After the Deluge -The Return of the Inner-Directed Artist
I first conceived this essay while attending the exhibition of paintings by the French-born artist Jacques Roch at ExitArt over a year and a half ago. What struck me about Roch’s paintings was a quality of directness that had some link to André Breton’s notion of psychic automatism. It was the quality that Breton himself once articulated in relation to the early paintings of Joan Miro. What is this quality? One might describe it as a kind of visual play on language, or, perhaps, the dissembling of language by by way of visual play, the irrevocable linkage to the unconscious that emits a certain directness of sensibility, a certain memory that is buried deep, beyond conscious, visible recognition. Roch’s paintings left me with that impression. They were playful, but at the same time seriously involved in concretising a vision or gesture that could have easily slipped fromconsciousness. With Roch’s paintings, the brilliant color and pervasive gestural dots had a courageous resonance about them. Why these dots? Purely decorative? I think not, though I once considered it. The figures are naive in one sense, yet they are also mysteriously ecstatic and assured. I look at Roch the way I look at Miro from the mid-twenties or the way I read Isidore Ducasse at his most absurd - or, for that matter, the way I read Verlaine or Rimbaud. The gesture isnot exactly an indelible one, but a sustaining effect, a dramatisation of the absurd.
What was so refreshing about Jacques Roch? Why did these paintings give me pause at the end of the eighties? There is a certainty and a levity about these works that utterly transcend the heavy-handed trendiness and cynicism and political correctness so endemic to au courant gallery shows during the last decade. This exemplary series of visual recognitions is about a journey between the frames of the conscious and the unconscious, a journey not foreign to the voyagers of French Symbolism, including the highly imaginative longings and descriptive phantasmagoria of Raymond Roussel. Rich is an original in spite of his obvious link to his Surrealist past. He is an original at the demise of postmodernism’s denial of originality. He does not admit or even profess originality, yet neither does he profess simulation or cynicism. Roch’s paintings have a literary bent. By this I mean they evoke narrative sensations through the imagination more than they illustrate a preconceived idea. It is the kind of journey that opens the mind to the consideration of sensory input as a mode of cognition. It is a journey that is both intense and relaxed in its assemblage of parts - like the best poetry. It is an art that resonates not with expression so much as a necessity of being, of trying to purge the conscious world of its frightful and mundane detritus and to rejuvenate the mind as a sensory source of pleasure. Yes, why not? Roch;s imagery evokes in me a sense of visual hedonism, a delight in the senses.
Robert C. Morgan, extract from After the Deluge - Essays on Art in the Nineties