Pink Ore of Patience, 2008, pink marble and plastic, dimensions variable
My Tongue in your Eye, 2009, transparent gelatin sheets, paper dots, 71 x 81 cm
The works of the French artist Lionel Estève are situated at the intersection of drawing, sculpture and installation. He is born in Lyon but lives in Brussels for more than 20 years. His first remarkable creations appeared on the art market in the late 90s of last century. Those were extremely small works which consisted of complex buttons, embroidery and interwoven colored threads, often associated with cigarette paper collages. The tiny sculptures or reliefs, called 'insect nests' by the artist, were made behind the reception desk of an hotel where Estève was night watchman. The clandestine production of small, barely visible creations in simple materials, forms the base of his later work. The use of fine materials, as thread, plastic beads, straws and other small items still characterize his work. Now they make part of a large imaginative universe of mini planets. Also well-known are the very fine and multicolored wire constructions that unfold as complex polychrome tree constructions based on a line. Colorful flip books, lotus flowers and delicate hand-embroidered leaves are also a surprising part of the imaginary world of the artist.
In the creations of Estève the association with nature and the living is striking. This special relationship is also visible in Pink Ore of Patience of 2008. For generations family members of Estève resided in a small village of the Drôme Provençale. In this French region the artist prepares his works. Later he gives them form and finish them in his studio. For example he collects stones, rounded by rolling in the fluent water during a long time. In the studio of the artist the stones get a 'second skin'. Sometimes they are put in an installation that represents the bed of a river. Estève paints the stones over to the same extent, as if they were still lying in the water. Often he wraps them in a net of cotton, nylon or metallic plastic threads as in 'Pink Ore of Patience'. The knotted web reminisces of fishnet stockings or the structure of a the geodetic dome that was invented and popularized by the American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). The dome has the shape of a sphere or a ball which consists of a complicated set of triangles. With a lot of patience and simple materials Estève combines the natural and the geometric in a poetic entity. The artist says "With two simple materials such as stones and a thread I try to create brilliance, the veines of a new ore, unknown until now". To the hardness of the stone he adds the softness of the sparkling small web. By this delicate effect Estève upgrades the banal inventively and lifts up the entire work to a higher aesthetic level with very limited resources.
In My Tongue in your Eye of 2009 Estève expresses his fascination for bright colors and ordinary objects. Once his favorite color was yellow, a lucky charm for him that materialized his desires. Now he prefers pink with a rich range of tones. Remarkable is that the artist often uses materials that are already colored, as in this work. He uses craft works for children that generate creativity and that the artist reinterprets. Hundreds of bright pink gelatin leaves depict the tongue showing various stickers that remind the iris and the pupil of an eye. They attract the attention of the public. Many stickers, which always placed differently on the leaves seem to move. Human beings have a remarkable ability to communicate by moving the eyes. The rolling of the eyes and the tensioning of the tongue is also an automatic reaction of the body when it is trying to gain access to forgotten or concealed information. This leads to a more rapid state of consciousness. It is more difficult to think with a relaxed tongue. Some people even are stabbing their tongue if they concentrate hard. Lionel Estève plays with space, color and sensory perceptions. Although his projects are autonomous they have one characteristic in common: the low degree of difficulty of the techniques associated to the perfection of the creation that was realized with a lot of patience. His cheerful, colourful works, with an occasional touch of humour, is refreshing for the mind and body.
"I see my artworks as something mental. I hope they come alive in the same way in the minds of the public. I don't expect people to understand, but I want my work to lighten their spirits. From the start, I've worked on 'projects', not linked to a continuous discourse, but as disconnected entities. I define a certain work or a certain exhibition as a whole in relation to an environment, a context, my wishes. That gives me a great deal of freedom in terms of aims, media and attitude" Lionel Estève
Text: Myriam Geurts, December 2016