ANGLE contemporary art, with the collaboration of the Museum of Tricastine Archaeology, presents the exhibition: En Reserve that brings together Abdelkader Benchamma and Arnaud Vasseux. Although coming from two different practices – drawing for the first and sculpture for the latter – they join together on their respective questions about and with matter.
For this exhibition Abdelkader Benchamma presents some of the original drawings of his book “Random” (co-edition L’Association, Agnes b., FRAC Auvergne, 2014). These drawings, hitherto very little presented and tracing six years of the artist’s work, plunge us into evocations of the Big Bang, a primitive broth or the transformation of matter. This narrative made up of a methodical assemblage of autonomous and interdependent sequences drags us from telluric universe to air, cheats us with effects of scales, loses us in a hesitation between the beginning and the apocalypse. This unpremeditated randomness of creation gives rise to forms which themselves give birth to other forms in a permanent abyss. This seemingly confusing narrative allows the drawing to express itself in a cosmic explosion. But this strange curiosity is also at the crossroads between the artist’s vision and the most current scientific theories in a nod to the ancient illustrated encyclopedias.
Arnaud Vasseux proposes to experience a physical and material relationship to the memory and history of the site of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. What is brought together and created on the occasion of this exhibition refers to what lies beneath our feet, what we sometimes do not know, broken objects, ancient soils or even the galleries and holes dug by men on generations in the soil of the nearby hill. Here and today, we live and move by putting pressure on the traces and remnants of this past rich in architecture, art and exceptional craftsmanship. This “crush” characterizes one of our uses of the history of the place, that of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux which was the privileged site of a long lithic history from more than 4,500 years until the First World War. The vegetation now covers the quarry site, the traces are slowly fading; oblivion and erosion encourage us to react in sculpture with what remains, what is preserved and studied by some of this history. It is not a question of considering our history as a linear thread, but rather of considering its back and forth, the survivals, the cycles. The objects, sculptures and interventions in this exhibition demonstrate a contemporary approach to archaeology, understood as a science and as a practice, through new connections and in reconciliations designed specifically for elements borrowed from the Museum of Tricastine Archaeology.
For “En Réserve”, both artists explore the scientific field and propose their perception of the metamorphosis and evolution of matter and materials over time.
Arnaud Vasseux: Showcase 1 (at the corner of the street): Untitled, 2019 – Total rubbing of a stone/martyr at the lead mine on paper. Career saw, tricastine archaeology museum. Showcase 2 (higher up the street): Untitled, 2019. Partial rubbing of a stone/”martyr” at the lead mine on paper. Two-round quarry saw, tricastine archaeology museum
Rubbing is a technique commonly used in archaeology to make surface surveys and engravings. Here, it is a stone/martyr that served as a support as its original function which is to be placed under another stone to allow it to be cut. Through the hatching at the lead mine, it is a question of finding the lines and traces of separation of the material produced by the saws of the quarry.
The tool, on the other hand, is presented in majesty in the window, object of an invisible activity, it is shown here as best as possible. The rubbing on paper gives another more precarious materiality that affirms what fades and disappears from the collective memory.
Arnaud Vasseux: “Tapis de dépose” (deposit mat), 2019 – Tinted and armed acrylic resin. Quarry Corner, Tricastine Museum of Archaeology.
This sculpture at the entrance to the exhibition combines a very used quarry corner (museum collection) and a cast of a rubber mat (also called “foot scratcher”). The doormat marks the threshold of a house and the passage from the outside to the inside. Far from being a noble object, it is to be re-considered here in several ways. At first, it was perceived for its resonances with the mosaic. The grid pattern and thickness recall the tesselles of the old mosaics as well as the technique to remove them from their support when you want to keep them. This state of the mosaic separated from its original floor is called a “deposit mat”. The operation also requires the placement of metal bars to separate the mosaic from its bed of lime. On the other hand, we remember the name of the architect of a building but not that of the quarrymen or stonemasons (who sign by engraving a mark as can be seen in the cathedral of this commune). This arduous and anonymous manual work, linked to the matter of the soil and precisely here to its hardness, remains little considered today, as the invention of concrete has changed our perception of architecture and stone constructions (paradoxically erected as a model and value in our provence so dear). Is it because we generally have little regard for what we are walking on, the nature of the soil, or the pressure we put on buried remains? Presented in the lobby of the Angle Gallery, this flat work contrasts with the usual conception of sculpture, which is that the work is erected or erected. The work draws attention to the notion of human scale that runs through each of the works designed for the exhibition.
Arnaud Vasseux: “Test d’angle” (Corner test), 2019 – Colorful molasse, loan from for Mr. Pierre Laye.
Used for a test of color and kindly loaned by Mr. Pierre LAYE, a former stonemason who lives in Saint-Restitut, this corner stone is placed from the entrance of the exhibition to adapt to the interior space of the gallery. Without any intervention other than displacement and its placement, its discreet presence operates in the manner of a prosaic object like the doormat that precedes it. Stone is everywhere but it does not always show the work it involves. The angle is also the name of the place and often the mark of stonemasons (the compass). When you cut a stone, you need to know the cutting angle. At the quarry site, the quarry “gives angle” to the cut block waiting for loading to facilitate its movement. Revealing the angle also means considering the portions of the space that one observes the least.
room, ground floor
Arnaud Vasseux: Bloc (Cassable), 2019- Partially armed plaster, Polystyrene. Rail and wagonnet, tricastine museum of archaeology.
Of this long and prestigious activity of the neighbouring quarries, only these elements testify to the layout of the site and the means to move the blocks out of the quarry. The museum is the only one today to retain these elements of the railway network.
The white shape promises to be the ghost of a block but it is also the volume of a crate that would protect the very used wagon. The white cube evokes as much the format of the blocks of stone at noon as the appearance of contemporary art spaces, also called “White Cube”. The technique and material used allow accidents to appear and the block to collapse. This tension highlights the process of disappearance related to the nature of the exhibits, whether utilitarian or artistic. On the move we discover that the block is an open box that contains two Roman-era stone urns both carved from a single block. The numerous tool marks, the cracks and the plaster, the successive failures, all the work done by the stonemasons and by the artist, is made visible.
Arnaud Vasseux –Two careers, 2019, Plâtre
Casting of a bas-relief of the funeral tower of Saint-Restitut – museum of tricastine archaeology
Present in the more distant past, a self-representation dating from the Middle Ages and rather rare shows two quarrys carving a block of stone. Placed close to the corner of the funeral tower, the cast of this bas-relief is folded here to fit the angle of the high entrance opening. The two sculptures presented in the hall being close to the ground, we pass under this mold without seeing it. It is only on the return that it appears to us. The way it is hung suggests the forgetfulness and inattention so common in our perceptions.
Arnaud Vasseux – Fontaine (Cassable), 2019. Unarmed plaster, cut. Fragment of white marble statue, Tricastine Archaeology Museum
Returning to the stone is the intention that presided over the gestures to present this small fragment of statue found in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. The cut-out reveals the real wall of the old dwelling. The black surface of the wall indicates that it is a chimney duct. The plaster (which is obtained from 99% of gypsum) is deliberately presented in the appearance that best says its change of state (from liquid to solid) projected or poured in successive puddles to remind us of the probable location of the white marble statue within a fountain (note the erosion by water of the character’s leg). However, we can distinguish two feet, a way to affirm our contact with the ground again… so uncertain.
Quinze dessins originaux de « Random », 2014
Arnaud Vasseux – Ionique, 2019. Armed plaster, dye, pigment
This very ordinary model of garbage can is regularly used by the artist during his exhibition montages and for the production of plaster works. A valuable object, apparently dirty, become invisible because it is banal, without history, little considered, it nevertheless retains a paradoxical memory of the past with these grooves inspired by the ion order (style appeared in Asia minor, present-day Turkey and then taken up by the Greeks). Cut, reassembled and then cast from the plaster interior, the survival of this ancient motif rises to the surface.
Arnaud Vasseux: Choses latentes 2019.
Crystal synthetic scaffolding net, gaelic steel cable, broom beam and wooden handle
Sweeping is probably the activity that allows us to understand every nook and cran observation of a space, to measure its extent. Neighbouring the trash can, still present in the premises, the broom also seems devoid of history. The etymology of the word broom is Breton and means broom. In English it also refers to this plant, which is now widespread in the territory and especially in neighbouring quarries where it has proliferated. This variety of broom was used, until recently, by the cantoners who roamed the streets of our cities. Replaced today by a neon green plastic version, from a cast of broom branches, this copy will erase the use of this tough plant presented here in beam as waiting for possible use.
It should be noted that a few kilometers away is the commune of Lapalud, which was the capital of the broom with a dozen factories in operation at the end of the Second World War. This success is due to the cultivation of sorghum, a plant native to Africa, some of which had been reported by a resident of Lapalud.
Dix-huit dessins originaux de « Random », 2014
These drawings were chosen in resonance with the work installed by Arnaud Vasseux.
En réserve 1 (Cassable), 2019
Unarmed plaster, set of three fragments: upper edge of large jar (Le Molard), ammonite (Morel collection), fragment of stone of the South– museum of tricastine archaeology
Plaster construction(Cassable) takes the form of the shelves of the museum’s reserves as well as the arrangement or arrangement of certain elements. The obvious fragility of the construction, and the “lace” appearance at its ends reminiscent of the shape of the corals prolongs the state and the slow process of degradation of these fragments. The assembled and superimposed fragments involuntarily form an image of the history of sedimentary deposits, the ancient presence of the sea (220 million years ago) and the agglomerates and composites used by the civilizations that precede us. Indeed, the stone of the noon is the origin of a sedimentary deposit resulting from the decomposition of marine organic elements. Its very fine white grains make the quality of this rock and the exceptionally horizontal linear deposit, which has so facilitated its extraction, contributed to the success of this stone and the activity of the quarries of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Saint-Restitut.
One guesses two broons (stones used to grind grain) dating from the Neolithic in a grey tray integrated with the projected plaster. Their deaf presence is associated with consideration for the fragmentary and the particulate aspect of matter.
Arnaud Vasseux: Reserve 2 (Cassable), 2019. Unarmed plaster, glass.
Gerbable plastic bin, samples of the rocks used for the mosaic – site Saint-Jeanerdistrict, balsamary melted (1st century BC. J.C), Neolithicbroons, – Tricastine Archaeology Museum
A showcase is made summarily from materials and elements from the collection of the Museum of Archaeology. The glass is sealed by the overturning of plaster puddles freezing. On the left are on their packing bags and inventory number, fragments of stones used to make tesselles for the mosaics of the ancient city. The origin of these colored rocks traces a kind of mapping of the extraction sites that existed on the Mediterranean rim. The “travel” of the stones is suggested by the layout of this showcase.
Between the two crates, two epochs of glass history overlap. We see through the “white” glass (i.e. transparent) from the window of balsamary (antique glass) distorted by the heat of cremation. This bluish hue was common at the time because we did not know how to make glass totally transparent and without bubbles. It was later that glass was developed and especially in the north of France where there is still the largest flat glass factory (Saint-Gobain factories).
On the right, two pebbles whose shape seems natural to non-specialists, are the result of regular use by Neolithic men and women. These pebbles are Broyons, that is, stones that were used to crush grains of grain and turn them into flour. A gesture of transformation by an elementary means to which the artist pays tribute.
Balsamary are small vials filled with essential oils that were thrown into the grave next to the urn containing the ashes of the deceased.
Neuf dessins originaux de « Random »,2014
Recent Artists’ Books
Pièces non balayées, édition Analogues, 2019. Ouvrage monographique disponible en librairie
RANDOM, L’association, 2014. Work available at FRAC AUVERGNE – Clermont – Ferrand.
Arnaud Vasseux would like to thank:
Pablo Garcia, the initiator of this exhibition project, as well as the entire team of Angle Contemporary Art, Didier Talagrand and Chantal.
The Museum of Archaeology Tricastine, and in particular Mylene Lert and Stephanie Falcon.
Mr. Pierre Laye, former stonemason and former quarryman, for his loans. Maxime Sanchez, artist, for his invaluable help and availability during the design and editing of this exhibition supplemented by the no less precious help of Léonor Kohli during the final days of editing.
Texts reproduced with the kind permission of Angle and Arnaud Vasseux.
Find out more about Arnaud Vasseux
Arnaud Vasseux gives a determinant place to phenomena, materials and their handling as a processes that help understanding and sense making.. He considers processes that make forms happen out of materials going through different states, such as plaster, resin, wax or glass. He considers their nature and makes possible those