Ask Morgana 168: Alex Varenne
Alex Varenne (1939-) is a French erotic artist. His style is very minimalist – think Roy Lichtenstein reduced even further, with flat, matt surfaces in black, white, and a handful of basic colours – yet another artist who teases us with the question “What is the field and what is the object?” We can never be sure what is positive and what is negative.
There are things I like and dislike about Varenne’s work. One thing I do like, as you know, is references in one artist’s work to the work of another. These are sly nods to us, by an artist, to tell us we share a cultural background. For example, (1) below looks as though a coy, modern model has been superimposed on a Gaugin painting – and yes, there is Gaugin’s name where you would expect Varenne’s! Image (3) is clearly the Three Graces. Image (8) is a surprising one, Varenne at his most impressionistic has paid tribute, surely, to Walter Sickert’s ‘Camden Town Murder, or, What Shall We Do For The Rent?’ (original, right).
What I don’t like about Varenne’s work is how the minimalist approach sometimes robs a picture of its eroticism, no matter how explicit the subject matter. Anyhow, an interesting artist, so judge for yourselves.
Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.