Lionel Esteve

JOLIE PLUIE
18.03.2022 – 15.05.2022

To create a rainbow you need rain
Sun too

Could it be a premonition? On October 8, 2019, when I arrived in Berlin, I sent Gregor Hildebrandt, the founder of Grzegorzki Shows, this text message:
“Ich bin in Berlin
Schöne Regen
Tschüss”
I was pleased with myself. I found it exotic and amusing to send a message in German. Later I decided—for reasons that I’ll explain below—to name this exhibition “Schöne Regen.” Replicating this same desire for exoticism, and to delight Berliners, Gregor suggested calling the exhibition “Jolie Pluie” (“Pretty Rain”).

Perhaps by celebrating the rain, it’s rendering a sort of justice and fixing an oversight. We may ask ourselves, as rain descends from the sky, why it is so representationally absent from painting and art. Even watercolors celebrate the sun. There is, of course, its musicality: plic ploc plic. In paintings, rain is associated with deluge; floods were the most feared act of ruin until recently, much more so than fires.
I know that rain is a common phenomenon, but it is not perceived everywhere in the same way—and I imagine that, more and more, the rain will be considered a blessing.

I grew up in France, where the expression for polite if superficial conversation is described as “parler de la pluie et du beau temps” (“discussing the rain and good weather”). But there, rain is only a minor event that happens in passing. Now I live in Belgium; here, rain is a religion. It is an almighty God, not necessarily tempestuous or majestic, but a God of many faces: from a drizzle to a hard slap. Here, one cannot say that the weather is unstable—on the contrary, it is unfortunately very stable: it is inevitably raining. I am writing this on December 27, 2020 in Bxl (Brussels), where it has not stopped raining for a single moment for four straight days.
Is it to soothe a trauma that my work so often refers to a meteorological state, with water and rain so present in it? From this fascination comes, perhaps, a desire not to interrupt the gaze, to let it pass and create movement? As such, I wanted to build discreet, subtle, diaphanous presences that don’t impose themselves. I also attempted to inch clo- ser to fluid bodies and to capture formlessness.

Since I have yet to install this work, I don‘t know “Jolie Pluie” at this juncture. We bent thin steel rods into curves, then painted them; we produced around 3,000 droplet-shaped elements in different sizes and colors. Each rod features two colors: one dull and one vivid. They will be pinned here and there to the walls of the exhibition space, trembling like a curtain of rain, like a skin with gleaming scales. I hope that the play of colors will become a complex iridescence or, through its vibration, evoke a sort of rainbow.

The Grzegorzki Shows space is small and its walls will be completely covered. I want this installation to feel enchan- ted, like a painting decorating a very small chapel that nonetheless speaks of grander spaces. I don‘t know if you can create a parallel with a drop of water. One observes this similar inversion: a minuscule context that visually absorbs its entire environment, where everything it encompasses is projected onto it. At the risk of being too explicit, a dro- plet-shaped glass bead could be suspended amidst the space according to the lightness of the intention and of the installation.

I also like the idea of these drops as detachable graffiti, almost the opposite of an in situ work. Just like the rain, they are only temporary and go for a spin in accordance with the wind; they can land more or less everywhere, and even multiply in several places at the same time. In this way, a weather report can be interpreted like an exhibition pro- gram—and vice versa.

Lionel Estève
(Translation: Sarah Moroz)