two pieces featuring Isabelle in various poses expands the horizon of geometry while making the work feeling accessible, nay personal. The sight of Cagla and Isabelle dancing is almost a manifesto in aesthetics that works splendidly because the wood is so fragile, a hint to the ephemeral nature of youthful beauty perhaps. But I loved both the picture in a picture of your Roman conquest with you striking a most handsome pose. I loved the intricacy and complexity of this piece that is so finely layered that is made complete by the rare venture into narcissism. You have indeed become a subject, a Roman subject that is by this display of classic maleness. Later hour and faltering energy do not allow me to continue ad nauseam on this great display of intelligent yet personal art. This is the best works that I have seen form you and I am in awe of your cultural prowess. I fear that there is more and better things to come. (…)
Hey man, R-E-S-P-E-C-K to the max!
Junior Lodge, Dec. 2005
jean pierre muller
aka via del pellegrino 128 roma:
Withouth any pause from the Modern painters to our own times, some artists revealed the essence of the time throughout personal appearance, co-starring roles and self-portraiture in a continuous evolution as they could fix an original repertory just picting their own faces in the crowd. The research of Jean–Pierre Muller is a flesh into the ranks of the Fayoum portraits. He looks for the soul of an ancient era presenting contemporary aspects of the large community of different people he met in his last journey in Rome, now part of his show totally inspired from the vitality of the “eternal town” and built as a site-specific work. “Time is a circle, and we can easily look at ourselves in the mirror of history, yesterday becoming tomorrow. This notion is the starting point of the works I have created especially for this exhibition.” The title of the show reminds us the possibility to turn back and see the world from another perspective. The artist has impressed by a series of unique portraits from the Egyptian and Roman style. He was also influenced by the Futurism when studying at the L’Ecole des Art Visuels in Cambre, and in the same years from everything was, in a way, colorful and mechanic, like advertising, cinema, graphic design etc. Some characters have been portrayed in order to transform them in 21th Century table of contents. Seems in his drawings here to take off a decorative function and enliven a menu in continuous motion. The layout echoes that of the roman frame, annulling the usual reading order and ensuring a blend of history and strong personality, like it was with the Fayoum pieces.
“This exhibition at the AKA gallery is a unique opportunity to finally confront my art to my love of Roman history, and in particular of antiquity. A godless world, deeply desperate and pessimistic, but then so very human. It is a unique moment where the notion of individuality becomes central, as one can notice for instance in the Roman art of the portrait. The Fayoum portraits are the most striking examples of this (Greeks of Egypt of course, but with the Roman touch of humanity). The fall came, call it coincidence, when the empire surrendered to Christianity, forsaking the earthly considerations for divine and life-despising aims. Roman art turned eastern and immaterial, as the individual disappeared to the profit of the concept. It will take more than ten centuries to come to the fore again in Europe.
Past and present, noble and vulgar references happily entwine to create a world without hierarchy. One will have the opportunity to wander in a crowd of Roman faces, old and new, each one trying to capture your attention to simply declare: “I live / I have lived”- and I, as an witness artist, I become simply their spokesperson. As Catullus wrote: “Let’s live, dear Lesbian and love each other. The fires of the sun can die and be born again. But for us, once the brief light of life has (nobis cum semel occiderit breuis lux), we will have to sleep one single and long night…”