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Philippe Pasqua finds beauty in the dark side at CAC Málaga

The Last Supper Philippe Pasqua poses in front of the striking sculpture group La Cène.
The Last Supper Philippe Pasqua poses in front of the striking sculpture group La Cène. / EVA SÁNCHEZ MELENDO
  • The French artist shows the faces of those who "often hide away", marginalised groups and children with disabilities in his first solo show in Spain

Their names are Alma, Noah, Arnaud, Beatrice, Manel... People who "often try to hide", but who show their faces in paintings more than two metres wide that now hang in Malaga's Contemporary Art Centre (CAC).

Artist Philippe Pasqua (Grasse, France, 1965) extracts beauty from the "Dark Side" in his first individual exhibition in Spain. the retrospective show covers three decades of creation and provokes immediate reactions from visitors.

"It moves you, turns your stomach, leaves no one unaffected," said Fernando Francés, curator of the exhibition.

Pasqua has been planning this project, in Malaga until 29 November, for the last five years.

He has filled the walls with large format portraits and nudes using children with disabilities, transgender people, prostitues and members of his own family as models.

The eyes that look out from the paintings can invoke tenderness or perplexity and invite the viewer to question the moral values of our time and the concepts of beauty and ugliness.

Philippe Pasqua finds beauty in the dark side at CAC Málaga

"Philippe reflects on these people who live through suffering, pain, inflexibility and even violence and overcome these difficulties every day. He talks about life but not 'la vie en rose', but the life that we often don't want to see," said Francés, who was accompanied at the opening of the show by the mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre and Culture councillor, Noelia Losada.

Thick brushstrokes

The artist paints children who are blind or have Down's Syndrome using thick, far from delicate, brush strokes, leaving stains and smudges. And there's no decoration, just their intense expressions.

"They have great strength that can be transmitted and reflected. And they are people with great sensitivity, they live in the present," said the self-taught painter and sculpture, whose style is approaching expressionism.

He admits he has had the project in his head for some time. "It's not easy to access these people," he explained. He contacts them through schools and specialist centres where they exchange impressions and he photographs them. In his workshop he selects the image that has "trapped" him the most and transfers it to his canvas, generally with cream, red and blue tones.

"There is beauty in overcoming illness and in a person with intellectual disability. Philippe shows this with incredible naturalness," said the creator.

Philippe Pasqua finds beauty in the dark side at CAC Málaga

The artist's brush also captures marginal groups, such as prostitutes, who he paints nude, or transgender people such as Caphi, or the series he calls Trauma.

Here female postures and realities (such as childbirth) stand in contrast to the male genitals of the subjects.

However Philippe Pasqual has not ignored his closest reality, his family, in this exhibition, although he shows them with a different, "stronger" emotion. Here we can find his mother Gisele and his son Orso, who he depicts holding a skull as if it were a teddy bear.

Indeed skulls appear throughout his work. They can be found piled up in the sculpture Sans Titre from this year, which welcomes visitors as they enter the gallery.

And skulls can also be found in the piece that is perhaps the most impacting of the entire exhibition. in the centre of the CAC's main gallery Pasqua has placed the sculpture group La Cène, his version in bronze of Da Vinci's Last Supper.

Here Jesus and the 21 apostles are masked and grotesque figures, impossible to identify. They are seated at a table with clear references to Bacchus, bunches of grapes and bottles of wine on a surface plagued with rats. And the scene also has a sacrifice, the torn-up body of a baby in different dishes. A disturbing composition.

Philippe Pasqua finds beauty in the dark side at CAC Málaga

Pasqua also examines himself and the exhibition include startling self-portraits from among his earliest works.

Philippe Pasqua converts those who were born "on the dark side of the world" into art, without forgetting that we all have our dark sides. Despite his constant smile, he is no exception.

"Once in Paris he confessed that if he wasn't a painter he would be a serial killer. What is really intelligent is managing to control the dark side and turn it into light," said the curator.