In Nice, the event exhibition of Jean-Luc Verna, the enfant terrible of contemporary art returns to his city

Draftsman exhibited at MoMA in New York, dancer, singer, performer, Jean-Luc Verna from Nice returns to his hometown for an exhibition at the Espace à Vendre gallery. We met this extraordinary character, who knows how to be fully himself. And that does not leave indifferent.

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You will not forget his face.

Shaved head, earplugs, eyes framed in smokey black, and skin almost entirely covered in tattoos.

Let’s face it, the man is impressive. In the main room of the l’Espace gallery for salewhen he turns around to extend his hand to you, a frank gaze and a wide smile on his metallic teeth, you begin to feel more at ease.

Do we dare to ask him the question which is also the name of his exhibition? We start: “Aren’t you wearing a lot of makeup?”. “No never” said the artist in a soft, almost amused voice. His answer ends up relaxing you.

Jean-Luc Verna is an immense artist. What I call a total artist. And who is fully himself.

Bertrand Baraudou, space for sale director

Bertrand Baraudou, who directs the l’Espace gallery for sale in the city center of Nice, does not hide its happiness to host this exceptional exhibition, for which Jean-Luc Verna has been working for more than a year. “His art is expressed through all media: drawing, music, photography, sculpture, dance, choreography… He is a very important character for Nice, and it was important for us to devote a real monographic exhibition to him, complete, personalexplains Bertrand Baraudou, a longtime friend of the artist.

Our first question to Jean-Luc Verna having been crowned with a smiling answer, we begin to develop:

Why is this made-up face (not a little, a lot!) and this tattooed body exposed on the walls of the gallery? Jean-Luc Verna is photographed, naked, in poses that owe nothing to chance. This lover and connoisseur of art history celebrates great masterpieces, such asApollo and Daphne17th century marble signed Le Bernin, or the Crucifixion by Goya.

“My body is not a piece of art. I don’t do body-art. I’m tattooed because I like it”calmly explains the artist.

I am a tool for art.

Whether he poses in front of a photographer’s lens, dances or sings on stage, plays a role in a film, writes, sculpts, Jean-Luc Verna sees in it the extension of his original medium: drawing.

“Drawing is the backbone of my life and of all my other practices. It is the place of correction: I correct my drawings, I correct my body, I correct my face, my syntax, my posture, I correct myself when I make a mistake. Drawing for me is not a field of freedom but a field of correction”. We touch the level of requirement that the artist applies.

On another section of the exhibition wall, faces and birds. The result of a highly successful creative process: these first sketches, Jean-Luc Verna begins by photocopying them.

“The photocopy kills the drawing. It is only the image of the drawing, and the place of its correction”. This photocopy, he will then degrade it by passing it through trichlorethylene to rework it with black stone, colored pencil and eyeshadow.

“Whatever the intention of my drawing, it is always enriched by what people see in it. These are images that are a bit like candy, very sweet, slightly poisonous. Or images that are frontally violent, but mixed with enough humor so that violence in itself is not an end in itself. It’s up to everyone to decide.”

This duality is perhaps the one with which Jean-Luc Verna had to deal all his life. Sometimes, no doubt, for its survival.

Nice, I lived my worst years there.

Jean-Luc Verna

Born on the shores of the Baie des Anges in 1966, Jean-Luc Verna had a complicated and difficult start to his life there. Very quickly, the young man clashes with his traditional family.

“I lived in Nice during extremely violent, extremely poor, extremely frustrated years”he explains calmly.

Violence. Dope. Prostitution. The young boy of the 80s, with a gothic look, saves himself first by music then by art, which he practices within themunicipal school of Villa Thiolethen to the Villa Arson, National School of Art.

He is there first a student, then a drawing teacher for 23 yearsbefore leaving Nice to pursue his career in Paris and abroad.

Here again, the state of mind in which Jean-Luc Verna finds Nice is full of nuances and ambiguities. “It’s a pleasure that I’ve been waiting for a lot. Nice is also the city of my late grandmother, who was one of the only ones in my family to love me. Now I’m trying to make it proud. As if I wanted to fix something.”

It is therefore an appeased Jean-Luc Verna who returns to Nice. A man to whom the chaotic course, then the success, authorize all the speeches. A man ready to share his art and his fascinating universe.

The exhibition “Aren’t you wearing a lot of makeup? – No.” continues until January 7, 2023, at Espace à vente in Nice.

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In Nice, the event exhibition of Jean-Luc Verna, the enfant terrible of contemporary art returns to his city

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