Making pictures with seashells is practised in every maritime region and generally comes under the heading of “kitsch”. Paul Amar distinguishes himself from this by the singular nature of his inspiration, his prodigious virtuosity and his sensational outdoing of the exuberance already inherent in the genre. Seabeds, gardens, masks and priestesses spread out in an ostentatious, gleaming, flashy fairyland. The gold and silver ornamentation, with vivid, pearly colours, saturates the scenes and the figures in a luminous glow. High reliefs and sculptures appear to constitute altars for worship or contemporary reliquaries. Paul Amar’s work veers towards the sacred. French, Catholic and a Sephardic Jew, born in Algiers in 1919, the former hairdresser and taxi-driver conjures up his visions in his Parisian council flat. In one of the rooms, which acts as a studio, he meticulously grinds, chisels and does openwork decoration on mussels, winkles and coral, which he subsequently adorns with acrylic paint and nail varnish in unreal shades. This activity has similarities to the work of a Benedictine or an illuminator monk. Propelled by an inextinguishable momentum, the artist immerses himself in a dense universe in which forms engender one another. Drawn into the depths of the picture, the viewer’s gaze wanders, incapable of focus, unable to find an anchor or point of support. Amar forces us into incessant visual roaming. His accommodation is an unsuspected sanctuary – a thing of oriental splendour – where his works have taken over the walls and invaded the space in every single room. Besides Paul Amar’s compositions, the exhibition brings together photographs by Mario del Curto and a film by Philippe Lespinasse and Andres Alvarez presenting the artist in the place where he lives and produces his creations. We must express our deep gratitude to Paul and Rose Amar for depositing numerous works in the Collection de l’Art Brut. We also thank lenders who, through their generosity, have contributed to enriching this presentation.
October 6, 2004 to May 29, 2005 Private view Tuesday October 5, 2004, 18:30
Film / DVD
Sa Sainteté Paul Amar, pape des coquillages, de Philippe Lespinasse et Andress Alvarez, 30 min., Bordeaux/Lausanne, Dynamo Films/Collection de l’Art Brut, 2004.