Jean-Paul Agosti, Artiste peintre
Jean-Paul Agosti, born in Paris on 17 August 1948, son of Paul and Jeanne Facchetti, showed early signs of an artistic vocation. He was enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Across the street from the Facchetti Studio, rue de Lille. He studied under the painter André Chastel, an artist of the Paris School, showed an interest in lithography while he was assisting his father in his art gallery.
At that time Agosti’s friends include such artists as Philippe Stark, Gérard Garouste and Fassianos. He was very close to his younger brother Yves, also an artist, who showed real promise in the fields of photography and music. Unfortunately, this close relationship was broken off by Yves’ accidental death in 1970. Agosti chose to devoted himself to painting in 1974, at the time when his father’s gallery moved to the rue des Saints-Pères.
Paul Facchetti had decided to have the new gallery refurbished and hired the architect Carlo Scarpa, who implemented an ambitious program of works which were to take two years and yielded a spacious gallery fitted in marble and aluminium.
At that time Agosti was interested in landscape gardening and in the problems of limits in space that are inherent to this discipline. Agosti was always fascinated by nature, a trait the may well hark back to his chilhood when the family would go to the country to visit his grand-parents in Bièvre and in the city of Vitré in Brittany, the birthplace, of Jeanne Vétillard, his mother. In 1975 he had an exhibition entitled Objets d’espace, in the Raeber Gallery in Lucerne, Switzerland, with his first catalogue prefaced by Richard Ducousset : “The idea of an object exists. Pure and perfect.
The object itself exists and unfolds in space. It’s representation exists on canvas or paper – this is the third stage of the object. The subtle differences between the three stages insinuate themselves and project us from the image to the imaginary. This confuses the intellect and enrich the poetic mind”.
At the outset he drew highly fragmented, highly organic subjects, using india ink and restricting himself to black and white. this form tended to suggest the proliferation of an original chaos and constituted what he would later refer to, in terms borrowed from the idiom of alchemy, as his opus nigredo or “black work”. in 1976, he left paris and settled in the small town of Gif-sur-Yvette within the derelict walls of an ancient abbey, which had been endowed with a very fine garden. this he set out to paint in all humility. he turned to watercolor after having produced a considerable number of works in gouache: “Watercolor is not, as some may be inclined to think, a somewhat inferior technique which artists practice for futile motives. in my view, a it is no longer a secondary object, a mere sketch or reflection of some finer work. Watercolor has become my great adventure. »
An adventure in the practical realm, which, like all seemingly simple undertakings, turns out to be highly complex as soon as one attempts to master its effects. the best comparison is provided by music where forms are repeated over and over until mastery is achieved”. Paul Facchetti decided to exhibit Agosti’s work in 1978, just one year after he had had his one-man show in the Martha Jackson gallery in new york.
At that time, only conceptual works were being displayed in galleries and Agosti’s watercolors were utterly alien to this sort of work. the exhibition the gardens of gif’ found an audience and a critical following in the shape of severtal articles, including one by Olivier Cena: “through the simple and natural beauty of the subject and through the transparency of his colors, Agosti manages to express all the freshness and poetry of a world which has been lost forever”. This unusual view of a garden hints at the complexity of a world that lies beyond the simplicity of mere appearance that still remains to be perceived.
To those who see things rightly, a single space holds out several levels of reality that need to be discovered. In such works as Écriture de la haie, Six carrés et le ciel or Mouvements gris, two graphic states lead us down a poetic trail where it soon becomes apparent that we are in presence of a “here and now” bit also of an “elsewhere”. In 1980, Facchetti decided to exhibit Agosti’s work at the fiac (the international fair of contemporary art, in paris) with the marked intention of returning to the origins of painting in opposition with the reigning confusion of genres. the alexander iolas gallery in new york took an interest in his work and offered to display his work under the title genesis, landscape, fractals.
After his jardin de gif exhibition, Agosti felt a definite need to return to a true subject of nature. this led a group of works entitled mares et rochers (ponds and rocks). long walks in the fontainebleau forest with the painter Robert Ladou, provided an exceptional opportunity to observe nature at close range and in its full organic scope: “in my mares et rochers series, i was confronted with a natural object that was unencumbered with any human interpretation, directly engaged in its own physical laws, its processes of erosion, its struggle for light. this yielded a form of geometry quite alien to the bidimentional square of the gardens; a geometry composed of separate layers in space, and thus a fractal geometry with all the implications of scale”.
Agosti’s encounter with the polish mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot and his discovery of fractal thought turned out to be a decisive moment. Mandelbrot was the first to allow the public to visualise computerized fractal imagery. Agosti met him thanks to his friend
The physicist and chemist Alain le Méhauté on the occasion of a lecture delivered by the philosopher michel serres in the palais de la découverte in paris. Mandelbroit’s scientific approach fortified him in his personal approach and enriched his understanding of structure. Agosti realized that, thanks to their instruments, scientists manage to formalise the very same aspects of nature that he had touched upon intuitively in his art. but the aspect that most definitely interested him resided in the fact that fractal though marked a break with the idea of a euclidian space which had served to codify the image, but also with the notion of serial production.
This led him to devise an arborescence which allowed the structure of the work to reflect details which he deemed essential. such an approach offered a model of reality devised by means of a much subtler and more precise instrument than any he had formerly had at his disposal. at that same time, another artist, Jean Letourneur, had come to the same conclusion. this meant that there was not merely a fractal art but a fractal revolution of the mind in which scientists and artists stood side by side.
Agosti continued to deal with the same subjects thereafter, without surrendering to the seductions of the serial image. he depicted the edge of a river or pond, where earth and water mingle and where sky and trees are reflected in turn. on his baths of apollo, he established a correspondence with the infinity of mirrors so characteristic of the aesthetics and the symbolism of versailles. in his watercolors he patiently described the interior of a sphere, a microcosm in which the four elements, of fire, air, water and earth are mingled. Agosti’s main ambition is to be a witness whose work transmits certain acquisitions of the humanistic tradition. in doing so, he manages to create a hyperbolic space in which a same polychrome image is repeated on different scales in which he resorts to the monochrome and uses on a primary colors to unfold a constantly developing arborescent space. this echoes the baroque notion of the mise en abyss of an image [the french term of mise en abyss designates an effect also known as the droste effect. this is the visual experience of standing between two mirrors and discovering an infinite reproduction of one’s own reflexion] and the ordering of an original chaos.
”what can be said in regard to what lies outside frame”, Agosti asks, “what lies beyond the frayed edges of the living hedge? can that space be apprehended, what might that other locus be, i ask you?”. this determination to bring order into the proliferation of nature is typical of Agosti’s work, but also a yearning to reach beyond it. “the paradox becomes apparent when the work is done: it is not longer part of myself, yet it remains thoroughly mine, with all those inflections, the choice of forms, the cohesion and the fractures, the stresses and compressions of every kind, the uproar and the silences ; all that no longer seems to belong to me,. unless this merely mean that it has not yet become mine”.
But Agosti is not just an artist who happens to work with fractals, nor is he in any way inclined to allow his work to be identified with this concept. this is what prompted him to mark his difference from the international group which termed itself the fractalists and to clarity his stand in a letter written in 1997, declining an invitation to participate in a group show at purchase college in New York: “My chief reservation regarding the work of these artists, is the following: to my knowledge none of them have modified the structure of their work or indeed the local-global relationship as i have done. none has chosen to renounce what i call “sérialism” (the repetition of the same). This holds serious consequences for the so-called fractalists and it is sufficient for me not to feel any affinity with this “imposture””.
This attempted simplification goes agains Agosti’s aesthetic approach which is both more thoughtful and more attached to the complexity of the symbolic implications which he strives to develop in reference to the labyrinth or to the tree of the sephiroth for instance. in this process each fragment only exists through the relationship it establishes with the whole. reluctant to any reduction to unity, the fragment, in its fractal incompleteness, holds a promise regarding the future and possibly of a utopian restoration.
In regard to the concept of time, Agosti has constantly sought to review the relevant myths and he enjoys working on the memory traces inherent to any site. this was indeed the subject of a travelling exhibition organised in germany by Marie-Louise Sring in 1985, with the support of the afaa (association française d’action artistique), entitled gechichte als widerstand, “history as resistance”. in 1988 he also showed his work in Arlette Gimaray’s Galler under the title, tables d’orients – or table of bearings, an approximation of the term which serves to designate what is more prosaically known in english as a “viewpoint indicator”. on this occasion he presented a number of short texts touching upon the aesthetic preferences that determine his orientation. taken together, nature, its fractionating, its proliferation and the reiteration of a seminal image transposed into different scales open the way to such very large paintings as the ten by three meters fresco executed for the College André Malraux in Paron (1984). his friendship with the scientist alain le Méhauté led to an artistic project for the institut supérieur des matériaux du mans, which presented Agosti’s work in the fullness of its architectural and plastic scope. “beyond their respective idioms, both artists strove to achieve beauty.
in Agosti’s sight this meant the resonnance of colors and the harmont of forms. in the sight of le Méhauté, it had an abstract quality, resting upon the matching of the mathematical instrument and its object, complex and composite, the microscopic images produced by the mathematical tool display a strange affinity with the natural forms magnified by the former”. art and the sciences are thus intimately bound together. Agosti is nonetheless at pains to point out that no plastic or aesthetic link is to be sought between a computerized fractal images and his own art. the metaphorical development of arborescent images touching upon the infinite range of possibilities in the field of representation, hinges upon this point of tension between any given detail and the globality of space.
As Maïthé Valles-Bled, then curator of the musée des beaux-arts de chartres points out: « You always find three phases in Agosti’s approach to nature, and in each of them he elaborates an evolving system which tends towards increasing complexity. the first of these is watercolor, which offers a relatively simplified frame of representation of the landscape; next comes the drawing, which further elaborates on the development of the system. and out of these two the painted work finally emerges. this painting, which can be more or less abstract, now isomorphic, now cosmological, always remains connected to what preceded it, through the very process of its generation” from his many travels, particularly to japan, and from the various gardens he then discovered,- such as the Ryôan in Kyoto – Agosti has further learned to define the bounds of the natural space of his imagination, which always displays affinities with the french garden.
He shares this love of gardens with his friend the poet Salah Stétié who sees in them “areas of osmosis, anamorphosis and metamorphosis. in these gardens, through the miraculous power of the heightened song, a perfect face takes form somewhat being the veil of light, the face of a man or of a god, perhaps that of orpheus himself… the greatest merit of this face is no doubt that it remains invisible, thus drawing all the visible to itself and offering it up” 11 Agosti’s work is a response to a succession of metamorphoses in space and time, by which the heritage of former times, in a poetic rebirth, once more takes shape. this is apparent in his suite d’hermès which was exhibited at the Thessa Herold gallery in 1996, or in his jardin hiéroglyphique, shown in the musée Saint Roch in Issoudun in 1998.
1975 – Lucerne (Suisse), Galerie Raeber, Objets d’espace
1976 – Paris, Galerie de Causans, “Ephemeris”.
1977 – New York, Martha Jackson Gallery
1978 – Exhibition of drawings for the inauguration of the “Bains-Douches” restored by Philippe Starck
1978 – Paris, Galerie Paul Facchetti, “Jardin de Gif”
1980 – Zurich,Galerie Paul Facchetti
– Chicago, Art Chicago, “Navy Pier”
– Paris, FIAC, Grand Palais, Galerie Paul Facchetti
1982 – Montpellier, Théâtre Municipal, décors pour Faust de Gounod, mise en scène de Jean-Paul Lucet
1984 – New York, Alexander lolas Gallery, “Genèse, Paysages, Fractals”
1985 – New York, Bruno Facchetti Gallery
1986 – Paris, Galerie Maximilien Guiol, “Mnémosine”
– Paris, Galerie Jacqueline Feldman, “Jardins tranquilles”
– Tübingen (Allemagne), Galerie Am Haagtor
1988 – Paris, Galerie Arlette Gimaray, “Tables d’Orient”
1991 – Paris, Galerie Johanna Vermeer, “Paradiso”
1993 – Paris, Galerie Arlette Gimaray, “Côté jardin”
1994 – Sens, Musées des Beaux-Arts de la Ville, “Suite d’Orphée”
1996 – Paris, Galerie Thessa Herold, “Suite d’Hermès”
– Schônaich (Allemagne), AIC, “Métamorphoses”
1998 – Issoudun, Musée de l’Hospice Saint-Roch, “Jardin hiéroglyphique”
2000 – Paris, Galerie Thessa Herold, “Labyrinthes”
– Madrid, ARCO, Galerie Thessa Herold, “Rétrospective”
2002 – Parly, Centre d’Art de la Métairie Bruyères, “Canopées”
2003 – Paris, Galerie Thessa Herold, “Métamorphose des Canopées”
– Madrid, ARCO, “Métamorphose des Canopées”
– Troyes, Maison du Parc de la forêt d’Orient, “Canopées”
2004 – Barcelone, Galerie Artur Ramon
2005 – Musée de Lodève, “Ennéades”
– Espace Jean de Joigny, “Locus neminis”
2007 – Galerie Pascal Lorain, Paris, “Les Elysées de l’Art”
2009 – Galerie Must, Gordes (Dept.84)
– Paris, Galerie Guillaume, “Entre terre et ciel”
2012 – Paris, Galerie Guillaume, “Epiphanies”
2012 – Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise ,”Harmonies”
– Musée de Vitré (Dept.35), “Jardin, terre-ciel”
2014 – Paris, Galerie Guillaume, “AÔR”
2015 – Paris, Galerie Guillaume
“Models of stained glass of St. Joseph of Reims and recent watercolors ”
– Joigny’s Médiathèque “Les vitraux d’Agosti”
2017 – Korea, Ung-No-Lee Museum
2018 – Paris, Galerie Guillaume
2020 – Paris, Galerie Guillaume
« Eudaemonia »
2022 – Paris, Galerie Guillaume
« Otium »
1973 – Paris, Galerie Paul Facchetti
1974 – Zürich, Galerie Paul Facchetti
1975 – Milwaukee, USA, Art Center
1976 – Calice (Italie), Centro d’Arte
1977 – New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, exposition itinérante
1981 – Paris, Galerie Charmy·Lenvers, « Jardin autour de la maison »
– Rennes, Maison de la Culture, « Parcours »
– Zurich, Galerie Paul Facchetti, « Espace poétique » – Stockholm, Art Fair, Galerie Maximilien Guiol
– Rome, Studio d’Arte De Crescenzo, Burattoni & Fouque, Agosti
– Paris, FIAC Galerie Paul Facchetti
– Paris, Atelier Burattoni & Fouque, « Le Génie de la Bastille »
– Brême, Karlsruhe,Düsseldorf,Hanovre “Geschichte als Wiederstand”, exposition itinérante organisée par l’AFAA
– Hambourg et Hanovre, « Artware », exposition Art-Science organisée par Siemens
1986 – Stockholm, Art Fair, Galerie Maximilien Guiol
1987 – Monaco, Lauréat du XXIe Prix international d’art contemporain
– New York, « Digital Vision », première exposition itinérante organisée par IBM,
Syracuse, Everson Museum
– Paris, Musée des Monuments Français, « Images de jardins »
1988 – Chartres, Musée des Beaux-Arts
– Paris, Galerie Arlette Gimaray
– Paris, Galerie Gutharc-Balin, « Tableaux debout »
– Sens, Galerie Abélard
– Paris, Galerie Johanna Vermeer
1991 – Sens, Galerie Abélard
– Joigny, Atelier Cantoisel
1992 – Orléans, Galerie Madeleine Fraquet
– Joigny, Atelier Cantoisel, « Image de Joigny »
– Sens, Moulin du Roi
– Paris, Galerie Arlette Gimaray, « Les Piliers de la Sagesse »
1993 – Paris, Galerie Arlette Gimaray, « Bleu Mazarine »
– Lyon, Université de Lyon, « La Fractalité dans l’art »
– Paris, Galerie Arlette Gimaray, « Equinoxe »
– Joigny, Atelier Cantoisel, « Lieux de la Gravure ».
1994 – Paris, Galerie Mabel Semmler, « Tohu-Bohu »
– Paris, Galerie La Pochade, « Eventails d’artistes », exposition itinérante
– Paris, FIAC, Galerie Thessa Herold, « Deux Hommes d’arbre » (avec Mario Prassinos)
– Munich, Galerie Karin Sachs, « Die Scbônbeit des Fraktale »
– Luxembourg, Galerie Lucien Schweitzer, « Deux Hommes d’arbre »
– Paris, SAGA, Editions Robert et Lydie Dutrou
1995 – Issoudun, Musée de l’Hospice Saint-Roch, « L’Arbre en majesté »
– Monaco, rétrospective des lauréats du Grand Prix de S.A.S. le Prince Rainier III
– Joigny, Atelier Cantoisel, Jean-Paul Agosti et Alexandre Hollan, « Etats d’arbres »
1996 – Schônaich, Rathaus, « Farbe Bekennen »
– Paris, Galerie Patrick Varnier, « L”Ame des végétaux »
– Joigny, Atelier Cantoisel, « Côté histoire, je crée.. »
1997 – Paris, Palais de la Découverte, « Entre Art et Science, la Création »
1999 – Dixmont, Salon d’Automne
2000 – Joigny, Atelier Cantoisel, 20 ans d’activité,
« Support mémoire »
– Paris, Galerie Patrick Varnier
2001 – Paris, FIAC, Galerie Thessa Herold
– Issy-les-Moulineaux, Médiathèque, exposition Salah Stétié
2002 – Madrid, ARCO, Galerie Thessa Herold
– Paris, FIAC, Galerie Thessa Herold
2004 – Paris, FIAC, Galerie Thessa Herold
– Marnay-surSeine, CAMAC, Ars et Locus, « Espace: tension et structure »
2005 – FIAC, Paris, Galerie Tessa Herold
– Galerie Patrick Varnier, Paris
2006 – FIAC, Paris, Galerie Tessa Herold
– MIART, Milan, Galerie Tessa Herold
– ARTPARIS, Galerie Tessa Herold
– Fondation Coubertin et Ars & Locus Institut, St.Remy-lès-chevreuse, “Le spectre des jardins”
– Edition: “A claire voix”, avec le poète Jean Clarence Lambert, Ed. Livres pauvres, livres riches
– Galerie Patrick Varnier, Paris
– ACI de l’Yonne (Artistes contemporains Icaunais)
– ARTPARIS, Galerie Tessa Herold
– “Cosmos”, Johnson et Johnson, Issy-les-Moulinaux
– ARTPARIS, Galerie Tessa Herold
– Galerie Pascal Lorain, Paris
– “Leberon”, avec le poète occitan Roland Pecout
– “Laisses de la mer trop tendre”, avec la poètesse Christine Givry
Ed. RLD, Paris
2009 – “Regards de peintres sur la nature”, Chapelle Saint Liberal, Brive, France dept.19
– “Dessin”, Galerie Abelard, Sens, France dpt.89
– Studio 23, Michery, dpt. 89
– Galerie Milenarts, Belgium “Invitation au voyage”
– “SoftArt”, Seoul, Korea
– Edition : Projet de livre sur l’œuvre de 130m2, du plafond du
Théatre de Lunéville (1998), Auteur:
Frédérique Villemur, Ed. Actes Sud. 2011
2013 – « Salah Stétié et les peintres », Musée Paul Valery, Sète.
– « Salah Stétié », Manuscrits et livres d’artistes,
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, François Mitterrand, Paris
– ArtParis, Grand Palais, Galerie Guillaume
– « Trente artistes en cause », Atelier Cantoisel, Joigny
– « Les livres de l’or pauvres », Château de Lucinges
– Ville de Troyes, Hôtel-Dieu-le-Comte, exposition permanente
de préfiguration de la “Cité du Vitrail”
2014 – Ville de Joigny, exposition du Cercle du Mont Cenis à l’Espace Jean de Joigny
– Galerie Caron Bedout, Villeneuve-sur-Yonne.
– Les peintres et le vitrail, Centre international du vitrail, Chartres
2017 – Galerie Caron Bedout, Bourron Marlotte.
2018 – Paris, Galerie Guillaume
Exhibition of the gallery’s 15th anniversary
2019 – Exhibition : « AR(T)BRE »
Espace Phil’ARTS, Commune de Filière (74) France
2023 – Paris, Galerie Guillaume
Exhibition of the gallery’s 20th anniversary
1975 – Theater sets, with Gérard Garouste and Pilippe Starck, for David Rochline’s first play “À toutes les Gloires de France”.
1990 – Sens, plans for the garden of the Lycée Pierre et Marie Curie. Architect Didier Michelon, landscape-architect Louis Maunoury
1991 – Auxerre, works for the office of the President of the Conseil Général de l’Yonne. Architect Didier Michelon
1991-1993 – Chartres, plan d’aménagement des jardins de la Cathédrale, architecte Guy Siefert
1994 – Paron, a monumental work for the Collège André Malraux. Architects Pierre Soria and Michel Dusolle
– Lyon-Gerland, works for the main hall of the main European office of Pasteur-Merieux-MSD. Architect Albert Constantin
– Le Mans, works for the Institut Supérieur des Matériaux. Architects Philippe Duverger and Daniel Saintagnan
1995 – Joigny, tapestry for the entrance hall of the Salle Claude Debussy, TISCA, SFP workshops. Architect Didier Michelon
1997 – Pont-Rémy, works for TDI
1998 – Lunéville, monumental paintings for the ceiling of the ceiling of the access gallery of the theater. Architect Guy Siefert. Architect in charge of lighting Yann Desforges
– Lyon-Ecully, project of a work for the laboratories of Police technique et scientifique. Architects Albert Constantin and Michel Remon
– Nancy, project of a ceiling for the renavation of the Gingko pharmacy on the occasion of the centennial of the Ecole de Nancy d’Art Nouveau., Architect Guy Siefert. Architect in charge of lighting Yann Desforges
– Baden-Württemberg, works for the Seniorenzentrum of Aidlingen. Architects Hans Peter Walhers and Franz Haibt
2001 – Project for works destine to decorate the office of the mayor of Joigny.
Architect Didier Michelon
2002 – Resident artist of the city of Lodève, for a free project to be displayed in an exhibition of his works in 2005
2003 – Tapestry for the Collège of St-Valérien, Conseil Général de l’Yonne (Tisca workshop). Architect Didier Michelon
2004 – Project of a work for the Trésorerie Générale du Rhône Lyon. Architect Albert Constantin
2005 – Tapestry for the Collège du Gâtinais in Burgundy, (Funded by the « un pour cent artistique »), “Phoebus”, Conseil Général de l’Yonne, Architect Didier Michelon
2006 – Stained glass windowss of the church of Bouzy in Champagne, using a revolutionary technique with neither metal or lead, for the first time anywhere in the world. Executed by Antoine Benoit Maser Glazier
2007 – Four works for the IES of Sens (Institut d’enseignement Supérieur),(funded by the « un pour cent artistique ») Conseil Général of the Yonne, Architect Didier Michelon
2009 – Stained glass (first phase: four out of twelve) for the restoration of the church of Ecueil. Technique devised by Antoine Benoit Master Glazier. Architect Pierre Weiler, Paris
2010 – Mock-up (45m²) for the chapel of the Collège St Joseph in Reims
– Project and four mock-ups for the stained glass windows of the church of Notre Dame Beaumont-les-Autels.
– A body of six works for the home of a Swiss collector
2012 – Execution of twenty-one stained glass windows of the chapel of the Collège St Joseph in Reims.
2017 – Execution of thirteen stained glass windows of the churche of Longuesse. Simon-Marq workshop and Fort Royal, Architect Pierre Weiler
2020 – Project of a stained glass window for the chapel of Turlande in Paulhenc (Cantal)
– Project of 5 stained glass windows for a private chapel at the Hospital, Saint-Cirgues-de- Malbert (Cantal)
- Lauréat du Grand Prix International d’art contemporain de Monaco, 1987
- Commandeur de l’Ordre du Croissant de la Grande Comore, 2011
- Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 2019
In the workshop
Discover Jean-Paul Agosti's workshop in video