Since January 10, the Fondation Zinsou has been hosting an exceptional exhibition in Ouidah of some twenty works by Jérémy Demester. « Gros Câlin » is an ode to life, a representation of the link between the visible and invisible worlds, a journey into the artist’s perception of Vodoun. All the works were created in Ouidah, where Jeremy Demester now lives.

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The first thing that strikes you when you discover the works in the exhibition is this maelstrom of colors that transports you. The pictorial work of Jérémy Demester attempts to recompose a language of sensitive and simple forms whose profoundly human substance and instinctive gestures can be guessed, like those composite representations that are fetishes. Object, image, animal, or person; the fetish is a vector of creation by the process of progressive abstraction of itself. For the artist: « the construction of a fetish is not only the part of the endogenous cults of Benin, it is present in all civilizations », and it is for him « the key to the integration and the intellection of the invisible in the visible in the same object ». Work after work, the visitor feels carried away on a journey within himself, wondering about his link with nature and spirits.

« Gros Câlin » is first of all the title of a novel by Romain Gary (Emile Ajar) whose protagonist is a man, victim of an overly individualistic society that finds love in no one but a python. The python, it should be remembered, is a sacred animal in Ouidah. The link was too obvious not to be seen and Jeremy Demester grasped it all too well. With Gros Câlin, it is the place we occupy in the world that is being questioned. A world that loses its roots, that forgets the invisible, yet so present in our daily lives. Several other literary works will emulate the artist to offer us the paintings and sculptures that make up the exhibition.

Art and the sacred: the inseparable parts of Jeremy Demester

Jeremy Demester’s work is essentially based on spirituality, the sacred. The painter probes the experience through intuition. It is his guide, encourages astonishment to assurance and pushes the artist to approach the impossible. Jeremy himself will describe his creative process in three stages. First, he invites painting on canvas through « the temple ». This step is a very simple, minimalist work that defines the architecture of the work. Then comes « the monstra », that moment, according to the artist, when the painting is of absolute difficulty. It is this sidereal blackness that cannot be reached. It’s a little bit like the labyrinth of the brain, something that must be absolutely overcome. At this stage, the painter reveals that he absolutely cannot let the work be seen. When, at last, the painting works by itself and it is no longer he (Jeremy, editor’s note) but his hand that paints, he considers that he has moved on to the « astra ». It is there that painting takes its final turn to finally reach the public.

We realize in this description of all the spiritual dimension that the artist gives to his work. It is the work that guides him, that takes its rightful place. When we analyze the various works of the artist, we are even more confronted with his relationship with spirituality, through the representations he makes of his understanding of life, the past, customs and cultures. The young painter does not pursue a path paved with anecdotes but seeks the paths through the true essence of reality. His work appears plural, heterogeneous and changing.

From France to Ouidah

Born in France in 1988, Jérémy Demester is a graduate of the Ecole Supérieure d’Art des Rocailles in Biarritz and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was awarded the jury’s congratulations and the Prix des Amis des Beaux-Arts in 2015. He has participated in group exhibitions such as « Ciel d’éther » at the Brownstone Foundation in Paris, « Minéral » at the Max Hetzler Gallery in Paris in 2015 and « Demester/Deprez/Föll/Grosvenor/Simon » at the Max Hetzler Gallery in Berlin in 2016. His work has also been the subject of solo exhibitions: « Empora » at the ENSBA, Paris in 2014, « Original Zeke » at the Zinsou Foundation in Cotonou, Benin in 2015, and in the project room of the Galerie Art & Essai of the University of Rennes II.

Five years ago, in the context of a residency at the Fondation Zinsou, Jérémy Demester set foot for the first time in Ouidah. After having collected and studied many oral myths of the gypsy community, he undertook this journey to the cradle of Voodoo in order to understand the links of imaginative power between Vodoun societies and traveling peoples. It was love at first sight and, after the OUIDAH exhibition in 2020 at the Max Hetzler Gallery which brings together the works created during the residency, he returns to settle permanently in Benin, his country of heart and adoption. « Gros Câlin » is the crystallization of this so particular love for Ouidah. The exhibition assembles and orders the visions of a painter who places his intuition at the center of his work, considering this faculty as a mental technology that modern man is barely experimenting with.

The artist also participates until April 2021 in a group exhibition, « Resonances », at the Opal Foundation in Lens.


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