Meeting I Philippe ANTHONIOZ & Afi NAYO

April 25, 2018 - June 09, 2018

Jean-Jacques Dutko opens the doors of his Saint-Germain-des-Prés gallery to put into light the sculptures in bronze, wood and plaster of the artist Philippe Anthonioz along with the art pieces of the new artist represented by the gallery: Afi Nayo.


Back to Basics – Pierre Daix

Philippe Anthonioz is lucky to belong to the generation that flourished at the end of the twentieth century and lucky to have worked with one of the designers who personified this recapture of life’s decoration in sculpture: Diego Giacometti. It was only in 1985, after he died that he became famous due to his monumental chandelier in the Musée Picasso in Paris and a retrospective exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. In my article « Diego Giacometti » in L’Œil no. 368, March 1986, in honouring him, I was able to show how, from 1954 onwards, he used his brother Alberto’s avant-garde vision. You can see this in his monumental staircase in lights in the house of Marguerite and Aimé Maeght in Saint Paul de Vence.

In the last quarter of the twentieth century, sculpture was conquering once again the space in life which had been neglected since Gallé or Guimard. This was when, as Jean Cassou wrote in «Source du XXe siècle», «art nouveau dignified the crafts of life’s scenery». At that time there was a general feeling for a need to resist the invasion of industrial standardisation of shapes. Arts and Crafts and the School of Nancy opened up new opportunities.

A century later, with his sculpture, Anthonioz brings humanistic answers to a standardised world overrun even more by the images brought to us by television, ads and the internet.

With him, furnishings are not only decorative but show the meaning of life. The shapes of his sculpture take on the strength of real interventions, singular and challenging. He can just easily confront the outdoors, architectural spaces and private interiors. Philippe Anthonioz finds the truth in the character of his craft which had been lost before the Industrial Revolution and even then had only been found by a few blacksmiths in the countryside. When making chimney pieces, fire backs and firedogs, he uses the most modern of technology by taking for example a cubist grille and geometric organisational power. This he does for the purity of the line but also to show the individuality of his creations.

His sculpture can therefore communicate with the interior space as well as transforming a banister or lamp. It can even guide one’s look by the purity of his drawing. A table, a bed or an armchair are all unique pieces. Philippe Anthonioz takes on the outside world with the same enthusiasm and joy: this is the space where nature is preserved together with sculptures which play on the radiance of independent shapes and grouped abstract figures. With him works of art are never agressive but are first and foremost a visual conquest. His respect for wood, full of history, as well as for richness of bronze, compose shapes which are capable of capturing the eye and forging a special privacy and a contemplation which goes against the conformity of everyday life. Thanks to Philippe Anthonioz, the functional becomes poetry, the design of sculpture intervenes with the art of living. It is with the medium of the twenty-first century that we salute a return to the sources and a new conquest.


The Magic of Afi Nayo- Gilles Plazy

These are works meant for the eyes that have no fear of what they see. For our eyes have become accustomed to hiding behind ideas, preferring to appear intelligent than to be disconcerted, captivated, or even distressed. What we are talking about here, in the strongest sense of the word, is charm, whereby a gaze is captured by a vision and this vision transforms the one who is, if I may put it this way, at the other end of this gaze. Art which is not purely decorative (playing on prettiness or enjoyment) thus brings about a complete change. Neither the mechanism nor the result is easy to analyse, but the implications are physica,l psychological and spiritual. A magic art is therefore still possible, an art that reaches into our innermost depths through the senses.

Without ostentatious complacency, Afi Nayo’s art gently weaves a discreet spell over whoever is receptive to it. If one pays attention to it, with an unbiased open-mindedness outside of which art cannot survive, one may be swept into the artist’s world, where the ancient cosmic dance is performed in a new manner belonging solely to the artist who carves the symbols of a delicate visual incantation into wood. Although her rapidly delineated, fantastical silhouettes are not governed by the rules of figurative realism, one may easily identify a rhinoceros, crocodile, fish, tiger, chameleon, and a few other more or less imaginary animals, as well as masks, often arranged in squares like the hieroglyphs of an unknown language.

A language that belongs to Afi Nayo alone, a language invented by a woman and an artist, using black, red and white earthy colours that confer an aspect of ancient plaques upon her works. Words and phrases may also be inscribed upon them and deciphered with more or less difficulty. They resemble fragments from a private diary, confidential snippets of poetry. Uneffusive secrets, in the fullness of an accomplished form. The intimacy here is not narcissistic. It is an individual voice, a personal experience, to be shared with others. It is a heartfelt gift.

The magic of her art is in this gift – which one must know how to accept – of an enigmatic presence, a treat in itself, but nevertheless composed of symbols, whose meaning we ourselves must interpret, if we so wish. Yet one should be aware of the fact that every symbol, if it has been drawn with zeal, and similarly welcomed, invokes a spirit. Afi Nayo is an enchantress who practises white magic, who conjures up benevolent spirits for us. If we felt nostalgic for a veritably animated world, we would be grateful to her to hold onto the keys with which she could open a door in the wall of our reason.