Art in movement could best describe Patrick Beaulieu’s approach. He seems to have composed his artistic vocabulary by gathering what nature surrenders to the forest floor: twigs and branches, pinecones, goose feathers, and butterfly wings. Back in the studio, he sets about animatingthese ephemeral fragments of nature by fusing them with discreet electrical paraphernalia. Recycling technology thus follows salvaging from nature. Turntable motors and hard drive fans are transformed into life-giving forces. His makeshift creations — where technology qualifies natural objects almost invisibly by substituting the power of the elements with that of the motor — defy the deceptive inertia of matter.
Subtle lighting and sounds add the finishing touches to these soul creations. The fleeting images that take shape before our eyes are like messengers from the obscure thresholds of existence, where the nature of things and appearances become blurred. Roots spinning at top speed lend form to plumes of luminous creatures. They disintegrate in a mysterious whisper, hinting at the existence of a parallel kingdom reigned by silence. Under a concentrated beam of light, the wings of a monarch flutter again and again on puffs of air. At the end of a darkened room, a solitary leaf, in a sudden spasm of gentle trembling, shines in the glow of revelations. Moving shadows sweep across a surface scattered with pinecones or goose feathers. Their quiverings trace a faltering ballet of departure, yet neither object nor shadow can escape its origin.
The play of light and shadow, the restrained movements of the objects, their discreet murmurings all merge before our eyes, reminding us of the undeniable frailty of matter. We all too easily forget the simple truth at the foundation of religion and science: that every living thing shares a common patron, and that we, as the objects that surround us, are shaped by the same forces that created the world in which we live.
I suspect that it is this observation from naïve science that impels Patrick Beaulieu to venture beyond the confines of the gallery, to follow the wind and embark on cross-border odysseys, on which he collects the physical and metaphorical traces of the monarch butterflies’ migratory passage across America. By abandoning over and over again to forces beyond himself, he pursues this slow lesson of things that has revealed art to him.
[Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft]