The artistic vision of Paul-Yves Poumay.
By Francesca Vine: Arts Columnist
Paul-Yves Poumay is a self-taught artist with a focus on primitivism and neo-expressionism.
He has been involved in a number of important international group shows, written short essays for various prestigious publications, has been involved in several artist residences in Italy, and most recently had a solo exhibition at Alemi Art Gallery (Leόn, Spain) last year. His background in finance has led him to concentrate on “capitalism paradoxes” including “speculative economy, environment challenges, migration and [the] international financial system”.
Through the critical lens of art activism, Poumay is endeavouring to expose the hugely adverse impact that global financial industrialisation is having on both humanity and the natural world. Arguing that this exploitation of the vulnerable and destruction of the environment cannot continue in its current form, his art explores the “passage area” we are currently inhabiting; the “suspended moment” prior to a seismic shift in world order.
The confusion of this environment, where we have been deprived of our senses, unable to perceive the future as we teeter over the precipice, Poumay returns to the primitive. We are the “ancient odd creatures” who cannot see or hear or speak through the claustrophobic miasma; who are unable to find our way through and out, yet still exist for existence’s sake. Many of Poumay’s paintings explore this theme, such as Struggle for Life, whose bold, broad brushstrokes combine vivid red, orange, blue and yellow hues with dark green, brown and black. Together, these become a primordial soup from which an abstract figure strains to emerge, struggling to create order from inherent chaos. The artist often walks a thin line between abstract expressionism and neo-expressionism, which only serves to emphasise this period of turmoil.
Poumay’s sculptures, many rendered in an earthy terracotta, focus on the human form, shaping contorted bodies and disembodied heads.
They showcase distorted and exaggerated features, such as his characteristic bug eyes and present a keen sense of fluidity and expressivity. The figures are full of dynamism and appear to unfurl, allowing new life to emerge, like a chrysalis exiting its cocoon or, as the artist puts it, “deconstructing to reconstruct”.
The King, a giant head topped by a crown and surrounded by a huge Medician ruff, is unsettlingly inhuman with an elongated face, giant empty eye sockets, hollowed out cheeks, wart-like nose and reptilian snout, finished off with a curled goatee.
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his art explores the “passage area” we are currently inhabiting; the “suspended moment” prior to a seismic shift in world order.
Unsurprisingly, Poumay’s “radical criticism” of capitalism is a recurring theme in his works, including Bezos’ Syndrome, in which a framed thin-section of wood has been charred, almost beyond recognition and three gold coins attached, seemingly at random. The artist highlights the absurdity, the “kind of disease” in which those who have played such a pivotal role in destroying nature, donate some small portion of their profits towards its “reconstruction”. The glint of a gold coin or two in the ravaged landscape, emerging only after its total annihilation has been assured.
Reminiscent of a prehistoric deity, the artist himself defines him as “a beast” from an “intellectually underdeveloped society”; he represents “this little man, this pope, this minister or this baron” who symbolises “a world incapable of evolving”. Yet, a glimmer of hope exists – the crown has been cracked open…
Provocatively positing himself as “the most expensive artist in the world”, Poumay’s latest work, a sculpture titled The return of Don Quixote, aims to be the world’s most expensive work of art, with a total valuation of over €2 billion. The sculpture will be sold off per milligram, with 76 million milligrams available at €26.5 each. Each purchaser, will then become a co-owner of “the most expensive contemporary work of art in the world”, highlighting both the absurdity of capitalism and the power of collectivism – “both a single man and a single milligram are insignificant, illustrating the inability to act alone”. The work, as yet unseen, will be unveiled to the public “according to the best forthcoming proposals”.
In a subversive twist, the “corrosive power of money” becomes a force for good, as the profits from the sale (or sales) of the artwork will go towards the Art World Institute (AWI), a non-profit organisation founded by Poumay which aims to “build a fairer and more sustainable world and contribute to human progress with cultural initiatives and public exhibitions”. With a firm mission to change the world, Paul-Yves Poumay’s work has only just begun. Watch this space.
Look out for my interview with the artist, coming soon to The Mackayan!
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