pion soleil: Julien Saudubray

12 May - 17 June 2023 Gallery Exhibitions

Cob is pleased to present Pion Soleil, the UK solo exhibition debut for French artist Julien Saudubray.

Saudubray’s work is rooted in a creative desire to express the automatic gesture. The exhibition centres around a new suite of twelve oil on canvas paintings. These abstract works - united only in style and format - typify a continued artistic investigation driven by intuition - a performative process in which the artists’ painterly form and material selection is informed.

Using a mixture of oil and turpentine, Saudubray's oil paintings are made from the application of washes of warm and bright colours. He alternates these oil painted layers with those of gesso to achieve a gauze-like translucency. The resulting compositions of reduced and repeated shapes biomorphically vibrate in both chemistry and colour, revealing the beauty that emerges from chemical chance.

Giving the exhibition its title and central theme, this body of work is inspired by the game of TricTrac or Backgammon. Saudubray revels in a crossover between this game and his artistic practice - where tensions between chance and deliberate action or strategy are played out; where the player and the  board game are interchangable. and possibilities and manoevures are seemingly infinite.

With Backgammon believed to be one of the oldest games in existence with versions emerging 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia, Saudebray explores a very specific medieval evolution of the game: Astrological chess. Astrological chess is a Medieval variant of Backgammon first cited in 1283, which incoporated elements of astrology and astronomy. The game was played on a board that is divided into twelve sections, each representing one of the zodiac signs, stars and planets. The pieces are also associated with different astrological symbols, and their movements are influenced by the positions of the planets and stars. Astrological chess highlights where the origins in board games spring from an intersection between astrology and strategy.

Here, Saudubray reciprocates, by creating twelve works of the same scale anchored by  duplicated triangular and circular forms. These shapes reference both the Zodiac and the compostion of the board in which Astolgical chess was originally played.

The title of the show, Pion Soleil, translates and relates to the pawn player of the game who once represented the stars. Saudubray’s paintings wish to harness both the energy and movement of the constellation and correlate them to the infinite potential of the pawn player in the game. The paintings echo a phemonomeon similar to stars in a constellation - that of a tension between their individuality in appearance and them as inherently identical - being formed from the exact same chemical compositions.

Similarly, Saudubray likens these works as different variables within a game of strategy - the movement of the Pion Soleil - a repeated game piece and indeed dominant player in the game that holds interminable possibility - able to acheive an unreplicable multitude of outcomes.

This concept is reflexive of Saudubray’s practice overall, which arguably communicates human desire to attempt to hold control over universal laws, all the while celebrating the beauty that arises from relinquishing control and embracing chance.