"The mystical theatre of life of Philippe Aïni"

by Nina Zivancevic, for New-York Arts Magazine.

The tree - 2002 - Created in New-York

What can be said about an artist who has already (aged 50) achieved more than 10000 lyrical works, either in painting, or in sculpture and "functional" design which some like to call "environmental installation"? One could say that he is remarkably prolific while others would state that Philippe Aïni remains deeply human in whatever artistic enterprise he undertakes. This self-taught, intelligent French and international artist started painting highly caricatural, visionary portraits at the age of 22. He had justly observed at the time that something was wrong with the world he lived in and so turned to his prophetic, expressionist dreams wherein humanoids ruled the planet and from time to time coupled while at times raising their animistic figure to the visual level of the fallen Christ's who deserved to be resurrected. Sometimes this Godlike creature turned to be the erotic image of a woman, and sometimes would appear just as a dismembered corpse as in his painting "Unijambiste".

There were times when the artist did not even know that he was a creator and maddened with rage would tear up "the stuff the dreams were made of", that is to say, his mattress, in order to take the stuffing out and make sculptures of it. And sometimes the rage was even greater and would then take Aïni on numerous journeys elsewhere to the realm of totems and aboriginees which enriched his work with dramatic expressions that we find in his aboriginal figures such as his first sculpture from a voyage entitled "Camel". Some of these creatures he would paint with bright colors, and some of them - especially as seen in his earlier work - he would paint in monochromatic tones. Almost all of them used to have distorted faces with a very painful expressionistic look on them.

Some of Aïni's bodies, painted or scultured, have a sacrificial, mystical look about them as if they came straight from the larger theater of life symbolised in early Christianity. They are there to evoke a religious ritual, an eckstatic moment of life or a spiritual epiphany which was boen in the street but later ascended to heaven lit by that particular northern light which we find in the structure of French gothic cathedrals. The artist has said of his humanoid sculptures the following:

"I have already seen them as divinities - either as Gods or Godesses and I myself have made them the way Lord creates men: there is a mould (skeleton) to which I add plaster (flesh) and then color them (use painting as their proper skin)."

During the last five minutes of his "divine" creation Aïni undergoes the state of epiphany - he himself believes that he has become the Almighty Creator and tries to "fill out the distance between the easel and his work". His bronze sculptures, smaller in size, speak of softness and incredible formal tenderness like the sculpture "Je t'aime" where the artist through the act of love tries to escape the basic rules of living and dying.

The old man that does - 2002 - Created in New-York
The indisposed - 2002 - Created in New-York

Most of his recent work is large in size and there are figures holding hands, coupling through the serpentine Kundalini movements or delivering each other in clusters, sometimes 6 meters tall and indomitable in spirit. At times, they are just "humans" in long processions and placed on ancient columns like on his 1994 tower entitled "Modesty". These heroic masks filled out with various expressions of life are always to be found in deeply human situations somewhat pushed to the extreme where they act out that theater of life that leaves little space for calm and quiet conteplation. Aïni's women speak of nights filled with fresh sex and lower forms of erotica - they are existencial Madonnas who seduced a local priest and failed to get baptized. His men play joyful songs of life with tragic accents - they are ancient Dyonisian musicians who mistook their penis for a flute and made Death danse to the melodies of their songs. In this particular aspect, Aïni approaches the medieval artist who sings his own song to No One using a pictorial language which is highly idiosyncratic, and, yes, of that French origin which has been enriching the course of Primitive art for ages.

Despite of all, due to the fact that Philippe Aïni fills contemporary space, where the art market as well as the customers commercially significative, do turn Divine image into Duchampesques "pissoirs", this serious artist also decided to approach the already mentionned turnover with humor and irony.

The false payers for money and material comfort dedicated to modern idols (false as well) that he transforms in real bathrooms making toilets, bathtubs and washbasins looking like human bodies on which it is easy to sit, easy to clean although hard to forget and to digest. Philippe Aïni's less monumental work (paintings, sculptures, painted corsets and masks) is on permanent view in the Parisian gallery "les Singuliers" but this exceptionally gifted dreamer will show his art in New-York city as well in a group show called "The Outsider's art fair" which is scheluded for the last week of January 2002.