Nicolas Rabant at Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain

Artist: Nicolas Rabant

Exhibition title: Poussière & Paillette

Venue: Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain, Brest, France

Date: October 15, 2021 – January 15, 2022

Photography: Aurélien Mole / all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Passerelle Centre d’art contemporain

As a painter, sculptor, exhibition organiser and fisherman, Nicolas Rabant has developed his unusual artistic practice over several years. He was born in 1988 and moved to Brest to attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts but also so that he could live close to the ocean. He created a unique collective project, ‘Fishing with John’, whose name is taken from a television programme in which film stars try their hand at fishing. Nicolas Rabant undertakes a similar process by inviting artists to accompany him, fishing rod in hand, on a foraging excursion, or else to help him create meals and dishes. The results are seen in times spent together that are both convivial and unique, in exhibitions, and in the production of joint works and concerts. This approach is symptomatic of Rabant’s participatory approach; he designs art in a spirit of constant collaboration and is passionate about the area all around him.

For his exhibition at Passerelle, he has used the names of his former cats: Poussière (Dust) and Paillette (Speck). The genesis of this title goes far beyond a cutesy reference, as it reveals his attraction to the world of animals and acts as a sort of homage somewhere between reverence and taking figurative ownership. His fascination for fauna is seen in many of his works including his sculptures. Without any morbid intent, but rather from a desire to preserve an ephemeral beauty, Nicolas Rabant freezes creatures destined to be eaten such as fish he has caught or wild animals he has found – already dead – in the countryside, with the aim of giving them new life in his work. Harvest time therefore holds a prime place in the work, whether as a meditation or physical exercise, or as a bountiful collective experience. As with certain artists, especially those working in land art, the act of walking becomes a performance, a creative act, and, in the end, a work. For the Passerelle exhibition, Rabant has chosen to show a series of cuttlefish and a gull which come to inhabit the space, becoming simple visual motifs, but also narrative elements.

Poussière & Paillette is also a paint slogan. The paintings on show on the upper passageway of the art centre reflect a taste for these materials, for a very distinctive colourful cosmic finish that is difficult to photograph. The titles are taken from the brightly coloured bait for fishing by a ‘designer for fish’ craftsman. Through this reverential reappropriation the artist opens up a reflection on the notions of functional art and the utility of painting. Indeed, the works of Nicolas Rabant can be seen as decoration or even scenery – they extensively examine the principle of “what is decorative?” – but they exist above all as landscapes, the artist’s principal field of research and expertise. With his broad abstract forms, he reworks the rules for representing sea and sky. The images are digested, covered up, repainted and reproduced obsessively until the motif is exhausted. Appearing to have an impossible objective, Nicolas Rabant’s exploration of these infinite subjects will certainly never arrive at a conclusion.