Pascal Barbe, the primitive men take the underground and occupy the museum.
They are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2024.
Exhibition from 17 February to 26 May 2024
Pascal Barbe (born in 1957 in Bruay-en-Artois) is a unique artist who, since the 1980s, has been a leading figure of the regional art scene. His pictorial work often bears a resemblance to contemporary expressionism, close to its Flemish roots or resonating with certain German likenesses: a painting that listens to the world. He staged an exhibition
at the Poznan Museum, Poland in 1987, at the Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland in 1991, at the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris in 1997 (The Earth Evaporates) and in 2015 at the Kunstmuseum in Thun, Switzerland. During his childhood, marked by a close relationship with his grandfather, the future artist was fascinated by shadow theatre plays which, from 1974, took over his work with his so-called “bonhommes” (primitive men), “icons of our European tribe that he uses to evoke poetic archetypes in a very concise way. Whether in ink or oil, flat or three-dimensional, these matchstick characters are an intimate and permanent part of Pascal Barbe’s world and convey the iconic graphic expression of his creative, political and humanist message. In 2000, they were brought to life in an animated film, called The apple and the butterfly. After having “tattooed” his permanent primitive men on the walls of the FRAC in Dunkerque, he exhibited them in 1992 in a church in Tarn. The architect Jean-Claude Burdèse noticed them and suggested that the artist integrate them into his project for the Charles de Gaulle metro station in Roubaix. This permanent installation is, without doubt, the most compelling artistic intrusion of the vast construction project of a new underground line which, in 1999, substantially changed the links between the agglomeration of the Nord and its industrial counterpart. More than just a decorative feature, this project, despite some budgetary cuts, stands out as a genuine visual work of art that gives structure to the site for which it is intended and, in the public space, it mirrors the passengers with a generous outpouring of figures that reflect their own silhouettes, attitudes, moods, etc.
In 2019, Pascal Barbe suggested that the Roubaix museum offer him all of the original preparatory drawings for his creation and the reflected versions of the poems (the artist has a beautiful mastery of writing both upside down and the right way up, and often signs his works from right to left!) which accompany them. It is the vitality of this superb grouping which is being revealed today, bringing to the museum the alternative aspect of a work dedicated to passers-by in the city.
Commission: Bruno Gaudichon, head curator and Pascal Barbe.
Catalogue published for the exhibition
The design was made possible thanks to generous support from the paints distributed by Tollens.
Private viewing Friday 16 February 2024 from 6pm
This exhibition evoking the importance of art in the city is also included in the 2024 programme of the URBX festival that was initiated by the Roubaix town hall.
This exhibition is generously supported by the CGC, Compagnie Générale de Construction, a member of the “Cercle des Entreprises Patrons de La Piscine” (circle of business patrons of La Piscine)
Key: Pascal Barbe, La Fissure-Le Passage. 1992-1995. 141 drawings,
Indian ink on paper, 141 poems, 141 mirror poems.
29.7 x 42 cm. 26.6 x 26.5 cm. 29.7 x 42 cm.
La Piscine – musée d’art et d’industrie André Diligent (André Diligent art and Industry Museum) Donation of the artist in 2020.