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Vincent Olinet - Palatial Maximalism

Words:

Edd Norval
September 5, 2021

It’s difficult to give a brand to Vincent Olinet’s work, but if pushed, we’d have to go for palatial maximalism. Why? Because it’s the kind of maximalist, over-the-top works that belong in a palatial setting or garden, creating a sense of departure from the grandiose interiors by adding a splash of surrealism to something already suffused with decadence, whilst having the appearance of being completely at home there, too. Wall of bread, anyone?

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Out of context, the last sentence might sound strange. But one of Olinet’s many works, which have two of his main ‘things’ as its focus, is exactly that - a tapestry of various cuts of bread on a wall. Those two main ingredients, common motifs within the Frenchman’s works, are food and colour. Of which, there’s an abundance of and, within them, a slant towards the strange. 


Defined by their imagination and with an inherently whimsical tone, Olinet’s menus offer up everything from gluttonous mayonnaise layer cakes to such non-food items as giant sculptures of lipstick carved from a tree trunk. At times, looking at this artist's work is like looking at art purely for art’s sake. But, then again, where else does art actually hold any value? With social and political statements rife in the creative industries, a departure from that, for something that has more in common with Dali than your daily news, his world of escapism seems highly tempting (for a one-way trip?)


To wander through an exhibition is to become an extra in the latest Willy Wonka film, dazed by the textural approach to scale and setting. Setting is crucially important, with Olinet’s work thriving in-situ, out of the gallery space. A cursory look through his website reveals the sheer breadth of magnificent placements that his work - oddly - feels right at home.

This brashness and comfort with monumentalism comes in equal parts from where he’s from and who he likes. Influenced by a variety of artistic styles, from the historical art of the Merovingian style to the YBA movement of the 90s, Olinet finds harmony in the two - the fine line between high and low brow culture. 


He’s also French, which not only ties into his influences, but is an inherent part of the artist and his worldview. Regular trips to the Louvre punctuate his diary, absorbed in the sheer epic narrative of art through the ages. This is apparent in the amount of antiquity on display - like floating four-poster beds and crockery of the kind you might be lucky to find in your grandparent’ house. 


A particular reverence for time emerges throughout his work - with many of his creations built for an outdoor environment and, with that, will succumb to the decay of the natural rhythm of life. The poetically titled ‘Pas encore mon historie’, ruminates on the changing shades of an object over time and the various timelines a piece of art can inhibit that will make its physical state impact the perception of his audience. How one might see it today will be greatly different to a month down the line.

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In a more pointed exploration of time, the artist crafted crockery from ice as part of a moving sculpture that an audience were able to watch changing in real-time. The work melts away as the hours pass, an event that, in the grand scheme of things, happened very quickly, but so as not to bore contemporary audiences, was sped up in the video documenting the process - something the artist notes as an oddity of our understanding and appreciation of time.


At the end, we’re left with a puddle where once art stood and food decaying in amongst it. The idea of documentation intrigues the artist, too - just like his video of the ice crockery. Is the art the idea here? Is it the water left on the ground?


Through these Baroque-style contemporary experiments, Olinet inhibits a very particular niche in the art world - one which isn’t defined by a certain time. Eluding the hands of time by telling these incredibly exorbitant narratives, is one of the beguiling things about this artist who retains a sense of mystique on his voyage to fully realise the potential of his various works. 


One thing is for certain, his voice is unlike anybody else’s at the moment, the highest of all compliments, perhaps.

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