Alexis Gautier
Stairs, Zebra, Bees and Light Purple Jackets
April 14 - April 21, 2018

Blue Projects is pleased to present an exhibition of work by Alexis Gautier that explores the potency of cultural codes and systems of meaning-making. Developed in collaboration with other artists and craftspeople, the works on show comprise of a range of media including textiles, photography and sculptural objects.

The four groups identified in the exhibition’s title derive from motifs that Gautier sourced in Nepal, Italy, England and India, where the artist sought out local traditions and mythologies from which the symbols are extracted. In Lamjung Bhujung he was told the story of a man who climbed the village stairs holding a staircase above his head, leaving an indelible image in the mind of onlookers that became a prominent motif in their textiles; In San Fermo della Battaglia he was introduced to a tailor exclusively producing striped suits cut on the bias for a group of local clients; In Lancashire he learned of a group of sailors keeping bees to use their wax for its waterproofing quality, and in New Delhi he met the descendants of a chemist who invented a light purple dye, Mauveine, that was mistakenly discovered while looking for a cure for malaria.
Referencing the diagrams of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, Gautier integrated the groups – Stairs, Zebra, Bees and Light Purple Jackets – into a coherent system, allowing interactions and exchanges to occur between them. Stories spin out and into one another, jumping between fiction and reality.

Three Brussels-based artists – painter Kasper Bosmans, photographer Max Pinckers and sculptor Gauthier Oushoorn – were engaged on an individual level to produce collaborative works, resulting in paintings, site-specific installations and sculptures that add layers to the meaning-making processes at the heart of Gautier’s practice.

Things that start with one meaning take on entirely new ones as they pass into different hands and traverse mediums, lending a sense of permeability to the works. In The Mourning Beekeeper a beehive is covered in a black veil, honouring a tradition carried out in Lancashire following the death of a beekeeper in which the family would invite the bees to participate in the mourning process. This custom appears again in the embroidered works, distorted by means of its exchange. As it was told to the embroiderers by Gautier, they interpreted it in their work with the beekeeper being cremated at the centre of the village, surrounded by his beehives.

In three villages in Nepal, Gautier commissioned woven pieces that were returned with Bosmans’ designs altered according to the limitations of local weaving techniques: squares turn into circles, motifs appear the wrong way up and symbols are reduced to their simplest form. Information is willfully tangled up with misinformation, allowing for multiple storylines and imaginative possibilities to emerge.

Alexis Gautier (b. 1990, France) lives and works between France and Belgium. Recent solo shows include Pulau Jengkerik / Cricket Island at BOZAR in Brussels and Musée de La Boverie in Liège, and recent group shows include LODGERS at MUHKA in Antwerp, ZZMS at the Zuiderzee Museum, Bèz Panike at Charlama Gallery in Sarajevo and Talking Textiles at Industry City Brooklyn. He received his MA from The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 2015 and is currently Researcher in the Arts at the University of Antwerp.