Since 2009 Jérôme Robbe has shown his research into the pictorial at numerous solo and group exhibitions in Berlin, Paris and Nice ever since.
Selected by art critic Frédéric Bonnet, he likewise participated in Marseille's Art-o-Rama fair in Showroom 2014 from August 29-31.
It made for a moving and changeable landscape, a floe of a thousand nuances put up under the French Riviera's searing sunlight. By invading the terrace of Nice's Musée National Marc Chagall for the « La peinture autrement » group exhibition in 2011, Jérôme Robbe made one of the most stunning gestures a painter has bestowed on the public in the past few years. Marble plaques floated on the floor, suspended over layers of liquid pigment that fluctuated from blues to pinks and were endlessly rearranged by water, light and wind. The canvas allows the viwer to get lost in it, to stride through it, to observe its infinite changes as one would a landscape. Trained at Nice's Villa Arson and now established in Paris, Robbe is a young painter who ceaselessly reinvents his medium. Drawing from American abstraction and vast horizons in all-over as well as from German romanticism and its sense of the sublime, he « constantly juggles between viewing a painting as a self-standing landscape as well as the representation of a landscape, always in the same to-and-fro manner. » « I started by painting skys and I gradually distanced myself from that to move towards sensations, feelings. »
Although he occasionally adds dashes of reality to his works, Robbe is wary of all motifs and engrosses himself in a vast inquiry which consists of : « working on the subject of painting itself, the core material ». Fascinated by the Renaissance's continual inventiveness, never claiming « to paint for painting's sake », Robbe continually comes up with new tools.
His latest find is a sort of « hand printer » that he is experimenting with and uses in the following manner. « I begin with a thick coat of paint, 15 litres applied to a 1.5 x 1.5 metre surface. The various paints undergo chemical reactions which create craters and cracks. I take a photo of this first stage and reprint it in bitmap directly on the material itself using a pared down, readjusted printer equipped with a handle that I apply to the surface manually ». This process allows the machine to print deep in the most recessed crannies and permits the artist to « work on all the errors my body imposes on this essentially perfect tool and to play on the lack of sharpness ».
All this is further enhanced by a direct homage to Polke. In order to resolve his « little problem with painting an image », Jérôme Robbe has additionally worked with mirrored surfaces, « as a way to bring the image into the paint by playing on the reflections percieved by the viewer ».
But Robbe strayed from his usual method twice. The first by taking a series of images depicting European pioneers setting out to settle in America and inserting « discoverers of new territories who echoed my idea of the canvas as a territory ». And the second time by using Russian prisioners' tattoos : « I was working on an old-fashioned glaze, an obscure method, and I was looking for a slightly secret image when I came across these criminals' tattoos, rife with hidden meaning, cryptic or mystical references ». He is currently developing this research by working on Vitry-sur-Seine's Mac/Val initiative with convicts in Fresnes prison. « I met them recently and we launched a one year project together. Through the most intensely intimate conversations possible, we'll display their own images, those that only mean something to them and follow their instructions as to motif, color, processes, I'll be the executor of their imaginations » the artist explains.
A compelling protocol that will become the subject of a work, with the artist donating half the sales rights to the prisioners' association, « so that other projects like this remain possible ».