Lokis: Denis Savary

4 November - 22 December 2016 Galerie Maria Bernheim | Zurich

For his first solo exhibition at Galerie Maria Bernheim, Denis Savary directs the dance of the imposing fiberglass bears. The large sculptures saturate and color the space, completely open to the street. The windows become animal scenes as much as they are abstract paintings. Owing to the repeating effect of fragments of forms, deployment of colors and attention to detail, scale dissolves, the sculptures become tschotske that one finds antiquing. Once again, by playing a game of references and conscious system of motifs, the artist pulls banality out of our communal dreams.

The title of the exhibition is reference to a fantasy novel written by Prosper Mérimée in 1869. The narrator witnesses the murder of a woman to the fangs of what likely appears to be, a Baltic Count: fruit of forbidden and violent love between his mother and a bear. This short story is entitled "Lokis", the "lick", Lithuanian nickname given to bear. More than this literary reference; it is its strange familiarity and proximity, as evidenced by the title of the Mérimée text that interested Denis Savary. Special ties seem, indeed, to unite us all with the massive plantigrades, as many researchers have pointed out, or at least in the case of any of us living in a part of the world remote enough from the equator to be colonized. Folkloric practices, ancestral beliefs, traditional motifs and even millennial fears can testify to this assessment.

Here is the ice floe. Colors (pink, blue, emerald green, white), the play on transparencies, all contribute to lead us in the icy regions. Even the curious perception of a void that the visitor feels although surrounded by several very large bears. One begins to project oneself into the violent white finesse of these animals apparently so peaceful, that once on their hind legs, indulge in frightful fights. These moments were transformed in recurring motifs by Inuit sculpture. But even more than offering an adjusted version to the dimensions of the contemporary and transfused of precise knowledge of modern sculpture, Denis Savary has gone besides the Dancing Bears to excavate them, to produce shells, clothes, sheaths. The bear or bears become masks, but also architectures. They seem tall enough to transport us, transforming themselves into potential crafts, to which the sculptures borrow their fabrication technique. By a brutal tilting effect, the otherworldliness becomes accessible.

Here, as always, the artist successfully turns the pattern upside down to remind us that first of all, art is a mirror whose reflection opens a world to be dreamt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Samuel Gross