LONDON.- Modern Art
opened an exhibition of new paintings by Julien Ceccaldi at its Helmet Row gallery. This is Ceccaldis first solo exhibition with Modern Art.
Working in painting, sculpture, and comic books, Julien Ceccaldi explores a set of archetypal characters that morph and develop in different iterations of themselves. Influenced by the Shōjo manga genre which focuses on romantic relationships and heightened emotions, Ceccaldi portrays characters as yearning or aspiring in some form or another: for love, sex or success. Attention or affirmation is sought through different means, and Ceccaldis world tends to be split into two polarised types of being: hulking, muscular, glowing bodies aloof targets of sexual and romantic desire and the unnoticed, exhausted other in this unrequited dyad. Through compositions framing the gaunt, almost repulsive, figure as a lead protagonist, the artist hints at the grace and nobility lying underneath their off-putting traits.
This tension between desirability and unsightliness is omnipresent in Ceccaldis work, at times in a libidinal, almost adolescent-like perspective. The embarrassment and disarray of hormonal excess often lurks somewhere in Ceccaldis paintings, some embodying it explicitly, such as Zit Popping (2018), in which a characters pimple shoots out a beam of ooze. Ceccaldi personifies the splendour and agony of longing sometimes in separate figures, and at other times in single characters whose ambivalence and contradictions are laid bare in an amalgam of cuteness and morbidness.
In recent exhibitions, Julien Ceccaldi presented sculptures that embody his eternally waiting protagonists: seemingly decomposing skeletal mannequins sometimes in hand-painted garments or the artists own clothes, adorned with big expressive glimmering eyes. For example, Marie-Claude (2021) is a teal-haired skeleton wearing a white frilly victorian dress once pure as a bride on her wedding day; now covered in dirt. Her broad emaciated smile reveals an enduring optimism despite the hurdles shes faced. In another iteration of the same character, Marie-Claude II (2021), she is dressed like a fast-fashion influencer, carrying a small shopping bag containing trendy makeup products. She adjusts her sunglasses for an imaginary paparazzo, while her exposed glittery brain levitates above her blond fringe. Ceccaldis craft of creating layered, equivocal characters has been honed over decades. He has been drawing comic figures since he was a child, and the several self-published comic books he has printed since 2010 further define their personalities and inner worlds.
Julien Ceccaldi was born in 1987 in Montreal, where he received his BFA from Concordia University, in 2009. He currently lives in New York. His work has been exhibited in institutions such as K÷lnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany; Oakville Galleries, Ontario, Canada; Swiss Institute, New York, NY; or the 9th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany. Ceccaldis comics and drawings have frequently been featured in online and print publications, including Artforum, Frieze and Mould Map.