Pops: Benoît Paré / Cartoon Art Gallery, to 16 Jul


Benoît Paré has a broad CV that takes in graphics, stage design, murals and portraits. He’s also a teacher of art in Athens, the city where he finished his art education and subsequently settled. But he’s best known for his comic-derived pop art; his work is spangled with Marvel references, not to mention Tintin, Betty Boop, and Disney  (especially the early characters).

Pare_80x80aThese are what he calls his Pops style, hinting at an alternative world that seems full of vibrant colours and maybe childhood memories. True, there’s often the hint of danger or threat; but it’s not the quotidian fears of modern living, and it’s certainly not the grey drudgery that represents the experience of so many people.

You could read something quite heavy into a nightclub scene presided over by the Vache Qui Rit with the three little pigs pawing (trottering?) the scantily clad hostesses. But it works much better as an uncomplicated joke featuring a catalogue of familiar images in incongruous situations.

Similarly, you might find a somewhat unsubtle message in his depiction of giant females bestriding the city or blocking the traffic. But these aren’t the fierce, threatening women of a maochistic not-very-subconscious; it’s more likely to be an expression of affirmation or approval, albeit of a vampish 1940s heroine.

QuelquechoseSometimes though the style delivers more of a punch. Il est cinq heures. Paris s’éveille … is a cityscape featuring the Eiffel Tower and a geometric skyline, the whole presented in the flat comic style but with wild almost fauvist colours. But there’s no comicbook superrealism here; it’s all artifice, blocked out in striking but non-natural colours. We all think we know Paris, from tourism or novels or juist the fairydust of shared perception. But that’s not real; and neither is Paré’s depiction. He’s giving us an alternatively artificial Paris, one that has as much validity as our dreamworld Paris.

The precision of his work, the care he takes with colours, the highly graphic quality inherent in this style all make him a very accessible artist. Benoît Paré’s world can be an interesting place to be.

Pops opens on 9 July and runs for just a week.

More (though not much more) here.

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