03/25/2014 04:24 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

My Own Private Tron: Jean-Pierre Roy at Gallery Poulsen

Jean-Pierre Roy is engaged as a painter in an ongoing project which appeals to me very much; and not only in my capacity as a painter, but also as a metaphysically-inclined science and science fiction geek, and as a child of the '80s. Here, take a gander at one of the paintings from his solo show "The New Me is Already Old," recently exhibited at Gallery Poulsen in Copenhagen.


Additive Field History, oil on canvas, 127 x 107 cm, 2014

A monumental figure lies on the ground, as if defeated by a superior force and submitting himself to it. The sense of surrounding scale is ambiguous, and the figure's head is obscured or replaced by colorful, sharp-looking shards. A glowing hypercube overlies his core.

The image reads as quite plausible, at the broadest level and in its details. We are in the realm of convincing special effects, of the completely imaginary made to look like the actually encountered. The figure's jeans and sneakers and rumpled windbreaker reinforce the casual and everyday about the scenario -- in Roy's universe you don't dress up in a fancy uniform for these occasions.

The general landscape, then, is the quotidian approach to the metaphysical. We are only a couple train stops away from De Chirico's deserted piazzas. And yet the imagery is not similar at all. Like De Chirico, Roy closely specifies the metaphysical in relation to his own experience of culture and the world. For me, this is felicitous, because it broadens my avenue of entry into his work.


Neometry, oil on canvas, 183 x 214 cm, 2014

Roy is only a couple of years older than I am, so his formative years for fashion and miscellaneous visual artifacts are the '80s. We see in Neometry the elements of early cyberpunk and '80s science fiction films: mirrors, lasers, pinks, turquoises, violets. Roy adds to these elements the single-minded focus of his own imagining. He amps up the contrast between mirror fragments on the figure's head, and the dark gaps between them, to make those sharp edges really cut. He composes his pink laser, edged in red, to stand out against the surrounding blues and grays so much that we can virtually hear its electric humming. The painting demands a soundtrack by Vangelis.

There is a more general element to these paintings which helps to integrate them into a longer timeline of metaphysical thought.


The Pasture, oil on canvas, 174 x 127 cm, 2014

Consider the head of the central figure in The Pasture. He has a kind of patinated bronze Grecian beard, and a technological mouth. He has no face; the rest of his head is partly obscured behind a complex polyhedron. Like the others he is a central figure, and exacts submission from a second central figure.

He is a menacing giant, with an unsettling replacement for the human head. This replacement puts him, however obscurely, in a line of descent from the gods of Egypt. The Egyptians were the masters of pasting new heads onto human bodies, seeing in it the majesty and threat of both the divine and of ideas about characteristics of the divine: recall jackal-headed Anubis, god of mummification, and Sekhmet, lion-headed goddess of war, and ram-headed Khnum, the innundator god: god of the flood. Roy's supermen are modern avatars of this frightening race. They are awful representatives of the overpower, the obliterating power, which destroys human things and yet still goes about its strangely human business on its own magnified plane.


Scope For All Directions, oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm, 2014

I don't know that I have much more to say about this work. I get a shiver of awesome from it. It is marvelously weird and obsessively thought-through. I've asked Roy about the technologies and geometries he depicts. He confirmed my impression, that the technologies, if built, would work, and that the geometries are rigorously plotted by hand. Roy's techno-myth world is a fabulous creation. As with the work of Dorian Vallejo that we studied last week, it picks up the torch from previous lines of thought, while blasting open new artistic space in the most idiosyncratically personal of ways. More of this, I vote. As much as possible. All eccentricities welcome and celebrated. There is no better leaping-off point for a transcendence that the artist really understands and means, and is therefore in a position to pass along to us.


Shore For The Unmanned, oil on canvas, 102 x 76 cm, 2014


All images courtesy of the artist.

Jean-Pierre Roy online.

The New Me Is Already Old
Gallery Poulsen, Copenhagen
February 21-March 23