Since 1987, Francis Baudevin has been producing a referential form of geometrical abstraction. He postulates that it is impossible to create even abstract art without referring to preexisting images, if only involuntarily. Each of his works faithfully repeats the forms and colours, as well as the proportions of a composition derived from a logo, packaging or record cover, removing the words and considerably enlarging what remains. Sometimes, the title of the resulting work alludes to its origins but usually the reference is manifest only in the formal elements repeated by the artist.
This approach reflects the omnipresence of blocks of colour and the language of geometry in our visual environment, but also the endless possibilities of the abstract repertoire, despite its limited vocabulary. It also bears witness to the way different forms of abstract art, particularly concrete art, have influenced graphics (Baudevin has worked as a designer in that field, as did Max Bill, the chief proponent of concrete art). In this sense, he is taking forms back to their origins. Finally, the artist shows how deeply advertising images penetrate our memory; it is not unusual for his images to cause a feeling of déjà-vu.
Sans titre (Talens) is typical of Baudevin’s work. Four quadrilaterals are fitted into a white rectangle, two are a light grey colour and two an orangish red. One of the red squares has a large grey-white circle cut out of it. This small grid contains a maximum number of oppositions (of colour, shapes and sizes). The painting is applied in as neutral a fashion as possible, with no trace of brushstrokes, no detectable gesture. Voided of the original typography, the composition now appears as an image, asserting its uniqueness against the multiplicity of Royal-Talens products– supplier of fine arts materials–, for which it was first created.
Lionel Bovier (ed.), Francis Baudevin. Miscellaneous Abstract, exh. cat. Geneva, Société des Arts, Zurich, JRP Ringier, 2009.
Julie David, Frank Lamy et alii, Francis Baudevin. Accounting Fundamentals for Non Financial Executives, exh. cat. Vitry-sur-Seine, MAC/VAL – Musée d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne, 2007.
Valérie Mavridorakis, Catherine Perret et alii, Peter Kogler, Stéphane Dafflon, Francis Baudevin, exh. cat. Nice, Villa Arson, 2002.