The contemporary paintings of the artist Guy Oberson, produced in black chalk or in oil, plunge the observer into an ambiguous and timeless universe. Figurative and abstract themes confront and complement each other in the work by this Swiss painter.
A diverse, non-traditional route
Guy Oberson was born in 1960 in Billens, a village in the Friborg countryside in Switzerland. Despite the drawbacks of an environment that only moderately welcomed his artistic leanings, the painter would always feel a strong link with the place he came from, and which influenced his attachment to nature. In 1979 he left his native country to go to Rapperswil in the canton of St Gallen, where he took a course in restoring murals, and then he worked in the socio-educational field.
During this period he visited the Collection of Art Brut in Lausanne and he was very moved by it, declaring: "I was totally fascinated by a universe which touches on the madness that I encountered in my social work. I suddenly rediscovered the childish joy of painting. I reconnected to something very deep and very free." More than ten years later, in 2000, Guy Oberson decided to devote himself exclusively to painting, having always painted as a self-taught artist.
In 2011 he was awarded a Friborg State grant and spent six months on an artist's residency in Berlin. Successive trips all over the world deeply inspire his reflections and consequently his themes and the subjects of his paintings. His non-traditional background and diverse experiences fuelled his work and helped to build its balance and power.
The art of Guy Oberson, a duality of techniques and subjects
The artist likes to experiment with multiple techniques and mediums including oils, installations, ceramics, watercolour, red chalk and engraving. However, the technique that has characterised his work most from the start is the black chalk (pierre noire), a drawing tool comparable to charcoal whose blacks are richer and deeper and even more matte. The black chalk is also irreversible, thus constantly testing the artist's technical mastery.
Guy Oberson does not draw outlines but assembles his work by an accumulation of lines; with this process, subjects emerge when viewed from a distance and then disappear before the observer's very eyes once they approach. The artist blurs his black chalk in a myriad of vertical streaks which disrupt the viewer's perception of the subject and makes interpreting the work less immediate.
His black chalk drawings are figurative, representing landscapes or portraits. The artist has drawn his inspiration from real life here and the artistic process begins with studying a model or often a photograph. These figurative works are confronted with abstract or semi-abstract oil paintings, which is another key production in Guy Oberson's work. For such paintings, the artist draws from his imagination or memory, and therefore has total freedom in his strokes. The two techniques and the two types of subject complement each other, inviting confrontation.
Themes: human identity and the search for "real life"
Whether abstract or figurative, Guy Oberson's works have great expressive force and a timeless character that is both melancholic and subtle, both tormented and dramatized. This contemporary painter explores themes that relate to society, for example the status of migrants, as well as themes about human identity, such as the relationship of humanity with the animal and natural world or our mythologies.
The latest theme addressed by Guy Oberson is surely his most personal: his own perception of reality, which is reflected in the representation of the artist’s interior space in his works. What he is looking for is "real life", "the smell of life", as he says, "life, death, sex, and the dark side".
“Art enables me to poetically restore my relationship with intimacy, otherness and the sacred. […] Being an artist is above all a daily attempt to contribute to the freedom of the gaze, autonomy of thought, and the retransmission of energy and beauty." Guy Oberson, interview with Philippe Piguet (Art absolument no. 78, July-August 2017).
Recognition of institutions and performance art
Guy Oberson lives and works across Lentigny (Switzerland), Paris (France) and Berlin (Germany). For around 15 years the artist has exhibited his works in European museums, contemporary art spaces, foundations, fairs and galleries, mainly in Switzerland and France. In 2014 he was awarded the Bédikian Foundation Award (Paris) and in 2016 he received the State of Friborg Cultural Award (Switzerland).
His works belong to public collections, including the collection at the Friborg Museum of Art and History and at the La Chaux-de-Fonds Museum of Fine Arts, as well as private collections, such as the Luciano Benetton Collection in Venice. Guy Oberson is also referenced in numerous catalogues and monographs, and he has published several art books with the writer Nancy Huston.
His artistic work extends to performance art, which he has performed in solo productions or in collaboration with musicians and directors. In 2017, he performed with pianist composer Édouard Ferlet and dancer and choreographer Eric Fessenmeyer in the show "Piano Sketching", presented at the Théâtre de Belleville and at the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris).
- Abstract oil paintings
- Black chalk drawings