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Joseph Beuys d'après la photo d'Alice Springs

©Olivier Martin-Gambier

Joseph Beuys d'après la photo d'Alice Springs, 1987

Jean-Olivier Hucleux
  • Artist (1923 - 2012)

After working as a photo retoucher between 1940 and 1945, and plying different trades, Jean-Olivier Hucleux (1923-2012) returned to art in 1968. His name came to the fore at Documenta V in Kassel in 1972, Enquête sur la réalité – Imageries d’aujourd’hui, outside which he exhibited the numbered series of Cimetières, embarked upon on 1971. These were large-format pictures in which you could already see his total mastery of a meticulous technique, which he kept secret, and which has been likened to hyperrealism. The work on the painted Portraits, which Hucleux devoted himself to from 1974 onwards, raised the problem of the limits of representation and tackled the issue of imitating forms. The graphite on paper work representing a portrait of Joseph Beuys, with the 11 portraits of artists made in the space of two years for the Galerie Beaubourg in Paris (Etienne Martin, Jean LeGac…) question the painter’s work likened to a copy. Hucleux, who uses photographs of artists, including that of Alice Springs in the Beuys portrait, deals with the gap which exists between the live model and the photo, between representation and photographic model. “What interests me is painting like the ancients, that is to say, transmuting the object and giving it life. It is not easy to give life to flatness, because you always have to be outside anecdote. This is the secret of painting for me. When you give life to what you do, a life which lives on its own substance, everything that is anecdotal is then done away with.” Later on, he made portraits of anonymous people caught in their private setting with the neutrality of a sociological observation (Les jumelles, 1978-1979), and in 1990 he embarked on the series of Squares drawn with Indian ink on the back of a 2 x 2 metre square canvas. A retrospective show of his work was held in 1979 at the National Museum of Modern Art.

Nadine Labedade