Floryan Varennes's soloshow at Galerie Maëlle in Paris.
Floryan Varennes: Hypersensibilité
5 June – 16 July, 2022
Galerie Maëlle, Paris
Referring to the senses or emotions, hypersensitivity refers to extreme states of the body - whether positive or negative - an intensity found in the works of Floryan Varennes, made of contrasts between materials, forms and concepts. For the artist who chose to name his first solo exhibition at the Maëlle Galerie, Hypersensibilité (Hypersensitivity), this state is above all an opening towards others, made possible by an exacerbated receptivity and put at the service of compassion and mutual aid. This is how the Matriarche welcomes us into the exhibition, a futuristic entity suspended in space, whose threatening air is matched only by her tutelary role: made by assembling PVC and medical instruments, she also evokes the shapes of a riveted medieval armour. Goddess of care, the Matriarche is both curative and protective: she is watching us.
From ancestral phytotherapeutic knowledge to contemporary medical (bio)technologies, Floryan Varennes explores care by embracing all its ambiguity. In Extremis is a bouquet of dried lavender held together by a steel chain, which is like Andromeda saved by Perseus: it is barely saved from a fatal end. A natural remedy with multiple virtues, the friability of the plant and the evanescence of its fragrance are in tension with the rigidity and solidity of the chain that seems to strangle it, at the same time as it is necessary. Similarly, with Jouvence, an assembly of two minervas adorned with pearls, the fountain of immortality becomes orthotic, suggesting the link between preservation of life and coercion of bodies. Blurring the supposed boundary between the benevolent purpose of care and the constraints intrinsic to its orchestration, the artist chooses to place the attention paid to others and to oneself within a network of forces, forces to be activated or against which one must sometimes protect oneself.
But if care - in the medical sense - and taking care - of the other as well as of oneself - are at the centre of Floryan Varennes' preoccupations, it is without forgetting the dimension of fragility that these notions cover. Vulnerability precedes treatment and protection, and the actions of (self) care and (self) protection can break down at any moment if the conditions for their realisation are not present. The artist makes this inherent fragility of care manifest by using transparent materials such as polymer and especially glass, which he employs in a series of medieval-inspired weapons: Flirt, Assag, Fin'Amor and Oblivion. Evoking a succession of states of love, from meeting to breaking up, he reflects the strength of the feeling that strikes you, pierces you, flays you and knocks you out, but also its precariousness, as the glass can be broken at any moment, just as a heart could be.
Inspired by a courtly and martial Middle Ages, and caught up in a techno-medical near future, Floryan Varennes sketches the potentialities of a future era. An era that would carry solicitude in banners, those of Sursum Corda, a parade of iridescent banners that unfold from the ground in an upward movement. As the leader of a war without violence, the artist ardently guides us in this symbolic elevation, that of our heart, in tune with itself as well as with that of others: he shows us that another world is possible, that another world is sensitive.
Navigating between fantasy and science fiction, he gives form to this utopia in Mirari - A life relieved, a video made in collaboration with Harriet Davey and Imogen Davey in which he represents himself as an elven avatar, sleeping peacefully in a landscape of ashes, his body naked, a glass armour as his only protection. Alone and vulnerable in the digital infinity, his metallic voice chants a psalm that invites introspection, the acceptance of sensations and emotions, their sublimation. We then grasp the self-portrait dimension of the work: behind the virtuality of the scene, the artist actually lifts the veil on his poesis driven by hypersensitivity, a movement of the self towards others. He allows us to see and feel the possibilities made possible by the hypersensitive state, which he celebrates in this exhibition as a saving emergency for our humanity. "Embrace these entrails. This infinite fortress: it is for you.
Another world is sensitive
Researcher in arts and in gender studies
Photo: Jérôme Michel & Floryan Varennes