My name is Stefan Chaligne. I first became interested in the « Figuration Narrative » movement in the 1990s at a time when there was a new wave of speculation in Pop Art. A Swiss friend, an important collector of contemporary art, suggested that I take a look at these artists who employed some of the same techniques as those found in Pop Art. Four days later I decided to go and see Laurent Strouk, a dealer specializing in the Figuration Narrative, who at the time had his gallery on the rue Callot, not far from the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Laurent had on the walls of his gallery a permanent exhibition of the movements most emblematic artists : Monory, Rancilliac, Schlosser, Klassen… It was a shock. I had at last found a style of art that conveyed emotion in a modern pictorial style.
Having never previously bought or collected Modern Art, I did some research in order to try and understand the personality of the most representative artists and to try and gain a basic background knowledge. I realized that the « Figuration Narrative » was a movement that went back to the 1960s, to 1964 to be precise, the date of an exhibition entitled « Mythologies Quotidiennes » (« Everyday Mythologies ») at the Musée d’Art Moderne organised by the Ville de Paris, in which the work of 34 artists, such as Rancillac, Monory. Télémaque and Klasen, was exhibited.
I soon gathered that the « Figuration Narrative » was not really a movement, there is no common style or manifesto nor a common desire to present coherent style. There are very few common points, in the sense of painterly style, that reunite the monochromatic crime scenes of Jacques Monory which reproduce the ambiance of 1960s thrillers, with the blown-up detail of an everyday scene of Gérard Schlosser or the bright colors of Bernard Rancillac’s grotesque scenes of South American dictators.
However, one can find a common thread in the total break away from the obsession with the object itself and away from the blank backgrounds which characterized Pop Art works being created at the same date. « Figuration Narrative » works are well anchored in time and acknowledge and dialogue with the viewer; they offer him a story for which he can imagine his own scenario. We are very far from the stylized cold atmosphere of Pop Art with its static compositions of consumerist society, even if sometimes the banality of their kitschness suggests a certain irony.
Emboldened by my new knowledge and having to a certain extent formed an eye for this period, I valiantly returned to the Gallery Strouk to buy my first canvasses. Without saying a word to my wife, I decided to hang some of the works by Schlosser, Monory and Klasen that I had bought. My wife has a solid background in art history having spent years working with Old Master Paintings in one of the leading Anglo-Saxon auction houses. I knew that I had to occupy the ground as soon as possible rather than negotiate and risk seeing my pictures finish in the cellar.
Some tension followed; whereas I saw harmless eroticism in some of the scenes of everyday life, she found them overtly pornographic. Luckily we have the fortune to have two houses and so, after some negotiation, I was able to hang and enjoy this group of paintings that I had had such pleasure in putting together.