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Sans titre

Sans titre, 1981

Jan Voss
  • Artist (1936)

After studying at the School of Fine Arts in Munich between 1956 and 1960, the German painter Jan Voss moved, for good, to Paris. If his earliest canvases, with their rapid and incisive style and the way their backgrounds looked, were akin to graffiti, a desire for narrative duly led the artist to works composed in strips, based on a partitioned division presenting characters in situations that are not explicit (Des mots en l’air, 1963). In the late 1960s, he associated himself with Narrative Figuration through the presence of figures, signs and small cameos. He abandoned composition in strips for an apparently more disorderly layout where the figures are grouped in relation to brief and ironical episodes which could be perfectly described and interpreted (Lecture pour tous, 1968). In the 1970s, signs floating on the canvas spoke for themselves, and abandoned specific meaning; the hieroglyphs became removed from their tangible reference, intermingling on white backgrounds and increasingly saturating the space with a great density of signs. Sans titre/Untitled, a work acquired by the FRAC Centre, is the expression of that pivotal moment in the oeuvre of this painter, who here sought a lightness and a freedom of gesture through twists and turns going in every direction and filling the surface “all over”. Voss then used the technique of collage and assemblage; he combined, dovetailed and linked signs, put back together bits of unfinished canvases, and incorporated various materials from the end of the 1980s on, which then led him to the production of sculptures which, like “markers” as the artist called them, superposed and piled up elements. The first retrospective of Jan Voss’s oeurvre, A portée de vue, was held at the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art in 1978. Since then, a monograph by Yves Michaud was published in 2001 and many exhibitions have made it possible to grasp the scope of the prolific work of this artist, sculptor, draughtsman, engraver, ceramicist, and set designer (Dunkirk, 2002; Sens, 2008; Toulon, 2010).

Nadine Labedade