Etienne GROS composes in an abstract way. First, he pours colour liberally onto paper laid flat on the ground. The colours mix, avoid each other, define their territories. They are often used in threes: luminous, serene chromatic trios. He stands the painting up and volumes begin to emerge. Curves and relief make their first tentative appearances. Now the artist scrapes the skin with a Stanley knife, as if tanning leather. In his hands, the material gives birth to figures whose one aim is to be born, to come alive. In this aesthetic transformation, the raw, scarred epidermis bears the marks of scarifications and lichen-like tribal imprints. Gros reworks his painting with a wire brush, imposing its forms. He is careful to respect the balance of proportions and the rules of anatomy, giving life to whole bodies even if they are only partly seen: a back, a torso, a shoulder…
Neither thin nor fat, these bodies all have a sense of plenitude. Rarely seen with sexual attributes, they are nevertheless without ambiguity. Even when the curve of a breast or a buttock leaves us in no doubt, this is not the artist's aim. For him, humanity is more important than masculinity or femininity. Necks are seen from in front and behind, but heads rarely appear. The viewer's eye continues the outline, inventing movement beyond the apparently static. Some are alone on the canvas, while others are seen in pairs, body touching body. They come together, interlocking and intertwining, skin against skin. Even when he shows the fusion of two bodies, the painter stops before they become one. There is a sense of respect for the individual, and a sense that carnal abandon does not make us lonely when it involves the Other.
In his series entitled Fumées (Smoke) the artist puts his technical mastery at the mercy of chance. Using a candle or oil lamp, he lets the flame move across the paper, sometimes deliberately, sometimes randomly. He masks areas of the paper so that the smoky arabesques form into shapes, this time in a more ethereal interpretation of the human form.
Etienne Gros was born in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in 1962. From earliest childhood he was fascinated by drawing and painting. He studied at schools of FIne Arts in Épinal and Versailles, and obtained his diploma from the Paris School of Fine Arts. He was awarded the Grand Prix Azart at the Mac 2006 art fair in Paris. He has regular exhibitions in France, elsewhere in Europe, and the USA. His painting is often referred to as façonnage (sculptural modelling); we might paraphrase Baudelaire and say it is "Beautiful, O mortals, like a dream in stone, inspiring in the poet an everlasting, silent love, like that of the material clay..." Especially as his mineral palette shrouds his bodies in grey, like stone statues that continue to transmit their energy as time marches on.