One of Georges Bataille’s watchwords was : ‘We need system, but we also need excess.’ Is this the approach taken by Stephan Balleux ? We could go on to cite a further Bataille conviction, this time regarding Picasso : ‘the dislocation of forms leads to the dislocation of thought.’
This Bataille observation and its consequences can perhaps cast light on the mind of an artist for whom painting imposes itself as the discipline and material best able to demonstrate, even today, what formal experimentation involves and where it takes us.
Looking at Balleux’s already quite considerable oeuvre, we find a paradigm expressing the mimetic stability of a figure and strategies for altering — ‘disfiguring’ — it. As if what has been the historical basis of painting since the Renaissance has been contradicted, not by the deconstruction of perspective — the work of the twentieth-century avant-garde — but by the inversion of the process towards resemblance, upon which the vanity of painting rested until then.
Stephan Balleux is the child of a century in which gathering images constituted the initial act of creation. As such, although a painter, he has inherited that doubt with regard to painting sown by Marcel Duchamp and deepened by the serial approaches of pop art and conceptual art.
His way of painting starts with a collection of already existing images, whereby he does not ‘paint’ so much as assemble. His real and entire aim as a painter is to disfigure.
Yet this is not mere destruction, commonplace devastation brought about by any bad painting. Indeed there is a sort of paradox in the means Stephan Balleux uses to disfigure an image, with the artist employing his mastery of figuration to disfigure. The symbol of this paradox resides in his strange magma of paint, his ‘blobs,’ as Balleux calls them. Seemingly daubed wildly on the canvas, yet in fact meticulously detailed down to the smallest folds and waves, they are, in my view, emblematic of his whole painterly oeuvre.