Photos Andrea Mantovani

Charles Derenne was born in Paris, studied Fine Arts in Bordeaux, Music at the Bordeaux Conservatory, and Modern Literature at the Sorbonne.  He has presented works and performed at MoMA PS1, the New Museum, the Palais de Tokyo, MAK Vienna, Mana Fine Arts, the Yvon Lambert Library, and the Agnes B. Gallery. Derenne lives and works in Los Angeles.

Over the years, the tie that binds Derenne’s artistic works together is his ongoing fascination and infatuation with the notion of exploration - both geographical and mental; the documentation of these journeys, and the future recollections and interpretations of these moments in time through the use of filmmaking, photography, music, painting and sculpture (and in some cases, mixing these forms of media). His process has involved capturing fragments of his everyday moments in real time, documenting and storing them as future archives. At other times, in the future he refers back to past experiences, and he interprets them as he recollects them and reflects on them, resulting in work based partly on fact, partly on the imagination - rebuilding the dream of what once was into a new reality in the form of art.

Derenne’s solo presentation during art week encapsulates his overall artistic philosophies across various disciplines.

Firstly, a sculptural work of 1960’s vintage suitcases stacked on top of each other, immediately reminding the viewer at face value of a past era, transported into a future present time.  Up close, the observer looks inside the top suitcase’s open lid and discovers the tower of suitcases have had their tops and bottoms out, forming a well, with a screen at the bottom displaying a video of a place in France that evokes both the title of the exhibition and pays tribute to the French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movement.

Secondly, Derenne’s jungle landscapes paintings hone in on his particular fascination with observing, documenting and researching vibrant, intimate landscapes, tropical foliage and jungle topography, fueled by his studies and explorations.   Both sensual and melancholic, these paintings express moments lost in time, while simultaneously featuring timeless symbols that are universally identifiable and understood by the observer.  The painting technique that he applies pays homage to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artistic movements, with particular influence by the movement known as Les Nabis, which played a large part in the transition from Impressionism to abstract art, symbolism  and the early stages of Modernism.

Drawing inspiration from Nabis movement artist Pierre Bonnard, Derenne infuses his paintings with the spirit of the moment via color planes, abandoning realistic three-dimensional modeling in favor of flat areas of color mainly from memory. Unlike Impressionists who painted in “plein air” - leveraging painting as documentation of what an artist observes right in front of him- or herself, Bonnard and Derenne do not paint from nature but rather from their in situ observations via notes on color, drawings, and photographs.  

Further reinforcing his interest in the vivid memories that exploration and adventures conjure up, the title of the exhibition “This Is Where I’m Going” is taken from a message written on a map by the French explorer and journalist Raymond Maufrais, who disappeared during a solitary expedition in the Amazon in January 1950, at age 23. The landscape series is an homage to Maufrais' passionate and intrepid spirit by affirming painterly Maufrais' observations as revealed in his writings.

Lastly, in the wake of the recent release of his documentary “24 Hour Sunset” on Canal+, co-directed by Édouard de Luze and co-produced with Scottish artist Douglas Gordon, Derenne will present a 24-minute video and sound installation, with each minute representing the hours of one full 24-hour day. The installation traces the art scene in Los Angeles - the city where Derenne resides - through contemplative shots of intimate conversations between artists, gallery owners, and collectors such as Kenneth Anger, Paul McCarthy, Ariana Papademetropoulos, Raymond Pettibon, Jill Mulleady, Henry Taylor, Louise Bonnet, Jeffrey Deitch, and others.

The exhibition is relatable to all: we are all driven by a sense of exploration, wanderlust, by curiosity, and we all document our journeys and experiences using the tools that we have at disposal.  Also we can all identify with the fact that once the present moment has passed, we rely on a combination of our memories and the documented artifacts of those moments to recall our past, with some degree of reinterpretation involved.  The result being a form of art: the creation of a new experience from a mix of the factual past with one’s vibrant imagination.