Galerie Nathalie Obadia is pleased to host artist Fabrice Hyber’s third exhibition, Habiter la forêt, after hyberDUBUFFET in 2017, which took place in both Paris galleries.
Twenty years ago, the artist began sowing 70 hectares of woods near his studio in Vendée. With this exhibition, he returns to the theme of this biotope, which is omnipresent in his work and is simultaneously subject, paradigm, utopia and life project. Through a group of recent paintings and ceramics, Fabrice Hyber examines the ties between forest and city, nature and civilization, the mutations that occur when they shift back and forth, at a time when a “return to green” is more relevant than ever.
Winner of the Golden Lion at the 1997 Venice Biennale, Fabrice Hyber has, for the last 30 years, developed an oeuvre reminiscent of a gigantic rhizome, a complex system where thought, protean activity and visual experimentation come together in a network, according to a principle of perpetual transformation and proliferation. “Most of the time, my paintings become projects. Research projects, designs for objects or even new behaviors.” Fabrice Hyber’s pictorial work cannot therefore be dissociated from the experiments and initiatives that he carries out, such as this sowing of the grounds in Vendée: resembling control panels or story boards, his paintings allow him to take stock, digest and assimilate the data and information that emerge from his research, and are visual indicators of a thought in action that transcends the canvas’s frame.
The forest is all the more central in Fabrice Hyber’s practice and in his engagements, given how the principle of germination has often served him as a template for creation and analogy. Numerous species, “man-trees,” flora, mushrooms and tentacular roots dwell in this great ecosystem that is the artist’s visual universe, where the primary concern has to do with circulation, flux, natural cycles—all brought to life by an aesthetic of scribbled observation, quick sketch and scientific intuition steeped in humor. In fact, Fabrice Hyber defines his work as being “mushroom seeds that can wait thousands of years before sprouting and spreading according to a process of uncontrollable proliferation.” Semantic and linguistic slippages, communicating vessels, underground connections and the addition and continual reuse of external objects all originate from this organic and viral abundance, which itself mimics the movement of life, where resin, serving as a binding agent, also plays the role of sap. Unsurprisingly, this “Hyber green”—borrowed mischievously from the ecologists—has become a true signature: in this intentionally joyous and artificial artist’s palette, the “Hyber green” acts as a unifying substance and a program in and of itself.
What’s more, Fabrice Hyber appropriates climate issues with an overflowing and inspired imagination that nurtures a utopic project, that of “living in a forest.” From the microcosmic transformation of the molecule that becomes an atom, to the mutation of a virgin nature into a civilization, Fabrice Hyber focuses his recent research around the tipping point. Based on the idea that a city is perhaps modeled after a forest, he weaves a parallel that generates all the thematic declinations and visual inventions that fill his work: “The rules of survival in a forest have been replaced by regulations that quickly become repression. [...] A house’s plumbing when connected to a city’s network resembles branches or roots, but also streams or springs.” Artistic intuitions and concrete actions inform each other in this project that hopes to inspire new behaviors: “The puddles can become containers, the bark an element of comfort, the clearing a garden, the foliage a roof. Over the last few months, I focused on this change of point of view, which I embraced 20 years ago by sowing a forest, and I renewed with familiar gestures or reinvented them.”
Not wanting to live in conflict with the world, Fabrice Hyber advocates, instead, a positive and fertile ecology, one that is open and favorable to change, just like his work, which he built around the happy assimilation of diverse mutations. This enthusiasm is apparent in everything he makes and he sets it as a rule of conduct: “I think that a real ecology is truly generous rather than nostalgic and dried out, why not the artifice of a very sophisticated, refined construction.”