French artist Paul Chapellier explores the cross-border potential of the 21st century image economy and the increasingly ubiquitous glossary of visual stimuli and meanings we experience in our 'urbanscapes'. An expatriate artist in London, he wanders around the English city like a nostalgic Baudelairean flâneur intent on examining the commercial uses of urban spaces, and of the images and artefacts in structures such as shop windows, advertising posters and backlit logos.
In this way, he immerses himself in a kind of research that, recorded through photography, appropriates what he sees on the streets of the British metropolis and represents commercial modes of image circulation by seeking to examine 1) how objects survive in images; 2) the ways in which images operate as objects; and 3) how life experiences are influenced by images. Chapellier's prints and photographic records are then processed and transformed into sculptural works that connect to visual domains adjacent to that of fine art, such as architecture, interior design, and merchandising.
On the one hand, Chapellier's art is tactile, vibrant in colour, and reminiscent of both the harsh realities of global financial centres and the immense wealth that 'The City', with its bankers and corporate lawyers, brings to London. On the other hand, the works of this artist have a presence and an elegant corporality, assuming the posture and possessing the sensuality of a 'femme fatale' ready to seduce and 'commit her crime'. This results in a deliberately ambiguous art that emanates an aura of solemnity and style, and whose physical presence conveys a sense of haughty detachment - all qualities that bring Chapellier's works to life almost as if they were models posing motionless for the cameras before parading down the catwalk.
Chapellier seeks to emphasise with his work how the images, objects and landscapes living in large cities are shaped by the economic bias of capitalism. His work is constantly fed by a deep interest in the ways in which the world of finance and investment shapes, transforms and inexorably conditions the features and organisation of urban spaces: from gentrified areas and shopping districts to natural oases such as parks, botanical gardens and other forms of 'planned nature'.
In 2021, Chapellier premiered work at 'Transatlantico', Mana Contemporary in the US, and in 2020 he showed work at Palazzo Monti in Italy, as well as at 'Homeground', House of Wirth's online exhibition. He participated to group exhibitions in the UK, France and Belgium from 2010 up to now. His list of awards, scholarships and residencies counts with the Société Générale Bank Street Artwork Commission, and the Jerwood Creative Bursary.
By Kalinca Costa Söderlund