|Erik Desmazières is considered to be one of the finest living printmakers of his generation. He chooses principally to use the traditional techniques of the etched print, but also demonstrates that he is equally adept at drawing and painting. With these masterful works, what he refers to as his graphic autobiography, he builds tension in an ordinary still life; uses odd perspectives to quietly unnerve; and creates troubling fantasy worlds that seem all too real. Equally seductive are the imaginatively mischievous subtexts that alternately amuse and perplex.|
Desmazières’ distinctive style is one that astonishes by combining brilliant old-world drafting prowess with an uncanny ability to see things as others don’t. Though clearly inspired by old masters such as Rembrandt and Piranesi, and influenced by the satirical wit of Bosch and Goya, he makes a very personal statement with his impossible architectural perspectives rendered somehow believable. His technical precision in etching, aquatint, and roulette—mostly self-taught—affirms his reinvention of reality and space. Not surprisingly, he briefly considered becoming an architect.
Desmazières defines himself as a contemporary artist even though he looks to works of the past. As he has said, “the printmaking techniques of etching are certainly old but their possibilities seem infinite.” For him, printmaking remains a means of contemporary expression, and as such is always current. “To that should be added the pleasure of drawing, the direct use of one’s hand to create an image: cultivating such a pleasure is a way of attempting to remember the passing of time.”
Erik Desmazières: Infinite Perspectives, explores the artist’s dramatic manipulation—and often kaleidoscopic interpretation—of space, as if seen through a skewed lens, or perhaps a magnifying glass. This exhibition is developed thematically, as the artist’s own inspirations have developed from the imagined world to the real world. Desmazières created his own mesmerizing world in La Grande Bataille (II) (1978), with dueling terrestrial war machines looming over a battlefield of soldiers. At first glance, Intérieur, rue Payenne (1986) appears to be an accurately detailed study of a typical French interior; but the multiple perspectives and sightlines that both confuse and draw us in, depict all four walls at once. And finally, with Le Magasin de Robert Capia (2008), the artist comes full-circle depicting the interior of a famed Parisian antique shop, while seeming completely otherworldly in a worldly moment.
Desmazières has been honored with retrospectives at the Rembrandthuis Museum (Amsterdam, 2004-05), the Musée Carnavalet (Paris, 2006-07), the Museo della Grafica (Pisa, 2009), the Telfair Museum, (Savannah, 2009), and currently the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, 2009-10). He is also president of the prestigious Société des Peintres Graveurs Français, and was further recognized on October 14th 2009, with his election to the Académie des Beaux-Arts de l’Institut de France.
In an introduction to the artist’s show at the Musée Jenisch (Vevey, Switzerland, 2004 -5), curator Lauren Laz writes: “Fantasy is not a passing fancy for Erik Desmazières, but on the contrary, a carefully thought-out transportation of assorted elements, drawn from reality and the art of the old masters, to establish a very personal dialogue between tradition and innovation.”
Whether he is working from real or imagined settings, with or without human or whimsically grotesque figures, this soft-spoken French diplomat’s son has a knack for making things look normal in a clearly abnormal world.
Other sources of this essay include:
Desmazières, Erik. “Interview with Erik Desmazières.” Bernard Levy, translated by Oliver Haeffely. The Fantastical World of Erik Desmazières. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, September 2009.
Fitch, Andrew, ed. Erik Desmazières: Etchings. Vol. 1-3. New York City: Fitch-Febvrel Gallery.
Maggioni, Laura, ed. Les Lieux Imaginaires D’ Erik Desmazières. Translated by Lauren Laz and Christine Le Bœuf. 5 Continents Editions, Milan; Musée Jenisch Vevey, 2007.
McGowan, Courtney. Constructs and Inventions: The Etchings of Erik Desmazières. Savannah, GA: Telfair Museum of Art, 2009.
Mirandette, Marie Claude. “Erik Desmazières: From Tradition to Innovation.” Translated by Oliver Haeffely. The Fantastical World of Erik Desmazières. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, September 2009.