Jean Sabrier (1951 Cestas – 2020 Bordeaux) was a self-taught and multifaceted artist; for five decades, he developed a protean body of work that stands at the crossroads of art history. His poetic and subtle pieces blend rigour with humour, creating sensory experiences that both enchant and unsettle the viewer.
Helped by guiding figures with whom he remained in constant dialogue – such as great Renaissance masters of perspective Piero della Francesca and Paolo Uccello, the unclassifiable Marcel Duchamp, or his British counterpart, visual artist Richard Hamilton – Jean Sabrier experimented with the limits of our field of vision, constantly forcing our gaze into unexpected détournements.
His works in sculpture, installation, photography and painting all elaborate upon the core concepts of movement and time. Through his experience with diverse media, he worked out a nuanced and grounded reflection on the very meaning of art and the status of artist. As a publisher, he interrogated the handicraft process of collation and bookbinding – with each publication being conceived, laid out and assembled from A to Z by himself alone. These publications also allowed him to painstakingly document his artistic process, inclusive as they were of his correspondence, notes and work methods… ultimately, of everything that had contributed towards creation.
This approach of the artwork as a “total” and connected experience culminated in the animated films developed by the artist during the last twenty years of his life, as metaphorical, overarching insets of his own theoretical investigations and artistic concerns.
With his production, Jean Sabrier constantly pushes us to question what we see and shift the focus of our gaze: What is it that we see? What is it that is seen? What can be seen? In his form-shaping laboratory, this tinkerer-craftsman-scientist-erudite-scholar-poet-artist proposes to the world a mischievous and seductive body of work, “visual pieces that would not be seen”, confirming what his friend Bernard Noël so aptly wrote him: “when it is well directed, perception can go further than sight, and there, in an extremity of rapture, blossom into a feeling that sees”.