May 10, 2016 - Le Grand Café – Contemporary Art Centre - Christian Hidaka: Desert Stage
May 10, 2016

Le Grand Café – Contemporary Art Centre

Christian Hidaka, Trobairitz, 2015. Oil on canvas, 182 x 250 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels.

Christian Hidaka
Desert Stage
May 14–September 4, 2016

Opening: May 13, 6:30pm
Performances: May 13, 7pm, Christ's Hospital Band and Tomoko Sauvage

Le Grand Café, Contemporary Art Centre, Saint-Nazaire
Place des Quatre zhorloges
Saint-Nazaire , 44600
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Riddled with references and enigmas, Christian Hidaka’s work is a uniquely graceful journey through the history of painting, revealing an interpretation of it that is cerebral and sensual in equal measure.

The artist investigates the language of figuration and the representation of the picture plane. His work attempts a synthesis of two reference points: on the one side Renaissance painting, influenced by Euclidian geometry and the structure of the frame; on the other the limitless development of space and absence of a vanishing point, which we find in ancient Chinese calligraphic landscapes or in digital space.

His latest series of works, presented in part at the Michel Rein gallery in 2015 and enlarged for this exhibition at Le Grand Café, continues to explore constructed space. In Saint-Nazaire, the artist is experimenting with a new form of spatial language, opening his painting out into three dimensions. In the large ground-floor room, he uses the entire space to develop the elements of a recent painting called Trobairitz, which acts as the backdrop to the exhibition. The pictorial proliferation carries over into the smaller room, where Christian Hidaka multiplies the perceptual games between the canvas and its extension onto the wall surface. This profusion contrasts with what is shown on the first floor of the art centre: a stripped-down hanging that takes stock of the artist’s imagery. Presented within a specific architectural arrangement, canvases are placed here like talismans, triggers for visions, as proposals for various theatrical settings.

In extending a version of Trobairitz into the space of Le Grand Café, Christian Hidaka alters a key element of the original canvas: the main character of the composition, the Trobairitz, has gone missing. This gives the exhibition title, Desert Stage, its full meaning. The space appears to be waiting, standing by between two acts without its principal protagonist. Thanks to this absence, the visitor is completely free to become an actor in the composition, to invent herself or himself as the prospector in a pictorial fiction, and to circumambulate the cloisters with the theatrical backdrops.

For this work, Christian Hidaka immersed himself in the theatre. The artist is fascinated by a number of Renaissance paintings—such as The Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin, by Gerolamo da Vicenza—that used a new approach to pictorial space to represent outdoor theatrical events. He is equally inspired by the first collaborations between modern painting and theatrical performance, in which Dada and the cubists were key players; by the openness of the stage in Japanese Noh Theatre and even Robert Fludd’s use of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre as his own mnemotechnical device, thereby connecting theatre, memory and talismanic images.

As a result the exhibition at Le Grand Café explores the possibilities of a symbiotic two way movement: how does the theatrical event inform representation and how does representation in turn re-inform the theatrical event? The artist ventures to engage with an inquiry into what types of pictorial space might be appropriate for today without recourse to other already existing modes, such as photorealism and expressionism. Christian Hidaka suggests to us that oblique projection might offer a "provisionality" not offered by other pictorial modes used by contemporary painting.

Enlarging the concept of painting to the notion of scenic space is not unique to Christian Hidaka: one thinks of Jim Shaw, Ulla von Brandenburg, Karina Bisch, as well as Paulina Olowska. Christian Hidaka proceeds differently however, as if cutting up a painting with a scalpel to lay it out, almost scientifically, in space whilst resisting the urge to break the formal boundary of representation. The aim here is to extend the boundaries of representational painting’s lexicon rather than to dispel it.

At Le Grand Café, he is activating the points of view onto the pictorial space, arranging an access to the other side of the mirror, an elsewhere populated by suspended surfaces, supplemented by views onto walls. This is a painting of thresholds, close in some respects to the metaphysical canvases of Giorgio De Chirico, and into which the public is invited to enter.

Theatre of imagination and memory, the exhibition also relates to certain digital environments, immersive landscapes where all is flattened, weightless, dematerialised. Christian Hidaka invites the public to walk around this vast display as if wanting, like Brecht, to break through the fourth wall and to reinforce the links between theatrical actions and pictorial perception.

Desert Stage is also a chance for the artist to give free rein to actors, performers, musicians and dancers who will open up perspectives on a universe where experience and painting coincide.

Text: Eva Prouteau

Exhibition curator:
Sophie Legrandjacques, director of Le Grand Café, contemporary art centre

Press contact:
Amélie Evrard: evrarda [​at​]

Le Grand Café – Contemporary Art Centre
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Desert Stage
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