From November 17, 2022 to January 24, 2023, the SLOW Galerie presents the exhibition "L'Heure Bleue" by Jean Mallard, a young virtuoso and rising figure in French illustration. Inspired by a road trip to Sicily in 2021, this vast and generous exhibition brings together some forty unpublished watercolors, all done between 2021 and 2022, and whose execution took more than a year.
Jean is 24 years old, each drawing is a visual "safe place", a mental refuge, he signs this exhibition, like the imprint of a generation that needs to feel better and to be free, but also needs to give back a little thickness to time, to life, in a world in perpetual acceleration.
In search of the "Safe Place
If Jean Mallard's work is not political, it echoes a generation, the exhibition offers itself as a pilgrimage of this "safe place": we wander in an elsewhere not really defined where everyone can project themselves, the places look like mirages, the time stretches, at the border of the dream.
The work "Cinema en plein air" is emblematic: it represents a crowd of peaceful people, on a vast lawn in contemplation in front of the scene of the film Brazil by Terry Gilliam where the hero dreams that he flies above the clouds and escapes from a consumerist world, anxious and depressing...
L'heure bleue is the nostalgia of a day that we leave, always haunted by the passing of time, but it is also the door to another world, with uncertain contours, where forms merge, where everything seems possible as "wandering in the blue gardens, greeting the night birds.
The blue hour is the "safe place" that Jean Mallard has chosen, it is the moment when the birds are singing the loudest, when the flowers are fragrant before the night falls, it is the moment when Jean feels the intoxication of a certain form of freedom, that of letting himself be caught up in the world of the night, calm, silent, secret, soothed, letting himself be swallowed up by the darkness and gliding like a cat through the sleepy streets of Palermo.
Sublimating the city
Jean Mallard has a special relationship with cities. He likes them popular and cosmopolitan, like Paris, Naples or Marseille, but he also deeply feels the need to get away from them, to flee the crowd, and to recharge his batteries in solitude. The artist offers us a panoramic vision of a life divided between extreme solitude in a lush and beautiful nature, and festive or convivial moments in the heart of the city. As in the drawing entitled "San Benedetto watches over the street children": this is Palermo, the past transpires at every corner, we see a beautiful and poignant old gutted fresco, near a garbage dump, at the foot of which children are playing soccer, in perfect carefreeness, completely disconnected from the remains of the past. Time is also an important element of this exhibition, time that decays things while magnifying them. Sublimating the passing of time, sublimating these faded cities, sublimating Palermo which remains beautiful without doing so on purpose, without cheating.
Watercolor, against the grain
Jean Mallard's signature are his vivid colors and his beautiful gradations that he works in the manner of an oil glaze: several layers are superimposed so that the colors blend together, from the lightest to the darkest. It is a very long and slow way of working with watercolor, which in essence is more of a quick gesture.
It is precisely this counter-use and technical precision that form all the richness of the works of this young artist. From the paper that he works to obtain a totally flat surface (the paper is bathed in cold water, then dried stretched on a wooden frame), to the finely selected pigments, Jean Mallard leaves nothing to chance. He is as interested in the support as in the material in order to appropriate watercolor in a unique way. Very focused on his colors, he makes them himself, using pigments and gum arabic. This artisanal fabrication allows him to obtain a range of "made to measure" colors, particularly luminous and intense.
A few lines of Bio
Jean Mallard was born in Paris in 1997. Fan of Moebius' comics and Miyazaki's films, he quickly fell in love with drawing, and decided to never part with it again, Jean draws "to retranscribe his vision of the world, and always remain turned towards others." A graduate of the École des Arts Décoratifs de Paris, which he joined in 2015, he learns comic books, cartoons, silkscreening and engraving.
His favorite techniques are watercolor and gouache, which have accompanied him since childhood, and with which he works to create infinite worlds open to all. He creates his universe inspired by popular Russian painters, Arab and Indian miniatures, Japanese prints, Haitian painters, Bruegel and Douanier Rousseau ...He leaves to live in Naples in 2019, where he realizes a series of illustrations that will give birth to his very first exhibition at the SLOW Gallery "Via Miracoli" in April 2020. His drawings have been selected at the Bologna Illustration Fair in 2018 and 2020, as well as at Angouleme in 2019. He received the Grand Award in Bologna in 2018.