Biography

In brief

Born in Paris in 1948, he has lived and works in Joigny (France) since 1991. High school in Switzerland, higher education in France (École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Philosophy of Science at the Sorbonne).
Awarded the XXIth  International Prize of Contemporary Art in Monaco in 1987. Numerous one-man shows in Europe and the United States.
Group exhibitions, notably in Germany, organized by A.F.A.A. (Association française d'Action Artistique) Art and Science exhibitions in Europe, in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Literary and aesthetic publications (bibliophilia), scientific publications (in the fields of fractal geometry and optics in relation to anamorphic figures).

 

Works in the field of architecture, notably  in the field of landscape gardening (founding member of Institut Ars & Locus).
Works by Jean-Paul Agosti are to be found in important public and private collections, both in France and in other countries.


Further information…

Jean-Paul Agosti, born in Paris on 17 August 1948, son of Paul and Jeanne Facchetti, showed ealy signs of an artisitic vocation. He was enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Across the street from the Facchetti Studio, rue de Lille. He studied under the painter André Chastel, an artist of the Paris School, showed an interest in lithography while he was assisting his father in his art gallery. At that time Agosti’s friends include such artists as Philippe Stark, Gérard Garouste and Fassianos. He was very close to his younger brother Yves, also an artist, who showed real promise in the fields of photography and music. Unfortunately, this close relationship was broken off by Yves’ accidental death in 1970. Agosti chose to devoted himself to painting in 1974, at the time when his father’s gallery moved to the rue des Saints-Pères.
 Paul Facchetti had decided to have the new gallery refurbished and hired the architect Carlo Scarpa, who implemented an ambitious program of works which were to taketwo years and yielded a spacious gallery fitted in marble and aluminium.

 

At that time Agosti was interested in landscape gardening and in the problems of limits in space that are inherent to this discipline. Agosti was always fascinated by nature, a trait the may well hark back to his chilhood when the family would go to the country to visit his grand-parents in Bièvre and in the city of Vitré in Brittany, the birthplace,  of Jeanne Vétillard, his mother. In 1975 he had an exhibition erntitled Objets d'espace, in the Raeber Gallery in Lucerne, Switzerland, with his first catalogue prefaced by Richard Ducousset : “The idea of an object exists. Pure and perfect.
The object itself exists and unfolds in space. It’s representation exists on canvas or paper – this is the third stage of the object. The subtle differences between the three stages insinuate  themselves and project us from the image to the maginary. This confuses the intellect and enrich the poetic mind” 1.


Beginnings

At the outset he drew highly fragmented, highly organic subjects, using india ink and restricting himself to black and white. this form tended to suggest the proliferation of an original chaos and constituted what he would later refer to, in terms borrowed from the idiom of alchemy, as his opus nigredo or “black work”. in 1976, he left paris and settled in the small town of gif-sur-yvette within the derelict walls of an ancient abbey, which had been endowed with a very fine garden. this he set out to paint in all humility. he turned to watercolor after having produced a considerable number of works in gouache: “watercolour is not, as some may be inclined to think, a somewhat inferior technique which artists practice for futile motives.in my view, a it is no longer a secondary object, a mere sketch or reflection of some finer work. watercolor has become my great adventure – an adventure in the practical realm, which, like all seemingly simple undertakings, turns out to be highly complex as soon as one attempts to master its effects. the best comparison is provided by music where forms are repeated over and over until mastery is achieved” 2. paul facchetti decided to exhibit Agosti’s work in 1978, just one year after he had had his one-man show in the martha jackson gallery in new york.

 

 

 

At that time, only conceptual works were being displayed in galleries and Agosti’s watercolors were utterly alien to this sort of work. the exhibition the gardens of gif’ found an audience and a critical following in the shape of severtal articles, including one by olivier cena: “through the simple and natural beauty of the subject and through the transparency of his colors, Agosti manages to express all the freshness and poetry of a world which has been lost forever” 3. this unusual view of a garden hints at the complexity of a world that lies beyond the simplicity of mere appearance that still remains to be perceived. to those who see things rightly, a single space holds out several levels of reality that need to be discovered. in such works as ecriture de la haie, six carrés et le ciel or mouvements gris, two graphic states lead us down a poetic trail where it soon becomes apparent that we are in presence of a “here and now” bit also of an “elsewhere”. in 1980, facchetti decided to exhibit Agosti’s work at the fiac (the international fair of contemporary art, in paris) with the marked intention of returning to the origins of painting in opposition with the reigning confusion of genres. the alexander iolas gallery in new york took an interest in his work and offered to display his work under the title genesis, landscape, fractals. 

 


fractals

After his jardin de gif exhibition, Agosti felt a definite need to return to a true subject of nature. this led a group of works entitled mares et rochers (ponds and rocks). long walks in the fontainebleau forest with the painter robert ladou, provided an exceptional opportunity to observe nature at close range and in its full organic scope: “in my mares et rochers series, i was confronted with a natural object that was unencumbered with any human interpretation, directly engaged in its own physical laws, its processes of erosion, its struggle for light. this yielded a form of geometry quite alien to the bidimentionnal square of the gardens; a geometry composed of separate layers in space, and thus a fractal geometry with all the implications of scale” 4.
  Agosti’s encounter with the polish mathematician benoît mandelbrot and his discovery of fractal thought turned out to be a decisive  moment 5. mandelbrot was the first to allow the public to visualise computerized fractal imagery. Agosti met him thanks to his friend

 

The physicist and chemist alain le méhauté on the occasion of a lecture delivered by the philosopher michel serres  in the palais de la découverte in paris. mandelbroit’s scientific approach fortified him in his personal approach and enriched his understanding of structure. Agosti realized that, thanks to their instruments, scientists manage to formalise the very same aspects of nature that he had touched upon intuitively in his art. but the aspect that most defiinitey interested him resided in the fact that fractal though marked a break with the idea of a euclidian space which had served to codify the image, but also with the notion of serial production. this led him to devise an arborescence which allowed the structure of the work to reflect details which he deemed essential. such an approach offered a model of reality devised by means of a much subtler and more precise instrument than any he had formerly had at his disposal. at that same time, another artist, jean letourneur, had come to the same conclusion. this meant that there was not merely a fractal art but a fractal revolution of the mind in which scientists and artists stood side by side.


microcosm

Agosti continued to deal with the same subjects thereafter, without surrendering to the seductions of the serial image. he depicted the edge of a river or pond, where earth and water mingle and where sky and  trees are reflected in turn. on his baths of apollo, he established a correspondence with the infinity of mirrors so characteristic of the aesthetics and the symbolism of versailles. in his watercolors he patiently described the interior of a sphere, a microcosm in which the four elements, of fire, air, water and earth are mingled. Agosti’s main ambition is to be a witness whose work transmits certain acquisitions of the humanistic tradition. in doing so, he manages to create a hyperbolic space in which a same polychrome image is repeated on different scales in which he resorts to the monochrome and uses on a primary colors to unfold a constantly developing arborescent space. this echoes the baroque notion of the mise en abyme of an image  [the french term of mise en abyme designates an effect also known as the droste effect. this is the visual experience of standing between two mirrors and discovering an infinite reproduction of one's own reflexion] and the ordering of an original chaos.
”what can be said in regard to what lies outside frame”, Agosti asks, “what lies beyond the frayed edges of the living hedge? can that space be apprehended, what might that other locus be, i ask you?” 6. this determination to bring order into the proliferation of nature is typical of Agosti’s work, but also a yearning to reach beyond it. “the paradox becomes apparent when the work is done: it is not longer part of myself, yet it remains thoroughly mine, with all those inflections,the choice of forms, the cohesion and the fractures, the stresses and compressions of every kind, the uproar and the silences ; all that no longer seems to belong to me,. unless this merely mean that it has not yet become mine”7.

 

But Agosti is not just an artist who happens to work with fractals, nor is he in any way inclined to allow his work to be identified with this concept. this is what prompted him to mark his difference from the international group which termed itself the fractalists and to clarity his stand in a letter written in 1997, declining an invitation to participate in a group show at purchase college in new york: “my chief reservation regarding the work of these artists, is the following: to my knowledge none of them have modified the structure of their work or indeed the local-global relationship as i have done. none has chosen to renounce what i call “sérialism” (the repetition of the same). this holds serious consequences for the so-called fractalists and it is sufficient for me not to feel any affinity with this “imposture””8. this attempted simplification goes agains Agosti’s aesthetic approach which is both more thoughtful and more attached to the complexity of the symbolic implications which he strives to develop in reference to the labyrinth or to the tree of the sephiroth for instance. in this process each fragment only exists through the relationship it establishes with the whole. reluctant to any reduction to unity, the fragment, in its fractal incompleteness, holds a promise regarding the future and possibly of a utopian restoration.


travels

In regard to the concept of time, Agosti has constantly sought to review the relevant myths and he enjoys working on the memory traces inherent to any site. this was indeed the subject of a travelling exhibition organised in germany by marie-louise syring in 1985, with the support of the afaa (association française d'action artistique), entitled gechichte als widerstand, "history as resistance". in 1988 he also showed his work in arlette gimaray's galler under the title, tables d'orients – or table of bearings, an approximation of the term which serves to designate what is more prosaically known in english as a "viewpoint indicator". on this occasion he presented a number of short texts touching upon the aesthetic preferences that determine his orientation. taken together, nature, its fractionating, its proliferation and the reiteration of a seminal image transposed into different scales open the way to such very large paintings as the ten by three meters fresco executed for the collge andré malraux in paron (1984). his friendship with the scientist alain le méhauté led to an artistic project for the institut supérieur des matériaux du mans, which presented Agosti's work in the fullness of its architectural and plastic scope. "beyond their respective idioms, both artists strove to achieve beauty.
in Agosti's sight this meant the resonnance of colors and the harmont of forms. in the sight of le méhauté, it had an abstract quality, resting upon the matching of the mathematical instrument and its object, complex and composite, the microscopic images produced by the mathematical tool display a strange affinity with the natural forms magnified by the former" 9. art and the sciences are thus intimately bound together. Agosti is nonetheless at pains to point out that no plastic or aesthetic link is to be sought between a computerized fractal images and his own art. the metaphorical developpement of aarborescent images touching upon the infinite range of possibilities in the field of representation, hinges upon this point of tension between any given detail and the globality of space.

 

As maïthé valles-bled, then curator of the musée des beaux-arts de chartres points out: "you always find three phases in Agosti's approach to nature, and in each of them he elaborates an evolving system which tends towards increasing complexity. the first of these is watercolor, which offers a relatively simplified frame of representation of the landscape; next comes the drawing, which further elaborates on the development of the system. and out of these two the painted work finally emerges. this painting, which can be more or less abstract, now isomorphic, now cosmological, always remains connected to what preceded it, through the very process of its generation"10 from his many travels, particularly to japan, and from the various gardens he then discovered,- such as the ryôan in kyoto – Agosti has further learned to define the bounds of the natural space of his imagination, which always displays affinities with the french garden.
He shares this love of gardens with his friend the poet salah stétié who sees in them "areas of osmosis, anamorphosise and métamorphosis. in these gardens, through the miraculous power of the heightened song, a perfect face takes form somewhat being the veil of light, the face of a man or of a god, perhaps that of orpheus himself... the greatest merit of this fae is no doubt that it remains invisible, thus drawing all the visible to itself and offering it up" 11 Agosti's work is a response to a succession of metamorphoses in space and time, by which the heritage of former times, in a poetic rebirth, once more takes shape. this is apparent in his suite d'hermès which was exhibited at the thessa herold gallery in 1996, or in his jardin hiéroglyphique, shown in the musée saint roch in issoudun in 1998.


The text published above under the title "Further information..." is by Frédérique Villemur.

1 Richard Ducousset, Agosti, objets d'espace, Lucerne, Galerie Raeber, 21 mars-18 mai 1975.
2 Jean-Paul Agosti en 1980.
3 Olivier Cena, Toute la fraicheur du monde,
4 Jean-Paul Agosti, Mares et Rochers, Paris, novembre 1983.
5 Fractal (néologisme) vient de fractus qui renvoie à fragmenter, séparer, et d'algebra qui signifie joindre.
6 Jean-Paul Agosti, Tables d'Orient, Galerie Arlette Gimaray, 1988.
7 Jean-Paul Agosti, Mares et Rochers, Paris, novembre 1983.
8 Lettre de Jean-Paul Agosti adressée à Susan Condé, datée du 11 juin 1997.
9 Alain Le Méhauté, Jean-Paul Agosti, Projet esthétique de l'Institut Supérieur des Matériaux du Mans, 1995.
10 Maïthé Valles-Bled, , Paysages / Mémoire, Paysages du temps, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres, octobre 1988-janvier 1989..
11 Salah Stétié, Prassinos Agosti / Deux hommes d'arbre, galerie Thessa Herold, automne 1994.


 

 

 JARDIN CHEMIN BLANCS LENVOL
        Jardin-chemins blancs, l'envol, 2003 -Aquarelle/Arches 152 x 103cm
 
TERRE ET AIR
              Terre et air 2007 - acrylique 180 x 60 cm
 
EAU ET FEU
          Eau et feu 2007 - Acrylique 180 x 60 cm
 
JARDIN COURONNe
           Jardin couronné  - 2010 aquarelle  152 x 77 cm