Text for the exhibition "The Quiet Man", by Julie Crenn, Galerie Eva Meyer, 2018
At first glance, Nicolas Boulard’s works seem part of a specific heritage, that of minimal art and conceptual art. The forms are geometric, circles, spheres, polyhedrons. The artist gives great importance to the void, to space, to time and geometry. However, in going closer to the works, the viewer perceives other information that comes from the living, the sentient world. Soil, cheese, water, wine are combined with strictly geometric forms. Nicolas Boulard takes samples from different landscapes to create improbable encounters. His entire approach functions in this way, through the encounter, the assembly of antipodes. The works then express a synthesis, a collision between minimal art, conceptual art, appropriationism, land art, dada, fluxism and surrealism. From Donald Judd to Hamish Fulton, by way of Jean Arp, Richard Long, Dan Flavin, Constantin Brancusi and Joseph Kosuth, he takes hold of forms and protocols to give them new translations.
Mobility gives rise to a relationship between his body, the place in which he finds himself and the plastic process that will give an account of a singular experience. The method encounters the sentient. Nicolas Boulard takes samples of water to givee an idea of his excursions and his drifts. He brought a sample of water from Lake Geneva back to his studio. The water is presented, as is, between two framed glass plates. As time passes and the weather changes, it evolves, microorganisms develop, condensation appears, an ecosystem is installed. Barely perceptible, the water forms a line, a symbolic horizon. The work constituted the first step of a series in which the artist applied himself to collecting water from the landscapes photographed by Hiroshi Sugimoto. Nicolas Boulard himself visits landscapes or sets up a cooperation network so that the water samples are sent to him. The original images are reduced to the essential. Water becomes a projection space. The same is true of the work formed by soil. On the wall, the diptych called Antipodes brings together two wood circles covered by soil, one ocher, the other a more reddish hue. By studying a map of the world, Nicolas Boulard established diametrically opposed zones. He then decided to work using soil found in the Cadix region in Spain, while the other sample came from Mount Roskill in Auckland, New Zealand. The two circles not only contain the unexpected encounter between these two zones, but also their geographies, their cultures, their landscapes and their histories. In this sense, he applies psycho-geography as Guy Debord defined it: “One measures the distances that effectively separate two areas of a city, and that have nothing in common with what an approximate vision of a plan could have one believe.”
The son of wine-growers, Nicolas Boulard is attached to the living, to landscapes, gestures and the senses. Through his works, he assembles territories thought of as contradictory, starting with the exhibition itself, since it has the same name as the pub next door to the Eva Meyer gallery, The Quiet Man. Guy Debord and Robert Filliou accompany him.
"The Cheese Museum", by Marie Chênel, 2015
“This shop is a museum: Mr. Palomar, visiting it, feels as he does in the Louvre, behind every displayed object the presence of the civilization that has given it form and takes form from it.”
Italo Calvino, Mr Palomar, 1985
Since the early 2000s, Nicolas Boulard has been developing an artistic practice that draws its main sources of inspiration from local products. Being very curious, in fact being a fine connoisseur of the many rules that surround the production and marketing of these products, the turnarounds and other trips he operates while evading them have for example led him to plant a Bordeaux vineyard in Alsace or to forge a vintage of Romanée-Conti. His work de facto highlights the societal problematics whose current news is never conjugated in the past, such as the definition of a territory, of an identity and its boundaries. While the artist willingly cultivates incursions in fields that are in theory alien to the artistic culture, his exploration of viticulture, or more recently of the realm of cheeses, regularly sends him back to major references to 20th century art which are echoed in many of his works.
After mixing art and wine in a set of works that is nothing less than clever and subversive the artist has placed at the centre of his approach the dazzling intuition of a possible coming together of the geometric shapes of minimal art and the shapes of the most common cheeses found on the stalls of our markets. In 2010, while food shopping, Nicolas Boulard noticed a troubling similitude between a goat’s cheese with soft a rind and hard crust shaped as a truncated pyramid called Valençay and a work of art by Sol LeWitt the reproduction of which he had just seen in an exhibition catalogue. It was the starting point of Specific Cheeses which is a multiple-dimension project through which he particularly strives to create several sets with willing producers –so far Chavignol, Brie de Meaux, Triple Cream, Emmental, Castelmagno – which go back over the 12 Forms Derived from a Cube from a screen-print by Sol LeWitt (1982). The project comes with the setting up of a Brotherhood of members and the creation of a Fanzine whose third issue has just been published.
Although the work of Nicolas Boulard has already been the subject of some initial monographic propositions in institutions – "The Rule of Cool" at the Clamart Art Centre in 2013, "La Suspension d’Incroyance" (The Suspension of Unbelief) at the Alsace FRAC (Regional Fund of Contemporary Art) in Sélestat in 2012 – "The Cheese Museum" constitutes his first personal exhibition in a gallery context. In the manner of Mr Palomar by Italo Calvino who “watched from the outside”, and true to an attitude that underpins the whole of his work, Boulard first grasps that space by testing the rules that determine its functioning. Transformed into a choice dairy shop, the galerie Laurent Mueller presents with "The Cheese Museum" a selection of recent and partly unseen before works whose gathering form a dialogue between geometric and organic shapes, all drawn from cheese inspiration.
"The Cheese Museum" thus offers its attentive visitor’s gaze a set of naturalistic “drawings-papers-cut-offs” – the Swiss Cheeses (2014) -, a monumental painting featuring a thin slice of Mimolette (2014) in the American abstract tradition of the Hard-edge painting, several Portions (2015) in volume displayed on the floor, fragments of geometric shapes specifically inspired by official rules of cheese cutting, an endless post-Brancusi column of goat’s cheeses – Colonne Valençay (2014) – or even a sculpture suspended from the ceiling: an imposing Provolone (2015) born from Nicolas Boulard’s interest in the organic and sensual shapes of Jean Arp. The crossings with great figures of modern art are obvious. They are ubiquitous, immediately perceptible or ambushed; they are in all circumstances infinitely charming, such as this reference to the cover of the catalogue of the exhibition "First Papers of Surrealism" (1942) imagined by Marcel Duchamp and called in by the artist for his Swiss Cheeses (2014). Although his work on randomness makes up the foreground of these “drawings-papers-cut-offs”, the placing of each perforation being determined by the rigorous observation of slices of Emmental and transferred through a method of laying down a grid on the rectangular space of the paper sheet, one cannot help but comparing the Duchamp cover with the comment that Swiss art historian Stephan Hauser made in the #1 Fanzine of the project Specific Cheeses. Marcel Duchamp was a notorious prankster (1), he was a serial pun enthusiast, and the questions of holes, eyes and gas raised by this cover shouldn’t be overly surprising.
The French Paradox (2) is the artist’s first monograph and was published in 2011. And just like Christophe Kihm underlined in a salutary way in the book, his project might give rise to smiles but it is nonetheless very serious. One of the corrosive strengths of his always very well-documented work is to actually highlight concrete themes of research. Based on the observation of cheeses and a set of researches on the common etymologic origin of the words “shape” and “cheese”, Nicolas Boulard thus deploys a fundamental reflection on the interrelations between shape and content in the field of sculpture.
1 Jean-Yves Jouannais, in his book L’idiotie, art, vie, politique – méthode (ed. Beaux-Arts Magazine, 2003) thus highlights that « the work of Duchamp takes root in the maelström of farce of incoherent arts and in the raucous laughters of the Almanach Vernot” (p. 20). The exhibition of Incoherent Arts where, in the 1884 edition, gruyère sculptures could be seen.
2 The French Paradox, 2011, ed. Analogues, Arles.
Text for the exhibition "La suspension d’incroyance", by Olivier Grasser, Frac Alsace, 2012
During the past twenty years, Nicolas Boulard has been building an artistic work at the crossroads of knowledges and practices that usually have no relation to each other. For him, art comes from blending, like most wines. The field of gastronomy and viticulture are thus the starting point for an investigation of the modalities of creation. Nicolas Boulard questions art in terms of his in-depth knowledge of wine-making processes. And reciprocally, he shakes up the rules of viticulture by handing him the mirror of art. All of his work heterogeneously mixes artistic vocabulary and grammar with borrowings from other fields. It is an interdisciplinary and « undisciplined » work.
In the work of Nicolas Boulard, citations are frequent, in particular from the minimal art of the 70s. The works entitled Specific Cheeses studies the subject of forms starting from relationships highlighted with impertinence between cheese and minimal art. Putting artistic and gastronomic production on the same level, he questions the nature and origin of the form and the scale of the values attached to it.
In a landscape of artistic creation where artists have challenged traditional categories, Nicolas Boulard positions himself with an apparent lightness even more on the fringes of recognized practices, from a formal and conceptual point of view. He questions art as language. But beyond that, it questions our relationship to societal issues such as territory and sustainability. His work is unseemly but necessary heterogeneity, an encouragement to disobedience, against blind conformism.