View of the exhibition "Lionel Estève" in 2005 at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin Paris (France)
By Pierre-Evariste Douaire
A colorful top greets each person at the entrance to the steps of the private townhouse. A giant top, made of beads and wire, spinning on its access, creating a cheerfully dizzy impression.
The light, aerial sculpture revolves around itself; it fills the room, refusing to allow anyone near, leaving the viewer to watch its revolution, its orbit from a distance. As both a static and kinetic sculpture, this gossamer chandelier is a hypnotic force hanging in the entrance.
This is a mental and physical construction, which rotates constantly at varying rhythms. It occasionally stops, allowing viewers a more contemplative look. At a standstill, the structure loses some of its volume and becomes more graphic in shape. Movement gives it structure, volume; at rest, its edges and geometric forms are sharper. It is a diamond, formed by sewing thread that forms perfectly straight, clean lines. Beads and other glass trinkets mark the intersecting lines. Lionel Estève’s sculpted mobiles are suspended diadems, water spiders and geological flowers; they are all this and much more.
Everything floats in a light veil: flying marionettes; wading birds hanging not by a leg but by a thread; a bestiary as much as a herbarium, halfway between an insect and a mosquito net. It’s got style. The carousel lives up to its role and occupies the gallery space, spinning threads to create a free-floating yet precise ballet. The laws of gravity have been pushed aside by centrifugal forces and optical effects. The nylon crystals and taffeta form a major axis, growing in size, slipping from a waltz in three-four time to a more syncopated, binary rhythm. This free rein, a resounding centrifuge all stitched in white, functions with a subtle interplay orchestrated by opposing forces and counterweights.
The mobiles hanging in the second room are similar in kind. Several are motorized, while the others are lulled into motion as drafts flow through the room. This gathering seems to condense the room, creating an admirable show. All the elements are fighting for attention; it’s hard to find any coherence in the confusion, but the essence remains intact. Freshness and desire are at hand.
Enchanted, the viewer is happy just meandering through this sculptural shower, walking under the downpour of multicolored beads and frayed cloth, and experiencing the drizzle of textiles as bits of chipped stone. This colorful powder, this sawdust, similar to both a caterpillar’s cocoon and silver salt, swirls like the tail of a magical comet. The sandman is a borderline embroiderer, a couturier. The sculptor has traded in his hammer and chisel for a needle and two drops of glue.
He’s a tailor of the impossible, a producer of custom items, a pair of golden scissors cutting through quicksilver and sewing the most delicate, the most tenuous of effects. The work produced by his hands is the corset of an engineer, lined with suspended threads and riveted with superglue. Other sculptures forego the path of embroidery, moving instead toward jewelry and ironwork.
Yet the vocabulary and structures are identical. The large suspended legs look like jellyfish, round shapes in water, insect mandibles. It’s a personal vision, yet everyone can project different shapes and figures onto these mobiles.