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Arthur Aeschbacher, 20,000 Leagues above Dada
by Gérard-Georges Lemaire

Have you ever dreamed of embarking aboard the Nautilus to navigate the fathomless depths of Lautreamont’s old ocean where you could have wondered at the technical innovations of this all-riveted submersible?
You would have feasted on its luxurious comfort in lavish decoration and flamboyant style, with the rare editions in the library, the unique book collection on the second shelf, and would have discovered Captain Nemo’s scientific, cosmetic and bookish expectations.  Jules Verne had christened the Captain with a Latin name, a reminder of the one Ulysses had given himself when he was running away from Polyphemus: Outis, i.e.Nobody.  Without being human, he still remains a legendary figure who achieved unforgettable deeds before going into self-imposed exile, becoming a high-class pirate with a mission to destroy ships flying a specific flag.  And you would not have resisted the urge to don a scaphandre and dive into the unknown to walk on the seabed and reveal its secrets.
You would have effortlessly paced the sea floor and discover monsters never seen before by any sea farers, as well as stunning landscapes.

But this journey is also intended for a specific reason: to enter the world of an artist who has, in league with the Captain, decided to offer you an unforgettable performance.  On a beautiful day (or night as we had completely lost the notion of earthly time), the Captain invited us to follow him to a secret location.  We arrived at a cavern illuminated with giant blowfish arranged along the walls, projecting a blurred light.  A man standing still was expecting us in the back of this huge cave where thousands of dagger-sharp stalactites and stalagmites formed a colonnade that hosted a relentless ballet of monstrous creatures.   The man made us stop, he walked to a huge wheel that he started to spin.  Also in the back of the cave, shaped by centuries of acid-based chemical reactions, there were large panels decorated with drop caps that were half overshadowed.  The mysterious man pulled two levers, one after the other, causing the blades that made up the panels to rise.  The truncated scribe lines showed another pattern. He then again lowered the heavy steel bars and yet another design appeared before our eyes.  We were only able to understand that these mysterious texts were written in Latin characters, but we were not able to decipher their meaning.  As we could not talk about the underwater depths of the ocean with our host, we waited until we had returned to the submarine, tediously undressed and gathered in the living room. A servant brought us exotic drinks and Captain Nemo introduced us to the author of these strange scriptures, in the following terms: « Arthur Aeschbacher and I go back a very long time, we met on the shores of Lake Leman when attending college.  We then lost touch.  Many years later, I saved him for a sure death while he was on board of a storm-tossed canoe.  We resumed our teenagers’ conversations.  He told me about the changes in the artistic expression of the large cities in Europe and America.  He had given up painting but not creating.  His present works consisted of superimposed cut outs of vintage posters. He was determined to explore the plastic and color perspective of the printed letters and had come up with the idea of treating the issue in other ways: he had bought a stock of plastic shutters where he had inlaid pieces of texts that he had cut out horizontally, therefore making them unreadable.  The movements of blades, intended to let in more or less light, changed the relations between all these text markers.  I decided to offer him the opportunity to achieve his project on a totally different scale, with state-of-the-art means.  I shall now let him speak for himself and explain his intentions, better than I could. »
« It all started with my immoderate passion for characters, words, ink smell and the slight embossing left on paper by lead-based printing. All this might appear obsolete but my movements and my work are guided by my memories.  However, the process I had used was containing me within the limits of the classic form of canvas painting and I wanted to go for a less conventional form.  This is how I came to imagine these Stores Surfaces.  If, among you, there are people who take an interest in contemporary art, they will notice that I ridicule the Supports/Surfaces Group who had been seeking to terminate the actual art of painting.  Basically, my idea was quite similar but I used other means.  Humor and mockery play an important part in my research.  These people will also have guessed that I deflected the use of Optical Art.  These allusions escape no one. I concealed the text and only kept fragments of letters.  Kinetic expression helped me build on strictly visual associations.  More language, more meaning, at least meaning through writing.  My fantasy writing aims at producing another meaning and speaks to another sense. »  One of our companions interrupted him to say: « At the end of the day, you adopt Paul Claudel’s title L’œil écoute (The Eye listens) ».  A.A. argued back: « Not exactly, I want the eye to be the organ of a word that it will totally own.  Leonardo da Vinci, plagiarizing Cicero, thought that painting should be equal to poetry.  I write poems that move and are read in the deepest part of the retina, without a word being said. »
Years went by.  Nemo completed his journey on this planet. But I saw a presentation of his famous shutters on Place Saint-Sulpice.  And I also heard yesterday that an exhibition was being planned in the old Buci neighborhood.  I do hope that I shall be lucky enough to meet the fascinating and fanciful A.A. there again.  A.A., an artist who never stopped to amaze us and elicit beauty on modern and eccentric levels.

Arthur Aeschbacher
Born 1923, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Lives and works in Paris.

Aeschbacher studied with Fernand Leger. He successively attended the Fine Arts School in Geneva, the School of the Louvre, the Studio of La Grande Chaumière (an art school in Montparnasse, Paris) and the Julian Academy.  He uses slashed posters as visual material.  The poster shreds make up new formal compositions. He then focused his work on typography.  After looking at A.A.’s research into the explosion of typography, Pierre Restany called him “a poster designer who has nothing to do with Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism)”.

Solo exhibitions (selected):

2015 Collages 1963 - Collages 2015, Galerie Klaus Braun, Stuttgart, Germany.
2013 Turn Cut-Pacifico, Galerie Caracole, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
2010 Catcheurs Masqués, Galerie Véronique Smagghe, Paris.
2006 A. Aeschbacher, Rétrospective, Les Abattoirs d’Avallon, F. (catalogue, preface by G. G. Lemaire)
2005 Arthur Aeschbacher, Galerie Marion Meyer, Paris. (catalogue, preface by G. G. Lemaire)
1993 Affichisme Revisité, Galerie Olivier Nouvellet, Paris.
1987 Galerie Sonia Zannettacci, Genève, Switzerland.
1982 6-4-2, Galerie 30, Paris. (preface by Jérôme Bindé)
1973 15 ans de collages éclatés, rétrospective, Jacques Damase Gallery, Brussels, Belgique. (preface by Alain Jouffroy)
1972 Store-Surface, Galerie Germain, Paris.
1971 Galerie Fabien Boulakia, Paris.
1965 Galerie Paul Facchetti, Paris. (preface by Charles Estienne)
1958 Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris.