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Contemporary rock art: relationship of the artist with place and society,
repercussions for Palaeolithic art

The relationship to the landscape is crucial for rock art, from its genesis to its contemplation. My own plastic works have been suggested by the rupture in the status of a personal mythological space (an ocean, an island, a volcano, a valley, a lost civilisation, a wild but welcoming jungle, time stopped) and its domestication.
At first reactional, my work consisted in stitching cracks in rocks in places destined to be destroyed, in order to realise an ultimate relation with ephemera, beauty and myth. Then technological expansion led me to look for extremely isolated spots, far away from social regard and human time. Plastic gestures were developed in these places, according to the spot and the relation that it implied through its access, its structure, its " mana " and the introspection it induced. The work is a personal exchange with the place that suggested it, and for which it is destined.
These marks, sometimes discovered, feed new legends, trigger polemics and find the support of public authorities. Yet their implications remain elusive : while humanity constructed itself by patterning on its environment and the materials which compose it, this activity has become obsessive and compulsive, without the possibility for us to perceive its range.
From this actual experience, some analogies with Palaeolithic art can be discerned. Is the initial decision to alter a virgin space an individual one (personal art, free from public approval) or collective, expressing shared values ? Later, the discovery of such traces implies a change in the social functions and perception of that space, possibly in contradiction with the original intentions of the artist.
These works, hidden within and for nature, are in reality not destined for a public whose frequenting would destroy the spirit of the place and the nature of the work. The responsibility of those who transmit their images and information lies thus in the prolongation of the creation of the work, because they make public the pictorial and conceptual translation for the twenty-first century. These poetic gestures are intended for their authors, through the intimate significance of the creative act, and the natural forces which absorbs them.

J. P. Forest conference summary - 21° symposium of Prehistoric and Tibal Art - Valcamonica - Italy - 2004

Closing the image
on the work of Jean Paul Forest

In contemporary art, characterised by the search for new expressions, the work of Jean Paul Forest contributes to the revival of questioning the image and its challenges. Within this young plastic artist, there is the awareness of needing to place his approach in the narrow gap between two movements, united since the beginning of the 20th century and particularly after the 1950s in the history of forms. On one hand, there is the frivolous mixing of signs which celebrates the uprooting of Western man and the triumph in art of simulacra on the scene of « pure visibility » ; on the other, the tendency, accelerated among the artists and writers of post-colonial societies, to reclaim signs and prints and to appropriate that which is identified as totemic heritage. Forest does not forget that art found its original meaning, its arche, in the distancing of the omnipotence of the Sacred, well before the appearance of local particularities and regional languages. If Lascaux and Altamira, like African caves, offered refuge to the fleetingness of reality, the history of humanity was accomplished outside the Cave, outside the tribal borders and local rituals, towards the meaning and truth that Plato conceived as extraction from convention and the « theology of order ».
One would have a quite poor reading of the work of Jean Paul Forest if one remained prisoner of the equivocal « egologic » of a certain contemporary discourse which aims to « better arrange natural resources ». The work of Forest solicits another view, which reminds us above all that images are not at our disposition, like inert material. One must follow the same hazardous and arduous path of the creator in order to discover, in a lava stone calcined by primitive fire or in a stone worn by a tropical river, the suture points of an injury whose meaning remains hidden, in the shelter from the devastating curiosity of our contemporaries. The image does not need to be seen, but to persist, arousing the silence of waiting. Like a recumbent statue on a tomb waiting for a face, this work sends a signal to humanity of the future, which could once again look, that is to say, find another connection to the world in its entirety.

Riccardo PINERI, University of French Polynesia, for the exhibition " Rocks and stitches ", 21° Valcamonica Symposium - Italy - 2004