Felice Varini puts painting in perspective at the pavilion Paul Delouvrier
Anyone familiar with Felice Varini’s work knows the rules: you must orient yourself at a precise vantage point in order to view his dimensional perspective paintings as completed pieces.
Entering the pavillon Paul Delouvrier to be met by three of his installations sharing such a confined space leaves the impression that Varini exceeded even his own highly technical expectations. Add in a fourth creation - an enormous outdoor pattern of concentric circles - and it’s as if the Paris-based artist has performed the painting equivalent of a quadruple axel.
Initially, as expected from Varini, the interior array of markings appears strategically staggered throughout the 1,000-sq-m retro-future building, completed by Catalan architect Oscar Tusquets in 1991. But you soon realise that some of the primary-hued shapes relate to each other better than others.
In the age of photo sharing, Varini’s style of geometric trompe l’oeil is irresistibly dynamic. In person, however, you get the privilege of seeing the shapes dance and play. When not forced into their proper formations, they stretch or shrink like shadows at the mercy of the sun. They drift across the skinny support columns and the sloped roof like rogue fragments from a Joan Miró canvas. In transparent panels, they bisect windowpanes and skylights like minimalist stained glass.
’La Villette En Suites’ is not the first time that Varini has realised a multi-perspective project (the large-scale, three-way intervention of the Place Édouard-VII in central Paris offers a good counterpoint). Here, he says the challenge was not so much about keeping the works ’isolated’ from each other, as the particularities of the space.
’When I first saw the pavilion, I was terrified,’ Varini told Wallpaper* ’I found it very strange and wondered why it was constructed like this. But as with all previous spaces, I looked for its attributes as well as its faults and in the end, it proved to work really well for what I set out to do.’
Despite his recurring themes and techniques, Varini says his process begins by forgetting all that has come before so that he can better develop the relationship between his work and the site. Over a month, his team of around 15 people painstakingly applied the paint and adhesive tape, always analysing and responding to the environmental variables. With the outdoor piece, for example, the direction of the sunlight will affect the viewer’s perception. ’You can never work against the sun,’ he said. ’It’s always a huge problem. Beyond that, you’re always considering factors such as architecture, materials and volume.’
This fourth installation, in what might arguably be Varini’s signature shade - safety orange - runs nearly the full length of the adjacent Grande Halle, coating expanses large and small, from railings to rafters. Only once you’ve strolled through, do you notice the work extending to part of the neighbouring music museum, where an irregular panel of tangerine brightness temporarily defaces the Christian de Portzamparc building.
Indeed, Varini doesn’t seem sentimental about the impermanence of this project, saying he’s learned over time that each site furthers his architectural insight and provides specific realities that he may not have otherwise imagined.
Including perhaps, comparisons to David Bowie. When it was suggested that his colour blocking style seemed to echo the makeup of Ziggy Stardust, who gazes out from a giant poster nearby (the original Victoria & Albert exhibition is currently on view at the Philharmonie de Paris), he let out a hearty laugh. ’That’s very funny,’ he said. ’In fact, I think David Bowie invented it all!’