The title of Bernard Villers’ exhibition at Irène Laub gallery is hardly a joke. Through this “mishmash” display, as he himself describes it, the octogenarian artist seems to be making a mockery of the very idea of progress, as if the ingredients that make up his Work have been together from the start and were merely unveiling themselves as the years went by.
Thus, the exhibition cheerfully mixes old and recent paintings on different supports, without hierarchy, always with the same concerns in mind: revealing colour, playing with the effects of light and transparency.
In this respect, the title could just as well be an incentive to approach, to take a closer look. For the curious, it is an invitation to fearlessly confront the white cube and, for the more daring, a lesson in humility.
Indeed, the artist has embraced and made his own the minimalist vulgate: Less is more.
Creating artworks at minimal cost, using everything from household scraps (the famous “cagettes”) to industrial leftovers, he also claims to make as little effort as possible. Which, as you can imagine, is only half true.
Both rigorous in its principles – inherited from constructivism, concrete art, American abstract painting and also Supports/Surfaces – and playful in its application, Bernard Villers’ work oscillates between two poles that one might say are opposites, but in fact accommodate each other quite well. Jacques Lizène, to whom we owe some clever puns, said of Villers that he is a “humorous minimalist”. His painting and publishing work have confirmed this for over fifty years.
– Septembre Tiberghien, December 2022