Rupert Shrive exposes La Peau de chagrin

From September 22nd, 2022 to October 30th, 2022

The Maison de Balzac is proud to present a one man exhibition by Paris based, English artist Rupert Shrive.

The exhibition is the culmination of six years work inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s great novel La Peau de chagrin - a supernatural tale of a Faustian pact with the devil - an exploration of the dialogue between desire and longevity and what people will sacrifice in order to have what they want - themes as relevant today as it when it was written in 1831. Oscar Wilde claimed the 19th century wouldn’t exist without Balzac and 50 years after publication, he used the novel as his inspiration for The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Rupert Shrive has created an extraordinary body of work in reaction to Balzac's novel, deftly avoiding the pitfalls of illustration by working and reading in parallel - by using key scenes and images as starting points for his own compositions. Compositions to which he applies his singular practice - of crushing paintings into sculptures, combining them with found objects and fragments of detritus and then painting observational renditions of the set ups - a circular practice of transformation - from painting into sculpture and then back into painting again. Shrive has evolved a unique way of working between 2 and 3 dimension which provides an endless source of inspiration.

On entering the museum and descending the staircase, an enormous monochrome sculpture of Balzac’s head*, covered in text and crushed between floor and ceiling, confronts the visitor.

Shrive said he'd admired Rodin's magnificent monument to Balzac for years - but on discovering the modest scale of Balzac's rooms and table on which he wrote his epic oeuvres for the Comédie humaine, he took a different approach. Instead of creating an exterior sculpture in homage to Balzac's genius, he created an interior installation, too big for the exhibition space, to reflect the enormity of the writer's imagination. Covered in handwritten text from the opening pages of La Peau de chagrin it echoes the multiple manuscripts Balzac laboured over, rewriting and discarding, while also referencing the actual magic skin - that makes the owner's every wish come true, if at a terrible price...

Flanking the sculpture is a feast for the eyes - a curated selection of 20 colourful and mysterious paintings inspired by key moments in the novel. Paintings - of a pig's head on green baize from a claustrophobic gambling house, an orgy in a Venetian palace illuminated by the flames from the hell mouth fireplace, characters appearing out of seemingly random compositions of detritus and inanimate objects, humans with animal attributes, vegetables with human attributes, distorted beauties and the ultimate scene of female domination - a terrifying rendition of Judith and Holofernes - with Judith challenging the viewer, like Manet’s Olympia, as she reclines with a bloodied knife by her hand and her leg resting casually on the severed head of Holofernes.

The museum, housed at no.47 rue Raynouard in the 16th arrondissement is one of only 2 in Paris dedicated to french literary figures (the other being the Maison de Victor Hugo) and is the only one of Balzac's many residences still in existence.

The artist will be giving a series of talks in the museum during the exhibition and there will be readings from the novel.

It is accompanied by a 110 page hardback catalogue of paintings and studies from the entire project.

Rupert Shrive is based in Paris but has lived many years in Spain and Italy.

Born in 1965 in Norfolk, he studied at Norwich Art School, St Martin's School of Art and the Slade, London.

He has exhibited widely in Europe but also in Hong Kong. His installation at the Courtauld East Wing 2011 - 2012 was inspired by Goya's 'Sleep of Reason' and his monumental rendition of the seven deadly sins was exhibited in the Grand Palais Paris in 2011.

Francis Bacon's biographer Michael Peppiatt included his interview with Rupert Shrive in his book 'Interviews with artists 1966 to 2012' under the 'School of London' section.

Watch the video