Beginning April the 8th, the Palais de l’Europe is hosting the dreamlike universe of French visual artist “Odon”, known for his master skills braiding… paper; a discipline loved by children but often dismissed or overlooked by adults.
The exhibition, scheduled to continue until September 24, follows the passage of time; from the original paintings to the dreams and mantras of today. From a life before cardiac arrest to a life lived on a wires edge.
“Odon is very spiritual and kind, he stopped living for four minutes in 1985. Since then, he feels like living on a daily basis, he’s a very humble person. He’s like a big child: he goes red when complimented, but he knows what he wants … ” explains Elsa Puharré, who is in charge of conservation. She had the opportunity to meet with him during one of his friend’s exhibitions, James Rassiat, at the Palais de Carnolès. Rassiat also established himself in the eastern suburb of Paris, Nogent-sur-Marne.
“He surprised James’s daughter by coming for the occasion. We spent the morning chatting and I took a real shine to this man.”
A man who, some years ago, said he dreamt of doing an exhibition in Menton, without knowing that this coveted dream would come true in 2017.
“I was given free rein to rummage as much as I wanted in his studio,” recalled Puharré. Odon then made the choice to focus mainly on braiding, constructed from large sheets of double-sided paper cut into filaments then braided, sometimes over a period of several months.
It is no wonder then that such works are difficult to exhibit. Each rope needs to be stretched with a nylon thread allowing the piece to unfold altogether.This intricate design is enough to justify the presence of a friend, Guillaume, to offer some advice. The artist’s plaiting is – at the very least – atypical.
“He has travelled extensively, studied all ways of doing things, but he doesn’t follow tradition when it comes to braiding because since his cardiac arrest his left brain doesn’t work any more. He is therefore unable to work clockwise” explains Elsa Puharré, adding that Odon took courses in basketry after his accident, precisely to re-learn how to work with his hands.
In her opinion, it was interesting to be able to show the artist’s evolution within the framework of the exhibition in order to better understand his approach.
“He made expressionist paintings when he started, he and his wife are tinged in suffering. Little by little, patterns begin to intermingle in their works ” she notes, spirals appear almost imperceptibly.
If, at first, Odon finished his works by basing them on a fictional character, the artist Arman pushed him to question this technique.
“Arman bought one of his pieces in New York,” explained the brain behind the show, “but when he asked him how he finished his pieces and Odon told him he pictured a face, Arman told him that was useless, putting an end to his ‘picturing’ technique”.
At the back of the contemporary art gallery, preparatory drawings – systematically prepared on Sundays, with a ball pen style – make it possible to see the calculations behind the abstract designs. Nothing is left to chance. The number of strands used, the spots where to tie and so on – a display of the blueprint behind his work.
“He stops weaving when he feels like it, and sometimes even comes back to it a few years later”, confessed Elsa Puharré.
Although his most recent works appear to be more ‘complete’, giving the impression that the knot may soon be tied.